Monday, 3 August 2015
Lou Roth (1913 – 2003) was an artist and innovator from California who created the Craftaid, which has made leather carving easier for generations of people to get in to the hobby of leather crafting.
Growing up in Los Angeles, his father was a master woodworker who worked at a furniture company. He was very supportive of Lou’s art and encouraged him to make drawings every day. At a young age, Lou began working with his father at the furniture factory and would work every day after school. He had the opportunity to work in every department of furniture manufacturing and was fascinated by the machines and the industrialized process.
In 1926, Roth entered college and majored in Architecture and Fine Arts. After graduation he worked in architecture, art direction in film, and designing furniture for his family’s business before retiring at age 49. He later joined the Research & Development team for Tandy Leather Company where he invented a number of modern leathercraft tools, including the alphabet set, the skiver, and the Craftaid.
Roth discovered leatherwork in 1949 when he visited Pacific Arts and Crafts in Southern California with his son. He was fascinated by the beautiful looking leathercraft tools and store owner James Gick showed him samples of decoratively carved leather. After several independent attempts, Roth decided to take a leather class at Gick’s hobby store taught by Al Shelton.
Before he knew it, Roth was the star pupil and began teaching classes. He noticed that when teaching his students, it would take most of the class time making a tracing pattern and transferring it to the leather. He knew that professional carvers had a method of transferring a pattern from one piece of leather to another and thought he might be able to industrialize the process. Roth had been dabbling with his new plastic laminating press, which inspired his method of creating a raised pattern on the plastic that could be easily transferred to leather.
Dick McGahen was a occasional visitor of the classes and, when he saw the opportunity presented with the plastic engraving sheet, he invited Roth, Gick and T. Joey Smith (Gick’s business partner) to form a corporation to manufacture these “Craftaids” through the Craftool Company. Over the years, they hired a variety of different leather artists to help design new Craftaids, including a young Al Stohlman.
Fun Fact: The students of the Pacific Arts and Crafts leather class became more of a friendly group of leather crafters and eventually evolved in to The Leather Guild, the first of the modern leather guilds.
Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Dick McGahen founded the Craftool Company in 1947 with an aspiration to introduce leatherworking tools that could be afforded by millions. At that time, stamping tools were made individually by hand and were very expensive; not something a hobbyist could afford.
McGahen approached Oliver Sturdy, a tool machinist based out of Los Angeles, to create the first set of Craftool stamps. He brought Sturdy a handful of saddle stamping tools and asked if he could replicate them. His initial order was 5,000 sets of tools, to which Sturdy balked that “There aren’t 5,000 people in the country who would buy those things.”
Fortunately for Craftool Company, leathercraft caught on and business boomed. With the help of leather carvers, engineers, artists, and other technicians, the Craftool Company created a business where none had ever existed before. Many of the very first Craftool stamps were based off of tools designed by saddle maker Ken Griffin from Southern California. McGahen knew that you couldn’t just sell tools and supplies; you had to teach the world how to do leathercraft. He collaborated with Griffin on low cost ways to encourage practice and the concept of Doodle Page was born.
In 1952, a young California leather artist caught McGahen’s attention with leather carving of a palomino wearing an ornate saddle. Al Stohlman was hired by McGahen to design leatherworking tools and write publications for the Craftool Company. Stohlman began earning national attention through Craftool Company with his first publication, “How To Carve Leather”.
Another major contributor to the early Craftool Company was an inventor named Lou Roth. He is credited with creating the modern skiving knives, adjustable V gouge, and a number of other tools that we still use today. Roth was also the creator of the Craftaid.
The Craftool Company was bought by Tandy Leather in 1959 and was moved to Fort Worth, TX in 1962. Craftool stamps still serve the same purpose that they did at their inception: to provide leatherworking tools at an affordable price to introduce new people to the love of leathercraft.
The Craftools of today have benefited from technological advances. Hand grinding tools is labor intensive, expensive, inconsistent, and a very time consuming process. To keep up with the demand for affordable stamping tools, die casting and cold stamping are now used to produce uniformly designed tools.
In 2013, Tandy Leather also introduced the Craftool Pro Series to offer handcrafted, stainless steel stamps for professional leatherworkers at an affordable price. Each tool goes through a 15 to 20 step crafting process to stand up to the demands of daily use and still give crisp and clean impressions every time.
Fun Fact: Many people try to determine the age and origin of a Craftool stamp by the numbering and labeling. Although modern Craftools have a letter and a number for identification (i.e. B893), the letter prefix was not introduced in the Tandy Leather catalog until 1963.
Over the years, the label on the tools has also changed a number of times, including Craftool, Craftool USA, and others. Although some believe that this is a way to identify the age of a tool, it is unlikely that all of the plates were changed at once. As the die casts for tools wore out, it is reasonable to assume that they were replaced with the updated labeling. The transition between different Craftool labeling likely happened over the course of many years.
Original Doodle Pages by Ken Griffin, Al Stohlman and many others are still available through the Leathercraft Library!
Tuesday, 9 June 2015
Lacing is a highly decorative method of sewing leather projects together with lace of the same or differing colors for the desired look. Leather edge lacing is often used with tooled leathers as the combination of styles complement one another for a professional looking finish for your handmade leather goods. With instruction, and a little practice, your technique with lacing may develop in to one of your favorite finishing methods.
Although many different types of lace are available, leathercrafters can also cut their own lace for specialized colors or to save money. By using scrap leather and the Craftool Lace Maker, you can cut your own lace from a circle or square of scrap leather!
The Single Loop stitch is best suited for lacing the edges of lightweight leathers or single thickness of leather, as little lace is required to cover the raw edge. This is great for projects like a key fob or small coin purse.
The Double Loop stitch covers a wider area and is used on heavier leather for projects such as wallets, purses, or small bags. It covers a wider surface especially where two thicknesses of leather require more lacing to cover the edge.
The Triple Loop stitch can be used with thicker leathers or when you want a thicker accent on projects such as belts and large bags. This stitch is used where two or more thicknesses of leather require additional lacing to cover the raw edge.
NOTE: When lacing, it helps to have the front side of the project facing the lacer.
George Hurst also had a few lacing tips he wanted to contribute as well:
Condition Lace– Your leather lace will glide through leather smoother and mold to the edge of the leather better when treated with leather conditioner. Dr. Jacksons Leather Conditioner or any other conditioner should work for this, simply apply to the lace with a sponge, sheepwool remnant or soft cloth. Allow a few minutes for the conditioner to penetrate the leather and then wipe excess with a soft cloth.
Protect Leather Lace – When lacing through leather, be sure to pull the lace straight through each hole. Pulling it up or down will cause wear on the lace and weaken it.
Lace Length Requirements – The follow will show you how much lace will normally be required to complete a project. To preserve the strength and quality of the lace, the amount used should be no more than 2 yards with splicing as needed.
Running Stitch – 1 1/2 times the length to be laced
Whip Stitch – 3 1/2 times the length to be laced
Single Loop Stitch – 5 1/2 times the length to be laced
Double Loop Stitch – 7 times the length to be laced
Triple Loop Stitch – 9 times the length to be laced
Finishing Touch To Double Loop Lacing – After lacing is completed, tap lightly with a mallet to flatten it. Apply a leather conditioner and smooth with a wood edge slicker, canvas or denim.
More resources for learning about lacing:
Lacing & Stitching For Leathercraft Book
How To Lace Book
Double Loop Lacing Video
Double Loop Applique Lacing, Two-Tone Double-Looped Lacing and Triple Loop Lacing videos available as part of membership with the Leathercraft Library.
Thursday, 28 May 2015
Ben Moody (1920-2005) was a respected teacher and an award-winning leather crafter who received the Al Stohlman award in 1992 for nearly 70 years of teaching leathercraft.
Ben grew up a native of East Texas and was raised around leather. His father was a cobbler who owned his own shoe shop and did business with Dave Tandy during the Tandy-Hinkley days. Ben often ran around the leather warehouse with young Charles Tandy while their fathers were conducting business.
Much of his early enthusiasm for leathercraft came from Solon Aaron, a German gentlemen who worked in the family’s shop. Mr. Aaron taught Ben how to carve belts and, every day after school, Ben would work in the shop and to make projects he had commissioned from schoolmates. By the time he was a teenager, Ben was making money doing leathercraft. In addition to his orders, he would pull around a painted cart and stamp names on belts that he would sell at events.
His mentor held him to a high standard for his craft; however, he also encouraged Ben’s creativity by letting him use butcher paper to practice art. Ben was always very artistic and was not only ambidextrous, but could draw with both hands at the same time.
Ben joined the war effort when he was 20 and went on active duty in the military. He served as part of the 112th Cavalry in World War II, where he had many duties including cartography, however also volunteered to help with repairing the saddles because he loved working with leather. His unit served in the South Pacific, however he got malaria and had to be brought back to the Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio before the end of the war. There, he taught leathercraft to other soldiers who were also in the hospital.
Ben won international army craft contests two consecutive years for different leather projects and retired from the military in 1960 at the age of 40. After returning home to Texas, Ben wrote Tandy about returning to the states, mentioning his leathercraft awards and that he might like to work at the Tandy store in Austin. After being hired, management recognized his work ethic and, before long, Ben was recruited to help open a store for Tandy’s new venture: Radio Shack.
He loved helping develop the new brand and worked 7 days a week to help get it off the ground. His genuine caring for helping others grew him a loyal customer base, and the new enterprise did quite well. In 1965, Ben and his wife had their second child and he left Radio Shack for the banking industry so spend more time with family.
Although no longer employed by the Tandy Corporation, Ben continued to be an active advocate for working with leather. He conducted leathercraft seminars at Southwestern Texas State University, 4-H, Scouts, Texas State School, Austin State School, Travis State School, State School for the Deaf, VA Hospitals and more. He was one of the go-to artists for both Tandy Leather and The Leather Factory, creating many doodle pages, pattern packs and books such as “Learn Leathercraft”.
Ben won the Al Stohlman award in 1992; however this was not the only time he was part of the award ceremony. When working at the Austin Tandy store in the 60’s, he introduced many young artists to the love of leathercraft. One of those young men was Tony Laier, who went on to win the Al Stohlman award in 1999. Although he had difficulty getting around by that time, Ben was insistent on attending the ceremony so he could personally honor him with the award.
Some of Ben’s art hangs in the Tandy Leather Museum & Gallery in Fort Worth and many of his Doodle Pages and Craftaid Tracing Pattern Packs are still available on the Leathercraft Library.
Tuesday, 12 May 2015
Although there are entire books written on different methods and techniques for coloring veg-tan leather, we thought we’d touch on a few of the basics for the beginning colorist.
For this introduction, we focus on water based coloring products. They are low-odor, simple to clean up, easy to mix and don’t require solvents to be diluted. There are also a wider variety of application techniques available and they are available globally.
Water Based Coloring Products:
Our Professional Waterstains, Leather Dyes and the All-In-One Stain & Finishes offer a consistent wash of color whereas Gel Antiques and Hi-Lite Color Stains accent cuts and impressions. Cova Color acrylic paints sit on top of the leather whereas the other products listed soak in to the leather. Learn more about the differences and applications on our YouTube channel for more information on Dyeing, Waterstains, and Antiques.
Eco-Flo Professional Waterstain – The waterstains offer vibrant, uniform color. The different stains come in a variety of colors and can be mixed for even more variation of color or thinned with water to reduce the intensity of the color. These stains are a special water-based, semi-fluid wax that won’t bleed or rub off and can be used on both the grain and flesh sides of vegetable tanned leathers.
Eco-Flo Leather Dye – These transparent colors are formulated to penetrate the surface of natural veg-tanned tooling leather. They can also be thinned with water or mixed together for additional hue options. Let dry completely after application and buff between coats to remove excess color from the surface.
Eco-Flo All-In-One Stain & Finish – Color and finished combined! These are excellent to use when drying time may be an issue, however they are also great for beginners, kids and groups! Only one coat is recommended and additional top finish is optional.
Eco-Flo Gel Antique – This gel antique is designed to give your veg-tanned leather a rich aged look. It will collect in the cuts and impressions of your design to bring out the details of your work. It can also be used to highlight the natural imperfections in leather, emphasizing the uniqueness of each piece.
Eco-Flo Hi-Lite Color Stains – Similar to Gel Antique, this liquid acts as a light stain that brings out and enhances cuts and impressions.
Eco-Flo Cova Colors – These acrylic paints were developed specifically for leather. Whereas the other products listed soak in to the leather, acrylic paint sits on top of the leather. They are opaque, however can be thinned with water to reduce intensity which can be used as a “wash” to tint areas.
A few things to know going in:
Shake your dyes, stains and antiques before using each time to make sure that the color is evenly distributed in the liquid.
Each leather will respond to coloring slightly different. Always test color on a scrap from the same leather you are making your project out of to ensure proper color. Some dyes dry lighter or darker, so let your sample dry completely to see the end result of the color. Note that drying time can vary depending on temperature and humidity.
Dyes are excellent coloring organic materials… which can include your clothing and skin. Be attentive when using dyes and always wear gloves.
Be aware that most coloring is intended for the grain (smooth) side of the leather, not the flesh side (back). The texture on the rough side of the leather may be too porous and irregular to be sealed properly and can color can rub off even if it is sealed. To achieve color and smooth texture on both sides of a project, such as a belt, you can sew two separate pieces of leather together so that there will the smooth surface on each side.
When coloring with dyes and stains, sponges are ideal for application. For even coloring, you can continue to buff the color in to the leather for about a minute (especially with the more vibrant colors) as it can help spread the pigment evenly.
When coloring with Antiques or Hi-Lite, use a non-fibrous applicator like a buffing towel and color the tooled areas first.
For All-In-One Stain & Finish, sheep wool or a soft cloth is ideal for application.
Daubers are handy for small projects and edging, but not ideal for larger surface areas.
Acrylic paints are painted on with a paint brush. You can also use a paint brush to apply small amounts of dye for detail work on more intricate designs.
Tip: For even coloring, do not apply dye directly onto leather from the bottle, but rather use one of the applicators listed above. If dye is applied directly to the leather from the bottle, it may cause over saturation in a single spot and can be difficult to disperse color evenly.
Tip: When dyeing leather, you may want more than one application of color to get an even tone. Whether applying in circular motion technique or using an overlapping stroke technique, wait until the project is dry and then go over the entire surface again in the opposite direction.
When the leather has dried, you will want to buff it with a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess pigment before sealing. Sealing color is important to make sure that it will not rub off on clothing and other surfaces.
For sealing waterstains, we strongly recommend using our Eco-Flo Professional Finish. This durable finish was developed specifically for offering an expert finish with our waterstains and comes in high gloss or matte.
Super Shene are Sating Shene are good, all purpose sealants and can be used on any of the materials listed above to provide a water resistant seal. Super Shene will add a glossy appearance to your finished product whereas Satin Shene will have more of a muted appearance.
Tip: Super Shene can be used prior to coloring with Antiques and Highlights to prevent coloring in selected areas. For more information on this technique, watch our video Resisting Techniques!
Note: Some finishes will pick up a small amount of color from water based dyes. To guard against smears on background dyed projects, multi-colored figure or pictorial carved projects, apply finish on dyed area with a brush first to lock-in colors before applying final overall coat with a sponge or soft cloth.
Learn more about dying techniques with George Hurst and Charlie Davenport on our YouTube channel:
Overlay & Inlay Dyeing
Block Dyeing Technique
How to Use the Pro Series Waterstains
Visit our website for books on Coloring:
Coloring Leather by Al Stohlman
Coloring with Eco-Flo (Available In Spanish)
Monday, 4 May 2015
It’s not uncommon that we’ll have a customer come in and show us a key fob that their grandchild crafted for them at camp or a wallet they made in their youth. Leathercraft is a tangible memory of time spent at summer camp.
If you are involved in planning a summer program (or know someone who is), it’s not too late to include leathercraft to provide a unique experience that campers can cherish. Contact your local Tandy Leather location to find out more about setting up your space for leatherworking and how to train your counselors to teach the craft.
Great Kit Projects For Campers:
Pocket Coin Holder Kit
Compass Case Kit
Dream Catcher Kit
Magic Billfold Kit
Key Fob Kits
Learn more about leather crafts ideas for camps on www.tandyleather.com
Monday, 27 April 2015
Although most people recognize George for his YouTube videos, his history of teaching leathercraft with Tandy goes back over 50 years!
George grew up on a tomato farm in a small town in Pennsylvania and was introduced leathercraft in the Boy Scouts in his youth. He went on to serve in the military during the Korean war and, when he returned, was recommended by a neighbor to apply at Tandy Leather.
In June of 1961, George Hurst began his long and illustrious career in Leathercraft. As a manager, George introduced 1,000’s of people to leathercraft through teaching at schools and in hospitals.
Although he loved teaching classes, he aspired to help others learn the love of leathercraft on a larger scale. In 1972, George created a manual for teaching that he used to help introduce leathercraft in to schools. His innovative program was very successful and, several years later, George was offered a job in Fort Worth to lead the merchandising team. One of the first things he did in this position was help develop a formal school program called “Adventures in Leathercraft”.
While serving as Merchandising Manager, George worked very closely with Al and Ann Stohlman. During that time, he helped develop a number of different publications, including the Encyclopedia of Saddlemaking, The Art of Embossing Leather, and all 3 volumes of The Art of Making Leather Cases.
George also pioneered the idea of using video in for teaching leathercraft in 1985 in a program he created to teach the basics of leatherwork in schools. The program became quite popular and was also sold in stores for a learning resource at home.
In 2009, George was brought back to the Tandy team to resume teaching with video through YouTube and on the LeathercraftLibrary. Since then, he has created hundreds of instructional videos that help teach the basics of leathercraft, how to properly use tools, and walk-throughs for creating leather projects.
Among George’s accolades include an Al Stohlman Award in 1992, Leather Artisan of the Year (Will Rodgers Memorial Award), Lifetime Achievement in Leathercraft, and the International Federation of Leather Guilds’ Hall of Fame Award.
“I’ve been a pretty blessed guy to get in to this business,” said George. “I’m 82, still working and loving every minute of it.”
Monday, 6 April 2015
On April 10-11, we will be having one of our biggest sales of the year!
Things To Know About Our Open House Sale:
Everything is on sale! That leather and hardware you regularly buy? It’s on sale too! Make sure you get there early and stock up while supplies last.
This is the best time to become a wholesale member! During the Open House, retail customers will get to buy at the Gold level wholesale club price, however wholesale members shop at even greater discounts! Get the lowest prices during the Open House and take advantage of Gold or Elite level pricing all year round by becoming a wholesale member this weekend!
Save 50% or more on select items such as embossed belt blanks, cream rawhide sides, Craftaids and selected kits during the Open House. April sales flyer prices will also be available, so come in for these amazing deals and look out for additional Manager Specials!
The sale will be taking place in store on April 10-11, however you can shop at sale prices all weekend long at www.tandyleather.com!
Yes, there will be Giveaways!
Each of the first 50 customers to each store will receive a reusable tote bag.
Keep an eye on our twitter postings (@tandyleather) throughout the event, because we’ll be giving away Tandy Leather T-Shirts and Aprons! Use the hashtag #TandyOpenHouse for your chance to win prizes!
On Thursday night, join us for our first ever Twitter Party! We will be giving away $100 in gift cards for participating in conversations about projects and product ideas! More details coming soon!
Monday, 23 March 2015
It’s not uncommon that we’ll have a customer come in and show us a project that was passed down to them from a family member or mentor. Whether you are preserving an heirloom or just keeping your boots oiled, it’s good to know what conditioners to use for different projects.
Note: Most leather conditioners are intended for smooth finished leathers, not suede or nubuck. Conditioners may darken light colored leathers, so test in an inconspicuous area first.
Dr. Jackson’s Leather Conditioner – This product is one of the most effective ways to restore the new look to leather. It nourishes, softens and protects while extending the life of the leather. Use as a regular maintence program to keep your leather articles looking their best.
Dr. Jackson’s Hide Rejuvenator – This paste is great for restoring old, dried out smooth leather items such as boots, garments and saddles, as well as upholstered furniture and vehicle interiors. It actually replaces natural oils, cleans, softens, protects and increases water repellency. This is the finest leather restorative available.
Canauba Crème – This product is a water based, blended wax conditioner and finish for natural or dyed, new or aged smooth leather. It provides a durable wax finish that resists water and dirt while conditioning leather. This product will not seal color, so if using with a dyed project, apply a finishing coat after the Canauba Crème.
Tandy Pure Neatsfoot Oil – Neatsfoot Oil is a natural preservative used for conditioning, softening and preserving leather. The primary function of this product is to replace evaporated oil with other natural oils. It is great for reconditioning and oiling leather working equipment like saddles, baseball gloves, horse tack & harnesses and other outdoor gear.
Tip: When working on large projects (i.e. saddles) that are saturated and allowed to dry multiple times, the water can remove some of the natural oils and make the leather more rigid. Adding Neatsfoot Oil between tooling and dying can help better preserve the leather, however you will want to make sure that it is oiled evenly and wait 12-24 hours after oiling to ensure that the project is dry to prevent uneven coloring when dyeing.
Tandy Prime Neatsfoot Oil Compound – This medium weight oil is heavier than Pure Neatsfoot and is ideal for saddles, tack and boots that need oil that is easily absorbed in to leather with deep. The combination of essential and synthetic oils helps lubricate fibers and restores suppleness to leather.
Fenice’s Leather Care Kit – This kit proves everything you need to care for your furniture leather. It contains a mild cleaner that thoroughly cleans leather while maintaining its natural beauty and feel, as well as a protective cream, which creates a protective barrier allowing leather to remain clean and soft for years to come. It also includes an ink remover that removes recent ink stains, lipstick and chocolate.
Tip: More conditioner is not always better. Always apply oils and conditioners in light coats, never in heavy coats. You can apply multiple light layers to reach the desired consistency, however you cannot remove the oil once it is in the leather. Start lightly and work conditioner in to the leather until it is absorbed evenly. Buff off excess product with a soft, dry cloth to prevent leftover conditioner coming off on other materials.
Monday, 9 March 2015
You will hear time and time again “Make sure you frequently strop your swivel knife!”, but what does that really mean? If it’s not actually sharpening the blade, what about stropping makes cutting more effective?
When leather is tanned, there are a number of different tanning agents used in the tanning process. When carving in to your leather, some of these small particles can accumulate on your knife while cutting. This microscopic build up on your blade can create tiny amounts of friction and prevent the knife from moving smoothly through the leather, which can create a dragging feeling in your swivel knife cuts.
Jewelers Rouge is a compound that has a slight grit to it and works as a polishing agent, so it can help remove the buildup of these unwanted particles. Stropping also polishes the swivel knife blade producing a shiny, mirror like finish which cuts down on the drag felt when cutting. The key for swivel knife cuts is that the blade is sharp, shiny and smooth to get the most control on your cuts!
Learn more about the use and care of the Swivel Knife on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNnC44AugUw
You may have also seen our other polishing compounds online or in our stores. Similar to Jewelers Rouge, these polishing compounds are used to smooth and/or shine a wide variety of metals. Polishing compounds are similar to sandpaper in that they are used from coarse to fine. It is important to first determine what type of polishing compound to use. Polishing compounds also minimizes, or removes the appearance of scratches on surfaces by effectively buffing them out.
White: Used for light polishing. Primarily used in the final finish of steel, stainless steel and zinc.
Red: Used for regular cleaning of metals. Most common uses of this iron oxide compound are for steel blades and precious metals like jewelry.
Green: Used for high gloss polishing. Primarily used in the final buffing stage for stainless steel, brass, aluminum, nickel and chrome. Considered the best all-around luster compound for most metals.
Grey: Used for heavy duty cleaning of hard metals. Produces a good cut with no wild scratches and works to good color on all metals.
Brown: Used for regular cleaning with hard metals. Good for removing light scratches, imperfections and oxidation. The most popular choice for cutting down and buffing base materials.