Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Leather Coloring 101

Leather Coloring 101

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.

Leather Coloring 101

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.

Leather Coloring 101


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.

Leather Coloring 101


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.



Leather Coloring 101

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.

Leather Coloring 101



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.

Leather Coloring 101

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 

Antique Finishing

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

Tandy Leather Camp Crafts

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.

Tandy Leather's Leathercraft For Camps

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

Tandy Leather's Leathercraft For Camps

Compass Case Kit

Tandy Leather's Leathercraft For Camps

Leather Wristband

Tandy Leather's Leathercraft For Camps

Dream Catcher Kit

Tandy Leather's Leathercraft For Camps

Magic Billfold Kit

Tandy Leather's Leathercraft For Camps

Key Fob Kits

Tandy Leather's Leathercraft For Camps


Tandy Leather's Leathercraft For Camps

Learn more about leather crafts ideas for camps on www.tandyleather.com

Monday, 27 April 2015

Leaders in Leathercraft: George Hurst

Tandy Leather's Legends of Leathercraft: George Hurst

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.

Tandy Leather's Legends of Leathercraft: George Hurst

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.

Tandy Leather Legends of Leathercraft: George Hurst with Al Stohlman

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

Tandy Leather Open House!

On April 10-11, we will be having one of our biggest sales of the year!

Tandy Leather Open House!

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

A Guide For Tandy’s Leather Conditioners & Oils

A Guide For Tandy’s Leather Conditioners & Oils By Tandy Leather

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.

A Guide For Tandy’s Leather Conditioners & Oils By Tandy Leather


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.

A Guide For Tandy’s Leather Conditioners & Oils By Tandy Leather


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.

A Guide For Tandy’s Leather Conditioners & Oils By Tandy Leather


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.

A Guide For Tandy’s Leather Conditioners & Oils By Tandy Leather

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.

A Guide For Tandy’s Leather Conditioners & Oils By Tandy 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.

A Guide For Tandy’s Leather Conditioners & Oils By Tandy Leather


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

What Is Stropping And Why Is It So Important?

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

Use & Care


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.

Polishing Compounds

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.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Mila Handbag Pattern By Charlie Davenport


February’s Flyer featured the Mila Handbag as the Kit of the Month!

Charlie Davenport created a Tracing Pattern that is available for free on the Leathercraft Library, however we wanted to supplement the image with some more in depth instruction.



Decorative Column

1. To begin, cut lines for the decorative column using a swivel knife.  These 4 cuts will run parallel to the left side of the front of the purse and will be approximately 6.5 inches in length.  It is recommended to use a stainless steel ruler to ensure straight cuts.

The first line: Cut a line 1 inch from the left outside edge.

The second line: cut a parallel line 1/8 inch from the first line

The third line: cut a parallel line 1 1/4 inches from the second line

The fourth line: cut a parallel line 1/8 inch from the third line

IMG_6208  IMG_6206 Cropped


2. Now that you have your column completed, it is time to use a decorative stamp to create the pattern.  We used a stamp from the Craftool Floral Stamp Set, roughly 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch in size.  Begin stamping near the top edge and space out the stamps with 1 inch distance between the centers.  Continue to stamp the design in the pattern shown in the picture below.  Create the dotted line pattern that connects the stamps with an awl or pointed stylus.

IMG_6211 IMG_6209 1 Inch



3. Using a Beveler Stamp, bevel the inside lines.  You can also bevel the outside lines, or alternatively use a Round Spoon Modeling Tool to give a more gentle rounded edge for the outside cut lines.

IMG_6213 IMG_6218


4. Using a M884 Matting Stamp, matte the area to the left of the column.

*Tool Tip – The leather needs to be almost dry when using background matting tools.  If matted while damp, the surface of the stamp can burnish the leather.




5. (Optional) Using a Craftool Hair Blade Tool, run down the centers of the 1/8 inch wide columns to add additional texture to your project.






1.These letters were traced from the Alphabets For The Leathercrafter book.  Using a pencil, trace the letters on to tracing film and then transfer them on to dampened leather with a pointed stylus.  For our design, we used 3 initials and overlapped the letters provide a canvas with more coloring options.


2. Bevel the outside of the letters.  There are quite a few different looks that one can achieve with different Bevelers.  For this design, we used a Figure Carving Stamp on the outside to give a wider bevel and a steep, textured Beveler on the inside to give a steeper bevel.





This design used Blue and Red Eco-Flo Professional Waterstains, White Eco-Flo Cova Color, and Red Professional Leather Edge Paint.

We chose to use the Professional Waterstains for this project because they can provide a more even and opaque coloring.  They are also more rub resistant than other dyes and are less likely to fade than oil and spirit base dyes.

Note: Allow AT LEAST THIS LONG for drying between steps.

1. To achieve the light blue, we mixed Blue Water Stain with White Cova Color to reach our desired shade of blue.  Be sure to mix enough to coat the exteriors of both milled pieces.  We then applied it evenly over the entire piece (even over the letters) with a Pro High Density Sponge and wiped it off with a dry cloth to give the two-toned look on milled leather.


2. Using a Detail Brushes, apply undiluted Blue Waterstain to the interior of the column.

3. Use a paint brush to apply Red Waterstain to the top and bottom letters, as well as the 1/8 inch thick borders for the column.

4. Use a paint brush to apply White Cova Color to the unoverlapped portions of the middle letter.

5. Mix Red Waterstain and White Cova Color to create a mid-tone color to paint in the overlapped areas.


6. With a clean sponge, apply Eco-Flo Professional Gloss Finish to help seal the color in to your project.


7. Using a Crafool Edge Paddle, apply the Professional Edge Paint where the leather meets on the side.  Apply multiple coats for a smooth, rounded finish.



Wednesday, 18 February 2015

EMAO Leather Art Exhibition in Vigo, Spain

The Al Stohlman museum, at the invitation of the Escuela Municipal de Artes y Oficios de Vigo, also sent leather art pieces from its collection to be on exhibition in Vigo, Spain. Leather art from Al Stohlman, Jim Linnell, Charlie Davenport and George Hurst are on display, among other great works from renowned leather artists from Europe and the world

Tandy Leather EU manager Lien Dereadt and Andres Ruiz demonstrated our Professional water stains and Pro series tools during the EMAO Leather Art Exhibition in Vigo, Spain.


DSC00828-crop DSC00831   IMG_20150213_193013114


IMG_20150213_192900510 IMG_20150213_194723231_HDR



Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Adhesives: What To Use, When and Why


With so many types of adhesives, how do you know which one to use when?  We’re here to offer a little bit of insight on this sticky question.


Leather Glues

Eco-Flo Leather Weld* – Leather Weld is a great, general purpose adhesive that is strong and easy to use.  It is specially formulated for bonding leather, however can also be used to bond with cloth, wood, chipboard, and paper.  This makes it very popular for book binding and a variety of other multi-medium projects.  A benefit of Leather Weld is that it is moveable when first applied, so you have the opportunity to adjust your project in to place, and dries flexible.  The bond is permanent once allowed to dry for 24 hours, however it is not as strong of a hold when moisture remains.   It is also recommended to apply pressure to the joined surface until dry.  Leather Weld may be diluted with water if a lighter application is needed.


Tanner’s Bond Leathercraft Cement* – Very similar application and use as the Leather Weld, however Leathercraft Cement is ideal for youth crafts as it is faster drying and has less of a scent.



Contact Cements

EcoWeld Water Based Contact Cement* – One of the primary differences between glues and contact cements is in how they are applied.  To attach your leather pieces, you will need to apply the contact cement to both surfaces and let it air dry until it is sticky enough to bond to itself and stay on its own.  The benefit of this is that you do not have to clamp it, however the bond is not adjustable once positioned.  Allow to dry for 24 hours to get the optimal bond.


Tanner’s Bond Craftsman Contact Cement – This is a low V.O.C. solvent based adhesive, however it does not contain some of the chemicals considered hazardous in other similar adhesives.  Being solvent based, this adhesive is waterproof, making it a popular choice with professionals such as saddle makers and shoe makers.



Other Adhesives

Tanner’s Bond Craftsman Rubber Cement – Rubber cement helps hold pieces of leather together while you are lacing or putting in linings.  It is adjustable and allows you to take the pieces apart if needed.


Tanner’s Bond Adhesive Tape – Adhesive tape is a very handy two-sided tape that is fast to use and holds projects in place for lacing, stitching or when using punches and chisels.




Adhesive Tip: Finishes on leather can lessen the effectiveness of adhesives.  If applying adhesive to a smooth surface, rough the surface first with a Craftool Pro Detail Rougher or Sanding Stick!


*These adhesives are water based.  Different countries and states uphold significantly varying regulations on environmental standards, however our water based products have been developed to meet the strictest regulations.  Because they are water based, these liquids are non-flammable, however some may ruin if frozen.  Check page 159 of your catalog for a Liquid Symbols chart to know which of your liquids you should store at above 45 degrees Fahrenheit/7 degrees Celsius.

Need a Tandy Leather catalog?  Click here to get your free copy.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Introducing TerraFlex!

TerraFlex (Item # 3490-02) is a high quality, natural thermoplastic material that can be used in sheet form or molded and shaped by heat (heat gun, hair dryer, steam, or iron). TerraFlex has two distinctly different sides, each with unique features. The rougher side is typically used for the outer, visible surface of the project since it can be sanded and painted. The other side has a smooth, semi-gloss appearance and contains a natural, heat activated adhesive. When heated, TerraFlex can be bonded onto itself for when multiple layers are needed for adding strength or thickness. Our EcoWeld Contact Cement works very well to cold-bond TerraFlex to leather. TerraFlex is fully recyclable and solvent-free. Scraps may be repurposed by heating them together and rolling them out flat again.



* High quality thermoplastic that is fully recyclable
* Full re-use of recycled material in the same project
* Solvent free processing
* Non-Toxic
* One side contains heat activated bonding adhesive
* Can be cut with scissors or knife
* Can be marked on with permanent marker or pen
* Can be sanded for smoother appearance
* Can be painted



29.5 in x 19.5 in x 0.05 in/749 mm x 495mm x 1.27 mm



The smooth, semi-gloss side contains natural, heat activated adhesive that can be used to bond TerraFlex to itself or temporarily to leather. For a more permanent bond with leather, EcoWeld Contact Cement is recommended.

Required temperature for bonding: Approx 203-212 F (95-100 C)

Ironing temperature: Approx 266-284 F (130-140C)

Note: If TerraFlex has been heated previously, temperature required for preparation may be reduced, shortening the time of preparation.



Store in a clean area, separate from anything that may contaminate the TerraFlex to prevent reuse. Do not store TerraFlex in heated areas, as it could soften and warp the material.



Bag Stiffener
Pattern Template
Lining for Sheaths and Holsters