Monday, 2 November 2015

Learning Leathercraft with Jim Linnell – Lesson 8: Decorative Cuts

Join us in this weekly series on tooling a floral wallet back with tips and tricks from award-winning leatherworker Jim Linnell!

Find the free pattern for this project on the Leathercraft Library at



Materials Used In Lesson 8:

Swivel Knife

4-5 oz Vegetable Tanned Leather


A few things learned from this video:

When making decorative cuts, there are no lines to follow.  These cuts are done free hand to bring life to the design and add some personal artistic flair.  Sometimes you can even tell one person’s work from another by their style of decorative cuts.

When making decorative cuts, make sure to have similar moisture to that of the initial cutting and have your swivel knife is well stropped.

The main thing is to make sure of is that you have good control over the swivel knife.  Do not rush this step, but rather go slow and be deliberate with your decorative cuts.  There are no steps that would cover up a mistake made at this point, so be intentional and know where you want each cut to go before you do it on your leather.

As a general rule, decorative cuts start with a heavy amount of pressure and lighten up as you pull towards you so that the cuts fade out and disappear.  When doing a series of decorative cuts in a flower petal, it is ideal if they appear as if all of the cuts would eventually meet, but rather they gradually fade out.

Every step takes practice, however technique can help make the tools work better.  Practice curving cuts running in both directions on scrap leather and work on the tapering so that you can add a nice flow to your design.

Many people ask “Do I need to invest in some more expensive tools to improve my work” and my response is “How much you spend on the tool in your hand does not affect the quality of your work as much as how much experience that hand has had”.  Spending some time learning and practicing with each of these tools can greatly improve the quality of your leatherwork.


Join us next week as we move beyond tooling to dyeing, finishing, and assembling the wallet!