While machines and tools designed to set rhinestones in various kinds of soft cloths are common, the accessories needed to set fake gems in leather are sometimes a bit more obscure. Since leather is not only thick and tough, but often used to create garments designed to take heavy punishment, setting rhinestones in this material requires a more hardy approach. While many of the tools are the same, special considerations must be made in order to ensure success and strength.
One of the most effective means of attaching rhinestones to leather is, simply, glue. This method is best for areas that aren't likely to receive a lot of punishment or see the the stones get rubbed off. Even at that, you'll need a strong glue, preferably one designed for leather work or one designed to attach hard rhinestones to any surface (including non-porous ones like glass or ceramic). You can use epoxy, but take care using this glue if the rhinestones are likely to come into contact with skin because epoxy can irritate or cause allergic reactions in many people. When attaching the rhinestones, glue twice. The first time, attach the glue to the back of the stone. After this glue has set, attach a tiny ring of glue around the outside rim of the rhinestone to secure its edges to the leather.
A good set of fine-tipped needle-nosed pliers is an essential tool for securely attaching any rhinestones with bendable prongs or legs. These tiny, sharp pieces of metal are designed to be pushed through the leather, then folded down on the other side so they'll stay in place. While you can do this with your fingers, you'll get better results with pliers because you'll be able to press the prongs down farther, making them more secure and less likely to snag or irritate. Use a set of jewelry pliers, rather than household pliers, as these have smaller tips and spring-loaded handles, making them ideal for this kind of detail work.
Some rhinestones are attached by crimping together a metal front and back, trapping the fabric inside; presses are hand-held tools designed to do the crimping. For leather, get a heavy-duty press advertised specifically for use with thicker, tougher materials; other crimpers won't stand up to this kind of work or attach rhinestones in a secure manner.
For the best combination of secure attachment and comfortable wear, get rhinestones designed to be sewn in place with needle and thread. As with any leather sewing, you'll need leather sewing cord (or leather sinew) and leather working needles. You might also need a sewing awl, which is a tough metal spike designed to create holes in leather for needles to pass through, though you can also use a seam ripper in a pinch, especially with softer, thinner leather material.
- "The Art and Craft of Leather: Leatherworking Tools and Techniques Explained in Detail"; Maria Teresa Llado i Riba and Eva Pascual i Miro; 2008
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