How to Hand Carve A Design in Leather

Carving can add beauty to leather.
Carving can add beauty to leather. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

You can give leather products a personal effect by hand-carving designs into them. Carving leather by hand requires time and a steady hand. Leather craftsmen usually find the work equally relaxing and rewarding. There are a number of tools available to make intricate designs. However, you can get started with just a few basic leather-working tools.

Things You'll Need

  • Tooling mallet
  • Swivel knife
  • Beveler tool
  • Backgrounder tool
  • Tracing film
  • Sponge
  • Leather finisher

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Dampen your piece of leather by rubbing it with a wet sponge. Do not saturate.

Draw your design lightly onto a piece of tracing film. When the design is perfect, lay the tracing film onto your piece of leather. Trace the design to transfer the design to the leather. Remove the film from the leather.

Carve out the tracing using a swivel knife. The carvings should be approximately half as deep as the thickness of the leather. Take your time while carving. Make sure the carvings are even and follow the design perfectly.

Bevel the edges of the carving. Place the beveler tool into the groove of the carvings so that the tool's shallow side rests on the outside edge of the carving. Hold the beveler vertically and useso ft mallet strikes on top of the beveler tool to depress and bevel the edge of the carving. Work your way around both edges of the carving all around the design. Every time you move your beveler to a new section, make sure that the tool overlaps the last section by at least 2/3 of the width of the beveler tool head.

Sponge leather periodically to prevent it from drying out.
Sponge leather periodically to prevent it from drying out. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Sponge on a layer of leather finish. Dampen a clean sponge and pour a dime-sized amount of finish onto the sponge. Work the finisher into your leather making sure to cover the entire surface including the carvings.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not allow the leather to dry until the carving is complete. Dampen with the sponge as needed while you are working with the leather.
  • To make fine marks and fill in designs consider using shaped leather stamps.
  • Always work on a hard flat surface such as a marble counter-top.
  • Always use leather that is naturally tanned.
  • Use caution with the tools to prevent slipping and injury.


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