Great Leather Craft Books

Walt Disney is quoted as saying “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island. And best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.”

Leather working may be an old art form but it has embraced modern technology. Since the inception of YouTube people have posted how to videos on every subject imaginable, including leather craft. There are some good and some not so good videos out there, but I wanted to talk about some of the great leather books.

Craftool Tech-Tips by Al Stohlman

One of my favorite books is a simple book called Craftool Tech Tips by Al Stohlman. This book (more of a large magazine type format) is only 22 pages but packed into those pages were hundreds of tips and techniques from Al Stohlman on floral and figure carving as well as stamping with geometrics. In addition to showing how to use the stamping tools there are side notes about proper use of the tools. When I was just starting out this simple book was a treasure trove showing me how to use the tools I had and teaching about tools I discovered I needed.

Flower Carving in leather with a veiner tool
Using the veiner on flower petals.

When I first started working with leather by main interest was in carving and I used to spend hours going over this book to learn the techniques. I can still pick up pointers from it to this day and I consider this to be one of the best books I own. I was fortunate to pick up a copy early in my leather carving career.

This first book has been around a long time (it was first published in 1969) but my second favorite book is much more recent.

Leathercraft by Nigel Armitage

Leathercraft by Nigel Armitage is a much newer book, published in 2020, and its a much different book from the first one. While the first book talks all about carving leather this book talks about basic construction techniques, particularly hand stitching leather. It is written by a master leather worker with over thirty years experience and it gives a really good insight into English leather working techniques. Since my early education in leather craft had been focused on carving and stamping, this book was a catalyst to improving my construction skills, refining hand stitching and improved pattern making. It is a well written book that is easy to follow and understand and will improve the skills of any leather crafter. It has exposed me to techniques and skills that I did not know about and it has broadened my capabilities as a leather crafter. I can’t say enough good things about it.

These are both excellent leather craft books that will serve you well during your journey to explore leather crafts and arts. I highly recommend adding both of these books to your library! And check out many of the other books out there. Some of them were written over 50 years ago but they contain descriptions of techniques that sometimes aren’t documented any where else. With so many leather craft books out there you can find something that informs you on the areas of leather crafts that interest you and will enhance your skills.

Where to get these leather craft books?

Leathercraft by Nigel Armitage is available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or through your local book seller. Craftool Tech Tips was published by Tandy Leather but as of this writing seems to be unavailable through their website. You can find copies available on both Amazon and eBay but you might also be able to find a copy at a brick and mortar Tandy store if you get lucky. Hopefully this book will be available again soon on the Tandy site.

How to: Leather Carving Tutorial!

This is a step by step process showing how I take a blank piece of leather and create a floral carving on it. In this particular case it is a simple flower but the same techniques work for any kind of carving in leather.

Leather carving tools and veg tan leather
This picture shows a piece of leather to be carved and some of the tools to get started including a swivel knife.

For this leather carving tutorial I’m just going to carve and tool a simple flower with seven petals. The picture above shows the piece of leather with the flower outline already carved into it with my swivel knife. I’ll go step by step over each tooling step that I make to get the final flower.  Feel free to grab a small piece of vegtan leather and follow along. Though it looks like there are a lot of steps and details here, it really doesn’t take too long to do each of these. Stay with me through this whole post and I guarantee you will pick up something useful!

A note on tools:  It’s more than likely you won’t have all of the tools that I show here.  For the most part I’m staying away from very specialized tools as much as possible but for doing traditional floral carving there are a couple of fairly specialized tools that are used to get very specific effects (like a center shader.)  If you don’t have all these tools don’t worry.  Where possible I’ll point out alternate tools you could use.  In almost every case these tools are available at your local brick and mortar leather shop or online at your favorite tool maker.  It’s sometimes possible to find these tools used from reputable online sources for very reasonable costs.

Leather Carving Tutorial: Step by Step

Step 1:  Trace the flower outline onto your leather and carve it with your swivel knife. The picture at the beginning of this leather carving tutorial shows this step. I transfer my carvings to tracing paper but I’ve also taken the paper drawing and traced it directly to the damp leather by putting a layer of kitchen plastic wrap over the leather to protect my paper. Also, this first picture shows the design carved in with the swivel knife.

Step 2:  Work from the foreground to the background!  There are a lot of good reasons for this but the main one is to keep from having to redo any areas you have already tooled.  

Floral Leather Carving with flower center tool
Flower Center stamped.

When looking at a flower like this, we treat the center as the closest part to the viewer and stamp that first.  It also helps to guide the beveling of the flower petals that will come next.  We want the impression that the petals (or more correctly their edges) come down to the flower center.

My flower center in this case is a stamp, but you can do something similar if you have a seeder and can stamp the seeds in a small circular area.  In one of the later tutorials we’ll actually use a seeder to make a more complex flower center.

Step 3:  Center shading.  This was one of the first ‘Sheridan Style’ tools I got once I could get more professional tools.  When I saw how this tool changes the look of the flower center I had to have one. 

Leather Floral Carving with Center Shader tool
Center Shader used on the flower center.

It’s a lined tool designed to work around the flower center stamp and matte it down, making it look like a cone shape.  It really enhances the depth the flower center has and makes it look like center is deep down in the center of a real flower.  You can’t really tell from the picture but this stamp has a slightly curved heel to help it fit around the center stamp and press the leather down right up to the edge of the center.  The lines on the stamp help to enhance the illusion of depth and will capture antique later (if you antique the piece.)

If you don’t have a center shader, a small beveler used carefully around the center can get a similar effect.

Step 4:  Using a veiner on the petals.  Floral carvers do this to add a visual texture to the petals as well as enhance the appearance of roundness and depth in the flower. 

Flower Carving in leather with a veiner tool
Using the veiner on flower petals.

You can use either a veiner or a camouflage tool for this.  Originally the camouflage tool was the tool of choice for this but as Sheridan Style developed using a veiner for this job became more common.  It’s a matter or your preference and style as to which you prefer.  I usually use a small veiner like the one shown here.

Step 4A:  Petals after all the veiner lines have been stamped.  I usually try to have my veiner marks line up around each petal though I’m not very precise about this. 

Floral carving showing veiner usage
All petals lined with veiner.

Also, I try to put the marks a little closer together near the center and have them gradually space farther apart as I get closer to the edge.  I think this enhances the visual illusion that you are looking at a 3D cone shape that gradually opens up and flattens out as you get close to the petal tips.

Step 5:  Thumbprint or pear shader on the petal tips.  This is one of the steps that is very stylized for floral carving and doesn’t really represent a feature in a real flower.  We do it to give texture to the petals and more visual impact. 

Thumbprint tool used on leather carved flower
Thumprint tool shading flower petals

This tool goes by several names.  Typically in Tandy Craftool catalogs it is referred to as a Pear Shader.  Most Sheridan Style carvers will call this a thumbprint, and the two do have some differences.  Pear Shaders are actually ‘pear’ or teardrop shaped and often smooth.  Thumbprints are usually longer, shaped more like a loaf of French bread and they are usually lined.  Thumbprints also are designed so that the inner end is narrower that the outer end, giving the user two sizes of thumbprint in one tool.  That is a nice benefit!

This particular tool is a thumbprint.  Notice how I start at the outer edge of the petal and walk it back toward the center, hitting it a little lighter as I go.

Step 6:  The undercut or undershot beveler.  This tool makes it easy to bevel those round concave areas on the flower petal.  Also, because of the way it is shaped, it pushes the leather up above the cut line, giving a lift to that part of the petal.  That is why these tools are often called ‘petal lifters.’  This was another one of those floral carving tools that I had to have once I saw how it was used.  To me this was the key tool that made professional carver’s work stand out.  

Floral carving with a petal lifter
Petal lifter for the petal edges

I’ll use this tool inside the slight inward curve on each flower petal to lift that part of the tip up.  Compared to the areas on either side of the lifted area where I’ve already used the thumbprint, that center part of the petal will really look like it’s standing up above the leather surface.

Petal lifter in place to lift a petal
Showing how the tool fits at the petal’s edge

Step 6A:  After stamping in all the scalloped areas of the petals.  I do this as the first step in the beveling process.  

All petals have been lifted using the petal lifter
All petals lifted

Step 7:  Beveling the petals.  First I focus on the long cuts to the flower center.  I use a wider beveller for this because you get smoother beveling when you can use a wide beveller.  The smaller the width of your tool the easier it gets to have uneven beveling and to leave undesirable tool marks.  You always want to use the widest tool you can.  The beveller in this picture is a ¼ inch wide.

Beveling the flower petals in a leather floral carving
Starting the petal beveling
All the central parts of the flower have been beveled
Flower center beveled all around.

Step 8:  Beveling around the petal tips.  To do the more rounded petal tips my larger beveler is too big to easily do the job, so I switch to a 1/8 wide beveller.  This makes it easier to go around the curves but you do have to take more care to use an even amount of force so you get an even and smooth beveling line.

Beveling the tips of the flower
A smaller beveler is used for the flower tips.

Step 8A:  Petal beveling complete! The flower is almost done at this point.

The flower petals have been beveled in this example
Beveling complete!

Step 9:  Matting down the beveling ridges.  Notice that there is a very pronounced ridge on the flower petals where I beveled the petal edges that lead down to the flower center.  I want to smooth out that ridge so the petals look more flat and I’m going to use the figure beveller at the top of the picture to do it. 

Figure beveler used to matte down the ridges left from beveling
A figure beveler to knock down the beveling ridges

Figure bevellers were specifically designed to matte down leather in figure carving and are great at removing ridges like this.  I stamped an impression of the tool next to it so you could clearly see the shape of the tool.  If you don’t have one of these tools a modeling spoon will do the same job for you.   Really any smooth rounded tool could be used like a modeling spoon to smooth the leather out.

Step 9A:  Everything smoothed down.  The petals now have a much smoother and more natural looking surface.

Flower Carving in leather showing all the beveling steps
Beveling ridges smoothed out.

Step 10:  The same kind of ridge exists around the outer edge of the flower thanks to our beveller and the carving will look better if we matte that down too.  Since this will be the background of the flower, we usually want this surface to be textured to make the flower stand out from it.  The texturing will capture antique when you antique your piece making it much darker than the flower, but even if you don’t antique your work the texture itself will separate the background from the floral carving.  

Starting to background around the flower carving
Backgrounding the flower.

First, I’m going to start with a small pointed checkered backgrounder to matte down the small pointed areas between the petals.  For this carving I’m going to use a checkered backgrounding tool. You can see an impression of the mark this backgrounder leaves next to the tool.  It is true that some floral carving experts will say that the only ‘professional’ backgrounding tool for floral work is a bargrounder but I say use whatever you are comfortable with.  I’ll have an example using bargrounders in a later tutorial.

Step 11:  Once I matte down the tight spaces I’ll switch to a larger tool so I can cover more area.  I stamped the larger tool next to the smaller one for comparison and I’ve started matting down the area along the top of the flower so you could see the difference.  

More backgrounding tools to shade around the flower
Expanding the backgrounded area.

Step 11A:  Here I’ve matted all the way around the flower.  Please note for this leather caring tutorial I wasn’t taking the time to do my best to matte this area down evenly and fade the edge out as smoothly as I could.  As a result, the matting on this background looks choppy.  If this was something I was making for a customer I would spend more time making the matting look smooth.

Matting around the flower has been completed.
Backgrounding completed.

Note how the backgrounding makes the flower stand out, like it’s actually above or separate from the leather. Because of the texturing in the background if you antique this leather it will make the flower stand out even more.

A side view of the floral carving showing off the backgrounding
Closer view of the backgrounding around the flower.

Step 12:  Decorative cuts.  Typically this is the last step in the project.  I usually finish all the carving before I come back and do this step.  Decorative or ‘dress’ cuts are intended to give extra detail to the flower and are another stylized effect for floral carving that doesn’t quite match a part on a real flower.  I for one think the flower looks much better with the cuts than without.  

Decorative cuts suggest veins on an actual flower and add visual interest to the carving.
Decorative cuts on the flower petals.

There are lots of different styles and ways to do these cuts.  Each carver usually find one that he likes and can do well and sticks with them.  I’ve never felt I was very good with these cuts and I stick to these basic ones most of the time.

That’s the whole thing!  Any questions?

Custom Wallets and Money Clips

For the past few years custom wallets and money clips have been a big part of our business.  People still enjoy having a wallet or money clip that matches their individuality.  At C and B Leather we specialize in handmade leather items that are built to your specifications.  Whether you want specific artwork on the outside, a special arrangement of pockets or a special size, let us know what you want and we will make our best effort to make it a reality!

One of the key benefits of having a wallet custom made is the quality you will receive as a result.  Our wallets are made to last a lifetime out of the highest quality materials by a craftsman who cares about his results.  These are not mass produced with the cheapest materials available.  Each one is made specifically with you in mind,

We have many more wallets like this in our Etsy Shop! If you see something there you like but want it customized, contact us and let us know.

Custom Work for Past Customers

These are some examples of our past creations.

“This wallet looks spectacular and is made to last a lifetime!”

-a former customer.


Oak leaf money clip with customer’s initial on it.

Leather Bifold Wallet
Hand made bifold wallet.

Money Clip with Geometric Design

Carved Leather wallet with Sunflower design
Minimalist wallet with sunflower design.

Shell stamped design on a small wallet.

Leather money clip with oak leaf carving
Leather money clip with oak leaf carving designs.

Made for your personality

We can make a wallet or money clip that shows off your interests and personality.  Contact us with your ideas and we can make them a reality.

Quality to last a lifetime and beyond

All of our products are made with top quality leathers and they are made with a commitment to craftsmanship that is rare these days.  While our products may cost more they will last you many many years beyond the typical big box store wallet or money clip.

Visit our shop!

On Etsy:  C and B Leather