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Starting out? My first leather

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

I clearly remember buying my first hide. I had no idea what I was doing.

I had decided after taking our beloved knives to Christmas lunch wrapped in teatowel for the 4th year in a row that I needed to make a kniferoll to protect them. And thus began my leathercrafting career.


I remembered my dad had taken me to Birdsall Leather as a kid so I figured that would be my best place to start. After scouring their site and being utterly confused, Veg tan this and Chrome tan that, I didn't understand what the hell was I looking at? And what did I need?

So instead I undertook some research, headed to the shop and after agonizing for what felt like hours, bought my first hide. It was beautiful....clean, flat, and tough without scars (something I have since come to love) and of course waaay over my budget. As fantastic as this piece of leather was, it was half way through the build of the kniferoll when I realised my mistake.




My first hide - Veg tan double shoulder, good for carving, tooling, and dying



Since then I have learnt about a bit more about leather, and since you're starting out I thought I may be able to help you with a few tips to get you going.


1. Do some research before you buy. While you wont learn everything overnight,it will give you a starting point. Have somedea of what you want to make and ultimately this will lead you towards a type of appropriate leather. Want to make something soft and supple with movement, then chrome-tan is probably a better option. Want something with a bit more structure and to be able to be carved, tooled and dyed, then veg-tan is more your friend.


2. Buy cheap. Most wholesalers will have a selection of scrap that you can buy for smaller projects and practice. This is ideal. Let's be honest, when you're starting out your going to make mistakes along the way. By doing this you'll save yourself a load of upfront cash.


3. Vegetable-tanned leather is easier to use than chrome-tanned leather (at least in my opinion). Starting with veg-tan will allow you to try a range of different skills, some of which you wont be able to do as easily with chrome-tan.


4. With Covid-19 hanging around you may not be able to but if you can, visit your wholesaler - see the leather, get a feel for it and ask questions, lots of questions.


5. If you can't physically get there, Tandy leather is a popular online leather store with a 'library' featuring education, patterns and techniques, good for getting you started. While they don't seem to have any more physical stores in Australia, they do deliver worldwide. Note that there are some restrictions on shipping to Australia due to our quarantine laws.



A selection of chrome tanned leathers, much more pliable and softer.



Australia has a good selection or leathercraft wholesalers, I have listed a few of the more popular ones below.


I'm in Sydney so my go to is Birdsall Leathercraft. They store a wide range of leather, tools, dyes and hardware. They have friendly service and will answer any questions you have. Their services are both instore and online.


In Queensland

Packer Leather I have enjoyed my time when visiting. The staff are friendly and helpful and there is a great range of leather available. They also sell a good range of tools and consumables.


East Coast Leather While I haven't yet had the chance to visit, I have heard great things about this place. Friendly atmosphere, leathercrafting lessons, and a huge range leathers for absolutely every need.


In South Australia

Adelaide Leather and Saddlery I had a chance to visit here once while on tour. They are nice and helpful and stock a good range of leathers, tools, dyes and paints. Arguably they have the biggest selection of Angelus paints I have seen and I was lucky enough to get a great deal on some older craftool stamps.


In VIctoria

Leffler Leather I am still yet to visit here too. From what I've seen their reputation proceeds them.. Lots of leather for all projects, tools for days and a training room for all your learning needs.



In Western Australia

Leather Direct Almost 4000kms away from my home town, I have not been able to visit here yet but as the biggest supplier in WA, they have a great selection of tools, dyes and leathers including a good range of garment leathers.


So that's about it. Understand that I have only scratched the surface and there is so much more I need to tell you, For now, I hope these basic tips have been helpful in getting you started and if you are looking for some help, drop me a line below or send me an email.


See you next week :)










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