Can You Use Wood Carving Tools On Leather?

Leather carving tools are quite different from wood carving tools and for good reason, but unless you are a professional leather carver with 10 years of experience you probably will not mind using your usual set of tools that you use for woodworking. So, can you use wood carving tools on leather?

Yes. You can use wood carving tools on leather, while they are not as ideal as tools manufactured for leather carving, wood carving tools such as the V and U gouges work very well replace a lot of leather carving tools.

When using wood carving tools to carve leather you can still cut straight lines, trim the leather, and bevel. The only difference would be that you may need to apply more power and the quality of your carved leather may be a little lower as the tools are not made specifically for the grain of the leather.

7 Tips For Using Wood Carving Tools To Carve Leather

Always Keep You Tools Sharp

Having your tools extremely sharp will not just help you produce higher quality work easier, but it will also make it safer for you to work with knives, gouges, and chisels.

Always keep in mind that you are working with tools that are manufactured for a purpose that is a little different from carving leather, therefore it’s best to keep all other quality factors as perfect as possible.

There are many different ways to sharpen your tools, whichever one you use, just make sure that the blade is in the best form possible to carve leather.

Always Work On a Marble Slab

If you are very new to leatherworking you may have not yet learned that leather is usually carved on marble.

There are a few alternatives that you can look into if you don’t want to use marble, but for the most part, a marble board such as the one above works best and is very durable.

Trace The Design

When carving wood, you of course sometimes transfer a pattern and trace it onto your carving. While transferring patterns is similar, it works a little differently on leather, so be sure to watch how to transfer patterns onto leather if you don’t know how to.

Another fun thing to consider when designing your leather are stamps. Stamps are very fun to play with when carving leather, there is quite a bit to cover about stamping, so we’ll do it in a separate post that you can check out if you are interested.

Cut At An Angle

If you have used actual leather carving tools such as the swivel knife, you probably know that you should not cut perpendicular to the surface, instead something like a 30°-45° angle is optimal.

This rule is no different for cuts you do with your wood carving tools, keep in mind not to change the angle of the knife during the cut as this will be a very unpleasant downgrade to the quality of your carving.

Using Chip Carving Knives

Good chip carving knives tend to be excellent to carve leather, so if you have a good chip carving knife then you should give it a try, most likely you will prefer it to your normal whittling knife.

In general, something of a larger size and with a steadier grip is looking like the right direction for leather carving.

Use a Mallet

Just like you would use a mallet with your chisels and gouges you should use a mallet on wood whenever possible. A mallet that is used for leather carving is almost the same as the kind you would use for wood carving, they are usually a little smaller and seem to be too heavy for their size, but you will do just fine with almost any mallet.

Leather is a much softer material than wood, therefore cutting through it in one movement makes for a much cleaner cut than a slower stretching sawing with your knife. Due to its texture, leather will almost never be left with semi-broken grain either.

Using Extra Protection To Carve

If you’re trying something new for the first time it’s always better to be a little more safe than usual. This means that if you have some protective tape or Kevlar gloves that you used 10 years ago, try to find them and wear this little extra protective layer for the first time that you are carving leather.

We don’t want to scare you that something can go wrong, but when working with such sharp instruments there are a lot of things that can go wrong. So at least protect your hands if your knife slips from the desired trajectory.

What Leather Carving Tools To Get

If you are serious about your leather carving, then soon, you will probably be considering buying actual leather carving tools. While you don’t have to get the full set of tools a couple of things such as the Leather Swivel Nicking Knife and Tandy Leather Craftool will greatly improve the quality of your leather carvings.

Over time you can expand your set of tools to be larger as you add more variety to your carvings. Below is a very helpful video that shows and describes the complete set of tools you need to carve leather as any professional leather carver would.

One nice product that you can get from those featured in the video is the Craftool Pro Flat Head Poly Maul. This is a mallet that will help you work with leather better than your usual wood carving mallet. Being heavier but smaller helps you cut through the denser layers of leather, but you could also use it on your wood carving tools.

If you don’t know where exactly to get your leather from you can also get that from Amazon. For example, you can the 8 oz Veg Tanned Precut Leather Square

Final Thoughts

Carving leather with wood carving tools is very much possible, a good job can be made out of leather using tools such as chisels gouges chip carving knives e.t.c. However, if you are serious about leather carving eventually you should move on to leather carving tools, like the swivel knife, with them the quality of your leather carving will thrive.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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