Executive Leather Desktop Name Plate with Braided Edges

I am releasing today yet another custom leather desktop name plate design that incorporates a beautiful edge braiding technique. This particular style will enhance any executive’s office and desk and bring inspiration to those still climbing the ladder. Place your order at etsy or Artfire.

Be sure and get your order in early as once all slots are spoken for, there will be no more available till after Christmas.

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Leather Desktop Name Plate in 3 Steps

Making a leather desktop name plate allows me to bring together several different techniques I have learned over the years into play on a small yet practical project. Specifically…braiding, tooling and dyeing. For the desktop name plate I am going to use as an example, the first thing you will notice is that the name is made using a lettering tool. This has to be done because of cost restraints. Hand carving a name takes considerably more time than stamping the name.

You will also notice that I am braiding the three sides together versus hand sewing. Aside from the cost of the leather lace, the time involved is pretty close to the same for either braiding or hand sewing. The type of braid I will be doing is a simulated 8-string braid which can be found as plate 122 in the Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather Braiding. If you don’t have a copy of the this must have book, you can always get one here.

On the backside of of the name plate I will be braiding three stars encircled by a stairstep braid. These two techniques can be found as plates 183 and plate 195 in the Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather Braiding. Check down further in this article and you will find a video of the star braiding technique.

The dye I am using is the eco friendly tan gel available from Tandy Leather Factory. There is one step that most leather crafters don’t use when dyeing their projects that I do. After dyeing the leather I allow it a full 24 hours to completely dry. I come back and saturate the leather with water (this particular dye is a water base dye) and remove excess dye a second time. This will remove artificial color that is sitting on top of the leather and if I did a good job dyeing it the first time, those deep embedded colors are exposed.

Step 1…cut your three pieces of leather by “oversizing” what you think the finished size will be and tool/carve your leather as you see fit. In my example presented in this posting I used the following tools when tooling: Al Stohlman swivel knife, D485, 8139-00, G9009-03, E9006-07, and C940. These tools are all available from Tandy Leather Factory. I also choose to use “graphic” rulers versus traditional rulers. You can find these rulers at Texas Art Supply. The reason I do this is simply because I first do my tooling/carving of the name, then carve the rectangle and borders around it. The size is what the size is at that point. The three pictures below show the three pieces I will be assembling shortly. The pictures show the front, back and bottom after the first dyeing technique and they are dull in appearance at this point. This is to be expected. The finished leather desktop name plate will be 1 7/8″ X 10 1/4″.




Step 2…I decided to set this step aside for its own section because once you master this technique, you will find yourself using it for many applications. Basically you are going to learn how to draw the perfect 5-point star to fit the disignated area, how to braid the star and how to accent the star by performing a stairstep braid around the star. In the preceeding photograph we have already drawn the star, plotted the coordinates and punched the holes. If you want to know how I sized and drew the perfect 5-point star, then please read this accompanying article. These holes are going to be used for the 5 points of the star and for the stairstep braiding and must be exactly spaced. We will be using braiding techniques discussed in the Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather Braiding as plates 183 and 195. If you don’t have this book and you want to learn how to braid, you can always get one here.

Step 3…Now that all three panels are completed the only remaing task is attach them to each other. Your choices are two…(1) hand sew or (2) braid. I choose to braid. Why you ask? Because most people don’t and I think it adds a touch authenticity. For this project I used plate 122 from the Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather braiding.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

New Trick for Old Dog

When I sat down today to post my comments about my craft and capturing it with a camera, it dawned on just how long ago I started selling my stuff, as I like to call it. My kids have helped me categorize my designs by giving them such exotic labels as “Leather Centerpieces”, “Cornerfold Wallets”, I’m sure you get the concept. Marketing and presentation are not my cup of tea. Leather crafting is. I guess there is something to be said about admitting your shortcomings.

It’s with that thought in mind, that brings me to today’s topic. How the hell do I get an above average photograph of my stuff so it can be accurately judged and valued by prospective buyers? Personally, I just don’t think it can be done, especially when talking about “Leather Centerpieces”. To me, they are extremely well thought through and easily add a dynamic to any home decor. But how does one appreciate that through a photograph?  How do I show them how nice they are? I still say there is no substitute for touching, and feeling and of course smelling the leather if that’s your thing. I guess I just need to get over it and get on with the task at hand.

I am just not sure I can answer that.

But since my kids have been hounding me for countless years about taking better photographs I decided to invest in a table top light box. Below is one example of before and after using the light box.

This transition is important to me and your comments are too. So let me have it where it hurts.


3 Practical Steps to Edge Braiding

I am going to take advantage of the fact that I am currently working on a key fob that I want to have edge braiding on so it will add a beautiful effect of the braid itself and the fact that it will better protect the edge more than anything else I could do. This leather braiding technique is covered in the book “Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather Braiding” as plate 122. If you want to really learn how to braid, then I recommend purchasing this book. When edge braiding you must first make one very important decision…Do I want to punch holes or slits? For me, I always use slits except for the corner where I always use three 1/8″ holes. Corner braiding is a topic of and to itself which I will discuss in another post. But, if you are currently having a problem with going around a corner, post your question at the bottom of this article and I will answer it for you.

So for our purposes we will use 1/8″ slits and we won’t need to punch any holes because we are not going around any corners because the key fob is round. At the end of this article is a slide show that depicts the hard to describe visuals referred to in this article.

The 3 practical steps to edge braiding as I am going show are

A. Preparation

B. The braid

C. Final touch

Step 1…Preparation is far more important than the braiding step because if you mess up now, there is nothing you can do to fix it with the braiding step.

a. skiving…in the project I am using for demonstration purposes, the leather is from a 10 oz vegetable tanned shoulder resulting in a piece of leather about 3/16″ thick. I want to skive both sides down so when they are glued together the final product will be approximately 1/8″ total thickness

b. using a scribe set to 1/8″ inch, I want to mark a line 1/8″ in from the outside edge. This will be the line where my slits will go.

c. since each slit is 1/8″ wide and I want 1/8″ between all slits, I am going to set my wing divider at 1/4″ so I can easily mark the leading point of each slit. I am going to make the slits one at a time versus using a 3 or 4 tong punch because the slits will be on a curve and the punch will not mark them with the accuracy I prefer

d. once I have made all of my slits on one side only, I now glue the two sides together and come back and make the slits on the other side by using the slit already made as a guide to line up the other side. In other words, place one side of you punch in the slit already made and while holding it in place line up your tool and make the slit on its pre-scribed line.

Step 2…The braid I am going to use is an eight thong braid done with one thong. This braid can be made with a over-two under-two sequence or even a over-two under-three on the front and on the back a under-three and over-two. This braid is discussed in depth as plate 122 in the Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather Braiding.

a. begin by bringing the leather thong down between the two pieces of leather and enter through the “fourth” hole from the beginning going to the front of your project

b. go over the piece enter through hole 1 from the back to the front

c. go under the thong and through hole 5 from back to front

d. go under the thong and through hole 2 from the back to the front

e. go under the thong and through hole 6 from the back to the front

f. go under the 2 thongs and through hole 3 from the back to the front

g. go under the 2 thongs and through hole 7 from the back to the front

h. go under 2 thongs, over 1 thong and through hole 4 from the back to the front

i. go over 1 thong, under two thongs and through hole 8 from back to front

j. go under two and over one and through hole 5 from back to front

Now continue this process in front , always in the front you go over one and under two; in the back, under two and over one until you have gone from back to front of the last hole, finish the sequence again to the point where you have no hole to come through from the back to the front. You will want to work the needle through the last hole where it comes out somewhere is your braid and then carefully trim the thong.

Step 3…Final Touch…use your hammer (one specifically designed for leather) and lightly tap all edges of your braid. This will help the thong to relax and move evenly as the project goes through the natural bending process of being used by someone.

There is still the question of corner braiding and competing this braid so you cannot tell where it starts and ends. This is being left for another time but as always if you need assistance immediately please post your question and I will be happy to help.

The following slide show provides you with a visual of everything I have discussed above. You can pause the slide show and move through it one frame at a time, all for your benefit.

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2 Steps To Making a Leather Business Card Holder

There are basically two steps needed in making a leather business card holder for your desk or someone else. Step 1 preparation of the parts and Step 2 is the assembly.

Tools necessary…razor knife, ruler with a center finding indicator, ball point pen, straight edge, edge trimmer, 4 prong chisel, hammer, braiding needle, leather lace, wing divider, finger nail clipper, circle template, scribe and 8 oz or heavier vegetable tanned leather. The most important tool is the center finding ruler. If you don’t have one then you can purchase one here.

Below is what your finished product could look like.

Of course you can alsways add your own garden variety of tooling but for with this particular piece, plain and simple works just fine.

Applique braiding is both practical and beautiful. Once you learn the process you will be amazed at all of the different places it can be used. On this product I used plate 122 from the book Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather braiding as an applique because of how it looks. If you don’t already own this book, you should and you can get it here. When you learn these techniques you never need any thread, metal brads, glue or other things to help you in joining leather together. It can also be said there is a harmonious relationship between the leather thong used to join the leather together and the leather itself which complements your entire project. On the back of this business card holder you can see how I used one such technique.

Step 1…I cut out 3 pieces of leather. Two of them were 4 inches long, rounded on the ends and the third piece was two inches in height and 12 inches long at this point.

Go ahead and glue the two small pieces together and clamp them down with edge protected bull dog clips.

Using your “center-finding” ruler, mark the center of what will become the bottom of our leather business card holder on the flesh side; a small mark will do. Later when you wrapping the leather around this base you will want to have the two ends that are joined together line up with this mark so it is properly centered. If you don’t have a ruler with a center mark you can get one here.

When the glue dries on the two smaller pieces, wrap the larger one around and overlap lap it. Make sure the leather is snug around what will be the bottom of our leather business card holder and make a mark for trimming. Be sure when you mark the line for your cut that is perpendicular or leather ends will not join properly.

You can trim what will be the outside of your leather business card holder however you choose, but the picture below shows my choice of the shape. The reason for this choice is that it provides enough space for braiding the two pieces together and the backside is tall enough to support our business cards.

Step 2…once you have your two pieces cut and sized as per the above instructions, you can add some additional tooling if you wish or proceed to dyeing, applying edge coat and adding a clear coat on your final product. Using your wing divider, carelfully scribe a line 1/8″ from the edge on both sides as shown below.

Using your 4 tong chisel, line it up on the line you just scribed and make your slits. When doing the opposite side, make sure you do them so the slits are lined up properly. One tip is to make the first one 1/8″ in from the edge then mark the same starting spot on the opposite side.

The braid I am going to use will be the 8 string simulated braid shown in the Enclopedia of Rawhide and Leather Braiding as plate 122. The only difference is that the two edges I will be working with be “edge to edge” and not where the two are overlapping. The same steps will be used, you just need to visualize it differently.

The following slide show will review the information we just discussed and will show you step by step of how to complete this applique which is from plate 122 of the Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather Braiding.

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Water Jar, Design Considerations

Not too long ago I asked one of our programmers how it is they decided to layout a particular window in our software and his answer was “intense research”. Intense research? Shouldn’t all research be intense to the point of riveting headaches and pointless hours of whirlwind discussions ending in obscurity.

This form of research, fortunately, is not what I go through when designing a new leather craft project I am interested in.

I may do some basic research on the internet looking for (in the case of my most recent design) a shape worthy of the cost and time necessary to see to fruition. So what I did was start with a photo of an Egyptian water jar (below).

So beginning with the above shape how do I proceed. First I decided that this shape lends itself to height and I my case I decided I wanted my end project to be somewhere around 16 to 18 inches in height and about 6 inches in width at the widest point.

This shape also lends itself very well to its use as a flower vase and the bud vases I have will be totally hidden and held in place by the natural design of the vase’s neck

After addressing the difficulty of this design and the way the widest section necks down and how to affect an effective and eye pleasing braid I determined that the common stairstep braid was still the best approach and I hope you agree. If you are attempting to copy this design or one similar, do not under any circumstance try to glue the edges. You may think that gluing must be done and I am here to tell you that is not the case. For one reason, you will never be able to line up all the holes for braiding not to mention if you apply glue to one edge and then accidentally “miss” when trying to line up the edges, there is a real good chance you will ruin an already time consuming section.

All of that being said I must say that I am very pleased with the final project whether you use it as a flower vase or simply choose to display it as a stand alone object, I know you will be pleased and a smile will shine on your face when someone sees it for the first time and they say, “Oh My”. I hope you are interested in purchasing this design but if not, know that I am actively working on another pattern using this same shape and size and if you would like to be kept abreast of its development simply drop me a line and I will make sure I keep you up to date.

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Bulldog Clips

Any leather artisan knows about bulldog clips and their practical use when working with leather. So stop right now stop what you are doing and go to Office Depot or Staples and buy all of the 3 inch bulldog clips that both stores have. If you get 100 of them you will not have too many, believe me there will be times when all are in use. Now that you have the clips take some leather scraps that you normally use as a liner and cover the metal edges completely and glue them in place.I find these clips as important a tool as any I have, especially when constructing leather centerpieces. I use them to hold sides together so I can punch holes equally spaced around the edges. If I am gluing sides together I use them to hold the pieces together till the glue is dry. If I am braiding edges together I use them to hold the pieces together making it much easier to do my braiding. And the really good thing about all this is that your leather piece will not get scarred by the bulldog clip.

Below is a photo of punching holes where I choose to use a #6 on my rotary punch and how I use my bulldog clips to hold two sides together so I can effectively punch holes and have them line up exactly as I want them.