I played with leather today. People at work have been asking for bracelets with words on them.
They didn’t really say WHAT words, so I just came up with some.
Then, of course, I had to figure out how to finish them. (Before you read any farther you should know that I know absolutely nothing about working with leather, so I’m pretty much making it up as I go along.)
There’s a recipe using rusted steel wool and vinegar that supposedly makes a really nice black on leather, but since it actually involves planning ahead, and I’m kind of lousy at that, I didn’t make any black ones. Instead I dug out some shoe polish (the kind in the little cans, which I had bought for this purpose – so I guess I did kind of plan ahead, a little bit!):
Three of those are just plain leather with shoe polish. The very top is tan, third down is brown, and the bottom is Cordovan. I wanted to try to get a darker brown, so on the second one down I tried using a light coat of brown acrylic paint. It came out kind of a dull, lifeless brown, though, and I didn’t really like it, so I rubbed off what I could with a damp rag, and then polished over it with the brown shoe polish. I kinda thought I’d screwed that one up, but strangely, all 3 of the 3 people I showed the 4 colors to for their opinions picked that one as their favorite. Go figure.
So I tried the same thing again, but with the brown paint and tan shoe polish, and I think that one actually turned out to be MY favorite. It’s the one that says “breathe” in this photo:
Then I got tired of the shoe polish colors and went back to my acrylics.
_Hmmm…it’s kinda like refrigerator poetry! _
The yellow and aqua are acrylic paint topped with a coat of the light tan polish. The blues were more of the “paint on, wipe off” topped with shoe polish. On the “be yourself” one I used the Cordovan, and on the other one I used tan. The difference is pretty subtle.
Stuff I learned:
- Dapping dies can actually do a decent job of applying snaps to leather, if you use the right sizes, but it turns out it’s a LOT easier with the actual tool you’re supposed to do it with.
- Sanding the back of the leather with a scrap of sandpaper will take off the flashback marks AND make it feel soft for wearing against the skin.
- Rubbing the edge of a dapping die (or anything smooth and cylindrical, actually) at an angle along the cut edge of leather gets rid of the sharp corner and makes it look more finished.
- Running a piece of beeswax along the cut edges and then scraping with the back of a craft knife makes them smooth and shiny and takes care of any char that hasn’t already rubbed off on your fingers and work surface.
- A nine-inch light box isn’t big enough for photographing 8.5" bracelets when you want them laid out flat so all the words show.
- Sometimes even when you screw stuff up, people still like it.