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I've always wanted to craft a small bag out of leather for myself, and I've seen so many different tools to use for leather.

For a beginner, what types of tools would you recommend?

Are there any great beginner tool sets that you know of that aren't very expensive?

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The specific tools you need will depend on exactly what you want to do and the material you're working with; the list below covers both the tasks required to make a bag and the tools necessary to complete them, and assumes that you're using normal, veg-tanned, undyed leather.

Task: Cutting

You'll need some way of cutting the leather to shape. I like to use an ordinary scalpel, with a fresh blade, but a craft knife or Stanley knife will also do. You'll also need something to cut on and a steel ruler to keep your lines straight. For thin (<2mm) leather, chunky fabric scissors will also work but won't leave as neat an edge.

Shaping

Veg tanned leather can be moulded by soaking it in water (which I assume you have access to) and forming it to the desired shape. No additional tools needed.

Task: Sewing

To attach your bits of leather you'll either need to sew or rivet it together. If you're sewing you'll need a pricking iron, awl or stitch punch to make holes in the leather (you can't just sew straight through with a needle like you can with fabric) and a thick needle and strong thread.

You may also want a stitch groover to make a groove for the stitching to sit in. This keeps it from sticking out above the surface of the leather, which helps protect the stitching from wear and tear (think the stitching on the soles of shoes, for example).

Task: Riveting

If instead you want to rivet the leather, you'll need an appropriately sized hole punch and a hammer, or a pair of punch pliers to make the holes for the rivets to go through. You'll then need rivets to go in these holes and a rivet setter or pair of rivet setting pliers to fix them in place.

The above tools are all that are strictly necessary for a functional item; those below will help make it look better and last longer

Task: Finishing & Dyeing

There are lots of different ways of finishing leather, but most come down to some combination of dyes and oil based finish. For more information, see this previous question

Task: Edge Finishing

It's normal to bevel and slick the edges of a piece of leather using edge bevellers and edge slickers

Task: Embossing & Carving

To emboss (technically deboss, as the design is lowered not raised) you'll need stamps and a hammer. Carving can be done with any kind of knife, but there are specialist knives specifically designed for it too.

Task: Lining

If you want to line your bag with a layer of fabric, then you'll need fabric scissors and a needle & thread as a minimum.

I don't know where you live, so can't recommend any brands to you, but I personally buy from LeProvo here in the UK. Their site also contains pictures of all the tools listed above, which should help you to match their names to their forms.

  • Another tool you could want for finishing is something that does leather burning, in case you wanted to add patterns that way. I have a 3D pen with an attachment that does this so I don't know the name of the tool when separate. – Gladiator Kittens Aug 28 '17 at 9:33
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It depends on whether you are a beginner who expects to continue and is starting to build up a collection of tools, or whether you are a beginner who wants to make a single item and does not expect to do more in leather for several (or many) years to come.

If that last, making one item only, you do not need much.
After you have chosen your leather you can find the tools you need in your house as far as there and only buy the bare essentials.

A pair of scissors or a knife that can handle the leather.
Something to make holes for your stitching. (Depending on the kind of stitching and the leather it can even be the needle you are sewing with.) Yarn (or string, leather strip or whatever you want to sew with.)

Helpful can be a couple of clothes pegs or other items that can hold the leather together without making holes, like binder clips.

If you want to sew with yarn, you will need a needle that is up to the work. The special leather needles, with the triangular sharp points, are likely the best. But if you punch holes with an other tool, any needle that fits through the holes and can hold the yarn you need is good enough.

A (stitching) awl is the tool mostly used to make small holes in leather, as well as in other materials, some people have tools in the house that can do the same job. At work we have a small former schrewdriver which has been ground to a point. Would do the work in leather that is not too hard.
When working with yarn in leather, it is good to pull your string over a piece of wax, or a wax candle, but you can do without if you do not have it. The wax will make the yarn stronger and get less damaged in sewing.

If you want to stitch with leather laces, you will need to make holes which are big enough for your lace.
If you do an image search on 'leather punch' you will find a series of pictures, if you need to make many holes, I would use one that works with a hammer rather than the kind that looks like pliers.

If you need to use a tool once, like to add a closure to the bag, you can think of going to a place that has them, like a shoe repair shop or a saddlery. Or a well equiped school crafts room.

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