Personalized Leather Pamphlet, Part II
I bet everyone spent all day Saturday wondering what the next step would be so I promise not to keep you in suspense. At the end of my Friday post, I had a text block ready and the leather was cut to size, including the strap.
I didn’t point out on Friday that the first thing I actually do for a book is design and print out my template. Once I know the size of the cover, I prepare the cover design, usually on my computer, make sure it’s the right size for the cover and then print it out. In this case, the design was the lettering, “TCB” on the cover, slightly above the halfway point. Obviously, your design can be just about anything that you feel comfortable carving or molding in leather. Of course, some designs are quite a bit more difficult–the rather thin lettering, I ended up using on this one, made the piece a bit more challenging than most, especially since the design is also a bit smaller than I usually do.
After preparing your design template and making sure the position will work, etc. (as mentioned in the last post, I decided to move my template up just a bit on the cover so the strap doesn’t cover part of it), it’s time to prepare the leather for carving.
I use a sponge and usually start with the underside or fleshy side of the leather. I dampen it until the whole thing changes color then flip it over to the top side and do the same thing. I always keep my sponge and water handy so I can redampen if the leather starts to dry out too much while I’m working.
Once the leather has been dampened, I tape down the design template in the appropriate place and trace over the design so that it’s marked into the leather. Most instructions for carving tell you to use a modeling tool or small ball tool to trace over the design but I prefer to use a rounded-point pencil, sharp enough to make a relatively thin line but not so sharp that it breaks through the paper. I like doing that because it shows me what I’ve already traced over, which means that I’m less likely to miss a line while tracing.
The downside to using a pencil is that if you have to redo your leather piece, the design is a bit harder to trace the second time. I have traced a design two or three times but it’s also always possible to just reprint the template if it’s something you’ve got on your computer. If your design is an original drawing or something you might want to scan it into your computer so you’ve got a back up.
Once the design is on the leather, I carve the design out. Since this isn’t a full-out tutorial, I’m not going into details about how to use leather working tools or explain how to do the actual carving or stamping. I just don’t have the space here to go into those kinds of specifics.
After carving, I stamp around the design to emphasize the lettering. Even the very delicate lines and curls on a design like the one I’ve done here can really pop when they’ve been carved and stamped.
Once the design is carved and stamped, the fun of dying and coloring begins. I use three different types of dyes–Fiebing’s oil-based dyes (I’ve only got about four colors including the best British tan); Eco-Flo water-based dyes (I have a set of these); Eco-Flo water-based highlighters (they dye the leather and are darker on areas that have been carved and stamped to “highlight” the design areas). The oil-based dyes permeate the leather deeper than the water-based but I like using the Eco-Flo colors when possible.
I use the larger wool daubers and they work relatively well for me. For this pamphlet I used the Fiebing’s British Tan. I wanted a deep brown but, since the lettering is so small, the color couldn’t be so dark that the letters would blend too much with the background.
For larger letters, I usually use black dye for the inside of the letter (when the lettering is to be black, of course) and then use a fine-point permanent marker (like a Sharpie) to outline it. For these letters, I used a fine-point marker to outline them and then used a medium-point black art marker to color the letters.
If you have the time, it’s best to wait for the leather to dry before using a Sharpie or marker on it, especially for outlining. I’ve found that the dye or water affect the marker point so I frequently have to mark a piece of paper to get the ink flowing again.
I was hoping to finish the “how-it’s-done” in just two posts but can see that I’ve gone over the word count I was aiming for and still have quite a bit to go (setting the snap and sewing the book). So, I’ll end it here for this round and post the third, and final, part on Tuesday (definitely won’t be Two-Word Tuesday this week).
If anyone decides they’re interested in doing something like this but need more information or instruction, you can contact me directly and I’ll be happy to share what I can or give you some suggestions for places to find additional help or tutorials.