A leather knife is a special knife with either a round or an angled blade used for cutting leather, especially thick leather. Leather shears are large, heavy-duty scissors used for cutting leather.
A heavy pair of kitchen shears might work for cutting leather, but whether you decide to buy a pair of leather shears or use something you already have on hand, you should plan on dedicating that pair of scissor or shears exclusively to cutting leather. Avoid serrated-tpe scissors, as they produce fuzzy edges when used on leather.
A strap cutter is a wooden tool made up of two rules crossbars that slide through a handle. The bars house a replaceable blade at one end. A Thumb screw on the other handle is used to set the desired cutting width and the leather is pulled through the cutter.
With a minimum of tools and experience you can create a wide variety of personalized leather products that will give you years of service. But remember, although leather-crafting basics are fairly simple, leatherwork requires time and patience, and your results will reflect the care you use in all phases of the project. It is also a craft that can accommodate the most artistic and complex variations-one that's almost impossible to outgrow.
Although there are many leathercrafter's stores, one I recommend is The Leather Factory of Fort Worth, Texas, which has outlets throughout the country. They provide a vast variety of uniform, quality products, including different grades of leather, at reasonable prices. Call 1-800-433-3201 for the toll-free number of their store nearest to you. I will be referring to different tools and related products throughout this chapter. For ease of identification, whenever I mention a tool I will include The Leather Factory part number with each item. (Note: There are many grades and prices for leather-working tools. I've referenced the most cost-effective for the beginner.)
The first category of tools the leatherworker needs to be familiar with is cutting tools. Generally, the process will be to trace a pattern on the leather and then cut it out in some fashion. Sometimes the best way to cut out your pattern is with a special leather knife; other times special leather shears are used. The rule of thumb is to use a knife for heavier leather; a shears for lighter leather. A utility knife with replaceable blades can be used in place of a leather knife, but the leather knife is more solidly constructed and tends to work better, especially when cutting thick leather.
The Leather Factory cutting tools I recommend are their leather shears (#3051-00) and beveled edge skiving knife (#48490-000). You'll also see in catalogs or at leather supply stores a knife with a rounded blade that looks something like a half-moon. This is something you might want to invest in later, but you may not need it at all, depending on how much and what type of cutting you do.
Stick to projects that use lighter-weight leather when working with younger children so that they can use shears. Older children can learn to use a leather knife, especially if a template or other guide, such as a steel rule or square, is used. The project I've chosen for you to do in this chapter is best cut out with shears.
Another specialized type of leather cutting tool is a strap cutter, which is used to create uniform leather straps for belts and purse handles. The strap cutter is a wooden tool made up of two ruled crossbars that slide through a handle. The bars house a replaceable blade at one end and a thumb screw on the handle is used to set the desired cutting width. Cutting is done by inserting the leather between the crossbars, flush against the handle, and the tool is pulled to cut a strap of uniform width.