Monday, September 29, 2014

Leather tooling :: the possibilities!

Small, unassuming metal stamps have been taking over my house for the past two months.  And there seems to be a direct correlation to the number of hours that Mr. Schimstock has spent sitting at the dining room table.  Yes, Folks, you've guessed it.  Hank has a new hobby.

Far be it for me to complain, though, as I was the initial recipient of said hobby.  After making a huge score off craigslist that included one man's forty year collection of stamps, punches, hammers, dyes, leathers and more books and patterns than he knew what to do with, Hank immediately hunched over his marble slab and the tell-tale, incessant tapping of rawhide on metal continued well into the night. 

He was giddy. 

He hasn't stopped since.

The first piece of leather fresh off the table was a Willow Homestead belt.  I wore it on our recent vacation out West.  From here Hank went on to make himself a belt covered in gears.  He's a mechanical engineer by day, specializing in any and all geared components on heavy-weight vehicles, and a tinkerer by night, born with an insatiable curiosity about how things work.

My daughter also has a belt with her name on it surrounded by dainty flowers, and my son has a belt with his name and squirrels on it.  Hank declared it was going to be a Very Belty Christmas.  So family relations, you've been officially warned.

Now before this explosion of belts, Hank did do a bit of sample work.  It's not as simple as the caveman approach of me-pound-stick-on-leather, ug.  Slight variations of technique produce very different results.  You have to consider the grade and thickness of your leather, the placement of design, the angle on the stamping tool, the weight of the hammer blow, the order in which you overlap your stamps, the color of your dye and the finishing process you choose.  And beyond simply stamping the leather, you have a plethora of designs that require carving the leather with a finger swivel. Once your tooling is complete, then you construct your item.  Enter lacing, sewing, gluing, riveting, hole punching and molding your final product. 

Faced with all of those possibilities, I have started a Wish List a mile long!

However, I already had my belt so the next project off the table was a small, floral keychain that Hank made for the woman he had purchased the supplies from.  Her husband passed away earlier this Spring, and she was subsequently selling his life-long collection.  The stack of books and patterns that Hank received is incredible.  Many of them are older, classic designs and reprints from the 1950s. 

Next up was a Leatherman case to coordinate with Hank's gear belt.  He wears this every day to the office.  Those clean fingernail-ed, khaki-ed colleagues don't know quite how to respond when Hank has, right at his fingertips, the means to solve any emergency.  I'm proud to say that Hank breaks the engineer stereotype.  The joke, of course, is that engineers are always drafting up pretty blueprints that no blue-collar guy on the shop floor can actually build.  Hank is different.  He can build anything he designs.  And with one quick snap and flip, he'll have the tool in hand and be happy to show you how.

So after all the small, learning projects were out of the way, Hank hunkered down one night to work up a leather seat cover for his bicycle.

He tooled a repeating basket weave pattern and played around with some different styles of lacing...

...and now the rest of the bike needs an equal amount of love.  Maybe leather hand grips?  In any case, this has been a fun hobby.  For both of us.  Hank's creativity is rejuvenated in the way that only a new medium can offer;  he spends more time in the house as opposed to the garage (which is good considering Winter is almost upon us); and I have begun to envision new elements in my dressmaking projects.  How fun would red Lederhosen be?!  Tool on, Hank.  Tool on.


  1. That is awesome! I had tears in my eyes reading about he key chain he made for the widow...that was so nice! Love all of his work!

  2. waiting impatient for the red lederhose...... :-)
    hank is so talented! what wonderful leather accessories he makes! the things look as when he´s doing it since years!
    my hubs has decided that renovating the house is his new hobby, instead of a chore. we are so lucky to have such handy husbands :-)
    schöne grüsse!

    1. I'm soooo excited for the Lederhose! Renovating the house is a good hobby, too. And yes, what would we do without our guys. :)

  3. you guys are amazing. thanks for sharing

  4. His work is so meticulous and lovely. I hope you'll continue to share pics!

  5. I had tears in my eyes as I read this. My Father used to tool leather, but he never completed a project for me. I have an unfinished purse and all of his tools and supplies that were passed down to me when he passed.... Maybe Hank could give me some lessons?


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