Leathercrafting is as old as humanity itself, if not older. Almost every human culture has used leather for some purpose or other, whether decorative or practical. In fact it is one of the few materials which is still in common use for many of the same things today as it was when it was first used. People have used leather for clothing, for footwear, and even for decoration for untold millennia, and what was once a necessary survival skill has become a popular hobby. Even though leather itself has not changed since the beginning, the tools people use have. Modern leathercraft tools offer far more variety than simple bone or stone scrapers ever could. In fact, the variety of tools is so great that many people, especially beginning hobbyists, may have difficulty deciding which tools best fit their immediate needs. This is where eBay can be so helpful, offering a wide variety of leathercraft tools to fit any budget.
History of Leathercrafting
No one knows exactly when leathercrafting began, but most agree that the key discovery that made true leatherwork possible was tanning. Prior to that, people were limited to using skins, not true leather, and while it may appear at first glance that the two are the same, it is not the case. Skins, as used before tanning, refer to raw hides, which have a number of undesirable features such as being prone to putrefaction. Raw hides became stiff in cold temperatures, and rotted in warm ones. All in all, they were unsatisfactory for any sort of long-term use.
The Development of Tanning and Leathercrafting
From the earliest times, people were aware of the problems inherent to untanned hides, and so preservation has always been extremely important. One of the earliest methods used was rubbing fat into the hide, which served to make it more supple. Another early method of preservation was smoking the hide, which was probably discovered accidentally. Several other methods were discovered independently by various societies, including tanning with both alum and vegetable extracts containing tannin, which is the source of the term. There is some evidence that tanning with bark originated with the Hebrews, but all that is clearly known is that tanned leather has been widely available for at least the past 3300 years.
While the first leatherworkers had very few tools available, modern leathercrafters have a wide variety to choose from, ranging from the very common ones which should be part of any hobbyist's collection, to those which are more specialised and are only useful to those crafters who have specific needs as far as tools go.
Although it is not exactly a tool, a rubber mat is so important to the use of many leathercraft tools that it makes no sense whatsoever to consider other leathercraft tools without including a mat. For most leathercraft hobbyists, the rubber mat is their workspace. It both cushions the leather and protects the surface it rests on from the other tools a crafter may use.
Anyone looking to punch holes in leather needs an awl, which is essentially a straight, pointed tool mounted on a usually wooden handle. There are a wide variety of awls available, but they all serve similar purposes. One reason for their importance is that leather is generally too thick for a needle, so any stitching requires that the holes be punched beforehand.
Named for the leatherworker who cut out the patterns, these knives are generally made with separate blades and handles. While some basic straight cuts can be made with a razor knife, the majority of work does require a dedicated leathercraft knife such as the clicker. The majority come with both a straight blade for straight cuts, and a curved blade for curved cuts.
This knife has an approximately semi-circular blade that is sharpened around the outer edge. It has a number of uses including both chopping and skiving leather. For those who are just beginning leather crafting, the term skiving refers to thinning the leather so that it becomes more supple. There is also a single-head knife which serves a similar purpose but the blade only projects to one side.
Looking much like a chisel, the purpose of an edge shave is to put a smooth edge and chamfer on a leather cut. Producing a smooth edge makes it easier to join two pieces of leather.
Hammers and Mallets
One of the most common forms of leathercrafting is tooling, which often requires that the tool, which actually works the leather be driven with a hammer or mallet.
Choosing Leathercraft Tools
The first step in choosing which leathercraft tools to buy, is determining the needs of the user. A person who intends to pursue leathercraft as a serious hobby or even a small business has different needs from someone who merely wishes to dabble in leathercraft to see if they like it. Some people may only want to make small items of relatively soft leather, while others may wish to take on more ambitious projects that require a different grade of leather. Whatever the choice, once prospective buyers knows what they want, they are in a better position to make an informed decision about which tools to buy.
Hobbyist or Professional Grade Tools
As with any craft, there is a noticeable difference between the hobbyist grade and professional grade when it comes to tools. While a sufficiently skilled crafter can do an excellent job with either grade of tool, there are good reasons for choosing one over the other. Professional grade leathercraft tools are usually made to a higher standard, and generally last longer. They usually cost more than the hobbyist grade, and the blades or other fittings are not usually interchangeable between the two grades. They are generally a better choice for someone who does a lot of leather work, or who expects to use the same tools for a number of years.
New or Used Tools
One question that buyers should ask is whether they want to limit themselves to brand-new tools, or if they would consider utilising used leathercraft tools as well. The classic advantage to second-hand tools is price. They often cost less than the same tool did new, and this savings can be used either to get more tools for the same amount of money, or to leverage the buyer's budget to afford a higher grade of tool. This can be an excellent way to purchase professional grade tools, as their build quality means that many of them are in fine condition even after several years of use.
Buying Leathercraft Tools on eBay
eBay is a great place to buy leathercraft tools. It offers a wide variety of tools to meet every need and budget. No matter how common, or obscure the tool, you can find it quickly and easily on eBay. All you need to do is decide what you want and enter the description into the search box which you can find on every eBay page. Then, with the results on your screen, you can use the filters in the sidebar to limit the results to just those tools that meet your requirements. You can filter by price, origin, or even by condition such as new or used. After you have narrowed down your results, you can then use the sort functionality to ensure that the leathercraft tools that best fit your needs, whether by price for the budget-minded, or by distance for the less patient, are at the head of the list.
Once you have your list of leathercraft tools, the next step is to decide who you want to do business with. The best way to do that is to look at the seller's profile page where you can see everything from their location to their feedback. You can also see if they offer bundles, such as several different tools together; or even if they let local purchasers pick their tools up in person.
Leathercrafting has been around for so long that it has almost developed its own language. It has certainly developed its own set of tools. Some of these tools are essentially unchanged from centuries ago, while others have moved with the times and the development of modern materials. The first step in buying leathercraft tools is determining which aspect of leathercraft the user is most interested in pursuing. This drives both the kind of leather they are looking for, and the tools best suited for working it. As with any other purchase, knowledge is the key; an informed decision is far more likely to be a good decision than an uninformed one. Buyers should also consider whether they want hobbyist tools, or if they are doing enough work with leather to justify professional grade ones. Some may find that used, professional grade leathercraft tools provide the best return for their budget. Whatever a person is looking for, buying leathercraft tools on eBay is quick and easy.