What’s it gonna cost for me to get started with Leatherwork?

Get started with leatherwork

So, how much?

This is a good question. One of a bunch of questions that you’re probably wondering about if you want to start doing some leatherwork.

When I was starting out I had similar questions. Aside from what it was going to cost, I wanted to know:

  1. What are the essential tools?
  2. How long would it take me to make something?
  3. What skills and techniques will I have to learn?
  4. What if I was no good?
  5. Would it make me happy?

I’ll come back to the issue of cost in a minute. But let’s deal with the other questions first.

What are the essential tools I need to get?

Any type of craft work is going to require some tools. You might already have some of the things you need.

And, as you’re already aware, you might have to spend some money and buy some of the gear you need. No surprises there.

Doing leatherwork is a specialist activity so, unless you can borrow everything you need, you’ll need to budget for some equipment.

The good news is that you can get started quite cheaply thanks to the Internet. I’ve compiled an essential tools list that you can use to get started.

How long would it take me to make something?

You already can guess the answer to this – it depends on what you want to make. I usually recommend that people start with something small that they can make successfully in one or two sessions.

This means that, assuming you’ve got everything you need, you can knock out something cool in a couple of evenings or over a weekend.

What this actually is will depend on what level of skill you start with. What I mean is that some people are already good at using their hands so they have no trouble cutting out leather or measuring with a steel ruler.

For others, there is a learning curve that you have to go through to learn how to use the tools, even things like a ruler or a knife.

It’s good to acknowledge that nobody is born knowing how to use something like a ruler or callipers. Even the best crafter had to learn how to hold a knife or how to measure.

There are lots of micro-skills that you’ll need to learn, use and develop along the way.

Where you start on this journey is going to determine how long it takes you to make something. Or at least how long it takes you to make something that meets your personal standards of quality.

I can show you how to make something in an afternoon. But when I started, with no one to guide me, it took me about 3 months before I was making things that I thought were good enough to give away as Christmas presents.

What skills and techniques will I have to learn?

Basic leatherwork needs a few simple skills. Sure, it’s a big topic if you want it to be. But to make the kinds of things that I make, you only need to know how to do the following:

  1. Make and follow a plan
  2. Make a pattern and prototype
  3. Measure and cut
  4. Think ahead
  5. Glue surfaces together
  6. Mark and punch holes for hand stitching
  7. Stitch it up
  8. Finish your edges

Some of these steps are going to expand depending on what you’re making. For example, when you’re thinking ahead at step 4 you may need to plan when to bevel your edges or add a crease. But there’s not too much more to it that these 8 steps.

What if I’m no good?

I think everyone feels this when they’re starting out at something new. It doesn’t matter if it’s leatherwork or a new job.

In other words, it would be unusual if you didn’t have your doubts. This is normal. Everyone is different when it comes to managing these kinds of thoughts.

If you can accept that you’re likely to have doubts and second guess your ability to succeed, then you should also accept that these thoughts are irrelevant and that you should just get started and give it a go.

Pursuing mastery, whether it’s for leatherwork or anything else is rather unglamorous. The formula is simple:

LEARN ==> PRACTICE ==> REPEAT

And baked into that cycle is failure. What you need to do though is reframe your failures as feedback. Get back on your bike and keep riding.

Will it make me happy?

I can’t tell you what’s going to make you happy. You have to figure that out for yourself.

However, I can tell you what makes me happy and you can decide for yourself if you’re the same or different.

Making cool stuff and doing a good job for it’s own sake

That’s what really makes me happy.

Of course, if I’m not getting enough sleep, not working out or going for a run everyday, not getting outside and not eating properly then nothing is going to make me happy.

You are probably not so different.

Back to the cost…

If you are an absolute beginner, which means you have no tools and can’t borrow any of the gear, I think you can get started for under USD$100.

That means buying a kit like this or similar (click the picture):

And some leather like this 12″ x 24″ rectangle (click the picture):

What else?

After that you can just get started. There are various kits on Amazon and they are of varying quality. Not every kit contains everything that you need. Make sure you check their contents off against my tools list or get in touch with me to discuss further.

After that, sign up for my Ultimate Leatherwork Fundamentals mentorship. I can speed the process up for you.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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