How to Cut Leather




Introduction: How to Cut Leather

About: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @jessyratfink to see what i'm working on! ^_^

Cutting leather is super easy with the right tools. It can seem pretty daunting if you're trying to go at it with a pair of scissors, though.

In this instructable I'll show you how to cut both thick and thin leathers, and give some tips on how to get the best cut. :)

Check out my other leather ibles for more leatherworking basics:

Step 1: What You'll Need

It's good to have all of these things in your crafting arsenal anyway - I can't tell you how many times I bring out the cutting mat and ruler every week :D

While you can definitely use scissors to cut leather, it's not ideal. On thin leather you might not get a nice straight cut because you cut line can move a little every time you move the scissors to take another snip. On thick leather, you might not be able to cut it at all. And even if you do, you'll have to use more force than normal, which can cause jagged and squished edges. (And perhaps break your scissors!)

Step 2: Before You Cut

Depending on what you're cutting out, you might want to lay it out and mark it on the leather beforehand.

For example, if you're cutting out a wallet that has multiple pieces, it can be a good idea to scope out the grain side of the leather and find a nice area with no major imperfections. Then flip the leather over, copy the pattern using a pen on the flesh side, and cut it out from that.

If you don't want to mark up the leather with a pen, the other option is to cut the pattern out of thin plastic or cardboard and use those edges as a guide for cutting.

Making a stiff pattern/template is especially good if your pattern includes curves.

I've found that it's easier to cut on the grain side, but you can absolutely cut from the flesh side - you just have to be patient and take it slow since it's a rougher cutting area. :)

Step 3: Cutting Thin Leather

Cutting thin leather (1 mm thickness or less) is best done using a rotary cutter. Because it's thin and more fragile, using a hobby knife can pull and crease the leather as you try to drag the knife across it. The leather's much more prone to moving, so it's harder to get a straight crisp line.

Using a rotary cutter allows you to apply even pressure on a larger area. Just make sure the blade is nice and sharp so you don't have to do a ton of passes.

Lay the leather down so the grain side is facing up. Place a ruler on top and use the edge of the ruler as your cutting guide. Make sure to keep the rotary cutter right against the edge of the ruler for best results. :D

Step 4: Cutting Thick Leather

Thick leather is much easier! All you really need is a nice ruler and a hobby knife.

Lay the leather down grain side up and place the ruler on top. Use the edge as a cutting line again - just drag the hobby knife along the cut line gently.

You'll want to make lots of small passes if the leather is especially thick. Keep the ruler stationary at all times and make sure you're keeping the knife's edge up against the ruler.

It normally takes between 2-4 passes to totally cut through.



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    23 Discussions

    I have all these things and plan to cut up some old leather jackets to make jewelry. What type of sewing machine can I use to sew leather along with the sewing foot.

    3 replies

    It would depend on your machine. I have a Bernina that has a regular and low setting (like the gears on your car) and can sew thin leather and thick denim. You will need a proper leather needle and thread. If your machine doesn't have a manual you should be able to find one online that will tell you if it's capable of sewing leather. There are limits to how thick the leather can be though. With a home machine, I wouldn't sew anything really thick. I made a nice case for my watercolor palette with some really thin leather but it is tricky. I marked the stitching lines, then trimmed it after it was sewn as the leather would slip even with the walking foot. Practice on some scrap pieces first.

    Sewing leather on a machine can be tricky but it's definitely possible! I suggest using a walking foot to help move it along. (like this: )

    You should also grab some needles like these:

    As far as machines, I would suggest the Janome1000 or Janome3000 - they have metal bodies and are really well made. I've had the Janome1000 for a few years and am in love with it. It's a workhorse! Here's a link:

    Thank you because after researching I was informed to get a industrial machine but didn't want to pay that type of money especially when I only want to make earrings, bracelets and simple hats. Looking at the Janome 1000 or Janome 3000 will be my choice instead of purchasing my an embroidery machine for other fabrics. I will wait until next year and purchase this Janome. I appreciate the information.

    Using thin leather to make simple wrap around books. My problem is the skin side can shed bits and get on the paper especially the edges of the paper. Any suggestions on a product or procedure that will elimate the shedding and not stain paper. Thanks for help

    2 replies

    Gum tragacanth and a glass slicker. You use the glass slicker like an edge burnisher only across the flesh side so smooth it out.

    You can try using gum tragacanth on that side! Put a bit on and rub it in with a stiff cloth. This will smooth out the fibers and push them down. Keep going until it looks right to you. :)

    You may also want to try skivving that side - trying to remove only that part of the leather! It can be tricky, but it works.

    Hello, please I'm wanting to buy soft suede leather 2oz. Do you or anyone know where to buy the skin cheap?

    2 replies

    Tandy. If you don't have a shop in your area, try online. There are some other vendors for leather as well but mostly online.

    maybe try a nearby hobby lobby or arts and crafts store and see if they have it.

    i have a box with a leather cover so I was just wondering if its extremely easy or really difficult to remove the cover of said box. BC I have another project I'd like to use it for. Could u help me out anyone.

    1 more answer

    Honestly, it depends on how the box was manufactured! Sometimes there will be a layer of adhesive under the leather which could keep you from removing it cleanly. Otherwise, I'd recommend going slowly and using something thin and blunt (like a butter knife) to work around the edges and remove the leather. :)

    Make them on the other side or try cutting on the flesh side. Seems the most obvious way to me

    Good instructable, thanks a lot!

    A head knife is also called a round knife. It has a half moon shaped blade with the pointed ends doing most of the cutting.

    Thanks for the instructable! I am just starting to research leatherwork and stumbled upon your helpful work first. Is there a resource you can recommend for how to look for the right leather for a project, etc.? Thank you!