Introduction: DIY Leather Memory Book
This memory book (album) is hand tooled, hand stitched and hand constructed with beautiful leathers: tooled vegetable (veg) tanned along with garment and liner leathers. Its assembled size is approximately, 13 1/2" wide by 13" high by 2" deep; it was made to fit standard 12" x 12" photo refill pages. I love creating with leather and welcome the opportunity to share my passion. My goal was to tailor this instructable to be a complete project guide for those with little to no leather working experience. It offers explicit instruction organized with pictures and/or diagrams covering tooling, dyeing, professional touches and the process of making and assembling the album.
This is how the project started for me!...
I have this really awesome couple as a next door neighbor, and recently they told us that they are having a baby. They have lots of pictures around their home, so I thought maybe they would enjoy an album to collect all the new memories of their new family. I have made a wedding album and baby book both in leather for gifts in the past, but they were "binder" style. I figured, why not try something new for myself and share my adventure with all of you.
Once I decided to make the postbound style, I was inspired by the new family to be; I thought of family trees which led me to leaves and a design was born! So I sketched it up, and then illustrated it. From here, I researched photo album/memory book standard sizes and refill page sizes, selecting the larger 12" x 12" format. I based all of my measurements off this sizing. After I had my design illustration and research for measurements, I made five diagrams because I like to think that diagrams make just about anything easier. These diagrams are pictured, referenced and made available via downloadable pdfs within this instructable. But wait, I didn't stop there! I also made templates based on those diagrams. Although I do not show how to make the templates, I do find templates very helpful. They cut down on repetitive measuring nonsense and allow the option to reproduce the project in the future much more efficiently.
This is my first instructable. I truly hope that most can find it helpful or inspiring. It is not a difficult project, but I did strive to be detailed.
Safety Precautions: A few things to remember before getting started.
- This project requires the use of several sharp tools and cutting devices. Please mind where your fingers are at all times.
- With the swivel knife, the standard safety rule of "cut away from your body" does not completely apply when using proper technique.
- Maintain your tools, not only for safety but for a long life of use too. (Or don't, it would be an excuse for new tools.)
- Powerful, penetrating and "smelly" finishes, sprays and adhesives are used in this instructable project. Make sure that you apply this media in a well ventilated area or outside and take frequent fresh air breaks. (I certainly don't want anyone passing out!)
- Disposable gloves are your friend! Some of the dyes, finishes, and stains aren't good to have in contact with your skin. And anyway, do you really want green hands? Please follow all instructions provided by the manufacturer when using these products.
Step 1: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - What It Is and What You Need.
The leather appliques are the tooled stylized leaf designs that go on the front of the album and closure tab. And, in my humble opinion....tooling is the most fun part of the project! You can use the two pdf file pattern downloads that I have provided, let your own creative genius take over or even skip this part (Steps 1-13) if you are familiar with tooling. Part I explains how I transferred the pattern to the leather, stabilized the leather, tooled the leather, applied oil/dye/stain/finishes, cut the pieces out and added professional touches.
Below is the list of supplies and materials used for Part I:
Leather - 5-6oz veg tanned "tooling" leather
Basic Supplies - mallet, granite/marble block, cutting mat, distilled water, rubber cement, quilter's plastic template sheet*
*Available at most hobby/craft stores; I use this to stabilize the leather.
Cutting Tools - Industrial Knife (Tandy Item #3595-00) w/curved blade*, heavy duty leather scissors
*Any heavy duty utility knife/x-acto knife you are comfortable using will due.
Carving/Stamping Tools (all Tandy) - ballpoint stylus, ergo swivel knife, smooth beveler (B201), textured beveler (B971), hair blade tool (item #88013-00), "dirt" stamp (E294), "dirt" stamp (E294-04)
Applicators - sponge, wool daubers, t-shirt scraps, q-tips (oh, yes I said Q-tips)*
*I sometimes use these in place of wool daubers because they are cheaper and smaller....but....I LOVE my wool daubers.
Oils/Dyes/Stains - Neatsfoot oil, olive green dye*, Eco-Flo Hi-Lite Colorant Coffee Brown**
*This was my own color concoction using Eco-Flo Pro Waterstains. **Unfortunately, this particular stain color has been discontinued by Tandy's (sad face) but have been told Eco-Flo Gel Antique in brown will produce a similar effect. Neither are pictured above.
Finishing Supplies - Sandpaper (400 grit), slicker/burnisher, Eco-Flo Pro Edge Dressing Black, Fiebing's Leather Sheen Spray, Fiebing's Aussie Leather Conditioner
Step 2: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Transfer the Patterns.
- Transfer the print-outs to tracing or vellum paper first.
- Layout the printed patterns on a flat work surface and overlay a piece of tracing paper on each.
- Tape down both the pattern and overlaid tracing paper to avoid shifting.
- Simply outline all of the lines from the pattern onto the tracing paper with a fine point permanent marker.
- Using the tracing paper, transfer the patterns to the leather.
- Thoroughly wet the grain side (smooth, pretty side) of the veg tanned leather piece. It is important to wait until the leather begins to turn back to its non-wet color before overlaying the tracing paper.
- Once the leather is ready, about 10-15 mins, overlay the patterns on the leather.Use painters tape to secure the leather and patterns to the work surface. Take care not to stick the tape to the grain side of the leather, only to the work surface.With a ballpoint stylus in hand, begin to outline the patterns. (There is no shame in going tortoise slow here; once a mark is make on the leather, it cannot be taken back. All you can do is try to disguise it later.)
Tips: I looped over a piece of tape, adhesive side up, and stick this the the flesh side (ugly, rough side) of the leather to affix it to my work surface. It does not take a lot of pressure to transfer. Before you remove the pattern completely, peel back only one taped corner of the pattern to check that all lines transferred. In case you missed something, your pattern and leather is still in place and you can simply lay the pattern back over and correct.
The downloadable pdf patterns print out to scale when printed on standard letter size paper, 8 1/2" x 11".
Wetting or "casing" this type of leather makes it acceptable to transferring and impressions. But, overlaying patterns on leather that is too wet can make transferring difficult and ruin the pattern as well.
Whitish impressions appear on the heavier weight tracing paper and drafting vellum when outlining, making it easier to see what has been transferred. (You can see some of these whitish impressions in the picture.)
Step 3: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Stablize and Prep the Leather for Tooling.
Stabilize the leather to prevent stretching during tooling.
- Lay the quilter's template plastic sheet (stabilizer) flat onto the work surface. Place the piece of leather onto it and then draw an outline around the perimeter of the leather piece with a permanent ink marker.
- Apply a very thin even layer of rubber cement inside the outlined area on the stabilizer. It is very important to let the cement dry to its "tacky" nature. If you press the leather to the glue while it is wet or "sticky", the bond might be more than temporary, that's an oops.
- Once the cement is completely "tacky", gently press the leather, flesh side down, onto the plastic sheet within the marked outline while smoothing the leather out.
Tip: Not sure if your leather is firmly flattened onto the stabilizer? That's ok! If the rubber cement set up properly, you should be able to remove and re-position. (Refer to Step 9 first though if you feel you need to do that.) This is another reason why I use rubber cement for this step. If you don't have this plastic just remember that stabilizer backing should be: "rigid" enough to prevent the leather from stretching, flexible enough to safely remove the leather after tooling and thin enough to not buffer the tools when striking impressions into the leather.
I finally discovered that quilter's template plastic sheets are perfect for stabilizing leather; I don't know how I managed before. It accepts adhesive well, is reusable and offers a balance between flexibility and rigidity.
Step 4: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Make Your Pattern Cuts With a Swivel Knife.
If you are unfamiliar with using a swivel knife, you can watch this video, Use and Care of Swivel Knife, by Tandy Leather on YouTube. I found it very difficult to describe the technique in words.
- Re-wet the grain side of the tooling leather.
- Position the stabilized piece of leather on top of a granite/marble slab.
- Using a freshly sharpened (stropped) swivel knife, begin making the cuts by carefully following all pattern lines. Again, there is no shame in going tortoise slow. The idea is not to cut so deep into the thickness of the leather that you risk weakening the leather. These cuts are being made to accentuate and guide the impressions made by the tools in the next steps.
Tips: As you move around curves, try moving the piece of leather in the opposite direction as you are moving the knife, versus just moving your hand. Also, remember to use your fingers to twist the barrel and guide the knife through the curves more smoothly. As you come up to an intersection of the lines, try applying less pressure then lift the cutting tip up right before the intersection. Try not to re-wet the leather after you have made these cuts, the cuts can close up.
I usually re-wet the leather again before cutting to insure that the leather is cased well for good clean impressions.
Step 5: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Start Your Tooling With the Bevelers.
- I start with a smooth beveler (craftool B201) and mallet in hand.
- The entire outline of every leaf is beveled to the outside of the cut. I saved the enclosed part of the stem (center vein) of each leaf for the textured beveler. Please refer to 'After - Smooth Beveler' picture to get a better grasp at what I am trying to say.
- I pick a place in the design that will be comfortable for me to start at; this will depend mostly on rather you are a lefty or righty.
- Once at my "sweet spot", I depress the toe, or elongated part of the tool, into the "ditch" of the swivel knife cut and make the first impression with the mallet. This ditch will act as a guide to keep impressions clean and easy to follow. (This is probably the one and only instance where you will want to be in a ditch.)
- I continue to work the beveler all the way around every leaf keeping the toe in the ditch and the heel flat on the leather. Their are two techniques that I have adopted for beveling, both seem to make very smooth beveled edges. One is an "overlap" method and the other is a "walking method". If you are not familiar with either, please refer to this step's tips section below.
- After the leaves are beveled, I bevel each letter to the outside of the line in the same fashion.
- When smooth beveling is complete, I grab a textured beveler (craftool B971) and start beveling the enclosed part of the leaf stem, again to the outside of the cut. Please refer to 'After - Textured Beveler' picture.
Tips: What is the "walking" method? (No, it does not involve 'the dead'.) This is a technique I came across in one of my leather working books (pictured above). Basically as you hold the toe in the ditch, you lean the tool ever so slightly toward you and begin gliding the tool through the ditch as you are making consistent repetitive strikes on the tool with your mallet. I find that I do better beveling when there is less moisture content left in the leather. What is the "overlap" method? (I think I made this term up, but maybe its real.) Essentially, each impression I make is overlapped with the next by about two-thirds. Then, I will often "walk" the beveler back over those areas if they aren't smooth enough for me. Beveling free-handed words can be difficult; try an alphabet stamp set instead if you do not want to fuss with free-handed words.
I chose to bevel to the outside of the lines because I wanted the leaves to lift up and look rounded to the inside and because I was planning on cutting the design out later. If I had beveled to the inside of the line, the leaves would have looked engraved (depressed) into the leather; also, a very appealing look.
My "sweet spot" start is where I can move from without having to lay my hand on freshly tooled areas; simply stated, I usually work in a clockwise direction since I am right handed.
The Leatherworking Manual pictured above is an inherited go to reference. Videos are great for honing in on skills or learning a tricky skill, but I often refer to this manual first. (With books, I don't have to worry about constantly pausing and playing.) Thank you Mr. M for all of your generosity!
Step 6: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Give Your Design Dimension by Stamping the Background.
If you like the way the design looks at this point, you can move onto the next step. My preference was to add more dimension and more texture for the stain to grab onto later.
- I start with the larger of the two "dirt" tools (craftool E294).
- Holding the tool completely upright, I make my first impression with the mallet. I start within an open area of the background (negative space) and work my way out to the edges of the previously tooled areas (positive space).
- Finally, I use the smaller "dirt" tool (craftool E294-04) to get into the tight spaces and touch up smaller areas.
Tips: This tool requires much less technique than the bevelers. I have found that a general rule for many things in leather working is to start in the middle away from edges to prevent mistakes. To create a consistent and full texture in the background, overlap the tool impressions several times over. Please refer to the picture, 'Backgrounding Progression', to see the progression. As you get closer to the beveled areas of the edges, start to let up on the force of your strikes. This will make the background appear to fade into the beveling. For me, beveling the cuts first kind of builds a dam against the other tool marks. Important: With smaller headed tools like the craftool E294-04, make sure to use less force when striking impressions than you would with a larger tool. Due to less surface area on the tool, you could VERY easily pound right through your leather; I have done these many times. Ugh!
Step 7: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Add Texture to Your Leaves.
- First, I take a smaller ballpoint stylus and open up the swivel knife marks that create the interior branching veins. Very carefully, I depress the stylus into the ditch and re-trace inside these cuts applying medium pressure.
- Next with the wider end of the hair blade tool, I lay the toe and heel flat on the leather. Starting from the center vein, I drag the hair blade tool across the surface of the leather and down/out halfway to the beveled edge applying consistent pressure.
- I repeat this process in between every branched vein for each leaf. Hopefully, you can see this effect pretty well in the detail picture above.
- Once desired textured is achieved, this step is done.
I open up my swivel cuts using a ballpoint stylus as a personal preference; it widens and deepens the lines to collect more stain later.
I chose to make the hair blade lines only go halfway to the edge for shadowing (visual depth). The stain will settle into the lines and it should appear that the inner part of the leaves are at a lower point than the outer part. The textured beveling along the sides of the center vein will add shadowing as well.
Step 8: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Apply Neatsfoots Oil, Dye and Stain.
Doing layers like this adds color and visual depth to the tooling.
- I use a good sized square of scrap t-shirt to apply neatsfoot oil prior to dyeing and staining. The oil is best applied by very lightly wiping a generous amount into the leather and allowing it to completely penetrate. Applying the oil is optional.
- After, I applied the olive green dye concoction to the leaves using q-tips. I applied only two light coats, letting the first coat dry to touch, about 15 minutes.
- Once the dye completely dried, I applied an overly generous amount of the Coffee Brown Hi-lite Colorant stain using a large wool dauber. It is important to apply in a circular motion and work the stain into every cut and impression. (The image of the dark brown blob shows this generous coating of stain.)
- I let this stain penetrate for about a minute; at least that was the plan. Once the minute was up, I took a dampened t-shirt square and wiped the stain off. This usually takes several passes to remove.
Tips: Since the olive green was a mix of several Eco-Flo Professional Waterstains, this dye essentially needs to be rubbed in and not brushed on, as it contains some wax. I prefer q-tips for smaller areas like these leaves, but usually use a sponge for these dyes. While removing these stains, I like to wrap my finger tip and nail in part of the t-shirt to easily remove pooling dye from tight spaces. I find this makes a cleaner looking result. You can do several coats of stain to achieve a darker result, but I only needed one on this and was happy. Remember though that stain is not dye and will not ever reach an opaque color. Its great for accentuating the tool work!
I did not apply the stain until 24 hours had passed since dyeing. This is a personal preference, explained later for top coat application.
I later had to go back with the dye for some touch ups after staining; I let it penetrate too long and it pulled up some of the dye. As a general rule, I do not like reapplying dyes on top of stains; it just does not seem to penetrate through the stain very well. If you choose to let your dyes set up for a full 24 hours, you can move ahead to Part II while you wait. Just don't forget to come back!
Step 9: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Free the Leather From Its Stabilizer.
This seems like a silly step to discuss, but its actually very important so that you do not stretch your leather accidentally while removing.
- Flip the stabilized leather face down on the granite slab.
- Gently, peel a small corner loose.
- Once a corner is loose, place your non-dominant hand on the leather and hold it flat and firmly in place.
- While holding the leather flat, take your dominant hand and start to roll and pull the stabilizer back.
- In a simultaneous action, continue to slide your non-dominant hand forward while the dominant hand is rolling more stabilizer off until completely free.
Tips: You will have to use a little elbow grease here so try not to worry about pulling too hard. As long as you always hold the leather flat against the granite, you should be providing enough support against stretching.
Please Remember: Never pull the leather from the stabilizer; Always pull the stabilizer from the leather.
Step 10: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Cut the Leather Applique Pieces Out.
Proceed with extra caution: A utility/X-acto style cutting tool is needed to complete this step. There are tiny spaces that need to be held down close to the business end of the cutting knife. Please do not attempt to cut through this tougher leather with only one pass of the blade, use several to prevent accidents. Always cut using a cutting mat underneath to protect your work surface and tool blade.
- Cut away excess leather around the designs using heavy duty scissors to reduce the amount of leather to be cut with a knife.
- Once the excess leather is removed, begin 'section trimming' using a strong knife.
- Continue cutting section by section until all are removed from both pieces.
Tips: I found that cutting in sections forced me to use shorter knife passes and was easier to release. If you notice that little corners are still clinging, try your scissors to snip them away instead of the knife for a cleaner and safer result.
I used my industrial knife with a deep curved blade as I was told by my local leather shop that it was better for detail cutting. This blade is also thicker than most so flexing is dramatically reduced.
Step 11: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Add Finishing Touches to Get a Professional Look.
- Lightly smooth out all reachable edges of both pieces with sandpaper. This will remove most of the fuzzies and make slicking/burnishing the edges more efficient.
- After dampening the edges with a sponge and water, use the slicker to compound the fibers on the first go around.
- Re-wet the edges once more and then use the slicker again more briskly to burnish the edges and provide a nice "slick" polished edge all the way around both pieces.
- Using a q-tip, small wool dauber or edge dye roller pen apply a generous amount of Eco-Flo Professional Edge Paint in black. (I applied two coats since I was using a q-tip and let dry for 30 minutes in between coats.)
Tips: I wrap a small piece of sandpaper around a pen, pencil or craftool to clean the edges and get into tighter spaces (as pictured above). I find this also reduces slips onto the tooled area. As I sand, I will carefully roll over the top and bottom to achieve a similar effect to edge beveling. I used q-tips here again for a delicate touch. How many coats you need to apply will depend on your applicator and preference. Be patient: Edge treatment can be very tedious and frustrating at times. (I would be lying if I told you it was my favorite thing in leather working.) However, the final result is always worth it.
Normally, I would use an edge beveler on veg tanned leather edges instead of or in combination with the sandpaper. However I was concerned that I would damage the small leaves, so I opted for the safe route, sandpaper only before slicking/burnishing.
Step 12: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Apply a Top Coat and Conditioner.
Its time to step outside and get some fresh air and proper ventilation to spray on the top coat. And look! Its a lovely day here. It has been a full 24 hours since I applied my dye, stain, and edge paint.
- First, buff each piece with a fresh dry t-shirt rag to remove any excess dye and remove any clingy leather crumbs.
- Place the pieces on something to catch over-spray and keep the pieces.
- In long directional and overlapping strokes, spray the first thin layer of Leather Sheen to each piece.
- After it has dried, apply another one to two thin coats. Lightly buff it again in between coats.
- Once all coats are applied, use the t-shirt rag to buff the pieces once more.
- After waiting about 30 minutes, rub in a generous amount of leather conditioner and let it penetrate for about an hour. Important: This product may darken the leather. (I didn't notice any darkening here though.)
- After the hour is up, buff off excess conditioner.
Tips: The faster and harder you buff the Leather Sheen, the glossier the finish.
I almost always wait a full 24 hours after applying dyes, stains and paints before applying any top coat, especially if it is not a spray top coat. I found this reduces rub off from the dyes. Every dye I have ever used rubs off a bit, some more than others. I hate that.
I love LOVE love this spray top coat! It has been a huge time and life saver on many projects and dries quickly. This is my go-to top coat for multi-colored projects and belts/collars/bracelets. I think this is a "must have" for any leather worker.
I always apply conditioner to my projects after the top coat for a softer more flexible touch and further protection. For continuous protection, reapply frequently.
Step 13: Part I - Creating the Leather Applique - Part I Is Complete!
If you are at this point, than you have gotten through almost half of the steps. If I had added just a few other tools and extra colors into Part I, the outcome would have been that much more different (and the instructable that much longer). I am sure that everyone has a different approach to tooling. So, experiment with some other tools and colors and see how it turns out for you!
For more resources on tooling and general leather working check out the following YouTube channels:
- Armitage Leather
- Tandy Leather
- Ian Atkinson - Leodis Leather
- Springfield Leather Co.
Step 14: Part II - Making the Album and Postbound Spine Components - There's an Album to Make Too?!
Part II (Steps 14-17) will cover how to cut out all of the components for the album and spine and includes the diagrams. The diagrams can be used to mark measurements directly onto the materials or to make a template set. (These diagrams are not to scale.) Since I have an abundantly free supply of chipboard at the moment, I cut templates from chipboard. (Yes, my templates are ugly....its okay to laugh...but they work. The free chipboard was limited in size, so I had to Frankenstein them and I made a few measuring mistakes.) You can download and print out the diagrams in order to make your very own ugly template set; the pdfs include the full diagrams, with a legend and construction notes. But, don't run off yet, below is a list of stuff I used to complete Part II. And, its time for me to take over my dining table....I need more room for this!
Leathers - 3-4oz black garment leather, 2-3oz brown liner leather (pigskin)
Basic Supplies - Diagrams 2-5, template set, glue*, white and black fabric markers, bag stiffener (Tandy's Item #9072-00), heavy books**
* I used Eco-Flo Tanner's Bond Leathercraft Cement (one of three of my always on-hand adhesives)
**These are used to weigh done glued components while glue sets up.
Tools - 45mm rotary cutter, scissors, 36-48" t-square (or yard stick), center-line ruler, cutting mat, plastic bone folder/creaser
Applicators - wool daubers, q-tips
Finishing Supplies - Eco-Flo Professional Edge Dye (black)
Step 15: Part II - Making the Album and Postbound Spine Components - Cut the Parts Out From Garment Leather.
- Uses Diagram 2 and Templates 1 & 2 (aka Outer Shell)
- Roll out the garment hide and lay flesh side up.
- Determine the best arrangement for the templates on the hide to reduce leather waste.
- Outline each one of the templates.
- Once the templates are outlined, cut off the larger section of hide that will not be used. (We don't need it getting in the way.)
- Using a t-square, rotary cutter and cutting mat carefully cut all marked lines.
Tip:To reduce leather waste when cutting off the unused portion of hide, cut as close to your lines as possible. A fresh new blade will save you time later. Tape down your garment leather to reduce stretch during cutting.
I used a white oil pastel stick to make my outlines because its transfers to the leather beautifully and smoothly.
Step 16: Part II - Making the Album and Postbound Spine Components - Cut the Parts Out From Bag Stiffener.
I noticed that my blade quickly dulled cutting the stiffener, and I had to use a bit of downward force to cut through. In fact, cutting leather as well will quickly dull these blades with repetitive use.
Bag Stiffener for Front & Back Panels and Supportive Spine
- Uses Diagram 3 and Templates 3, 3a and 4 (aka Panel Foundations)
- Lay the bag stiffener out as flat as possible and tape areas down to the work surface to keep it flat. (Generally, it is rolled up upon purchase.)
- Determine the best layout of the templates to reduce waste before outlining the templates with a regular black ballpoint pen.
- Once the templates are outlined, cut off the larger section of stiffener that will not be used.
- Carefully cut all marked lines using scissors (or rotary cutter) and cutting mat.
Bag Stiffener for Spine Leg Foundations (Same as above except the following)
- Uses Diagram 5 and Template 9 to cut four identical pieces (aka Spine Leg Foundations, labeled 9-9c)
Tips: Layout the panel and spine leg templates all at once to reserve material; I had a scrap piece that I used to cut my legs from. I like to use a rotary cutter since it makes quick cuts. With this material, I would suggest scissors for everything. If you chose to still use a rotary cutter, tape down your straight edge. My t-square slipped out of alignment several times with this material while I was cutting before I wised up. If you do not own a center-line ruler like the one pictured, I highly recommend this as a staple tool for any crafts person. The center-line ruler came in real handy here to square up the skinny little 9-9c pieces.
Step 17: Part II - Making the Album and Postbound Spine Components - Cut the Parts Out From Liner Leather.
Liner Leather for Front & Back Panels
- Uses Diagram 4 and Templates 5 & 6 (aka Inner Shell)
- Roll out the liner leather hide and lay flesh side up.
- Determine the best arrangement for the templates on the hide in order to reduce leather waste.
- Once the templates are outlined, again cut off the excess hide not needed.
- (Welcome back rotary cutter...you were missed dearly!) Carefully cut all lines with rotary cutter, t-square and cutting mat.
Liner Leather for Spine Body & Legs (same as above except following)
- Uses Diagram 5 and Templates 7, 8 &10.
Most of the edges for the front and back panel liner will be concealed, so it is not necessary to treat these edges. If the edges were not concealed, I would have added edge paint for a professional look. When using garment and liner leathers, I have found it difficult to edge bevel and slick/burnish. Sometimes, I will smooth the edges with sandpaper first but as long as the rotary/knife blade is sharp, the cuts should come out clean.
Step 18: Part III - Final Album Assemble - the End Is Nearing to a Complete Project!
At the end of Part III (Steps 18-29)...the album will finally be complete! I used the following:
Basic Supplies - Diagram 1, all finished items from Parts I-II, glue, white and black fabric markers, thick scrap of tooling leather, beeswax block*, dark brown waxed nylon thread, two hand stitching needles, granite slab, cutting board or pondo board, straight edge, heavy books
*Acts as a lubricant for punches.
Tools - mallet, 45mm rotary cutter, scissors, center-line ruler, cutting mat, plastic bone folder/creaser, 3-throng chisel punch, 1-throng chisel punch, hole punch, 1/4" round spot setter, 3/8" round spot setter
Applicators - wool daubers, sponge
Finishing Supplies - Eco-Flo Professional Edge Dye (black), gum tragacanth
Hardware - magnetic bag clasp, 1/4" round spots, 3/8" round spots, three binding screw posts
Step 19: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Assemble the Spine Legs and Spine Body.
This video titled, "Postbound Guest Book" by scrapbookinggr, makes postbound binding look easy using paper and cardstock, if you want to check it out. (FYI, the captions for this video are not in English, but its a great video.)
This step completes parts C, G and H on Diagram 1.
Prepare Spine Body
- Uses liner leather pieces 8 & 10 (Refer to Diagram 5 too if necessary)
- Center the cover up (10) grain side up over the spine body (8) flesh side up.
- Draw an outline around the cover up to mark the area to be glued.
- Apply Tanner's Bond to the flesh side of both pieces.
- While still wet, affix the cover up to the center of the spine body, smooth over with a bone creaser and set a heavy book on top until the glue sets up.
Tips: You can use a center-line ruler to mark the center on the spine body; it worked out perfectly that my ruler is two inches in width.
Assemble Spine Legs
- Uses liner leather pieces 7 & 7a (spine legs) and two of the cut stiffener pieces, 9 & 9a (spine leg foundations)
- Lay the first of the legs (7) down flat, flesh side up.
- Use a center-line ruler to mark 1" in from an edge then draw a straight line.
- Apply Tanner's Bond inside the marked line on (7) flesh side up and on leg foundation, stiffener piece (9).
- Affix (9) to (7) lining up the edge of the stiffener to the marked line. Flip the whole thing over and smooth out with bone creaser.
- While (7) dries, repeat the above for 7a and 9a pieces.
- Once both have dried enough (about 20 minutes), apply glue to both stiffener foundations (9 & 9a) and next to the stiffeners on flesh side of (7) & (7a). Let glue dry until "sticky".
- Tightly fold these ends over to glue down the uncovered side of stiffeners to flesh side of the leathers.
- Place some heavy books on these folded pieces and let the glue set up completely.
Tips: Use a bone creaser on its edge to crease a line into the leather at the edge of the stiffener piece for easier folding.
Assemble Spine Body
- Uses prepared spine body and remaining two cut stiffener pieces, 9b & 9c
- Complete while the spine legs are setting up after assembly, (7-7a with 9-9a).
- Follow the same procedure as the spine legs to assemble the spine body.
I used my handy ruler to square up and trim any areas that did not match up perfectly during assembly.
Step 20: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Attach Tooled Applique to Front Panel.
Glue the Applique
- Lay out the cut front garment leather panel (1) as flat and smooth as possible.
- Find and mark center on (1), grain side up.
- Using the center mark as reference, place the tooled leather applique centered on the garment leather.
- Once a good placement is found, lightly outline the applique and remove.
- Apply Tanner's Bond to the flesh side of the applique and grain side of (1) within the drawn outline.
- Press the applique down firmly and hold down for a few seconds, then flip the the whole thing over.
- Firmly smooth the applique with a bone creaser from the underside (flesh side of garment leather). Cover with a heavy book.
Tips: Place small pieces of painter's tape at four equal points around the applique marked with a bold dot for easier realignment. Remove the tape once the applique is pressed down and a straight edge can help you make minor adjustments.
Set the Spots
- 1/4" round spots and corresponding setter are used.
- Once the applique is holding firm and glue has dried (at least 1 hour), the round spots can be set.
- Lay the front panel (1) grain side up on a granite slab. Slip a thick folded piece of scrap leather in between the garment leather and granite slab under the first area to set spots.
- Load a round spot into the spot setter.
- Center the setter flush over the first indentation and whack the setter with a mallet, one or two good solid whacks usually gets the job done.
- Turn everything over and pull the scrap leather off of the spot prongs.
- Bend the two prongs inward, flush to the flesh side of the garment leather.
- Reset and repeat for the remaining seven spots.
Tips: Use the barrel of the setter to slightly spread out the prongs of the spot before loading it into the setter to keep the spot from falling out before you can set it. I find it easier just to use scrap leather as opposed to the anvil when setting spots. Lightly tap the prongs down with a mallet after you have bent them inward to insure a secure and flat setting.
Step 21: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Assemble the Front and Back Album Panels.
- On one corner of the garment leather, mark up approximately 1 1/4" and over 1 1/4" on the flesh side.
- Use these marks to align a straight edge to cut a mitered corner with a rotary cutter and mat.
- Repeat for all four corners on both garment leather panels (1 & 2).
- After all of the corners are cut, go back and mark center on all mitered corners.
Tips: Save some valuable time! Instead of measuring out at all eight corners to be mitered, cut one and use this as a guide to cut the rest. Dip your finger into a little gum tragacanth and rub into and along all of the edges of the garment leather after you make the miter cuts. This will seal the edges and compound any fuzzies. The edges of the garment leather will only show on the inside of the album once it is assembled but this will help them look cleaner.
Assemble Front Panel
- Uses garment leather (1) and stiffener panel foundation (3)
- Use the center marks made at each mitered corner to easily set (3) on center to (1), flesh side up.
- Check that the perimeter around all four sides is equal, approximately 3/4" and then outline the stiffener.
- Apply Tanner's Bond inside the outline and to the grooved side of the stiffener.
- Firmly press the stiffener onto the garment leather and then flip the whole thing over.
- Use a hand to smooth and flatten out the garment leather from the grain side, radially out from the center.
- Flip the whole thing back over and check the perimeter again. Set some heavy books on it for at least 20 minutes.
- Once the glue is dry, repeat this process to apply the liner leather (5), grain side up, to the stiffener. Except, now use the bone creaser to press the liner leather down.
- Set the books back on top and move on to the back panel (2).
Tips: I do not recommend using a bone creaser on top of the garment leather as it is too soft and may be damaged; only use your hands/fingers to smooth out and crease folds. Smoothing the leather out radially from the center of the grain side reduces wrinkling and stretching.
Assemble Back Panel (follow the same procedure as the front, except the following)
- Uses garment leather (2), stiffener panel foundation (3a), supportive spine stiffener (4), liner leather (6).
- Rely more on the center-line ruler to insure your perimeter is approximately 3/4" around.
- The stiffener for (4) should be spaced 1/4" out from the edge of the panel foundation. This should leave approximately 3" of remaining garment leather for the last fold and closure flap.
- Make sure to firmly and completely crease both folds from both sides in between the application of the stiffener and liner.
Tips: Try actually folding at the fold lines immediately after you have joined all parts together. This made creasing easier but also reduced "wrinkling" in the leathers at the folds. Make sure to thoroughly apply the glue into these folds to prevent unwanted gaps and wrinkles.
Mitered corners also make a nice looking seam once the overlapped is folded and glued down later.
Do to some stretching during assembly, I had to re-square some of my edges and reapply the gum before folding the lips over in the next step.
Step 22: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Fold the Lips Over on Front and Back Panels.
This step completes the parts A, B and D on Diagram 1. Part B is inclusive of part D.
- Apply glue to the flesh side of the garment leather on one lip.
- Apply glue to the grain side of the neighboring liner leather edge.
- Start rolling and pressing the lip over tightly to adhere the overlap down.
- While pressing the lip down make sure to smooth the leather upward towards the center of the panel.
- Once this first lip is firmly overlapped in place move on to the next until all remaining seven lips are overlapped and affixed as shown in the second image above.
Tips: I let the glue get slightly on the "tacky" side for this application for grip. Since this leather was a bit stretchy, I started affixing every lip from the center then pressed and smoothed my way out. I also used my fingernail to flatten out the mitered seams, if they got "pinched" onto one another. To insure a nice fold, you can use a bone creaser to gently press leather into the folds.
Step 23: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Prep Spine for Attachment to Panels.
I let the glue set up after construction overnight (about 12 hours). The longer most of these glues set up, the stronger the bond. You want a strong bond before causing trauma to the construction such as punching holes and stitching.
- Determine the placement of the three holes for the binding post screws on the first spine leg. (I begin by using one of the 12" x 12" photo refill pages that I purchased to determine where I needed to mark for holes.) Insure that the margins on both sides (from the end of the page to the end of the spine leg) match. Align the outer edge of the spine leg with the edge of the fold line on the page. (When completely assembled this is where the pages need to fold over in order to turn from one page to the next.)
- Once the page is aligned to the edge of the spine leg, tape it down to prevent shifting. Make an indentation through the center of each hole and into the leather. (I used my pro burnishing awl but anything with a sharp point will work.)
- Remove the page and place the spine leg on the granite with pondo board in between. Position the hole punch over the center of each indentation. Using the mallet, punch three holes in this spine with a 5.5 mm size tube on the hole puncher.
- Shortcut: Take the spine leg with the punched holes and use this as a template to punch the holes on the remaining three spine legs. Align and tape the punched spine leg on top of an non-punched spine leg then strike the hole punch with the mallet in each hole just enough to make a mark. Unsaddle the two pieces and then punch each hole completely through.
- After all holes have been punched in all four spine legs, apply the black edge paint.
Tips: Anytime you are punching through leather, you will want to place something in between the leather and granite to protect your tool edge.
Notes: I used photo refill pages for my memory book, but you could convert this into a scrapbook easily by inserting 12" x 12" cardstock. Most refill pages have a pretty standard spacing in between the holes, but I used a page as a guide to eliminate measuring.
Step 24: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Attach the Spine Legs to the Panels.
Glue Legs to Panels
- Mark points 2" above each corner on both panels (A & B) where the spine will attach (side E), grain side up.
- Line up a piece of painters tape between the two marks.
- Mark a corresponding line on the flesh side of both spine legs also 2" out (from opposite end of the punched holes).
- Apply Tanner's Bond up to the tape on the panels and up to the line on the legs.
- Line up the edges and press the two pieces together. Make sure to correct your alignment before you remove the tape and then smooth the two leathers together.
- Firmly crease around the bend with the bone creaser.
Tips: To insure a good bond, let the glue set up for no less than an hour before setting the spots. (24 hours is of course best.) The way the spine holds the two panels together is a pertinent feature to overall structure.
Set the Spots
- The round spots will be set the same way as in Step 22 but using 1/4" spots and setter along with larger 3/8" spots and setter.
- Mark a center point along the junction of the liner leather (decorative trim) and black garment leather for (A & B).
- Mark points out 1" to the left and right of this center point. From here, measure out every 2" until the edge is reached; this is where the first spots will be set (not at the original center point).
- Set the 3/8" spots at those marks for both panels.
- Now, go back and mark the center between each large spot, this is where the 1/4" spots will be set.
Tips: The two prongs of each spot should equally straddle the junction of the two leathers to visually break up the line and add reinforcement. Be careful when setting spots on top of light weight leathers such as the liner leather. If you set it too deep, it will cut the liner leather completely through.
I decided to use the painters tape on the grain sides of the panels instead of pen to make my lines when attaching the legs. I really just did this for fun, to see if it worked, and ease of applying the glue.
The last small spot set on both ends of each panel will end up set 1" from the last large spot but only be spaced approximately 1/2" from the edge of the panels.
Step 25: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Install Magnetic Bag Clasp Hardware.
Male End of Hardware
- This will be attached to the underside of the closure flap on the back panel (B).
- Find center on the closure flap.
- Outline the hardware backing on center and mark the center hole punch and slits for the prongs using the backing for a template.
- Remove the hardware backing, punch the center hole and then use the 1-throng chisel punch to cut each slit.
- Insert the male end prongs of the hardware through the slits from the underside of (B).
- Set the hardware backing in place.
- Bend each prong to the outside and lightly tap flat with a mallet.
- The male end should now be attached to the underside of the closure flap with the prongs on the outside of the panel.
Female End of Hardware
- This will be attached to the outside of the front album panel (A).
- Follow the same directions as the male hardware end.
- Except: Insert the female end through the panel from the grain side of (A) this time.
- The female end should now be attached to the outside of the front panel (A) with the prongs on the underside of the panel.
Step 26: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Hand Stitch the Album.
Punch the Holes
- Use a wing divider to mark 1/4" border around all sides of the front panel (A) and back panel (B), grain side up, as a guideline for punching holes straight.
- Mark center of all sides on these guidelines. This is the starting point for punching the hand stitching holes.
- Starting at the center mark, align the 3-throng chisel punch over center and begin punching holes along the guidelines out to the left and right with firm hard strikes on the mallet.
- When a corner is reached, make sure to leave a little extra space so that spacing adjustments can be made once that other side is punched.
- When at the intersection of the decorative trim (brown leather liner) and garment leather, adjust your hole spacing to insure a stitch will straddle this junction.
- Use the 1-throng chisel punch to make easier spacing adjustments.
Tips: Be careful when using a wing divider on softer leathers; it can easily slice through and cut the leather. You can also use a center-line ruler and pen or overstitch wheel to mark the 1/4" borders. Occasionally press the throngs into the beeswax for easier punching.
Stitch it Up
- Thread the needle and make sure to "lock" the thread onto the needle.
- Two needles are used, one threaded and locked at each end of the thread to do a saddle (or hand) stitch.
- For the saddle stitch: the thread length will need to be at least 3 1/2 times the length of distance to be traveled. (For example, one side is approximately 13" so the thread would need to be at least 45" in length to stitch that one side.)
- Stitch one side at a time to prevent the thread from being a million miles long and getting in the way.
- Push one needle in a corner hole and pull half the distance of the thread through. (In other words, hold the two needles parallel, out straight, and there should be an equal amount of thread from each needle once threaded through the first hole.)
- Begin stitching through the holes in a figure eight type method. Push a needle through the second hole, then push the other needle through that same hole and pull thread taut. Repeat this for every hole until the last hole is reached.
- At the last hole, the stitch needs to be locked. Simply stitch back in reverse through three previously stitched holes, pull taut then trim the thread close.
- Re-thread and lock on the needles and start stitching a perpendicular side, again through the corner hole to make the stitch appear continuous.
- Continue until all sides of both panels are stitched.
Tips: Videos are really helpful here to get a good idea of the saddle (hand) stitch, if you are not familiar.
Traditionally, the saddle stitch uses a diamond chisel or punch awl to punch the holes; I have always just used the straight chisel punch as per my preference. I begin punching holes in the center so that they are spaced equally to each corner. When I lock my stitches, I will often go back in reverse once more through one hole of the previous locked stitches for an extra secure hold.
Step 27: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Add the Final Touches.
Cover Up Hardware Backing
- Use the closure tab applique to cover up the the male hardware backing. Then, use a nicely cut piece of scrap leather to cover up the female hardware backing in the same way but on the underside of the front panel.
- Center the applique over the hardware backing. When it looks straight, lightly draw an outline around it with a pen.
- Apply glue to the panel front within the marked outline and to the flesh side of the applique. (Let dry until "sticky" so that you get a better grip.)
- Firmly press and hold the applique down in place for several minutes. (The spots prevent you from using a heavy book.)
Extra Touches (optional)
- Set extra 3/8" round spots on the tooled leather appliques as shown in the pictures.
- Apply edge paint in dark brown to camouflage the "naked" flesh side areas of the liner leather within the spine.
- Apply edge paint to the flesh side of the closure tab that might be visible when album is opened.
- Add a reinforcement stitch down all four spine legs.
- Add a reinforcement stitch down the center veins on each applique. (I picked the center leaf on the closure tab and the four leaves directly above, below and to the left and right of 'Family'.)
I used my personal mark stamped on a scrap piece of leather to hide the female hardware backing.
I really wanted to make sure this memory book would last generations, so I felt it necessary to add the reinforcement stitching. Afterall, the spine will be the must active element and joins the two panels.
I used Eco-Flo Edgeflex in onyx to camouflage. This seemed to be a perfect match in color to the liner leather! Although these areas will only be visible when the album is open and/or spine is empty, it would have driven me crazy just "knowing" it was there.
Step 28: Part III - Final Album Assemble - Join the Two Panels With the Spine Body.
- Use three 1 1/4" binding post screws and a flat head screw driver.
- Lay the spine leg (G) of the back panel (B) flat, grain side down, and insert each binding post screw down through each punched hole.
- Insert one leg of the spine body (H) over the screws next.
- Now fold the spine leg over inwards and flat against the panel.
- Insert the pages.
- Fold the other leg of the spine body (H) over and through the screws.
- Grab the front album panel (A), grain side down, and drop the last leg (G) over the screws.
- Screw the cap end of each binding post on.
Now, a fully functioning postbound album is here!
Step 29: Part III - Final Album Assemble - the Completed Project!
Leather crafting has become a great and rewarding endeavor for me over the years. I'd like to believe that this instructable will encourage others to dive head first into the amazing world of leather crafting. Yes, leather working can be expensive to dive into. But, check out your local leather shops. Most offer an affordable annual membership that will help reduce costs on supplies, tools and materials. It certainly has saved me money!
I hope that you found this DIY Leather Postbound Memory Book instructable helpful now that it is at an end. At times, I found it very difficult to explain procedures in written word in some of the steps. Please let me know if you come across any inconsistencies in diagrams, instructions, images, etc. I will gladly correct them!
Also, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has contributed to the Instructable Community! After this first one, I now understand firsthand how much work can go into creating an instructable. So, thank you everyone!