I wanted to make a leather handle for a beer glass as a simple project. After seeing one I had made, my hockey teammate asked for one with a Minnesota Wild logo on it, and I thought it would be neat to add the Minnesota North Star logo from days of lore, as he is a huge Minnesota fan.
I have done some leather craft projects in the past, so I had most of the supplies I needed to to make one.
I have a local Tandy store in downtown Rapid City I generally shop at.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
I have some large pieces of leather I purchased at Tandy, and as this piece really only requires an A3 or 8-1/2 x 11" piece of leather, you could easily find one in the scrap bin.
Some waxed thread, or sinew.
Tools - Starting Out
- Art or Drawing Paper
- Straight Edge or Ruler
- Compass, with pencil
- Scissors and / or Round Knife
Tools - Leather Working - Minimum
- Mallet and / or Hammer
- Swivel knife
- Awl or Stitching Awl
Tools - Leather Stamping and Tooling
- Letter Stamps
- Edge Groover
Step 2: Creating a Cutting Template
I started by making a template. It was funny, because my first thought was it would be a simple rectangle, but it actually ended up being more like an arch.
I wrapped the glass with a piece of paper from my drawing pad.
I taped it to the glass, then wrapped it as tightly as I could, and as high as I could on the glass, planning to cut off any excess paper from the top.
Once tightly wrapped, I taped it closed, as well as marking the edge with some alignment lines in the event I needed to re-wrap it and make any changes or corrections.
I carefully sliced off excess paper, using the edge of the glass as a guide, with a hobby knife.
I then used a compass, set to about one inch (1"). Using the rim of the glass, I scribed a line around the glass. I only needed the top line, since I would use my leather compass to transfer the line at any width I decided later.
I used the corner of the ruler to scribe a vertical line for what would be the seam to create the ends of the zarf.
Step 3: Cutting Leather Pieces
I lay the template onto the leather, and pencil scribe along the edge, and carefully cut along the line with the round knife. My round knife is super sharp, and with the tough leather, you really need to hold the piece and the knife firmly. I'm very leery using it, and am fairly conscientious as to where my left hand and fingers are in relation to my cutting direction and the blade. . .you know, I think my left hand is not that trusting of my right, since it seems to miss the nail more often than not :-(
I used the scribing compass to get a parallel line at whatever width, in this case it was 3". Once scribed, I use the round knife again to cut.
I cut my straight edges as well, for this I used the scissors as it offers a better straight line cut. After wards I match up the two butting edge. If there is any over hang, I mark it, then feather it in to the edge, either eyeballing it, or using a ruler to make it look even. I then cut with the round knife or the scissors, depending on the length.
Step 4: Carving, Stamping Leather
I am by no means a good stamper and carver. It definitely is a study, and test, in patience. I am slowly learning, and with this piece I took my time, and practiced the logos a few times.
I'm a decent Photoshop hack, and after finding the logos--I think both ended up being from Wikipedia--using the magic wand, to select certain sections of each logo, I then used stroke to generate the borders between 3 and 5 pixel widths. *If anyone wants, I can add some screen shots of that as well.
I cut a paper template exact to my final piece, and estimated how much 'framing' I wanted for the piece and determined the logos could be about 2" high.
The image printing in Windows allows you to select the height of the image when printing, so that made things a bit easier.
I was having a hard time trying to center the logos, so I cut out a cutout framed version of the template, centered it on the piece, then moved the logo into place.
I dampened the leather piece, and using a stylus I copied the patterns onto the leather. I practiced on a few pieces to make sure everything would work well, I did notice on the North Star logo, that the lines were a bit too close, so I cheated a little bit and traced just outside and inside the respective "N's". On the final piece, I also did not trace the inside star, preferring to freehand it with my swivel tool.
The practicing of the logos was helpful as I determined the bit above about the North Star "N" and that the Wild logo was a bit more intricate, and at that 2" size, probably more than I could pull off. So I omitted inner outline, as well as one of the zags across the ear / sun of the bear. I also figure it was easier to just do the downward angles of the trees, as the other portions where just too small of a detail to work with.
With the exception of the river / mouth, I used my small smooth-top beveler. For the river / mouth I used a patterend beveler to give it a little texture, I tried it on the practice piece and liked it. I contemplated on doing the same with the moon / ear, but I did not have the confidence I could pull it off.
I used my edge groover to align the border on the three sides, and the groover for the borders along the handle's edge. I used a seeder and camouflage stamp for the border.
I recently acquired a seeder and a small camouflage stamp, and used those as the pattern around the border.
Step 5: Prepping the Handle
Determining the length of the handle is a bit of trial and error.
I originally had done 5" plus the two ends, which are about an inch or so. But after assembly it turned out that was a bit too long for the 3" width of the zarf. So, I ended up un-stitching and making one about 1/2 " shorter and that tightened things up a bit.
Once cut. I used the handle template to determine its length, and where the stitching and fold would be. The circle is for a rivet, which for this one i did not use.
Once the length, and ends were determined, I needed to help the piece fold along the bend just inside of where the stitches would be. I ended using the groover, making sure it was no deeper than 1/2 the thickness of the leather. I then used a credo blade as a skiver to remove some material--this makes the leather fold a bit easier.
Then added some grooves for the stitching, so they lie flush.
Step 6: Finishing Edges
Using an edger, I remove all eight edges of the handle, but only six edges of the zarf--the outside, butting edges of the zarf should be left square, as it makes for a nice tight fit under the cross-stitching.
A sheet rock trick is to carve out the back of to minimize how much butting surface there is, making joints easier to get aligned and appear tighter, so I did edge out the back of the butting edges, as well as burnish them down a bit.
After edging, I take a damp sponge and moistened down the edges and begin to run the burnisher along them. I take care near the ends of the pieces so I don't slide off and end up folding or bending the piece slamming the edge back across in the other direction.
After some time going back and forth with different grooves of the burnisher, I run my finger along the edge and continue on to the next edge, or burnish a bit more as needed.
Step 7: Finishing and Treating
Since the zarf will most likely get wet, from beer and rinsing, I decided to use some mink oil--why it's called oil when it's more a consistency of lard, puzzles me--to protect the leather. I dabbed some onto the individual pieces, and wearing rubber gloves, I worked the mink oil into the leather. I added a bit and worked it in more until it looked like the coloring was all even. I took a paper towel, wiped off any excess then used my stylus to pick out any left over oil from the stamping and grooves.
Step 8: Stitching and Final Product
I scribed a light pencil line, using my fingers to hold the edge of the leather, and just eye-balled about an 1/8" in on the leather. Then using the 6mm punch, determined the rough centering pattern, so I would not end up with holes too near the top or bottom edges.
I used the groover to created recess on the inside (suede side) of the handle--I did not stay inside my lines so well thought. And I did not groove any of the butting seam, inside or especially outside.
I used the 2x4 as a base, and my small ball peen hammer to strike the punch through. The ball peen, punch and 2x4 combination works best on a heavy, hard surface, for best results I use the garage floor, and one strike is generally all that is required.
Otherwise, I just lay the 2x4 across my thighs and give a good strike, and then punch through either hand holding the piece, take care to not push through into your other hand.
To sew the handle on, I started on the inner most edge, one hole in from the side, then worked my way around with two needles. Once i come around, I end up with a thread on either side, go once on the visible side--the side with the handle, now bot thread are on either side of the bottom edge. I carefully cross them, so the center seam will be doubled up, and push the needle out between the zarf and the handle, and tie of the pieces, hiding the knot under the handle. I generally do a 3x square knot.
Right Over Left - Left Over Right - Right Over Left
I cut the ends fairly close, and then light a match and melt the wax a wee bit. Careful not to create too much smoke and smut to mar the leather.
The Final Product
Keep in mind this was for my friend, I am by no means a Wild fan, banish the thought ;-)
So, once complete, insert glass, and pour yourself a beer.