Introduction: Leather Tooled Book Cover With Koi and Hibiscus!

Picture of Leather Tooled Book Cover With Koi and Hibiscus!

Leather Tooled Book Cover with Koi and Hibiscus!

Leather Tooling or Carving is giving 3D effects to Leather by cutting and stamping.
It's such a cool art form!

I want a giant leather mural to hang on the wall--like an old world map or something...

My husband is very good at tooling leather.
He's not a saddle maker...or a he doesn't carve the "traditional" patterns.

Step 1: Supplies!

Picture of Supplies!

A great way to get started is to get the

The Deluxe Leathercraft Set ($80)
This comes with all the tools needed to make 7 amazing projects!

(Plus, all the tools needed to do this carved book cover)

Then you'll be ready to carve into a Book Cover ($33)

You will also need a surface to pound on.

It's best to work on a hard granite, quartz or marble.
If you don't have solid counter tops you can buy a quartz slab from Tandy Leather.

We picked up a big slab of marble from a local counter top place.

Step 2: Tracing Pattern

Picture of Tracing Pattern

Keep the leather damp and the blade sharp at all times.

Begin by sponging water on the surface of the leather. It will darken in color but the water should not pool.

Let the leather dry slightly.

Tape the pattern on your leather so it wont slide around.
Trace your desired pattern onto the leather by pressing over the pattern with a stylus or a pencil.

You will see the impression left behind in the leather!

Step 3: Begin Cutting!

Picture of Begin Cutting!

Next, sharpen (or strop) your blade on a piece of leather.

Begin cutting a groove into the pattern you traced.

Cut straight down into the leather, don't undercut.

Take your time. Go slow on curves. Let the swivel knife do the work.

Get it all outlined like a coloring book page.

Step 4: Tooling!

Picture of Tooling!

Once the entire pattern is cut, the next process is stamping.
This will create the relief, the 3D effect.

Now you will need the Beveler's an oval, rectangle or tear drop stamp that has a grid pattern on it.

Use the beveler to press the leather down on one side of each cut.

Place the edge of the beveler in the cut and hammer gently.

Move the beveler as you hammer to give a smooth imprint.

Bevel the places you want to be darker in color. This is the dimensional shadowing effect.

Use the Seeder to add small circle shapes, like the hibiscus stamen.

Step 5: Details!

Picture of Details!

After the image has been beveled, then the background is next.
We used a splotchy looking tool for the background.

This is the area behind the fish, flowers and water...but not the border.

We used a hair line tool to make the subtle lines in the fish fins.

Next the cutting knife was used for decorative cuts like arrows in the flowers,

around the fish face and on the waves.

These are shallow cuts, just used to add texture and dimension.

Step 6: Neatsfoot Oil!

Picture of Neatsfoot Oil!

Because this was to be a book cover, we opted to use Neatsfoot Oil to soften the leather.
This makes the leather darker in color and very soft.

We held the leather up to the light...check this out!

Step 7: Antiquing!

Picture of Antiquing!

Next, we used Dark Brown antiquing's thick and spread all over the leather.
Then the top surface is wiped the impressions a darker finish in all the grooves.

I love the look of antiquing. It's my favorite, and therefore what I recommend! It makes it look so rich!

Step 8: Finished and Amazing!

Picture of Finished and Amazing!

After drying, the book is slipped in the cover and admired!
I love how it turned out!

It's a great journal cover and fits any book about 5 by 8"...

ours is 2 inches thick...but thinner books work too!

The fish just wraps around the book, I love the spine!
I love the fish scales!

(my 6 year old son did not like the "extension cord" coming off the fish face--hahaha!)

Check out my blog Doodlecraft for more awesomeness!

Please vote for me too! I'll be your best friend! ;)


bsmith5 (author)2015-09-29

Could this be done on a black leather with a different approach taken with the antiquing? Love it by the way...

doodlecraft (author)bsmith52015-09-29

Thank you! In order to tool the leather you must use veggie tanned leather. You can finish it off with black dye if you prefer, it just doesn't give it the depth. We have done many things with black dye and do love it, I've added a picture of a scripture cover my husband did years ago. :)

KeithD16 (author)doodlecraft2015-10-10

I take it that the black dye would be added after step 6 (that is, after the Neatsfoot Oil but before the antiquing)...? Or do you follow all steps and dye it black last?

I'm looking at making a custom satchel-style design for some portable tech (it's something the size of a tablet, but with a second chunky box as well - so not the sort of thing I could buy off-the-shelf). I figure that if I'm going to make a case for it, I might as well do it with style! :)

RobertE25 (author)KeithD162015-12-28

Hi there Keith,

I know your comment is a few months back, but I wanted to give an answer in case you were still curious, or others were. This wasn't my project but I'm a leatherworker as well.

If you wanted to dye a cover black, instead of the colors used here, you would apply the dye first, then the neatsfoot oil (the oil generally comes after since most dyes are spirit based and remove the natural oils). You could also oil beforehand with no detriment. The antique would be left out altogether for black dye. The antique will darken the tooling marks and other subtle deviations in the grain of the leather. If something has been dyed black, the antique wouldn't be visible.

P.S. Great tutorial Doodlecraft!

CharleeAnn (author)2015-12-16

I love this! Koi fish are so awesome!

MrMxylptlyk (author)2015-12-01

Beautiful, but hella expensive :( I need to make a cover for my tiny sketch book because I screwed it up.. Maybe I will do this eventually.

hbridge88 (author)2015-11-01

Wow. So beautiful and really inspiring !

vbanaszak (author)2015-10-31

This is beautiful! I got some tools but have yet been brave enough to try my hand at tooling leather. After seeing this I am encouraged to give it a try. thank you.

mpulliam1 (author)2015-10-05

That is awesome!

SelenaT (author)2015-10-03

Amazingly beautiful... Why do we love leather so much... Such a well worn skin.

walterripley (author)2015-10-01

mamaibarra69 (author)2015-09-30

So beautiful!!! You could sell your artwork and make good money sharing it. :) othersthe

IvanC28 (author)2015-09-30

Very beautifull work, i wanna try, but i'll start with a less datails pictures. Thanks for share

MimArt (author)2015-09-29

Thanks for this - not too much info, and clear explanations. I'm now considering a wall piece like you describe -very inspirational..I'd like to suggest gloves for you and your kids, as well as eye protection perhaps? Even young kids can learn good studio habits. Beautiful tooling!

delicia.ambrosino.1 (author)2015-09-29

Finally, a simple straight forward way of showing how to tool leather without paying a high price for the info. What is even better the price is free. I believe this is something I can do easily. I have been wanting to make my own books...bound by myself, for a long time. Thank you so much.

Silentcircle (author)2015-09-29

absolutely beautiful, my vote for you....

AlejandroR26 (author)2015-09-29

Very nice!

sewgirldeb (author)2015-09-29

Love this pattern. Tandy has one style of patterns only, unfortunately. Your fish reminds me a bit of Ed Hardy style. I sew leather garments but not sure if I'm ready for tooling. Your tutorial is very well done and informative. Thanks, I just might get brave enough to try.

Jedi_zombie85 (author)2015-09-25

Epic work and love the tattoo disign style look.

Deffo going to have a crack at this and make custom tool belts and sleves for my tools ;)

Psychospazz (author)2015-09-24

Amazeballs!!! Love it!!!

Kroozerdave (author)2015-09-24

I like that the pattern is different to the usual cowboy style images. Great job of showing how interesting the effect can be.

thumboo (author)2015-09-24

This is AWESOME hope i got the skills to do this!! Great work

Spade115 (author)2015-09-24

This is BEAUTIFUL work.

Muhaiminah Faiz (author)2015-09-24

Wonderful tutorial! And love the cover! :)

Thanks! :)

The Rambler (author)2015-09-24

This is absolutely gorgeous work. I really need to learn to tool leather. I've only experimented once or twice with marginal success.

doodlecraft (author)The Rambler2015-09-24

Thanks! I guess I need to learn to tool leather too! I've done a few things but not with the skill my hubby has.

jesper.naslund.10 (author)2015-09-24

One question.. Antiquing, is that done with leather dye? English isn't my first language :-)

No, antiquing is different than the dye. We actually use it in place of dye more often because it gives the grooves the dark depth of color. Antique comes in different shades, we like dark brown, and it's a gel consistency. Hope this helps! :)

IronViking (author)2015-09-24

Lovely... Great work.

FreckledR (author)2015-09-23

Wow this is amazing and beautifully executed!

doodlecraft (author)FreckledR2015-09-23

Thanks! I love it too! I need my husband to do more crafty projects for me! :)

FreckledR (author)doodlecraft2015-09-24

Haha, get him onto that world map! :)

smartrem (author)2015-09-24

Beautiful wirk. I voted for it. Nice choice of the pattern. Great job, really I'm impressed.

jesper.naslund.10 (author)2015-09-24


MrBeta (author)2015-09-23

Beautiful leather work. You easily have my vote.

doodlecraft (author)MrBeta2015-09-23

Aw, thank you! :)

desertsniper (author)2015-09-23

Very nice art work!

doodlecraft (author)desertsniper2015-09-23

Thanks! :)

seamster (author)2015-09-23

Whoa, this is really impressive!

I've never done any leatherwork, but this makes me want to give it a shot. So cool!

doodlecraft (author)seamster2015-09-23

Aw, thanks! You totally should--you'd be great! :)

bagnitsch (author)2015-09-23

Simply stunning! Great guide as well.

doodlecraft (author)bagnitsch2015-09-23

Thanks! :)

audreyobscura (author)2015-09-23

Really lovely. <3 Such a good design.

Thanks! :)

Łukasz (author)2015-09-23

Verry cool! Whats the book?

doodlecraft (author)Łukasz2015-09-23

Haha, it's a Korean/English fit the cover the best for the pictures! :)

About This Instructable




Bio: Hi! My name is Natalie! I have an awesome husband that lets me be a Play-at-home mom of 3! We homeschool and do projects daily ... More »
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