Introduction: How to Glue Leather for Sewing

One of the first things I discovered when I started leatherworking is that trying to sew leather together is TOUGH. However, there is hope! Gluing your projects together before you punch holes or sew makes the process much more simple.

Gluing leather also comes with its own set of problems, but they're easily avoided if you work smart. :D

Check out my other leather ibles for more leatherworking basics:

Step 1: What You'll Need

  • leather for gluing
  • parchment or wax paper
  • paper towels
  • leather glue OR contact cement
  • something to hold it while it dries - I'm using small clamps

I'm using a glue specially made for leather, but I've also read on several leatherworking forums that contact cement can work just as well. :)

The parchment or wax paper will act as a guide for gluing. I tried using masking and painter's tape, but sometimes the adhesive on the tape can leave marks on the leather.

Step 2: Use the Parchment to Keep the Glue in Check

Lay the parchment or wax paper over the leather so the area you want to apply glue to is exposed. Hold it down firmly and apply the glue thinly along the edge.

When you peel back the parchment you'll have a nice crisp line! Now you can press the pieces together.

Important notes:

Always apply the glue carefully - too much glue can making sewing and punching holes impossible. You can also accidentally glue places you don't mean to if you apply too much, as it'll squish around when you press the pieces together.

The worst thing, though, is when glue gets on the grain (the nice side!) side of the leather - this will leave a permanent spot on the leather that won't accept oils, waxes or dyes.

Almost always, you'll be able to glue flesh-to-flesh sides of the leather. Grain-to-grain leather gluing can be tough. If you ever need to glue leather together on the grain sides, you might want to use a leather skiver or a hobby knife to remove the very top layer of the leather on the edge of the pieces. This will leave you with an easier to glue surface. :D

Step 3: Clamp to Dry

Once I've glued my pieces, I like to clamp them to make sure they dry in the right position.

I prefer to wrap the glued edge in paper towels and then apply the clamps. The paper towels will catch any excess glue and keep the clamps from leaving indentations in your leather.

Comments

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RonaldH6 made it!(author)2017-06-21

Just started looking at techniques for leather working. I found everything I needed to know here. Thanx. jesse (?)

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charissebelize made it!(author)2016-01-16

Thank you. Would you know about gluing a thin piece of leather to a very dense piece of wool fabric that after its glued has to be top stitched with a machine?

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southerncharmholsters+ made it!(author)2015-10-29

on another note- if anyone is looking for a better way to cut leather- get a head knife and keep it sharp. I spent two years fighting with sicciors and box knifes and craft knifes- then I bought a head knife from Bob Dozier a model 3... goes through 10 ounce leather like butter and turns on a dime- best thing is with a head knife it is a lot easier to see were your cutting .

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southerncharmholsters+ made it!(author)2015-10-29

tried a lot of different glues- IMHO Barge is the best- I thin mine down with Barge brand thinner- doesn't work well to mix brands. keep a small amount mixed up on my work bench in one of those refillable plastic containers with the brush. It has already been said- but worth repeating you apply it to both pieces- then you wait a few minutes - the waiting is the hard part to me- so I like mine thined- starts drying faster that way. Clamps will leave marks on Veg tan- and some Metals will chemically react and blacken the leather. I use scrap pieces of veg tan over my holsters held by envelope clips- you can find large boxes of them around the mailing supplies sections in most stores. I never just use the clamp directly on my projects. It may seem expensive " at least it did to me" but it does last a long time. I put a little Vaseline around the threads of my plastic container and it keeps it from becoming glued shut.

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diggidy made it!(author)2015-08-20

have you tried hide glue? If not what are your thoughts?

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EmmaMoon made it!(author)2015-08-12

Hello! I recently bought a leather bag that was just made. The glue hasn't completely dried and I was wondering if there is anything I can do to dry it faster. Thanks!

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blatantimage made it!(author)2014-09-09

I really dislike the Tandy glue due to the limited holding power. It also has very little flex, while leather is a dynamic material. Barge glue is the way to go. It flexes, holds like a champ- forever. It's the real deal, used by professionals.

author
TandyLeather made it!(author)2014-12-18

Hello blatantimage! We also sell Barge as some people prefer it, however we are continuously developing more environmentally friendly alternatives. The regulations on liquids are constantly changing and vary from state to state and country to country, so many of our liquids (such as the above Leathercraft Cement) are formulated to meet the highest environmental standards.

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eruger made it!(author)2014-09-07

Has anyone any special advise for working with reclaimed leather? (Other than "don't" I know it can be a pain)

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JDTagish made it!(author)2014-09-08

Many people new to leather work will use "reclaimed" leather, if you're talking about cutting up old couches or jackets or things like that. Choose your worst pieces to practice on - then use your best pieces to make your item.

Most reclaimed leather will have had a finish on it to protect it. That can make it harder to work with. A good cleaning should always be your first step, then condition the leather afterwards to put the good oils you may have taken out during the cleaning back in. Let the cleaned and conditioned leather sit for 24 hours before using it on your project so it dries properly.

If there is still a finish on the leather where you want to sew it together, lightly sand off the area where you are going to glue it, so that it becomes a bit rough and the finish is gone, so that the glue has something to "grab" onto.

My best suggestion for marking on any leather project is to use chalk to make your marks. It disappears easily when you are done or at worst can be removed with a lightly damp cloth without leaving any permanent marks on your finished product.

Feel free to message me with any other questions you might have and I'd be happy to help if I can. :-)

author
eruger made it!(author)2014-09-08

Good info here and on the Gorilla Glue! Thanks! One question I forgot that should be public, I think: Do veg and chrome tan behave differently in regards to any particular glues?

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JDTagish made it!(author)2014-09-08

They are very different kinds of leather. Veg tan is generally very stiff until it has been worked and becomes softer with use and breaking in. It only comes in an unfinished state and is designed to be tooled and dyed by the maker to create an end product. It comes in varying thicknesses from about 1-2 oz (thin) up to about 10oz (very thick) depending on what the maker is going to use it for. A wallet would need much thinner leather than say a saddle or knife sheath for example.

Chrome Tan (Think clothing or upholstery leather) is already a finished product and is usually both thin and soft enough to run through a sewing machine.

Contact or barge cement is usually used on both, because it is pliable enough to sew through by hand or machine, and ads strength to the seam and finished product by keeping the glued edges together even after sewing. So it's like a 2-step seam with the 2 parts working together to create the strongest possible seam.

author
eruger made it!(author)2014-09-07

Also, has anyone tried gorilla glue? It's been around for a while, so hopefully someone can tell how well it holds up.

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JDTagish made it!(author)2014-09-08

Gorilla Glue is great for many projects, but leather working is not among them. It expands as it dries, which can really mess us your project! It also becomes very hard and leather projects need a glue that will be a bit flexible when it dries.

Contact cement is not very expensive and can be purchased at most dollar stores for a small tube, which should be ample for most small leather projects. You just brush (Q-tip if you don't have a disposable brush) onto both sides of your project and allow the cement to dry, then carefully press both glued sides together and give it a few minutes to set (30 min should be plenty on a small project, up to 24 hours for a large project with a lot of glue) and then sew away.

If you are using a thin already finished leather, you can probably use a sewing machine to sew your project. If you are using a heavy veg-tan, you'll need to punch holes into your leather after gluing it, because leather hand sewing is done with blunt needles, so you have to have the holes already made. The most important aspect of punching holes is to KEEP THE HOLES 100% VERTICAL all the way through.

Please feel free to message me with any questions.

author
Carleyy made it!(author)2014-09-08

Awesome project! Are these sewn by hand? I'd love to see a tutorial for how to hand sew leather.

author
jessyratfink made it!(author)2014-09-08

Thanks, lady! They are hand sewn. I should have a tutorial up soon. I just need enough work-at-home days to knock them all out. :D

author
rayj0007 made it!(author)2014-09-07

Nice Instructable,

I'm sure it will save many people much frustration!

I've used the gluing technique on canvas and denim for years. I use a washable school glue (water soluble white glue) and wash it out when I'm done. I don't have to worry about being neat, either.

Just thinking a similar technique could be used on leather if the glue could be dissolved by some chemical that wouldn't injure the leather. Maybe whatever is used for leather "dry cleaning", or some other process. I noticed another poster mentioned alcohol to dissolve the glue.

author
eruger made it!(author)2014-09-07

Alcohol is rough on leather, which has oils in it that keep it 'healthy'. Solvents strip that. Hence oil-based Saddle Soap. Or so my Grandpa taught me when he gave me my first baseball glove. I've certainly seen alcohols damage leather products, even heavy veg-tan like a tool belt.

author
rayj0007 made it!(author)2014-09-08

Well, I guess a glue that's dissolved by saddle soap would be the best then.

Really just wrote to throw the idea of temporary gluing out there, not to give specific advice on leather work. Maybe it will spark an idea in someone else's head.

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eruger made it!(author)2014-09-08

Maybe a gelatin glue would be fun to experiment with...I suppose the idea of removable glue is to let your seams be as supple as possible in the long run? Otherwise I'd wonder why you wouldn't want your glue to stay 'forever'.

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valkgurl made it!(author)2014-09-08

One way to sew leather is to use your sewing machine WITHOUT thread---use the proper size needle and go along where you want to sew slowly---sometimes doing this by hand-turning the wheel---this gives you the pressure of the foot to hold the pieces in place plus a nice even spaced set of holes to then sew thru by hand. This works for hard and softer leather but is esp good where you have thinner leather that the glue might mark even if carefully applied to only the one side. Also if you need to use clamps using a thin piece of cardboard (not colored!) or even a thin piece of wood can make your edges easy to clamp---use one one EACH SIDE---and then you can use a heftier clamp and not leave a mark.

You might want to dye-finish your EDGE before gluing and clamping because--- as Jessieratfink mentioned---the glue can ooze where you don't want it and leave the leather unable to accept color.

My family was in the leather business for ages so I learned some of this stuff at grand parents knee---

You can even use TAPE to join thinner pieces together --butted together--and then sew OVER the adjoining seams--this is an old furrier method to get the most out of your leather and not have bulgy seams! Buying cheap pieces of leather clothing at thrift shops can give you nice pieces to practice with and gives you LOTS of chances to make something for MUCH less than buying new hide will. I check the Sal Army on "half price days" and look esp for LONG coats---for some reason these seem to be marked at a lower price to start with and when marked down can be as little as $5. Look for items with long panels rather than that "patchwork" crapola. There are also some good sellers on ebay who offer different colors and finishes on single pieces.

author
kwhitacre made it!(author)2014-09-07

Decades ago I taught leather crafts to Jr.Hi kids and we used rubber cement. We'd put it on each surface to be glued, let them dry, then put them together... like contact cement. It was not as stiff and worked well. If you get it on the outside you just pick up the extra with a cement pick-up. I haven't done leather work in over 40 years, but I think it would still work out. Nice tutorial.

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Jobar007 made it!(author)2014-09-05

I haven't used glue in the past when I've stitched up leather. I just punch or drill a locator hole and run a stitch through it to the outside to bind the leather in place. Repeat once or twice more. After that, punch or drill the rest of your holes. Interestingly enough, when using thick leather (9oz and up) I've found it easier to use a drill press and a very fine drill bit than a leather punch. The holes are super clean and there is no deformation in the leather like a punch can induce.

author
jessyratfink made it!(author)2014-09-05

I've been wanting to try the drill punch method - I think I'm either going to get a stand for my Dremel or try to build one so I can try it out. Happy to know it works well!

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jbh123 made it!(author)2014-09-07

I hear there's a great website that posts step-by-step guides to making things like drill presses for Dremels, as well as just about anything else. If only I could remember what it's called ... :-P

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sarawelder made it!(author)2014-09-07

thanks... That's a great tip!

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vladivastok made it!(author)2014-09-07

EVER TRY TO USE- SHO GOO ?. BEEN USING IT 4 A LONG TIME. GET IT AT WALL- [THE DEVIL ] MART. USSUALLY END OF ISLE, SHOE DEPT. MAYBE CHEAPER. [ RED & WHITE TUBE ] THANK'S [ VLAD ]

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granthams made it!(author)2014-09-07

Barge cement is the preferred material for leather. It is a contact cement, which means that each surface is coated (brushed on) and allowed to dry before being pressed together. This forms a VERY permanent bond that will not come apart.

author
DevlinOS made it!(author)2014-09-07

Recently I learned that superglue works miracles on attaching leather to leather. I have used it when making finished edges for projects. However use it sparingly , because when you use too much it also forms a hard spot.

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PhilippeG1 made it!(author)2014-09-06

utilisez colle boyau pour vélos

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savagegirl made it!(author)2014-09-05

If you do get glue someplace you didn't intend, I use Grave's or Everclear grain alcohol as a solvent, powerful, also can be used to lighten the colors of alcohol dyes, and remove stains on clothes from the dye. It is my basic solvent unless I'm removing a factory finish.

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jessyratfink made it!(author)2014-09-05

Oh, nice to know! Thank you. I didn't have luck with anything I tried. :)

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shantinath1000 made it!(author)2014-09-05

I was working on a project that I needed to glue- the only thing I had was wood glue- I didn't want to wait until I got leather glue and the wood glue worked fine.

author
blkhawk made it!(author)2014-09-05

Wood glue is hard when dry but leather glue or cement is flexible thus, the perfect one for leather crafts.

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Bio: part of the Instructables Design Studio by day, stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @makingjiggy to see what i'm working on! ^_^
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