Introduction: How to Make Folds in Leather

Picture of How to Make Folds in Leather

When doing leatherworking, it's common to run across patterns that involve folding or flaps. In this instructable I'll show you a couple of techniques I use to get nice folds into leather!

The crispness of the fold depends entirely on how thick the leather is - but you can still get a nice graceful curve in thicker leather. :)

These techniques are all done without gouging or grooving the leather, so your pieces will stand up better to wear and tear. Also: this is best done on plain tanned leather - make your fold before you dye if you can. While some dyes will do just fine when water is applied, some dyes sit right at the surface and can be affected by excess moisture, so it's better to be safe than sorry!

Check out my other leather ibles for more leatherworking basics:

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Picture of What You'll Need:

  • bone folder
  • ruler
  • clamps
  • spray bottle or damp sponge
  • paper towels
  • rubber mallet (optional)

For most basic folds, all you really need is water, paper towels and clamps. Easy!

Step 2: Wet the Leather

Picture of Wet the Leather

Wetting the leather first will allow it to make the bend easier.

Don't soak the leather - just dampen the fold line on both sides of the leather. I like to use a tiny spray bottle for this, but you can also use a damp sponge.

Step 3: Fold and Clamp

Picture of Fold and Clamp

Once the fold line has been dampened - fold it over carefully to the right spot. This part is especially important, so measure twice and make sure it looks right.

Fold up a paper towel and double it over the dampened edge and then clamp. This will soak up excess moisture and keep the clamps from damaging the leather.

Leave it clamped for a few minutes to dry - when you remove the clamps it should keep its shape. If not, try repeating the process. :)

Step 4: OR Hammer Time!

Picture of OR Hammer Time!

For some leathers, you might be able to get away with dampening the leather, folding it over and giving it a good few smacks with a mallet.

I had better results with thicker leather with this technique. It didn't make a huge difference in thin and more malleable leathers.

Step 5: Using a Bone Folder

Picture of Using a Bone Folder

For really thin leathers, a bone folder can be enough to make a nice crease for folding! It can also help to create a line for the fold on thicker pieces of leather, but it worked best on thin chrome tanned leather.

It looks nicest when you do the creasing on the inside of the fold, but you could also crease the outside if you want an accent line on the fold. Have a look at the third picture to see how the bone folder will affect the leather.

I recommend laying down a ruler and using the edge of it to make sure you're creasing in a straight line. Apply strong, even pressure and run the bone folder over the leather a couple times. You don't necessarily need to dampen the leather, but if creasing dry doesn't give good results, it couldn't hurt to try it out!


milinventos (author)2017-10-21

Thank you for sharing what you know! At least part of my "i see it in my brain but have no real idea of how to do this" project is sure to work now! Hammering the leather, I admit, was the most fun :)

kamikiller3 (author)2017-08-25

I need to make really intricate folds for make leather mask. For refrance, look up Tokyo Ghoul Kaneki Mask. I am having a more difficult time trying to make the creases for the rims of the mouth around the sides. I am currently making a mockup with cloth.

RonE40 (author)2017-05-05

Dear JessyRatFink

Thanks for your time and the advice,



Pat_Maroney (author)2014-10-02

Where did you find that bone folder? I want one! I use the conventional pointy variety for folding origami.

PatrickB30 (author)Pat_Maroney2016-04-11

Hi. If you haven't found that curved bone folder yet, I found it on Amazon. Here is the link to the one I found.

jessyratfink (author)Pat_Maroney2014-10-03

I just found this one around the workshop, sadly! But this Martha Stewart one looks similar - I definitely prefer the feel of this one to the pointy ones :D

julio.banol.9 (author)2015-12-26

es agradable encontrar nuevas ideas y formas de preparar el cuero para las manualidades artesanales a las que uno quiere lograr.

HacheA made it! (author)2015-12-19

great Instructable.

runred (author)2015-10-26

New to leather craft, so this guide is perfect for me thanks

8HATE8 (author)2014-10-05

Thank you ! I love you :)

FreakCitySF (author)2014-10-02

Any cheap ideas for softening veg tan leather? Seems like the belt blanks I buy form Tandys are always on the dry side. They do have leather conditioners there but I was hoping for something I have around the house ;)

MrAskWhy (author)FreakCitySF2014-10-03

I use my own salve made from coconut oil/ beeswax/ and citrus essential oils / neem oil... softens every old/new leather I can find.... I figured good for my skin, good for leather... (I was right)

Caldorn (author)FreakCitySF2014-10-02

interestingly any good skin moisturiser will work well. Oil of olay or anything like that basically. Leather is skin just because its dead skin doesn't mean it wouldn't benefit from a good old fashioned skin care.

jessyratfink (author)FreakCitySF2014-10-02

Do you have any jojoba oil lying around? I've been using it to condition/soften my veg tanned stuff. :D

Jobar007 (author)2014-10-02

Is this useful on only veg tan leather or can chrome tan be folded using these techniques as well?

jessyratfink (author)Jobar0072014-10-02

It does worked on chrome tanned - I tried a couple different thicknesses! I had better results with the bone folder than the wet-and-clamp method. The only issue with chrome tanned is that it's normally more floppy, so the curves aren't as sharp.

Jobar007 (author)jessyratfink2014-10-03

That makes sense. I figured as much since chrome tanned leather doesn't respond well to wet forming. Thanks!

wilgubeast (author)2014-10-02

The bone folder is either the worst name for a little black book or the best name for a serial killer's filing cabinet.

Also, this was very informative and remarkably well-photographed.

seamster (author)2014-10-02

Leather origami!

Nicely done. I need to get myself some leather to work with!

About This Instructable




Bio: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @makingjiggy to see what i'm working ... More »
More by jessyratfink:DIY Gold SlimeHow to Hand Embroider Flowers How to Clean A Coffee Maker with Citric Acid
Add instructable to: