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Leather adhesives are a great tool for leatherwork. Leather usually takes glue exceptionally well, and in certain circumstances glue is enough to hold a project together without the addition of sewing or riveting. Most often though, leather glues and tapes are used to help facilitate or supplement other sturdier methods of leather joinery. In this lesson I'll show you the basics of using leather glue and tape and how to apply them to the bag we're making.

In this lesson I'll be using:

  • Leather contact cement
  • Double sided tape
  • Glue spreaders or disposable paintbrushes
  • Sandpaper
  • Paper scraps
  • Awl
  • Stitching chisels
  • Strong sharp scissors
  • Mallet
  • Quartz slab and poundo board or other punching surface
  • Scrap leather for testing
  • The leather pieces of your bag

  • Using Leather Glue

    There are a few different leather glues, but they mostly work the same way. The one I usually use is a water based leather contact cement from Tandy. It works well and doesn't give off harsh fumes.

    To glue two pieces of leather together, apply glue to both surfaces, wait until the glue is tacky, about 3 minutes, and then stick the two pieces together. They will have a strong bond almost immediately, and cure more over time. If you want to be sure to apply the glue neatly in a contained area, like along a seam, use a piece of scrap paper to mask the area you don't want to get glue on. Spread the glue over the leather using a paintbrush or glue spreader, then remove the paper, exposing a clean line of glue.

    Leather glue works best when you are gluing flesh side to flesh side, but if you need to glue flesh side to grain side, it's a good idea to sand the grain side of the leather before you apply glue.

    If you really need to glue grain side to grain side, which happens pretty rarely, Tandy sells an adhesive designed especially for that purpose.

    We aren't using any glue in our pouch project, but it is often a good way to secure seams together before you punch them.


    Using Double Sided Tape

    Double sided tape is an extremely useful tool in leatherwork. Since pinning damages leather, you need an alternate way to tack leather seams and other attachment points in place so you can get everything lined up evenly to punch, sew, and test the size or location of pattern pieces. (Tape is especially necessary when you are machine sewing leather, but we won't be doing that in this class.)

    You could get away with using any kind of double sided tape, but the 1/4" wide kind that is made especially for leatherwork is really your best choice. Its narrow width is perfect for adhering seams while staying invisible. To use this tape, cut a section of your roll the length of the area you need to tape, stick it down to your leather, then remove the paper layer to expose the second adhesive side. Now you can stick it to another piece of leather to hold the two together.

    Tandy sells two types of this double sided tape, a permanent, and a re-positionable. I generally prefer the re-positionable unless I am trying to tape something that really doesn't want to stay in place. It gives you more room for adjustments, and doesn't damage your leather as much if you need to take it off, though it will still leave a bit of a mark on the grain side of leather as you can see below. On some kinds of leather, you can get rid of this mark by rubbing it with your fingers.


    Glue and Tape Quiz

    {
        "id": "quiz-1",
        "question": "True or False: To get a good bond with leather contact cement, spread it on both of the surfaces you are gluing.",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "true",
                "correct": true
            },
            {
                "title": "false",
                "correct": false
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Yes, good work.",
        "incorrectNotice": "Sorry, try again."
    }
    
    {
        "id": "quiz-2",
        "question": "If you are trying to glue to the grain side of leather, you should:",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "gouge it first",
                "correct": false
            },
            {
                "title": "sand it first",
                "correct": true
            },
    	{
                "title": "just apply the glue, it sticks best to the grain side of the leather",
                "correct": true
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Well done.",
        "incorrectNotice": "Better luck next time, try again."
    }
    
    {
        "id": "quiz-3",
        "question": "Double sided tape is great for:",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "holding seams in place while you sew",
                "correct": false
            },
            {
                "title": "aligning leather for punching",
                "correct": false
            },
    	{
                "title": "testing the placement of design elements",
                "correct": false
            },
    	{	
                "title": "all of the above",
                "correct": true
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Yes! Double sided tape has many uses.",
        "incorrectNotice": "Nope, try again."
    }
    

    Tape Your Pocket

    To show you how useful double sided tape is for getting proper seam alignment, we are going to use it to stick the folded pocket piece to the front of our bag before we punch sewing holes through both layers.

    Take your two pattern pieces, flip your pocket piece over to the flesh side and place a strip of double sided tape along the two side seams, then peel off the top layer of tape exposing the second adhesive side.

    Now, carefully line up the left side seam of your pocket with the left seam line marked on the front of the bag, and stick it down. The edge of your pocket should extend about 1/8" out past the seam line on the bag piece. Then line the right side of the pocket up in the same way, making sure the top of the pocket is parallel to the top edge of the bag, and that the whole thing lays down evenly when you flatten the folds of the pocket.


    Punch Your Pocket

    With the pocket taped down, we can now punch through both layers to create perfectly aligned side seams. Choose your method of hole creation and punch along the two side seams on top of your punching surface. Stop punching about 1/8" from the bottom edge of the pocket, but punch one hole past the very top edge on each side.

    Before you punch the bottom seam of the pocket, stick another piece of tape in between the folds of the pocket on each side, and one in the center of the bottom seam line.

    Use an awl to mark the bottom holes of the side seams through the folds to the front of the pocket, then use these points as a starting point to punch through the folded layers and along the the bottom of the pocket.

    Finally, use your awl to poke one more hole at each end of the bottom sewing line, and just past the top of both side seams. You'll understand why when we sew this piece in the next lesson.


    What We Learned

    So, I'm sure you can see how useful glue and tape are as tools to help keep everything together while you are punching, sewing or riveting. Both are important materials to have in your leather toolkit, and glue can even be used by itself to create some pretty great leather projects without any sewing! Check out my No-Sew Leather Bra project, or this awesome Leather Phone Case by Matt2 Silver for some great inspiration.

    In the next lesson we'll learn how to put all the pieces of the bag together using some different hand sewing techniques.


    How's Your Project Going?

    If you have any problems as you construct your bag, feel free to ask questions in the discussion section below.

    {
        "id": "homework1",
        "actionMessage": "Share a photo of your folded and punched pocket to complete this lesson!",
        "actionCompletedMessage": "Nice work! Next up: Sewing!"    
    }
    

    CLASS PROJECT

    Share a photo of your finished project with the class!

    Nice work! You've completed the class project