Introduction: Leather Tooling Punches

About: Hi, I'm Craig. I live in the UK.

A simple method for making your own leather tooling punches.

I saw this idea in a '60s leather work book many years ago, it's great so the world should know. I haven't since been able to find the book, if anyone recognises it please post the reference.

Simply, you use metal files and/or a hack saw to work the head of a nail.



  • Metal file(s)
  • Junior hacksaw

For tooling leather:

  • Hammer
  • Base to hammer against (sturdy wood block)
  • Water

Step 1: Shape the Nail Head

The trickiest part of this is finding a nice design, it has to be fairly simple. Repeating patterns work well, squares, triangles, chevrons etc.

But today I fancy... Pacman!

Picture 1
File the nail head flat, then set to work on the edges...

Picture 2
The second picture shows the edge of the nail head has been filed so the top is sharper.

Picture 3
Then remove metal until your image is revealed. The use of a fine tipped permanent marker may help.

Picture 4
For Pacman I filed a wedge out of one side using the edge of a rectangular file then drilled a small hole with a fine bit. For the ghost three sides were filed flat, I cut in twice with the hacksaw on the base edge then opened the cut with a file.

-Drilling metal always requires a centre to be punched so the bit can bite!

Once shaped you can cut the point of the nail off with a hacksaw as this is the end you will strike.

Step 2: Hit With Hammer

Once your punches are about ready, test them on some leather scraps.

Wet the working side of the leather. If you punch dry you don't get sharp edges and if you punch too wet then it's spongy and doesn't deform as well. Practice on off cuts before tooling your work, my examples aren't the greatest so if anybody has any hints and tips please add them in the comments :)

Step 3: Few Sample Designs

Here are a few other designs I've made previously. The Oak leaf, acorn and mushroom were made to decorate a book protector (trees-paper-books, made sense at the time).

Interesting shapes can also be made from a bit of dowel, the end grain gives a stippled pattern which can be quite nice.