Scrap Leather Scales

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Introduction: Scrap Leather Scales

My daughter bought me a giant bag of leather scraps recently and wasn't sure what I would do with them initially. They were all pretty small and very wrinkled. Eventually, I thought I would try to create a scale pattern for some bicycle panniers. The scales themselves have quite a few steps, so I'll save the bag process for later. For now, here's how I created leather scales with scraps.

Supplies

scrap leather

laser cutter

waxed thread

towels

1/8" plywood

Barge contact cement

rolling pin

white, tacky, or wood glue

parchment paper

tape

Step 1: Prep Scraps

All the scraps were crammed into a bag and were very wrinkled. To flatten them out, I soaked them in warm water for a few minutes and then laid them out on towels. I used a rolling pin to smooth out the wrinkles then allowed them time to dry. The larger strips were convenient to hand out to dry in the sun.

Step 2: Cut Scales

I used my laser cutter to cut as many scales as I could from each piece of leather. The cut file is attached to this step.

After the pieces were cut, I stacked them up to keep track of how many I still needed to make the bags I had planned.

Step 3: Wash Scales

Once I had more than enough pieces, I washed them in the washing machine with a small amount of soap in cold water. The laser leaves a fair amount of soot around the edges that are not easily removed by hand washing.

Once again, lay each piece flat to dry.

Step 4: Glue Scales

Cut the various guides from 1/8" plywood. The cut file is in step 2.

Glue them together with tacky, white, or wood glue.

Lineup the first row of scales on a strip of tape.

Use the guides to apply Barge contact cement to the appropriate areas on the scales. Wait a few minutes for the glue to set, then use other guides to place each scale and press it firmly in place. I made two sets of guides, so use whichever ones you prefer.

Step 5: Stitching

Once you've glued your scales together, they need to be stitched. While the Barge contact cement is great, I found that it didn't adhere great to the shinier fronts of certain leathers. It held well enough to stay together while I stitched it.

Punch four holes at each intersecting set of scales as shown. I created my own tool for punching these stitching holes. You can find an ible for that here.

Step 6: Stitch and Create

In each set of four holes, start with the vertical stitch, then do the horizontal stitch. Repeat on all scales and then you can use them for any project you can imagine. I'm still working on stitching enough of these for two pannier bags for my bicycle and will share that project and pattern when it's completed.

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    8 Comments

    0
    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    9 days ago

    These are fun and I just LOVE your collection of scrap leather!

    Also, I didn't think you could just wash leather?

    0
    Brooklyntonia
    Brooklyntonia

    Reply 9 days ago

    I wasn't sure about washing it, but it was worth the risk since the soot covered edges rub off on everything. Except that they came out all wrinkled and had to be rolled flat, they were fine. If in doubt, toss a scrap piece in with your laundry to test it.

    0
    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    Reply 8 days ago

    Good idea. I've done minimal laser cutting with leather and it's always so messy and hard to clean so I've kind of just gave up. I'll have to try to cut one and see what actual washing does!

    0
    MindyP
    MindyP

    12 days ago

    I love patchwork. My first blanket I remember was a patchwork. My mother never wasted anything.

    0
    jeanniel1
    jeanniel1

    19 days ago

    Marvelous! I have all these odds and ends of leather that I've kept because they're just big enough for something, but too small to REALLY do something with it by itself. This method is a really good way to get texture from a repetitive design! I can see the scale be any shape really.

    0
    Brooklyntonia
    Brooklyntonia

    Reply 19 days ago

    Absolutely! I too have tons of super small scraps, a giant Rubbermaid tub to be exact. These scales were the perfect size to use up even the smallest pieces. I didn't feel bad tossing the leftovers after this project.

    0
    Threadhead Jude
    Threadhead Jude

    20 days ago on Step 6

    This is fabulous!! and you have one thoughtful daughter to bring you a giant bag of leather scraps!