Introduction: How to Burnish Leather Edges

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Burnishing leather edges is a great way to make a leather project look AMAZING. If you're unfamiliar with the term, burnishing is basically polishing the rough edges of the leather.

Burnishing can be a pretty time consuming technique, but the way it finishes a project is well worth it. In this instructable I'll show the simplest way of burnishing - manual labor and a slicker! If you're planning on burnishing a giant leather project, it might be a good idea to look into more automated methods, like attaching the slicker to a Dremel. :D

To see a great example of an automated method, check out PowellMade's automated burnisher build!

Check out my other leather ibles for more leatherworking basics:

Step 1: What You'll Need:

  • gum tragacanth
  • a slicker
  • something to condition the leather - I'm using jojoba oil
  • paper towels
  • fine grit sandpaper

Slickers come in plastic, glass and wood - any of those will do the trick!

Keep in mind that burnishing an edge with gum tragacanth will essentially seal the edge, so if you're going to dye the leather, do it before you burnish.

Step 2: Sanding

I find that I get the best results when I sand the edges nice and flat - this isn't as necessary if you're working with a single piece of leather. When you have two+ pieces, it ensures they're nice and flush.

This can also help you soften your corners a bit!

Step 3: Apply the Gum and Let Get Tacky

Shake the gum well and use a piece of paper towel to apply a small amount to the very edge. Let this sit for 30-60 seconds. You want the gum to dry just a little bit - if it's too wet you won't get any friction while slicking.

Step 4: Use the Slicker and Repeat!

Use a decent amount of pressure to push the slicker up against the edge and bring it rapidly up and down the edge. (You should feel slight friction while doing this. If you don't let the gum dry a little longer.) Keep going until you can tell the gum has dried out a bit.

Once that happens, apply more gum and let it get tacky before repeating. :)

Burnishing an edge to a mirror finish can take up to 30-45 minutes sometimes - definitely not fast! I worked on this one about that long. But it's a nice thing to do in front of the TV!

If you find that you aren't getting significant results after the first couple cycles of gumming/slicking, your edges might be too dry! This means they're sucking up all the gum and not allowing it to sit properly on the surface.

To fix the dryness, apply a tiny amount of jojoba oil to the edges - just until they darken slightly. Then apply more gum and keep going!

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