High Speed Leather Burnishing




About: Mostly, I study chemistry but sometimes I work wood. Also, the game.

So I was making a leather guitar strap for my brother and couldn't be bothered to burnish it by hand.

I find that burnishing leather is the equivalent of sanding in a woodworking project: so terribly fastidious to do by hand yet necessary for completion..

I thought that as it wasn't anything more than rubbing wood on leather, we could feed miles of wood very fast on that leather with the proper setup.

This instructables is a quick, free way of doing that if you already own any fashion of rotative tool, be it a hand drill, a router, a drill press, a lathe...

Step 1: Tools and Materials

A dowel

A drill press (or really, any other spinny-thingy)



A file or sandpaper

That's it!

Step 2: Make Your Burnisher

Stick that dowel in the drill press chuck, make it tight. Turn the drill press on (careful with your hair, sleeves etc. ; don't get caught!)

Then, using the file or sandpaper, cut a groove in the dowel that matches the thickness of your leather.

That's your burnisher right here, I took it out to take a picture but feel free to leave it in there and jump right ahead to the next step!

Step 3: Burnish Awaaaaaay

Next you're going to want to level your metal-plate-thing-which-probably-has-a-technical-name with the bottom of the groove you just carved in your dowel.

Then, spread some saliva (or burnishing agent such as gum tragacanth, or simply water) onto both your burnisher and the edge of the leather.

Turn the drill press on, feed the leather and be amazed at the speed at which you're doing it now !



    • Sew Tough Challenge

      Sew Tough Challenge
    • Sensors Contest

      Sensors Contest
    • Games Contest

      Games Contest

    5 Discussions


    1 year ago on Introduction

    So common sense, THANK YOU! Didn't want to pay $$$$ for a burnisher, bought burnishing chemical I can refund it now. Hadn't thought of this. :) Just took first leather class 3 days ago.


    1 year ago

    I wonder if using a piece of hardwood could increase the life of the tool. You could maybe even put in a second groove that is double wide so you could burnish the edges of something that has been sewn together.

    I'd also put something on top of the table so your leather doesn't pick up any oil or tiny metal slivers, etc.

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    - Hardwood discs are sold for this kind of burnishing - drill or drill press - we did it back in the 1950's ...


    1 year ago

    While a drill press would work, if you have a Dremel tool, you can fit them with wooden disks/rods on 1/8" screws. Being fortunate enough to have one of the flex shafts, I clamped it horizontally to a post on my workbench (with compression clamps) for a burnishing station.. Be sure to use lower speeds, I found that max speed (4000 rpm) leather can burn.