I made a pouch for my wife as we do Medieval re-enactment. (and she has a thing for cephalopods.) i posted a picture of it on IMGUR and instantly got inquires about it. apon making a commission for one, i decieded to keep a progress report. so, here is my intro into leather tooling!
Step 1: Find an Image
start with your image. the customer gave me a design by her boyfriend to use. i wouldn't go toooo in detail for your first one. and you'll see why... lol. i had my wife draw it out for me, as she is better at layout then i am. i used the dimensions of the piece of leather i was working with (10 oz. Veg tanned) the oz is the thickness, (i like a bit thicker so it's design sinks deeper.) there are 2 ways to treat leather. vegetable tanning and chrome tanning. if you want to tool, use VEG tanned leather.
Step 2: Select Your Leather
I used a template for the pouch i made, and cut it out. i also punched the holes for stitching BEFORE putting the image on. that way it wouldn't be affected when i put the stiches in.
the first step is to wet the leather. there is a certain point were it's optimal for tooling. a "sweet spot" if you will. the leather should be pliable, and slightly remain in any position you bend it. simple trial and error will tell you when you're there.
i put the drawing on the leather and used a pencil (pressed firmly) to transfer the image. once i had it on, i used a SWIVEL KNIFE to cut the image in. the trick to using a swivel knife is to not cut all the way through. only 1/4 of the way through the leather is needed.
then comes the actual tooling. I used a beveled edger (not pictured) to give the appearance of a raised edge. by "pushing the outer edge of the etched design down, it will appear as if the image is 3D. NOTE: you use a hammer to tap the leather. you may want to use a normal wood working hammer, but don't use a WOODEN MALLET. or rubber/ plastic. anything heavier won't give you a uniform appearance. their are hundreds of tutorials on YOU TUBE for specific styles.
this is also the TEDIOUS part, so i watch netflix when i do it. FAMILY GUY got me through it pretty well!
Step 3: Dying!
i really wanted the image to pop! so i dyed the background black. i used FIEBRINGS which is a decent affordable brand. The image was dyed with a warm brown dye/sealer combo. a different brand i can't quite remember at the moment. when they were dry, i gave it a buff to make it super shiny. mmmmmm shiny.
Step 4: STITCHING!
now that we got that out the way, all we have left is putting it together! i used waxed string. (not sinew ) and using a basic stiting patern first attached the belt loop. (the back piece) then the sides. for stitching styles, see google.
the last step was adding a button snap for the front.
well there you have it, that's the gist of making a leather pouch with basic tooling! if you have any questions, let me know!