General Category

How To Curve leather

shoemaker cutting leather
shoemaker cutting leather
Photo by Ekrulila on

Trace the Image

When carving, choose the picture you want to carve into the leather and trace it onto tracing paper with a pencil. If you are creating a custom image, just draw it out ahead of time, so you can transfer it over to your piece. When stamping, you will want to figure out your spacing and decide where your design will land. 

Prep the Leather

To prep the leather to receive impressions, you will need to get the leather fairly wet, but not soaking. Using your sponge, apply water in a circular motion making sure to apply evenly, this allows the fibers in the leather to loosen and swell, allowing you to shape it. Apply the water evenly and allow it to dry slightly before beginning your work. Should the leather dry entirely before you have finished, simply re-moisten it again.

If you are just stamping and not carving, you will not need the following info. Place your stamps where you want them, check your spacing, and get cracking!

Transfer Your Design

Transfer the image onto your leather using your pencil or a stylus to indent the leather. You can also lightly draw the design directly on your leather if you feel confident in your design and layout, but be mindful that it is not easy to remove these marks should you draw too hard and make a mistake. 

There are a number of folks out there who will jump straight into cutting and do their designs on the fly. This takes a lot of practice to get to that point, so for now, plan ahead!

Cut the outline

When carving, make sure your swivel knife is sharp before you begin, and then use it to follow the outline and main lines of your image. You will want to create a groove that is half the thickness of the leather.

How to hold and use a swivel knife

Take your index figure and rest in the cradle that’s located at the top of the knife. Your index figure is the one that dictates how deep your cut will be. While applying pressure using your thumb, middle, and ring fingers to maneuver around the corners.

Be sure to take your time and cut towards you. This will help with making the depth of the cut the same throughout and give you more control.


Use your craft tool by striking the top of the handle with a mallet to enhance the lines you just cut with your swivel knife, giving it a 3D effect.

Fill outline

Once you have your outline cut and lines beveled, complete your image and add depth to it by creating shadows, fades, and borders using various stamping tools.

Just let it dry, and you have created a masterpiece

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