Table-Cloth Designed And Executed By Miss H. K. F©Bes.
Blotters. Card Cases And Book Racks.
The bags, cushion, and book-rack in the illustrations are not ornamented by tooling, but by burning. An ordinary pyrography outfit must be purchased, which could also be used for working on wood. The difference between working on wood and leather is that the point of the needle must be kept cool, or it will burn through the leather.
After stretching the leather, fasten it with tacks and moisten it. Either sheep-skin, ooze leather, or undressed calf-skin can be used for the bags, cushion, and book-rack. The alcohol lamp and benzine bottle should only be half-full. Hold the platinum point with the right hand in the alcohol lamp, and press the bulb; this is the best way to keep a regular heat. A point to be remembered when burning is never to leave the point on one spot, but to keep it moving. Do not pause for consideration without lifting the point, or a hole in the leather will be the result. Definite instructions for burning come with every outfit, and Chapter XII (Pyrography). gives a lengthened description of the actual process of pyrography. The brown colour of the burning is particularly attractive on the soft brown leathers, and is one of the most artistic uses to which pyrography can be put to.
The pine-cone design on the book for post cards is particularly effective. Two of the notebooks illustrated have pretty little designs of Japanese embroidery in blue and gold, pasted on to the covers of ooze leather. A tiny gold card is pasted as a finish round the design, which is further outlined by a few tooled lines.
The addition of embroidery to leather is new and very effective, and such beautiful little bits of embroidery, either Chinese or Japanese, can be picked up from time to time, that it is well to make use of this opportunity for unique decoration.
The illustration of a round piece of leather for a tablecloth shows some very good work, the tulip standing up in relief from the tooled background. It will be noticed that the lines follow somewhat the outline of the table centre, but variety is given by an irregularity in the lines every now and then following the shape of the flower. Interest is given to the leaves by a few lines of tooling.
I have not attempted to deal with the large subject of leather work entirely, but have only mentioned the simplest forms of ornamenting leather which are within the scope of the beginner. As she gains proficiency in this craft she could also take up the fascinating work of book-binding, with its varied and interesting results.
It is not the technique or the process that makes the work successful, but creative ability and individuality of treatment that tells in the long-run.
Another reason that makes this craft so fascinating is that many styles of leather work give a large scope for the worker. Cordovan leather, curved or embossed leather, applique and mosaic leather, gilding and bronzing, and pyrography, are only some of the many kinds that are being done to-day.
Even the tools vary, as many craftsmen design their own tools and dies. One worker will use a number of expensive tools, while another will get good results from using only a paper-knife, a dull-pointed nail, a penknife, and a simple stamp cut out of a piece of wood. As the worker gains proficiency she can buy more tools. The following list is recommended by one who has had many years of experience: -
A tracer or dot-wheel to prick out the patterns.
The spade point for tracing and moulding. Often a bone paper-knife is used for this purpose.
The awl tracer for tracing lines in cut leather work.
Stamps for corrugating the ground. These are made of iron or steel, and resemble large headed nails, a cross, or an O; but here the ingenuity of the designer comes in, each worker finding new forms and motifs, which they design and have made to order by a die-cutter.
A mallet is used for matting or corrugating a large surface of background. A slab of marble, glass, or wood will be needed on which to do the work.
A fine-bladed pointed knife is also a necessity.
Thin sheet leather is the easiest for a beginner to manipulate. Russet kid or calfskin can be used for many purposes, and is the kind skilled workers like best to carve.
The leather is first laid on a marble slab or stone, and then softened by wetting with water; if the leather is thin it will only need lightly sponging, as previously described. If it is very stiff and hard, it will need soaking for several hours. A stamp must be tried on the leather. If the imprint disappears, the leather is too wet or too soft. If the leather becomes too dry while being tooled, it must be lightly sponged. The thickness and hardness of the leather determine the amount of wetting required. A most important point to remember is to run the lines clearly and deeply with the wheel tracer or awl point. A strong outline is also essential to good work. A knife may be used for outlining, thereby making bold firm cuts, which adds much to the character of the work. The modelling tools are used on the background, and the individuality of the worker can be expressed in the choice and manipulation of these tools. It would seem that this is the craft of all others for the explorer, as no two workers get the same results. It is best to learn the technicalities, and proceed to work out the processes for oneself. A study of old Cordovan leathers would stimulate the imagination, and a few hours spent with a good craft-worker would tend to make a more creative craftsman than courses of lessons where generalities are in order.