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Leathercraft 101: Stamping (Tooling) Vs. Carving

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

I have gotten this question many times ate many events so I would like to make a posting about this mini topic for everyone who is new to leather.

Stamping leather is using a tool to stamp or pound an image into the leather. Leather stamps can range between $5.95 to $35 dollars and have many different uses. Here's a crash course but you're only going to need to know about 2D and 3D if that's all you want to know.

These are bevelers. These stamps help raise images on carved leather pieces. You place them in the "crease" and gently hammer around the image. Personally I use something else but more on that later.

These are called "seeders". If you're carving and want to add a little texture, that's the purpose of these.

These are boarder stamps. And like their name, their purpose are to creature a boarder around a piece such as a belt.

These are geometric stamps. Alone they're not really useful but you ground them together to make a lovely patter for a background. This is the basket weave.

This is a 3D stamp. This stamp makes the leather raise like a 3D image. You can feel the detail if you glide your hand across it. These are very popular.

Finally these are 2D stamps. They're flat with no detail only around the image. They're good if you don't need an image with a lot of detail.

Stamping is the most basic and easiest way yo start your first project. But it's not hard to combine the two techniques together. This was a purse my dad made for my mom over 40 years ago. The roses and leaves are all stamped but the stems were all carved.

This is another example using 2D stamps. I carved the lines into the leather before using the 2D stamps in order to make the card suits. they're easier paint on the inside like this.

Next let's talk about carving:

Carving is where you take a swivel knife and carve the images into the leather. This can be very basic or very intricate. An example of "basic" would be what I do in my shop. I just carve. bevel and paint. As seen here:

However: you can do something a lot more detailed than above. The dark areas were done with the seeder tools as backgrounds:

So it's pretty much what you have in mind and what to do with your project. But the tools you'll need are going to be a little different. You're going to first and foremost need a swivel knife:

Personally I can't STAND using this but there are some alternative to this, mainly because I can't manipulate my hand to using this.

This is an alternate to the swivel knife. Just replace the swivel blade and you can go from there. It's great for those who use better as a freehand-er or has large hands. I'll take more about blade later but a stand blade is all you'll need to carve.

I hope this answers any questions when it comes to tooling (stamping) and carving your leather. If you have the time to carve, go for it but your possibilities are endless. Stamping is just as good but if you don't have the right stamp for the job, then you may have to add in the carving or get a custom stamp (trust me, carving would be the easiest and cheapest option than dealing with custom leather stamps)

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