New Keyfob for new keys

Posted in Projects, Tips & Tricks on June 18th, 2020 by The Cyberwolfe

So, what with all the lockdown and craziness of 2020, I let my shoulder-devil have access to my wallet for a bit, and wouldn’t you know it, he talked me into buying a motorcycle.


Awful pretty, ain’t it? :)

As usual, things like this move me to make something related and while the saddlebags currently on there are vinyl crap, this is not about replacing those. (That will happen sometime in the future…) What I did this week is build a keyfob to hold the keys.

Since the ignition on this bike is just below the seat on the left-hand side, any keychain I have hanging there is going to be swinging back and forth and bouncing off the cylinder cooling fins, which is less than ideal. I also don’t like loose metal bits rattling around in my pockets while out-n-about, so I thought an old-school key wallet thingy might be appropriate.

Et Voila:

Keyfob Front Closed

Snazy concho there, wot?

Couldn’t be simpler, just a single piece of leather folded twice and snapped closed, with a small shackle to hold the bike key and a house key.

Key Fob Back closed

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Moving Day

Posted in Tips & Tricks on February 2nd, 2020 by The Cyberwolfe

On the infinitesimal chance someone was looking for this site and couldn’t find it today, my apologies – I moved to a new host. Things are settled down now, so welcome back.

Dye Test: USMC Black

Posted in Tips & Tricks on February 27th, 2017 by The Cyberwolfe

I’ve been using Fiebing’s oil-based dyes for a while now, but wanted to give the USMC Black a try on a belt for myself, and maybe something for my brother who spent some time in the Marines in the future. The process between an oil-based and a spirit-based dye is different, and I didn’t have the best results on my first couple tries back when I first got going so I figured I should research methodology.

The guys over at Springfield put out a video specifically dealing with USMC Black, so I took notes and decided to do some experimentation on a piece of scrap doodling to test out the effectiveness of Fiebing’s Dye Prep and Lexol Leather Conditioner.

USMC Black Test

Top Left: straight dye on untreated, dry veg tan.

Bottom Left: Fiebing’s Dye-Prep and then dyed.

Top Right: Dye mixed with a few drops of Lexol conditioner on dry leather

Bottom Right: Dye-Prep, then dye with conditioner.

Click the picture to embiggen for better details.

Well, I can say for certain that dry leather and spirit dyes yield an inferior result, so no matter what, get it damp first. I didn’t think to do a test with just water-wet leather rather than the Dye-Prep, so I’m not sure how much of the result is due to the product vs. just being wet.

Adding a few drops of Lexol conditioner after using the Dye-Prep seems to be the best result.

A Public Service Announcement

Posted in Tips & Tricks on November 28th, 2016 by The Cyberwolfe

Just a quick reminder, folks: as tempting as it is to just grab that little jewelry anvil you have when you need a bit of weight on a wet-formed piece while it dries, DO NOT drop it straight onto the wet leather.

Steel stains

That there was supposed to be the belt keeper on a mahogany belt, but I forgot to put a piece of scrap under the anvil first. Luckily it wasn’t something important-and I can always hang onto it for my next black belt project.

This is the result of a chemical reaction between wet leather and iron, and it can’t be cleaned off. All you can do is dye the whole thing black.

You can do the same thing on purpose if you like – it’s called vinegaroon, and is made by dumping a handful of steel wool and/or old nails into a jar of vinegar, which you then leave to simmer in the sun for a few days or a couple weeks, depending on how impatient you are. The resultant tincture will dye leather indelibly black, guaranteed. It is not to be trifled with, however: this is not for brush-dyeing the background areas, as the mixture WILL bleed past your intentions. This is for dyeing the whole piece. There’s a very informative thread over at on the subject.

The More You Know(tm)


Box Corners Clamp

Posted in Tips & Tricks on July 7th, 2016 by The Cyberwolfe

clamp and kitten

With bonus kitten!

If you’ve ever tried to sew a leather box, you know how much of a pain it can be to keep everything lined up. Nigel Armitage does a good tutorial video on the process and also shows his simple solution to holding everything together at a nice 90-degree angle.

After spending 30 minutes doing a piss-poor job of sewing the first two pieces of the latest project together, I decided I needed to build one for myself. Considering I have limited table surface in my apartment hobby shop, I decided to make it as an attachment for the stitching horse, kind of like a Hardy for an anvil.

I had a 12″ board lying around after a false-start of a shelving project, so I nudged Nigel’s idea a bit and just butted two pieces into a “roof” shape, then sandwiched a pair of off-cuts and beveled them to act as the stem. Two more off-cuts get a similar bevel and become clamp arms. $3 worth of hardware later, it’s a clamp!

Of course, this won’t allow you to do all the seams of a box – eventually, you end up building an inside form as you attach the 4th wall and bottom, but it makes the first couple seams that much easier.

ClampClamp front

How-To: Leather Buttons and Toggles

Posted in Tips & Tricks on June 21st, 2016 by The Cyberwolfe

Working a project and need a cheap-and-easy method of fastening two things together? A button sounds like just the thing. We’ve been using them for a few millenia, but surprisingly enough the button pre-dates the button hole by several centuries.

Before the button hole was invented, folks would make a loop of leather, cord or twine and push the button through that. It helps to have a wider button with this method, so they made toggles, which can really be anything vaguely stick-shaped – or even a stick. Antler tips lend themselves to the task well since they polish up nice, but a scrap of leather can work just as well.

Here I’m going to show you one way of making a leather toggle. There’s always more than one way to do something like this though, so feel free to improvise.


Read more »

Update and sneak peek

Posted in Tips & Tricks on February 8th, 2015 by The Cyberwolfe

As an update to the previous post, I used that method on the piece below, which will be a wallet backplate in the near future. A little over 2 hours worth of carving and stamping, and no curl on the edges or general deformation. And indeed, those impressions are better looking than some of my previous attempts.

After stamping


As you can see, i went with the packing tape method today, and it worked out really well. Removal was simple, and just left me with a slightly fuzzy backside:

Just a little fuzzy


Prep for tooling

Posted in Tips & Tricks on January 31st, 2015 by The Cyberwolfe

Leather stretches and deforms as you carve it, but there are steps you can take to limit this. I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the past few days in preparation for a fairly serious bit of tooling, just to make sure I had my thoughts in order, and there have been some changes since I first started reading the old books and Al Stohlman’s stuff.

For light tooling and stamping the leather won’t stretch much and you can just tool away, but in more serious tooling you need to prepare the leather a little more thoroughly. In basket weaving and geometric stamping, the leather will stretch and curl up around the edges as you work it, so your final dimensions will change and you may not be able to get it flat again. The curling is a real bitch to work around, and all this stretching means you aren’t getting as clean an impression as the leather runs away from the tool.

Once the carving is done you’ll need to do something about the stretch and curl factors. The trick is to glue the leather to something that won’t stretch or curl. in the old days, this meant rubber cement and posterboard, or if you happen to have a way to get it, old X-Ray film was said to be a great medium. In the last few years, however, folks figured out that packing tape works pretty well, and is easier to get and work with.

The steps below are an amalgamation of all the reading I have done:

  1. You need to ‘case’ the leather by getting it more thoroughly wet on both sides. Let it air out a bit and start to return to the lighter color, and then put it in a plastic bag – a freezer bag will work for smaller pieces, but for larger works (briefcases and such) you’ll need a trash bag. Fold the excess plastic under the piece to seal it closed and leave it on the table overnight or so. Sometimes it pays off to leave it a full 24 hours. This allows the leather to really soak in that moisture and soften up in preparation for the stamping.
  2. Once it has cased for a day the leather should be ready to go to work. Go ahead and pull the piece out, transfer your design and guidelines, and do any carving your design calls for. If the leather dries out too much, dampen it down with a sponge as needed.
  3. Now that you’re done carving, it’s time to tape it up. Use a thick, quality tape – the cheap thin stuff shreds when you try to pull it off, and the adhesive is less workable. Make sure the back of the piece is not too damp or wet (it should be mostly dry by this point) and lay your first strip down. Run it over with a glass slicker or a roller to make sure it sticks well, and then continue layering the tape – make sure you overlap a 1/4″ or so on each pass, and continue like this until you have covered the whole piece. A second layer should then be applied crosswise to make sure you’ve pinned it down if both directions.
  4. (Optional) If you’re really worried about the stretch or curl, some leather workers have gone an additional step by getting a piece of acrylic plastic 1/4″ thick or thicker, and then rubber cementing the tape-backed leather to the acrylic. The acrylic is hard enough that when placed onto your tooling slab you’ll still get a solid impression and the leather won’t get mushed about as you work it. The tape alone seems to work well for the folks I have read up on. In any case, by now you’re ready for tooling, so get to it.
  5. Grab a mallet and go to work, re-dampening the leather as needed. Don’t use too much water, as it will affect the tape. Stick to using a sponge at this point, or a mister. Try to keep your impressions as uniform as possible, and you should get nice clean imprints – the leather has nowhere to go but down at this point.
  6. Once you finish the tooling, allow the piece to dry a while and return mostly to the original color before you remove the tape. Turn the project upside-down and pull the tape off of the leather, rather than the other way around to avoid stretching it out after you went through all this. The tape should come off cleanly and leave just a slightly fuzzy nap to the leather.

I’ll be using this method myself on my next couple of projects – I had terrible stretching problems on the smartphone case I made a while back – I ended up re-soaking the leather and leaving it to dry under my slab for almost a week to get it flat again.

So, what’s on your Tombstone?

Posted in Tips & Tricks on August 11th, 2014 by The Cyberwolfe

When I first got back into the whole leatherworking gig and was kitting out my tools, I picked up a marble slab from my friendly local leather store. It was a 12″ square remnant from a counter top remodeling job or some such. It did the job ok, but a couple months after I got it I managed to knock it over on the garage floor and broke off a fair chunk of one of the corners. I haven’t been happy with it since, and I’ve been keeping my eye out for a replacement.

This hasn’t been easy. I’ve called around to all the local stone suppliers, and the answer has been a consistent maximum of 1.25″ thick or they never bothered to return my call. I’ve even checked with a few mortuaries, to no avail.

About a week ago, however, I came across an outfit on Amazon selling a granite surface plate for an extremely reasonable price. A surface plate is a granite slab specifically planed and finished to be a precision-ground true and flat surface used by craftsmen and tool makers to ensure proper angles and straight edges, and they usually run a couple-hundred bucks. I figured it was too good to be true, but added it to my basket anyway to see what the horrendous shipping charges would be. I mean really – a 3-inch thick slab of granite’s gotta weigh over 70 pounds, right? That will be hell to ship…

A whopping $10 !?!


Now, a week of “where the hell IS the dratted truck??” later, and I have my very own too-damn-heavy-to-move permanently placed slab o’ rock:

The Slab

(Forgive the mess in the back, I had to clear space in a hurry.)

It even comes with a lab analysis sheet telling me it’s accurate to within 0.0005″ of being absolutely flat. Close enough, I suppose… :) As an added benefit, with that much mass, any tooling I do will be much quieter and won’t disturb the rest of the household or my neighbors quite so much.

Now I just hope the table holds up…

Work in Progress Teaser

Posted in Tips & Tricks on April 13th, 2014 by The Cyberwolfe

I decided I needed a box to store my stamps in, and the engineer in me came up with a snazzy idea that you’ll see in the finished project post. For now, here’s a shot of the box top that I put together today:

Box Top

The box stitch is a bitch – but it looks great if you can pull it off. In this case, I almost didn’t – the first hole I punched with my awl tore through. (It’s on the back so it isn’t readily apparent, but I may rivet a ‘bandage’ across it and add a matching one on the other side just to make sure it doesn’t lead to problems as it wears.)

This made me sit back and finally figure out a trick for punching the holes for this stitch. I cut a spare block of wood into a right triangle, and when I place that on my cutting board so that the ‘peak’ is pointing up and then lay the leather on it so the beveled edge is flat on the cutting surface, I can punch straight down through the groove with a stitching chisel and come out right where I want it. Here’s a diagram that makes it a little plainer – you’re seeing everything from the side:

Box stitch diag 1

The tiny arrow is aimed at the groove, and the vertical thing is of course my chisel punched straight down through the leather.

Now the trick is going to be building essentially a radial arm saw that uses Olfa rolling knife blades to make a perfect edge bevel…