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Basic Leather Carving - The Western Coaster

Updated on May 29, 2013

Learn the basics of western leather tooling

Since Leather crafting is my passion, it is also my job to ensure the craft survives. So I am passing along some basic knowledge in this tutorial. This tutorial was developed to teach a group of Boy Scouts basic leather carving. it was so successful, i thought others may benefit from the subject matter. Please take the time to review the lesson, and be sure to ask me if there are any questions. Happy Tooling!!!!!!!!!!!

An overview

The project described in these instructions, will produce a finely carved leather coaster with a traditional western floral design as pictured.

Happy tooling!

The Pattern

Here is the pattern for the coaster. Feel free to right click and save it to your hard drive to practice.

Materials you'll need

In Order to complete your coaster, you will need a total of 8 tools.

These tools include 6 stamps,

Camouflage C431, Backgrounder A104, Mulesfoot U858, V407 Viener, B200 Smooth Beveler, S722 Seeder.

1 swivel knife, and 1 mallet.

STEP 1: The Swivel Knife

The swivel knife is one of the most difficult leather working tools you will need to master. Once a technique is developed, it will be the basis for all of your future carving.

How the swivel knife is used varies for the users comfort. The only rule that one should follow is how you hold the knife. The pictures below show the correct and incorrect ways of holding the knife when carving.

The knife should be held in such a fashon that the full face of the blade does not actually touch the leather, but only one corner. This means the knife blade should be at approximately 30° to the


STEP 2: Case the Leather and Transfer Pattern

Case the leather by using water or a carving solution such as dish washing detergent and water.

Once cased, transfer pattern onto the leather using pattern.

STEP 3: Carve the pattern

Using prescribed methods, carve the design into the leather.

Make sure the leather has an adequate moisture content.

Keep the knife stropped and sharp!

STEP 4: Backgrounding

Using the A104 Backgrounding tool, stamp the areas needing backgrounding.

This step is much debated among leather crafters as to when to do it.

I have put this here, as doing it right after carving is my personal preference.

STEP 5: Beveling

Begin beveling all of the lines you have previously cut using the B200 Beveler.

After the beveling, this is a good time to do the seeding on the seed pod (S722)

STEP 6: Viening and Camouflaging

Now use your viener and camo tools to add life to the leaves of the flower.

Keep the tool angled when stamping to prevent getting the full impression of the stamp.

STEP 7: Mulesfoot

Use the mulesfoot tool to add accents to the flower stems.

STEP 8: Decorative Cuts

Using the swivel knife make your decorative cuts into the flower.

Decorative cuts show the flowers character. They should be light, and not stop abruptly.

Further explained below.

STEP 9: Color and Finishing

P.S. Locating Leather Working Supplies

For the beginner, I recommend checking out Tandy Leather Factory for you basic leather working needs.

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image

      Just me 

      9 months ago

      Looks like ya got the design from the “let’s do modern leather craft in the style of the old west” 60s/70s Tandy kit. Am I correct?

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      Very Hel pful,Thanks alot for putting this little tutorial up for us newbies.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Leather carving does seem on the verge of becoming a lost art. Most craft shows I visit I see stuff embossed. I have enjoyed the art of carving for some years now and still find great satisfaction in it. Thank you for your article.

    • majorzolz profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very nice. I enjoyed reading the page and looking at the pictures. It looks like fun.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Amazing lens majorzolz! Nice post.

    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 

      7 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Nice "How to Lens". Enjoyed. Thanks.

    • majorzolz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @Diana Wenzel: Thanks.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      8 years ago from Colorado

      Really appreciated seeing the whole process of leather work. I'd like to give it a try. Thanks for showing and explaining the steps in this project.

    • majorzolz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @djroll: Thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens on how to make designs in leather. I always wondered how it was done. Thanks! Beautiful work and great pictures!

    • StandingBears profile image


      10 years ago


      What happened to the Pear Shading?


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