Since 2016


June 30, 2023 3 min read

by Monique Youzwa

Monique has been a full-time freelance writer for over 5 years, plus has a few fiction credits under her belt and is currently working on a novel. When not writing, she spends her time reading, playing video games, hiking, and camping with her husband and daughter.



Leather is an attractive material, though it can be made even more appealing with the proper technique. Tooling leather is one option when adding those stunning embellishments, though not everyone is familiar with this term. So, what is tooling leather?

Tooling leather is a specific type of leather that is easy to engrave, while tooling is the process used to create those intricate patterns on the material. Tooling leather is similar to embossing, though the process is challenging and time-consuming.

While embossing requires a press that applies heat and pressure to the material’s surface, tooling is hand-made using special tools and a great deal of skill. If you’re interested in how leather tooling is done, keep reading.

The Leather Tooling Process

Tooling leather is a fantastic way to add detailing to varying pieces, including shoes, bags, wallets, belts, camera cases, flask holders, saddles, holsters, and knife sheaths. It takes a great deal of skill for the most intricate pieces, as well as the right tools and materials.

The necessary tools

There are several tools needed for tooling leather. These include a stylus, beveler, swivel knife, modeling spoon, mallet, seeder, and some stamps. Tools can be purchased individually, or starter kits are available for the main tools. A cutting board to work on and a sponge to moisten the leather is also required.

Choose the leather

The best leather for tooling is vegetable-tanned.Vegetable tanning uses the tannins from plants to preserve the leather and prevent decomposition. It maintains the material’s natural look, though the coloring can vary depending on the plant used for the tanning process.

Tooling leather comes in a range of thicknesses to match the project a leatherworker has in mind. For instance, a belt will require a thicker material than a knife sheath. Thinner materials are easier to tear during tooling, so require an extra gentle touch.

PHYSICAL - The Admiral Moto

PHYSICAL - The Suede Double Rider

PHYSICAL - The Technical Bomber

Prepare the material

Before tooling, the leather needs to be moistened to soften the material and make it easier to work with. A sponge works well since it allows the leather to be wet evenly.

Create the pattern

The stamps or a printed design mark the pattern on the material. Once the pattern is in place, a leatherworker traces the design into the leather, pressing down for deep, visible indents.


Creating the design

Once the pattern is in place, leatherworkers use the swivel knife to cut the design into the material. Then the bevelling tool or spoon is used to give the design some depth. Often, smaller details are applied to the design, like seeds in plants or dimples in leaves. The background is then filled in to bring the design to life.

tooling leather

Final Word

Tooling leather is a specialized material perfect for creating intricate patterns that stand out among other pieces. It isn’t an easy process, which is why tooling leather is more expensive than some other types, but the beauty of the finished product makes it well worth the price.

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