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When it comes to leathercrafting projects, we wrote the book on it for DK Publishing!

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How to DIY Cut and Finish a Leather Edge Without Any Special Tools: Bevel, Dye, Burnish

How to DIY Cut and Finish a Leather Edge Without Any Special Tools: Bevel, Dye, Burnish

Hello Walnut, Here are my 8-years old City Grips, beautifully aged under Italian sun and rain. They have been restitched only once, and were a great companion in my city rides - actually outliving my old bike, that I give away last week to a local charity. The difference with the original color is palpable when compared with the unused leftover: the other is aged and curved, as I used it as an ornament. 
I'm now riding a Brompton foldable bike, and already planning a replacement of the original, decent rubber grips with this beloved leather ones: the curved leftover will become a useful hack, protecting the bottom tube from scratching by the fold hook (will post details and photos once finished).
When I originally cut the City Grips, I did not worry about finishing the cut itself - I was so happy that the cut was straight, and I couldn't wait mounting the new grips. Now, I notice the difference with the original finishing of the cut, and I was wondering how to achieve a similar result. Hence, a couple of questions:
Beveling and softening the edges: I can find a leather edger on Amazon, but the quality may be debatable and buying a tool for a single use sounds like nonsense. Would sanding the edge work, and produce a good result?
Final treatment: application of edge dye and burnishing. That sounds out of reach or, at least, complicated. Can you suggest any DIY alternative?
Thanks in advance for your advice. Keep doing such an incredible job!
Ciao from Italy!

Customers often need to cut their leather wraps short: such as making space for the gear shifter on a mountain bike with Leather City Grips, or adapting the Sew-on Leather Bar Wraps to a bullhorn bar.

DIY Leather Cutting

Cutting is done easily enough with a pair of sharp scissors or an exacto blade.

TIP: If cutting a wrap with stitch holes pre-punched, you may need to cut twice, from both ends, to prevent cutting through the middle of a stitch hole. Measure carefully before cutting.

DIY Leather Edge Finishing

Old-timers say you can tell the quality of a leather piece by how its edges are treated. A straight, rough cut shows the economy of a product, while waxed, rounded, smooth edges are a hallmark of quality.

We send all our leather products out with fully-finished edges done the old-fashioned way.

If it needs to be cut short at home and the edge isn't going to be visible, because it is hidden under whip-tying for example, a DIY finished edge isn't necessary on our high quality, vegetable-tanned, full grain leather for wear-and-tear reasons.

But for customers like Massimo who want to replicate the finished edge at home, we've got a simple tutorial using simple tools here. Finished edges are the details of the design, quite literally rounding out the rough edges.

There are three steps in leather finishing, done in this order: bevel, dye, burnish. However, you don't have to do all three, it's up to you and your project.

DIY Leather Edge Beveling ("Edging")

Beveling is rounding the edges off a sharp, straight cut, just like they do with kitchen countertops. In the workshop, we use an edging tool to scrape off the edge (a tool Geoff nicknamed "the shark bite" for its tendency to cut fingers), and a quick sand to take off the fuzz.

To DIY bevel leather edges at home, a simple strip of rough sandpaper with a little extra elbow grease works just fine (no shark bites necessary!):

DIY Edge Dyeing

For surface-dyed leather, the cut edge can reveal the natural leather color sandwiched inside. In the workshop, we use a special, old-fashioned leather oil dye to make the edge color blend in with the surface

To color the edge at home, an easy DIY substitute is a fine-tip or larger "Sharpie" or permanent marker in either "dark brown" or black.

Leathercrafter using a sharpie marker as a DIY edge dye on a cut leather edge

DIY Burnishing

Burnishing is melting wax on the edges for a smooth and sealed edge. It's an extra step not commonly taken with leather goods today.

To DIY burnish, all you need for this is a little bit of wax (beeswax is traditional but paraffin wax is easier to find), and a piece of rough cloth like canvas.

Lightly drag the edge across the wax:

Then use friction to melt the wax into the edge with the cloth.

This photo shows what the burnishing process does to the edge, note the mellow matte finish of the melted wax along the edge in the top half of the photo. On the bottom half of the photo, the edge has little pieces of white, unmelted wax clinging to the sides. The hardwood circle is a burnishing tool called an "edge slicker" that does the same job that a piece of canvas or denim will do.

Have you tried these tips? Let us know how it turned out in the comments below.

PS.We love getting messages like these from our customers! I just love the idea of the leather leaving my hands in Oregon to live an exciting life under the Italian sun and am happy to help you use these leather goods to fit your life. Feel free to send your questions to walnutstudiolo@gmail.com.

1 Response



July 11, 2023

Thank you! This is exactly the information I was looking for for a small DIY project I’m starting.

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