Hey guys, I’m writing mainly from the perspective of a beginner in most areas and what I found to be reasonable purchases. I split my time between braid for chokers, whips, etc & straps for my friends whom like recreational hobbies. I do a smattering of carving, saddles, repair stuff.
- Table top mounted strap cutter … it’s got a bad mount post. Still if I don’t need to taper my straps…I still get better results from it than I do with hand cutting in a fraction of the time. Unless I really clamp & measure my leather to do the cuts by hand with a ruler. If you’re doing lots of them or long ones this is the best deal if you’re not making your own strap cutter from hand – there’s lots of tutorials on how to make a strap cutter/beveler/skiver yourself online.
- Australian strander – I’ve had this one for almost a year and a half, it’s my tool & I LOVE it for getting tapers down. What I like: top height adjustable to hold the leather more firmly & a roller on that, solid build and standard blades, easy to adjust width on the fly. What I dislike … it only does certain widths, that there’s no easy release for doing the most advanced circle cut methods of whip tapering and have to feed it back out and then in again repeatedly. What it does do – there’s no comparison in quality for what it produces. If you’re just making lace on a budge & willing to spend some time learning it – it’s awesome.
- Craft tool wooden strap cutter – this is a beginners best friend. I clamped mine down to a table and my first day was making very decent straps out of this guy. You can tweak the angle of the cut to make it even smoother by putting a bit of cardboard in the bottom of the feed to change the razor’s angle of attack. Standard blades once again. Hell, even just putting it on the floor and my foot on the handle allowed me to make nearly perfect belts right away. What I dislike is occasionally I need some big planes of leather like a 11″ wide strap…I wish this would cut it. I considered the Draw gauge at the time I bought the strap cutter. It looks more professional etc & it importantly it gives you more room to maneuver. In my tests at the store, it was more reliable to stick with the wooden strap cutter though, rather than the draw gauage…2 years later, who knows I might be just as good now. I don’t regret the $25 I paid for the wooden strap cutter.
- Craft Tool Delux – I like this thing…but it’s tiny for the cost. Extremely durable and once you understand it easy to use. The quality of the cuts is great – the one I saw used at tandy had the blade taken to a local sharpener & I’ve never seen anything go through leather like it. We did 6 foot long, just under 6″ wide swaths of leather for 20 or 30 minutes playing around – since the manager hadn’t used one either at that point – with me holding tension on one end & him pulling through…it was a blast. I had some doubts about the cost though…if you don’t need the full 6″ of skiving – just get the smaller one for a hundred off – but who knows when you need the extra width right?
- French edge skiver– I love this thing. I have 3 tandy edge skivers besides this one & an v edge gouger – which I almost never use except on book covers. I use this french cutter on so many little things, I had to get a second one after about 9 months I didn’t think it was worth getting it professionally edged again. All of my tiny fixes a razor won’t cure reliably get done with this guy. Especially the tongues for mounting a buckle on the straps or belts. Can’t recommend enough!
- Super skiver – Nice, reliable, kind of a one trick pony. I have two, one that’s flat and one that has an hinge for adjusting the angle which was neat, but I couldn’t apply the force I thought I needed at first till I learned to just let it ride smoothly. Uses standard blades on both.
- Safety skiver – I have one, it’s the middle ground between a french edger & the super skivers. I should probably give it another go now that my hand is steadier, but with the other tools, I just had no need for this one. It’s just a handle with a bent frame that takes a standard razor blade into it.
- Sorrell’s skiver – This is easily better than the rest listed here, but it is expensive.
- Rotary Cutter – This is my go to for longer cuts. It’s ungodly sharp. Can’t stress that enough. Don’t even think about pushing down with it, instead clamp your leather better on either side. Only accident I ever had, barely brushed thumb against it and cut to the bone. We’re talking a feather’s touch. The con of such a sharp blade is that they bend or ruin easily and cost $5 per blade in stores. Don’t use it on leather 4-5oz unless you’ve precut with another blade some to get the thickness down…you’ll just burn out the blades at best, worst you push too hard and screw yourself or your leather. Highly recommended, amazing tool for all levels.
- Hook blade knife – This is a great tool, the narrow blade allows more precision cuts and curves in your leather, just stroke it across multiple times instead of pulling or pushing down harder. I use a standard razor in place as much as possible & goto this for the finer cuts. It uses more expensive blades and takes a bit of getting used to to sharpen as is curves.
- Jeweler’s rouge – I list this here because when I started, I was pretty hopeless & this stuff made my day. Just to add to this … the rouge allows you to use a bit of cardboard or a leather strap to refresh the edge of your blades. Since you apply the rouge to something and then rub the blade against it, you can sharpen curved / round edges too (don’t bother with the rotary cutter circle blades).
- The Round Blade – My rotary cutter is amazing & amazingly easy to ruin projects with … so the solution is the classical Round Blade. I gave in and got this once I thought about how nice it would be to apply whatever force I wanted to a small area with whatever speed I want. I have heard from most leather workers this becomes the de facto only tool – also where most guys end up chopping off parts of their hands. I really like it, but only used a few times. Combining it with moisturing my leather better has already given me some nice results.