Within many disciplines, crafts, hobbies and pastimes, there are always offshoots. Or to put it another way, a niche within a niche.
But if there’s one offshoot of leather goods that gets more attention than design, pattern making and even stitching - it’s edge finishing.
In this blog, I’m going to discuss two types of tool that can make a big difference to your edges. Edge bevelers and creasers. The aim is to answer some common questions that I get asked all the time.
Creasers and bevelers are tools used to finish edges before the final touches are performed by burnishing, edge painting or dye and waxing. These tools will be the focus of this blog as their use can make such a difference.
As with many disciplines in life, if you get your foundations wrong, everything else that comes after is negatively affected.
So let's get started and talk about tools.
The edge beveler:
This tool, as the name suggests, bevels the edge on a cut piece of vegetable tanned leather.
There are two types of beveler, a straight cut beveler and a round cut beveler.
As the name suggests, a straight cut beveler uses a flat blade to cut the corner off your piece of vegetable tanned leather.
These tools are more economical to make, therefore they are quite inexpensive to buy. However, they do have one drawback. By cutting off one corner with a flat blade, you are actually making two new corners.
You can either try and take these off with a smaller straight cut beveler, or simply sand the extra corners off manually.
The next type of beveler is the round cut beveler. This has a curved blade which is a little more difficult to manufacture and therefore costs a little more to purchase.
But what this costs extra in money it makes up for in time. Time saved not having to rework your edges with another beveler or sand paper.
When you cut off the edges of your vegetable tanned leather with a round cut beveler, the finish is rounded off in one swift motion, making your edges much cleaner, especially for burnishing.
Now, you may have noticed that I keep referring to vegetable tanned leather regarding edge bevelers. Why is that?
Well, most vegetable tanned leather is firm. Firm leather holds still while the blade on your beveler cuts the edge off. It’s very obedient like that!
However, its soft and squishy sibling ‘chrome’ tanned leather is a different story. This flexible and almost spongy type of leather is tanned differently creating a much less dense product that is soft to the touch.
As you push your beveler along the edge of chrome tanned leather, you will notice the edge simply compresses out the way of your blade. Even a sharp blade simply pushes the soft corner it's meant to be cutting out the way.
At best your blade will bite here and there taking off some parts of the corner in an inconsistent fashion.
So realistically, edge bevelers are used mostly on firm vegetable tanned leather and not chrome tanned leather.
Here’s where things get confusing however.
Some chrome tanned leathers are compressed and finished in a way that makes them rigid and firm, very much like your common vegetable tanned leather.
The famous ‘Saffiano’ calfskin is one such example. This form of chrome tanned skin can be finished with an edge beveler, and can even be burnished if a gum base or Tokonole is used
There are a few examples of chrome hides like this, especially leather designed for shoe making.
And if that wasn’t enough there is even vegetable tanned leather that has been processed to provide a softer feel. The fibres are agitated and loosened by machine until it has a chrome tanned like softness to it. This is unlikely to bevel very well.
So how do you know which leather can be beveled and which can’t? Simple, feel the leather and see if it offers a firm hand. If it does then it can likely be beveled. Another test is to see if you can dent the leather with a thumbnail. If it’s hard enough to hold a dent (or hard enough to hurt your thumbnail!) it should bevel well.
Ok, so we now know the two types of edge beveler and we also realise what kind of leather will bevel well and the characteristics needed to do so.
So how do you round the edges on soft or chrome tanned leather if you can't use an edge beveler?
Great question! Enter the edge creaser.
Now the primary reason an edge creaser exists is to create a decorative line a fixed distance from the edge.
This frames a product nicely, enhances visual interest and neatens an edge giving it a more consistent appearance.
However, much like edge bevelers, there is more than one kind of creaser. There are main types:
Fixed curved creaser
Fixed flat creaser
Adjustable creaser ska ‘screw crease’
There are also two methods of heating a creaser too, either with a flame or electronically. To see more about this click HERE
The fixed curved creaser.
Probably my favourite type overall. ‘Fixed’ simply means the creaser is made so that the creasing part on the head is a set distance from the guide. You commonly find creasers of 1, 1.5, 2, and 2.5mm.
What makes a fixed 'curved' creaser special is the concave dome between the creasing part and the guide.
This not only gives you a decorative crease line, but with heat also rounds the edge on soft leathers giving you a curved edge without having to remove any material with an edge beveler.
Basically the dome compresses the edge into a rounded shape by using heat to make it permanent. Without heat though, no effect will be seen.
Soft leathers will conform to the round shape, however, firm leathers will resist compression even with heat. Most vegetable tanned leathers will only receive a crease line and will likely need an actual edge beveler if a rounded edge is desired.
In essence a fixed curved creaser is a bit of a waste on firm leathers, but still usable for a decorative line.
Fixed flat creaser
Similar to the curved creaser above, but instead of having a curved concave shape, the inside is simply squared off.
This only imparts a decorative crease and does not round off the edge.
Perfectly suited to firm (likely vegetable tanned) leather as the flat side of the guide makes slipping onto the surface of your leather by accident less likely than it’s curved alternative.
Offering a similar experience to the fixed flat creaser, the adjustable crease adds the ability to vary the distance of your crease line from the edge.
Simply screwing the adjustment knob in and out will set your crease line closer or further away from the edge.
Obviously, there is a gap between the guide and the creasing head, so no rounding effect can be obtained from the adjustable creaser.
There are more benefits to be had from this tool, such as the ability to crease a line on the opposite side of your stitching creating a double crease effect.
This may be 5 or 6mm from the edge, and there are very few fixed creasers of this size on the market.
When heated, a fixed crease can leave a nice dark line in vegetable tanned leather, but unfortunately the guide is also hot, meaning the edge can receive a dark scorch mark. Not ideal.
Fortunately, with an adjustable creaser, the creasing head can be heated up by itself so that the guide won’t have enough heat to damage the edge.
Lastly, most adjustable creasers are ambidextrous. The guide being the same height as the creasing head. This means the creaser can also be used upside down on its point, which is handy around tight curves!
Generally, a fixed flat creaser offers no benefit over an adjustable one. A combination of fixed curved creasers in various sizes will be complimented by the usefulness of the adjustable creaser quite nicely.
So now you know the benefits of these creasers, the type of leathers they work well with as well as their limitations.
Here are my three tool recommendations:
Round cut beveler
Fixed curved creaser
Comment below and tell me what creasers you recommend from your experiences!