The goal of this blog is to give you the information needed to make an educated choice when choosing a leather creasing tool. This alone is one of the cornerstone techniques in fine leathercraft that can elevate your leather projects.
Let’s start with: What is leather edge creasing?
A crease is very simply a line that is pressed into the leather, usually (but not always) situated between the stitching and the edge of the leather itself, as the image below demonstrates.
Creasing leather involves a metal tip that has two pronounced lines with a groove in the centre.
One side usually sticks out further than the other which serves as a guide. This guide runs along the very edge of your leather which keeps the whole assembly a consistent distance from the edge.
With pressure alone, or pressure with heat, it will leave a line in the leather a specific distance from the edge. This could be 1mm, 2mm or more depending on the creaser you have.
What is a leather creaser used for?
The line created by the creasing tip is typically used for decoration only, especially on wallets, handbags and general leather goods accessories. The technique likely came from saddlery where it was used to compress the edge of the leather to reduce water absorption and seal the fibres.
It undeniably creates a more aesthetic appearance, giving a completed look associated with more refined leatherwork.
What kinds of edge creaser are there?
To start with, the electric edge creaser or ‘fileteuse’ as the French call it, is a machine that has multiple uses outside of only creasing and edge. Many specialist tips exist that can be swapped over on the same handle.
You can smooth edge paint with it, iron out creases, cut and seal synthetic thread, melt in wax, stamp or hot foil logos/initials, even open up spring bar holes in watch straps.
The current can be adjusted via a dial on the unit so that more or less heat is transferred to the creasing tip. This makes for excellent consistency and repeatability.
So, although these machines are known as creasers, they are a very versatile investment in a busy leather workshop.
The second kind is the manual creaser, which is most commonly a metal (usually steel) creaser tip that has been attached to a wooden handle.
‘Manual’ comes from the need to manually heat up the metal head yourself, usually by a spirit lamp, or a small blow torch if you’re in a hurry!
Although the manual creaser is undeniably cheaper and far simpler, it does require you to gauge heat through experience.
There are pros and cons to each unit as the chart below shows, clearly one is not better than the other, it depends on you and your needs alone, and the point of this blog post is to help you to decide which one is the right fit for your leatherwork.
The conundrum is that most beginners may not be able to justify spending the money on an electric edge creaser that requires less skill to use, yet beginners will likely be attracted to the cheaper manual creaser that requires more experience to get the best results from.
One answer, if you are on a budget, is to spend meaningful time practicing with a manual creaser once you purchase a set. Saving scraps from a variety of leathers to experiment on and hone your skills.
What is a screw crease? / What is an adjustable creaser?
If you only want to make a crease line between your stitches and the edge without imparting any shape (more on this in a bit..), the adjustable creaser is a great option to have. More expensive than a single manual creaser of any one size, but usually cheaper than a set of them in different sizes.
It is also ‘manual’ in nature, meaning that you will need to manually heat the creasing tip over a flame to get it hot. However, the adjustable creaser’s party trick is a screw on the side which allows you to increase or decrease the distance between the guide and the creasing head, from 0 to about 5mm for most common models.
While most standard tips go up in 0.5mm increments (1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 etc), an adjustable creaser can give you a line 3.45614mm from the edge if you so desire! There is really no limit.
The only downside is the need to measure the gap with a ruler each time you make an adjustment for repeatability’s sake (like you would with wing dividers).
When using a creaser, do you go forwards or backwards?
This is very personal to the individual and there are many people who create beautiful work in both camps.
Personally, much like driving, I like to see what’s in front of me in the direction of travel. Going backwards will have your arm somewhat in the way and necessitates a side on view whilst relying more heavily on feeling the guide against the edge. But if someone is getting great results from creasing in reverse, I would advise them not to change.
Sometimes I will go backwards if I am navigating a sharp curve where I raise the creaser onto it’s front point. In this position the point would dig in if I were to push forward.
What leather edge creasing tips are the best to use?
There are so many creasing options, especially by brands like Regad of France, or the numerous Regad copies (many times superior) coming from China. Probably a subject for another blog, but for the sake of simplicity, there are two main kinds.
The rounding tip
This, as the name suggests, performs two functions, rounding the edge of your leather whilst also imparting a nice decorative line.
It is especially good on soft vegetable tanned leather, or chrome tanned leather, as they are more compressible, which is needed to take the rounded shape.
If you were to use this on firm veg tan, you will simply get the line rather than the rounding effect.
The standard tip
The function of this tip is to simply put a line along the edge of your leather. With veg tan, you are probably going to be beveling your edges anyway, so you don’t really need a ‘rounding’ tip as much.
While the rounding tip has a curved concave gap between the guide and the crease, a standard tip doesn't, it's simply a square cut out.
This is also a good option for softer skins and chrome tanned leather if you are going to finish your edges with edge paint, as the paint will give a rounding effect instead. Also, a non rounded edge with a sharp 90 degree corner is easier to apply thick layers of paint too.
An adjustable crease will also fall into this category as there is simply air between the guide and the creasing tip. It will not round the edge for you as you crease a line.
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