Real leathers are durable, luxury materials. They are perfect for crafting high-quality goods that stand the tests of time.
What is Tooling Leather? The Expert Guide
There are a number of ways to decorate and embellish leather with patterns to add those special touches that make them personal or sentimental. One of the most common ways to do this is using something called tooling leather.
What is Tooling Leather?
Tooling leather is the material used for tooling (or embellishing) patterns onto leather goods. It acts as a canvas for often intricate and hand crafted designs.
In theory a tooling leather can be any type of leather although some may be harder to work with than others. Because of the craftsmanship that goes into leather pattern work, these designs are often applied by hand. This means that more appropriate leathers can greatly impact the final product, most often, these are vegetable-tanned leathers. Leather tanned in this way is typically softer and can be easier to work with.
The thickness of tooling leather will vary depending on the part of the animal hide used. Typically if you’re crafting heavy-wear items like leather bags, wallets, or belts, we recommend top or full grain leather.
The History Of Tooling Leather
There are lots of examples of leather patterns and embellishments throughout history, from 3000 year old Egyptian leatherworks to creations from the Middle Ages.
Leather is a very durable and easily accessed material and for this reason it has been favored by craftsmen for a very long time. A good leather product can last for decades which is why it is still possible to discover ancient examples of tooling leather and intricate designs that reflect the time. Tanning and dying has made it possible to preserve these designs and be sure that they last.
How Does Tooling Leather Compare To Other Leathers?
In contrast to other varieties of leather, tooling leather has the key benefit of being ideal for carving and engraving. Edges produced by high-quality tooling leather will be crisper, clearer, and better defined. Additionally, because this kind of leather is typically vegetable-tanned, it will acquire a lovely appearance over time and remain sturdy and strong compared to non-leather materials.
Vegetable tanning used for tooling leather can be a labor and time-intensive task, and this can make the process costly. Leather goods, generally, are more expensive than faux alternatives but the quality and longevity are far better.
The inconsistent nature of tooling leather is another drawback. Its quality will be very variable because it uses hides from various animals that are different thicknesses and qualities. There may also not be artificial protective coating on tooling leather so as not to damage the design. As a consequence, it's more vulnerable to the elements than standard full grain leather products.
How to Take Care of Tooled Leather
Tooled leather goods, because of the time taken to produce them, can be quite expensive. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to properly care for them.
Like most other leather goods, tooled leather can be wiped down carefully with a soft and slightly damp cloth to remove dust and dirt, but unlike some of the more durable leather options, like full grain leather, tooled leather can be slightly more susceptible to damage from water or the sun. The grain of the leather is slightly weaker because of the carving or embossing. For this reason, you should try to avoid getting tooled leather wet. If it does get wet, you shouldn’t dry it on unnatural heat sources like heaters. This will cause it to lose its shape.
Leather conditioners are a really good option for leather bags or other heavy-wear leather goods. Just apply a very small amount in a circular motion to keep leather looking fresh.
Our Favorite Real Leather Goods in 2023
At The Real Leather Company, we know how important it can be to make the right decision when buying a bag, particularly if it’s a gift for a family member or loved one. Here are our 5 favorite real leather bags for this year.
The Compact is a real leather backpack that perfectly combines function and style. This deceivingly spacious bag can not only hold everything but it can also protect it. This makes it perfect for those who are always on the move and makes it a great option for work. The Compact has a number of handy pockets to ensure you have easy (and safe) access to keys, wallets and any other essentials while you’re on the go.
2. The Jones
The Jones is a beautiful everyday messenger bag. It’s a truly classic design that is both durable and practical, making it a wonderful option for your daily commute (or just about anything else). The leather finish protects your belongings and the excellent craftsmanship means it can be the staple of just about any closet.
3. The Borsone
If you love adventure and find yourself on lots of vacations and weekend trips, then the Borsone is for you. This sleek travel bag will hold all of your essentials – it even has a pocket for shoes.
The strong fixtures and well crafted storage make this bag perfect for when you next decide to hit the road, and the real leather materials are heavy-wearing and stylish making this luxury travel bag equally as functional as it is fashionable.
Sometimes simplicity is exactly what we need. This gorgeous, leather briefcase is perfect for the ambitious working man. It holds all of the essentials, protects important files and electronics, and offers plenty of storage for those busy days.
5. The Wax
The Wax is another example of a gorgeous backpack that can do it all. It has plenty of storage, lots of protection and is endlessly practical for everyday use. This stylish accessory doesn’t sacrifice comfort either, with padded straps to help move your daily essentials around comfortably.
See our collection of real leather bags here, and if you need some more help, why not check out our blog for more style guides and leather maintenance tips.