Step 1: using the strapcutter
Strapcutter for leather
The leather strapcutter tool gives us a perfect 3/4″ strap: leatherworkers almost always use imperial measurements.
After we’d measured Dug, it was time to cut the leather strip with our strapcutter. It’s a little razor blade tucked into something very like a woodworker’s marker gauge. The blade’s fearsomely sharp, so it doesn’t take much effort to cut through. We set a 3/4″ width and cut a full length off our hide of vegetable-tanned Italian leather.
Step 2: cutting to length
Using an English Point leather end punch
We use a leather end punch to cut the dog collar to length – this particular shape is called an ‘English point’
Just the same as we’d finish our handbag straps, we used our ‘English point’ punch. This is one of the tools we rely on most – a sharp, shaped blade that finishes our straps to a neat point. It’s essential to keep it sharp – we’ve been getting to grips with different whetstones, files and strops to keep the cutting edge permanently sharp. A quick tap with the hammer and we’ve got a strap the right length.
Step 3: punching the holes
Using a round leather punch
A sharp tap with a hammer and our round punch easily cuts through two thick layers of leather
Using an oval slot leather punch
You can use two round holes and cut between them with a craft knife to make the slot for the buckle, but we use this oval slot punch instead.
Emma showed me how to use a similar technique to put in the buckle, rivet and adjustment holes: a sharp punch and a quick tap with the hammer. The punch cuts through the leather and leaves you with a clean-edged hole. You can see some of the different shaped punches we use – these are shapes we keep coming back to on our bags.
Step 4: thinning the end
Using a leather skiving machine
This is Bertha, our leather skiving machine. As soon as you touch the floor pedal she’ll thin down the rest of the strap.
This is maybe a bit too thin for the collar, but it removes bulk and helps set the rivets properly. You can see the full thickness strap on the left.
This is the bit I find scariest – using our leather skiver. It’s a big old industrial machine with a rotating knife that thins leather very efficiently. We call her Bertha, and she’s essential when we’re thinning leather down to a thickness we can actually sew. It’s possible to do something similar with a sharp knife, but it takes years and years of practice. We used Bertha to skive the end of the strap that we would be folding over to rivet together around the buckle.
Step 5: finishing the edge
Using a leather edge beveller
The edge beveller is a sharp tool that gives us a rounder 45 degree bevel to a cut edge.
Bevelled leather strap
Look closely and you can see the bevel on the top edge of the leather, as well as the strip we’ve cut off.
The strapcutter leaves a sharp 90 degree corner, so here we’re using an edge beveller to chamfer that corner. It gives the strap a softer feel, and hopefully means it’s a bit more gentle on Dug as he’s wearing it. We bevel both the top and bottom edges of the strap.
Step 6: dying the cut edge
This is what I call our ‘rubby thing’, Emma says it’s called an ‘edge slicker’. You can see that the strap to the left is smoother than on the right.
Edge dauber on leather
This is our edge dye. We’re still experimenting with different ways of applying it, but this traditional ‘dauber’ doesn’t work too badly.
We give the edge a quick rub down with our ‘rubby thing’ (aka edge slicker) – a piece of turned wood that smooths out the cut edge. I’m sure it has a proper name among leatherworkers, but I’m sticking with ‘rubby thing’. Then we give a quick rub of edge dye along the cut edge to blend it in with the face of the hide.
Step 7: fitting the hardware
Setting a blind rivet
We use this setting tool with the hammer to set our blind rivets.
Last of all, it’s time to fit the hardware. We’ve given dug a solid brass buckle and D-ring, which we’re attaching with brass blind rivets. Another couple of quick taps with the hammer and it’s time for the really tricky bit – convincing the pup that wearing a collar is a good idea…
Leather dog collar
The finished product – our leather dog collar and brass hardware
Glen of Imaal terrier with collar
And here’s Dug with his handsome new collar. He doesn’t seem particularly impressed with the craftmanship or quality of materials, but he’s never worn a collar before.