Monthly Archives: April 2013


I recently visited The Museum of contemporary art in Porto, a great space, within the Serralves park.
I particularly enjoyed a temporary exhibition called A Substance of Time which showed the works of the Portuguese artist Jorge Martins

From what I could understand the exhibition was split between the Foundation in Porto and the Carmona E Costa Foundation in Lisbon. His early figurative works were being shown in Lisbon, and I was seeing his later abstract works, from 1965 – 2012.

Most of the works I saw were black and white drawings, using pencil.

I particularly liked the drawings using lines to create patterns and textures and the ones with smudges. One piece looked like a few smears of pencil with a wiggily line running over the top, until you stood back, and the smears became faces peering out of the paper.

There must have been about 200 drawings, and what was amazing was the variety of images, patterns and textures he managed to create using just a line a dot or a smudge of pencil.
it was also interesting to see how his works evolved, and changed over time.
It certainly made me see the pencil in a whole new way. They were much more atmospheric and painterly than most pencil drawings i have seen.

Here are a few poor photos. They really don’t do the work justice, but are just to give you a visual idea.

My leather tools Part 2

I am sorry for the delay in writing this post. I have just got back from a last minute trip to the UK after writing part 1, and this is my first day back in the workshop .
Whilst I was in England I treated myself to some art and craft supplies which I am dying to start playing with next week, but today I need to introduce you to some more of my leather tools, and the jobs they do.

This is a very important part of my tool kit. It holds the leather pieces together, leaving both hands free to be able to stich. I use saddlers stitch to join most of my leather pieces, which uses two needles at the same time. It creates a very strong stitch that unlike a machine stitch will not unravel. The clam is held between the legs, and is gripped near to the knees, with the jaws close enough to the eye to see the pricking line easily.


I use good quality linen thread which I wax to make it very strong. The needles are saddlers needles which have a blunt end and largish eye. The size of needle and thickness of thread depends on the number of stitches per inch I am using.

I use this if I have a thin edge that needs to be folded over another piece of leather. The edge is glued and then the bone folder is used to crease the leather and fold it over before stitching.

This is for adding a decorative line around the finished edges of leather. It strengthens the edge also, as it compresses the leather fibres. I tend to prefer a plain edge, so I don’t use this tool very often.

At the moment these are more toys than anything else. I am learning how to use them correctly, and need a lot more practice ! The swivel knife is used to carve into the surface of vegetable tanned leather to make patterns, and the stamping tools create textures and patterns onto the surface, creating tooled leather.

STRAP CUTTER This is a great little tool, which cuts leather into long thin strips, needed for straps, belts, dog collars etc. The blade width is set, and the tool is pulled along the egde of the leather from one end to the other. The first edge has to be cut straight using a ruler and knife , before the strap cutter can be used for the rest.

These are a set of metal cylinders with different sized ends and a metal base plate with indentations in it. The rivet or snap ( press stud) sits in the metal plate and the cylinder tool is hit with a hammer against the snap to fix the two parts together on either side of the leather.

This is to measure the thickness of the leather. I use it mostly when i am skiving ( paring) two pieces that are to be joined. I check I am paring the leather evenly, so that it is sits together neatly. It is also handy to have with you when buying leather, to check the thickness, and if there are big variations of thickness throughout the leather

So those are the main tools I use, and a quick summary of what they do.
Depending on what I am making I might use most of the tools, or just a couple of them.

If you are thinking of making some things in leather and are not sure what tools you need, then please email me, and I will hopefully be able to help you out.

Or if you would like to learn the basics of working with leather, and how to use the tools I have mentioned, I offer one to one courses at my workshop in the beautiful Portuguese countryside. For more information, or to discuss creating a course to fulfill you needs e-mail me or give me a call( see contact me page for details)



Now I have the space, I have been chomping at the bit to start using my leather tools again and so I decided to get them out of hiding, dust them down, give them a bit of a clean and sharpen and introduce them to my workshop.

I thought you might be interested in meeting them too, so here is a brief introduction to some of the main players, and the jobs I hope they will be resuming very soon.

The scratch awl has a round shaft and a pointed tip. It is used to scratch a line into the surface of the leather by running it around the edge of a card template.

The stitching awl has a diamond shaped blade that needs to be kept smooth and sharp. It is a very important tool, if you want to hand stitch leather, as it pierces holes through the leather, enabling the needle(s) to pass through.

I have two knives. A straight-edged knife, and a clicker knife with a curved blade . I use the straight knife for most of my cutting, although the curved edge is useful for awkward small cuts and corners.

SKIVING KNIFE There are a variety of different looking knives for this job. Which ever one you have it needs to be kept very sharp. It is used to pare down leather, to make it thinner in a specific area, and is very useful when layers are used, to stop the leather becoming too bulky.

DIVIDERS The job i use these for mostly is for measuring an even line a set distance from the edge of the leather, where the stitching will be. It is the line that the pricking iron will follow.

PRICKING IRON This tool marks where the stitch holes are to be made. The number of the iron tells you how many marks it will make per inch. The smaller the number of marks, the bigger the stitches will be. The iron is positioned with the prongs in the centre of the line drawn by the dividers, and then hit with a mallet, hard enough to leave a mark in the leather, but NOT hard enough to pierce the leather.

RACE The race is sharp at one end .It is pulled along the underside of the leather to scrape a groove into it,making it easier to fold and bend .

BEVELLER This tool is used to shave a small amount of leather from the edge, slightly rounding it off. It gives the leather a neat clean edge.

HOLE PUNCH Used to make holes in leather for a variety of reasons such as placing rivets, studs, and snap fasteners.

So those are just a few of my leather tools and a very brief explanation of what they do. I hope you found it interesting

In Part 2 I will introduce you to some more of the gang.