Homemade Hand Tool Cuts Leather Clean and True
I’ve got a thing for humidors. Despite the fact that I don’t smoke cigars, I love the challenge of building a high quality box for housing fine cigars. The humid environment inside a humidor poses some challenges if you wish to build a piece that lasts the test of time, and I’ve figured out a few tricks along the way to make my boxes go the extra mile in terms of handling moisture fluctuations without stressing my joinery.
Recently I began using leather for one of my components and realized I needed a simple way to cut leather cleanly and precisely. I tried using a straightedge and a sharp utility knife but I found that even the sharpest of blades had a tendency to tear – at least slightly – when making the cut. The dragging motion of a knife just didn’t work. What I really needed was a nice chopping cut.
Using a piece from an old bandsaw blade and some quartersawn oak scraps I had laying around the shop, I came up with this simple “chopper.” The blade is simply set atop the leather you wish to cut, then a couple of blows with a mallet and BAM – you’ve got a perfectly crisp cut in your leather. Works like a charm!
To build this simple leather cutter, I used a piece of an old bandsaw blade and an oak scrap.
After the epoxy dried, I ground a 25-degree angle on one face of the blade blank on a wheel. Then I honed the edge much like I would any chisel. The result was razor sharp.
I made a shallow cut into the edge grain on the bandsaw to accept the old blade. Then I simply epoxied the blade into the saw kerf. Since I set the blade into the oak with the teeth headed into the wood, I actually gave the metal a few taps with a hammer, embedding the bandsaw blade's teeth into my oak.
My first project using the leather chop was a success. This divider for the interior of a box is meant to have a friction fit. I needed to cut and glue leather pads onto the end grain of each side of the piece. As you can see, the cuts are clean and sharp.