Leather Paring

I’ve been doing a little research into leather paring. For those of you not into using leather in your books it’s the term for shaving down leather so that it’s not as bulky in some areas, like for turn ins and around the spine. I became interested in it because I was making leather place marks for my moleskine knockoffs. When I used a full leather piece along the spine it left a large lump that sometimes was more noticeable than I wanted it to be, it also made adding the hollow back more difficult. So I started thinning the leather with a flat exacto. My blade was too thin so it snapped. Then I tried a click-knife with some success. I was able to thin down the leather quite thin but not enough. I wanted the leather under the hollow back paper-thin.

Using the click knife and the exacto led me directly to my toolbox and a somewhat unusual tool- my paint scraper. You know one of those tools 100 different companies put out for a couple of bucks used for scraping paint off the windows when you over paint? Yeah, one of those. Mine is old and filled with acrylic paint and old printers ink (A required tool for my printmaking course back in college- used it for scraping ink off the tables.) I put in a fresh blade and started to scrape away with the same motion I used with scraping the paint. Thin slivers and dust scraped off the back of the leather, Different pressures resulted in different cuts- some very bad.

I’ve gotten it now to the point where I can shave the bookmarks down to a paper thin edge that is barely noticeable on the spine and tapers up to full thick ness in about an inch.

I’ll post some pics and details later,but I noticed several key points- don’t do it on your expensive cutting mat- very bad things happen. Scrape on a sheet of plexi or better yet glass, and make sure it’s clean a small [piece of dried glue or leather shavings results in tears and cuts through the surface. Some leathers perform better than others- sheepskin didn’t perform so well but cowhide was great. Deer did well too. This technique dulls the blade very quickly, I went through a 5 pack in my trials.

More thoughts and pictures when I don’t have to go to work.