Book binding

Burnishing leather edges – A quick way to make your DIY leather books look professional

As a self-taught (and still learning by the way!) bookbinder, I’m always looking for ways to give my leather bound journals a more finished look. Leather working is a field in and of itself, so many artists spend years mastering this craft! Even so, I came across the process of leather burnishing recently, and wow – it’s such a simple and easy to way to give a finished look to your leather edges!

Quoting from this website:

“Burnishing is the process of buffing leather edges to a slick, glossy finish. Burnishing is aesthetic – it looks nice to have the shiny edge. But it also serves a functional purpose. When you burnish leather, you seal the cut edge by applying friction.”


To learn how to burnish leather, I looked at quite a few videos on Youtube. As you look through the videos, you learn there are so many different ways to burnish leather. You can use wax, you can use water, you can use a special oil….there are even all kinds of tools available to burnish leather. I tried the water and wax methods first, but they didn’t really work well for me (not sure if I was just doing them wrong….)

For my purposes, I wanted a simple and easy way to burnish leather. Unless you’re dealing with large volumes, I think this approach works pretty. I found this video quite helpful in learning the process. Since the leather used in books can be thin, I found this approach to work best for me.

Here’s what you need:

  1. A leather burnisher – I bought this slicker from Amazon and it works well
  2. Tokenole – this is the ointment that you’d use for burnishing

Then, all you have to do is follow the process in this video. You apply a really tiny amount of Tokenole on the edges and then rub the edges with the slicker, till the edge becomes smooth and shiny. It takes just a few minutes!

Here’s an example of before and after. See the difference?

I highly recommend leather burnishing as a super easy way to give more polished look to your leather products! 🙂

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