Book binding

New to bookbinding? Here are 7 simple tools that can make your DIY leather journal look really good!

I love the feel of a nice leather journal 🙂 When you start out in bookbinding, making a gorgeous leather journal is really what you’re hoping you’ll be able to make one day. But making a leather journal is not easy. Leather is a tough material and the first few attempts at a leather journal can make you realize that you have a long road ahead of you.

I’m a beginner myself. Yet. I’ve found that a few tools can really help improve the quality of your leather journal, and make it look much more aesthetically appealing.

  1. Neatsfoot oil: If you want your leather to feel soft and supple, use Neatsfoot oil! You can apply Neatsfoot oil right at the end, once you’re done making your journal. Here’s a detailed post on what is Neatsfoot oil and how to apply it.
  2. Good leather scissors: Leather is a tough material, and a sharp leather scissors will make your job much easier. Invest in a good pair of leather scissors to obtain smooth, clean cuts in one go. A quick search on Amazon will give you plenty to choose from.
  3. Tokonole: When you cut leather, it has a “raw” look to it. It still looks nice and you can choose to keep the edge as is. Or you can burnish the leather edge to give it a slightly darker and more finished look. This is where Tokonole comes in. Here’s a detailed post on how to burnish leather edges with the help of Tokonole and a leather burnishing tool.
  4. Wood burnisher: This is the leather burnishing tool mentioned in the above point. A simple wooden, hand held leather burnishing tool works just fine. See this post on how to burnish and the tool I used.
  5. Leather stamping tool: Have you seen those medieval leather journals with really interested patterns on them? You can achieve that look with the help of stamping! There is a large variety of stamping patterns that you choose from – here’s my post on how leather stamping can really help your journal stand out!
  6. Leather stencils: You can also cut out interesting shapes in your journal cover, with the help of leather stencils. These are nothing but sharp dies that can be hammered into the leather, to cut out the shapes you desire. Check out this post on leather stencils and how to use them.
  7. Leather paring knife: When making a hard bound leather journal, you need to be able to fold thick leather over the board, without making the edges too thick. This is where a paring knife comes in. A paring knife allows you to cut out layers of thick leather, resulting in a thin edge that can be easily folded over. Watch this video to see a paring knife in action.

It goes without saying that using good quality leather is also going to go a long way in giving your product a great look. So far, I’ve found that full grain veg tan leather looks great. To minimize the environmental impact, I use leftover leather scraps for my books (I buy from this shop on Etsy). You can do the same!

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