The Way - the SA Leather Academy

The leather
Where we train fine leather craftsmen
Where does leather come from
Leathercraft is an art of love......but before you can become a
master crafter you will have to learn patience, respect for and an
in-depth understanding of the properties of leather. You have to
know your medium and the crafting techniques.
We trust this introduction will give you the insight, the love, the
understanding and the skills to recreate the classic beauty of
yesteryear and create your own style for your tomorrows.
This ancient craft was kept alive by a few stalwart hobbyists who
followed the traditional rules of Leathercraft and the willingness
to share that hard earned information. It is these few who have
made this presentation possible. What is written in this course was
tried and tested and made available by the grace of the Leather
crafters who for years collected all the information in the same
precise way they practice their hobby.
The job
After determining the product that will be made, sometimes after
consultation with a client who wants a customized bag, several
decisions have to be made. What type of leather will be used? What
style design method will be followed? What should the color be?
What color stitching and style of putting the product together?
Will it be saddle stitched, laced or buck stitched?
Will the leather have to be decorated?
What type of fittings, buckles, rings, etc will be used?
When discussing the design, the starting point is usually to
determine what the product has to achieve.
The size must be determined, the method of access and
The customer should know beforehand what the product
would feel like.
Choices in leather crafting
A leather crafter has two main choices; he could follow the North
American style - originally influenced by the Spanish and later the
Mexicans and American Indians who crafted well, but also
decorated their leather with colour and 2 dimensional leather
carving, this style is alive and well in South Africa, specifically as the
result of the many writings of the British and American crafters
Valerie Michael, Al and Anne Stohlman, Buck etc. Opposite to this
style is the more stark and functional style of the British
cordwainers and Europeans who made practical items of use out of
But what does a leathercrafter do? He makes articles out of leather
or repairs leather articles of classical value. This can be done
because of his in-depth knowledge of the crafting techniques that
dates back to the fourteenth century. This is what the training
program of the SA Leather Academy teaches you.
Tools of the trade
The tools of the leathercrafter have remained virtually
unchanged during the past 100 years… much so that
handcrafters are normally willing to pay a premium for these old
tools as opposed to the new ones made in the USA and Republic
of China. These days South African creative crafters are
manufacturing sets of hand made tools to ensure quality, keen
edges and long term use.
Leather craft tools
Stitching and the how
Edge bevelling and creasing
The credo
The work starts.
The design is made into a pattern that is transferred to the leather
for cutting out.
The decorations should be done, if any and then the process of
putting the whole object together starts.
This is a time consuming task as leather is extremely unforgiving
and mistakes are expensive.
Every square ten centimeters of leather (decimeter) damaged
becomes a loss.
The advantage of handcrafted items is the quality control that the
puritan crafters put into their work. They follow the age-old
traditions and are proud of the fact that they can still produce the
fine work quality of the ancient craftsmen.
Modern cost saving techniques, like cheaper stitching thread,
coloring dyes, maintenance oils and soft cast fittings are ignored
like the plague.
"This is still the real thing" is the credo of the craftsman.
The result
• I received the bag this evening. The bag you created from
my scant description is absolutely incredible---and easily
exceeds my best expectations.
• I have been searching far and wide for this bag, and my
search covered four countries: South Africa, Austria,
Holland, and Norway. The bag I received this evening is
of a better quality than the best bag I found on my search.
You truly are a master craftsman. I am honored to be an
owner of your handiwork. Thank you.