Leather tool quality explanation

teter09

Well-Known Member
Hey guys! I've done my fair share of reading and video watching and research overall. One thing I believe in is getting the most bang for my buck. I've read through the stickies at the top of this forum (and even on other forums) and constantly read recommendations about tools. Usually ranging from base level, better, best type comments.

It seems it goes like this....

Base Level Tools : Tandy

Better Tools: Osbourne, Campbell- Bosworth or Barry King

Best: Jeremiah Watt, Robert Beard or Wayne Jueschke

The thing I've been lacking is an understanding of WHAT makes each level of tools better than those of the lower level. So what makes Watt tools better than say Barry King's?

And since we are talking quality of tools and bang for the buck... I have read that the Al Stohlman mallets are great, but many people believe that the Barry King mallets are of equal quality for a better price. Which tools have a bang for your buck option?

Which tools can you NOT skimp on and quality matters most?

Also, which tools don't really matter because you'll never use them so extreme that they might break or become too worn?
 
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Sanch

Active Member
Purchase what your wallet can bear and learn to use them..the majority of my tools that could be hand made were...mauls, skiver knife round knives, stitching pony...my stamping tools are gomphhackbarth way better than some of the mentioned...but I do have some Tandy stuff that works fine....so get what you can and learn what you can...
 

teter09

Well-Known Member
That doesn't really help me. What good is learning with a $10 basketweave stamp if it means additional work to make it look good? And being new, how would I know if its an issue with the stamp or an issue with me? Likewise I've seen $130 stamps (Robert Beard) that might be better but maybe someone with experience thinks that a more moderately priced tool maker's is just as good but half the price. I wouldn't know that.

If my budget is $200 for a given month, I can buy 16+ of the cheap ones, 4-6 of the middle of the road stamps or 1-2 of the upper level makers tools. So the wallet can handle what it can handle, but with no direction or assistance in WHAT to look for, I'm just as in the dark as I was when I asked the question. Also, just because a tool is more expensive doesn't mean its better.
 

smithy

Well-Known Member
I have never heard of a Robert Beard stamp, but I'm willing to bet that the metal quality is better, the design and pattern of the stamp are either more unique or more finished than the Tandy stamps. If you are going to be using these stamps to make a living, but the best quality there is. Question is, how much leather work are you planning on doing?

You might also investigate stamps made for jewelry making. Check out Indian Jewelry Supply. Or just make your own...it isn't hard. ...Teddy

Check out Craigs List also. I just scored a bunch of leather, supplies, and tools by Al Stohlman from some guy who bought all the stuff and decided he didn't like leather work.
 

rhinoknives

Well-Known Member
That doesn't really help me. What good is learning with a $10 basketweave stamp if it means additional work to make it look good? And being new, how would I know if its an issue with the stamp or an issue with me? Likewise I've seen $130 stamps (Robert Beard) that might be better but maybe someone with experience thinks that a more moderately priced tool maker's is just as good but half the price. I wouldn't know that.

If my budget is $200 for a given month, I can buy 16+ of the cheap ones, 4-6 of the middle of the road stamps or 1-2 of the upper level makers tools. So the wallet can handle what it can handle, but with no direction or assistance in WHAT to look for, I'm just as in the dark as I was when I asked the question. Also, just because a tool is more expensive doesn't mean its better.

Here is my 2 cents. I started with files making knives. Then bought a Craftsman 2 x 42 ginder, then purchased a Norman Coote 2 x 72 Belt grinder. Then after I had sold enough knives again I purchased a Hardcore Products 2 x 72 which is the one of the caddy/mercedes belt grinders.

Did I learn alot at each step and have my talents improve? Darn straight I did. do I still use the craftsman? No it finally died. Do I still use the coote? You bet. Do I still use files? Not for shaping bevels but for many other tasks. Also there are makers that stayed with a Coote and don't want anything else.

So, like Sanch replied, Buy in where you can and develop from there. along the way you gain talent and insight into what works for you and just as important, what doesn't work for you and upgrade that tool.

Also, You may find that for lack of a better term, Leather work just aint your thing. and you will have a minimal investment instead of buying at the top of the mark.

Knives and leather work have been done with simple hand tools for a long time!

Laurence

www.rhinoknives.com
 
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Sanch

Active Member
That doesn't really help me. What good is learning with a $10 basketweave stamp if it means additional work to make it look good? And being new, how would I know if its an issue with the stamp or an issue with me? Likewise I've seen $130 stamps (Robert Beard) that might be better but maybe someone with experience thinks that a more moderately priced tool maker's is just as good but half the price. I wouldn't know that.

If my budget is $200 for a given month, I can buy 16+ of the cheap ones, 4-6 of the middle of the road stamps or 1-2 of the upper level makers tools. So the wallet can handle what it can handle, but with no direction or assistance in WHAT to look for, I'm just as in the dark as I was when I asked the question. Also, just because a tool is more expensive doesn't mean its better.

ok listen i get it i was in the same boat when i "started" leatherworking so my suggestion is as follows look in GOMPH/Hackbarth they are great tools fairly priced better than china Tandy tools (which i do have the basket weave and tri weave are some of my favorite and many more) the basic 15 piece set was $115 buck there abouts. what you dont mention is the rest of your tools mauls, mallets, knives, skivers stitching setup, man many more so i think when i say what the wallet can bear maybe i should say what you can bear..good luck in your endeavor if you need help ill be glad to give my expierience my stamping tools are GH and tandy and from Zack white leather as well as anything that will make a interesting impression, my edgers are from springfirld leather, knives (head/round knives) my own making as well as my skiver, my mauls are also hand made by me (delrin) i do not use a mallet...and by no means did mean to insult or offend or confuse Sincerly Shane.
 

Sanch

Active Member
Oh and this is what my wallet could bear when i began tooling and working leather nothing high end went in to the tools used to make my own seat for my old Shovelhead....
IMG_20110809_195437.jpg
so learn your tools then progress..
 

Josh Dabney

Moderator
I agree with these guys. No need to start out high end with this stuff. I've never used any of the high end stamps but have seen friends. They are higher quality than tandy and some of the ones I've looked the were possibly CNC cut or something for super crisp definition where Tandy are cast and not what I'd call "sharp" in detail. Thyat said the tandy stamps work fine.

I think your skills will progress faster given more of the correct tools for the job sooner than having top of the line stuff to get going. That said you can invest in higher quality stamps any old time. You may find like me that you like a certain stamp like the camouflage tool and use that all the time and go for the higher end stuff in the patterns you like.

-Josh
 

teter09

Well-Known Member
Maybe I asked too much and my real question is getting lost. Goldsmithy came closest to the response I was hoping for when he was talking about metals and the quality , but he sounded unsure of the differences. When Rhinoknives mentioned the different grinders, it is kind of different because I can look at a website and learn gobs of information about each different machine. I can search online and find pictures of each machine, find many threads about advantages and disadvantages for each and probably find videos of it running. I can learn what makes each special or different and weigh the pros and cons and make a decision for myself.

There isn't any information like that about any of the leather working tools. Heck, Barry King is the only next level maker who has a website which shows his stamps/tools so a measure of quality can be seen. Most of the others I've read about only have telephone numbers and finding examples of their stamps in use is really difficult. All that I've read are that Tandy/Craftool stamps from the last 10-15 years are not good, and everyone suggests the other makers. But what makes them better? I don't want to be told whats best or that Maker A stinks and Maker B is awesome, I'm asking from those who've bought the different tools WHAT makes them better?

I assume the steel is different? Are they heavier? Are they a better length so somehow the hit of the mallet is easier? Is the stamp deeper so it shows up better? Is the stamp simply cut sharper? Is the stamp cleaner so the leather forms easier?

Does that help make my question clearer? I'm hoping to learn what differences there are between the makers stamps so I can understand what it is I'm buying. If I understand that, I think I'll be able to make better decisions when it does come time to upgrade. IF I know maker A and B use the same steel and both are hand made but Maker A is half the price of Maker B and most people can't tell the difference, then I can be confident in Maker A's product and save a bit.
 

Sanch

Active Member
Wow ok here ya go 520-642-3891 call Gomph/Hackbarth ask for brochure they will mail you a sample of impressions along with lit on the tools ask the maker I wish I had a contract name for you but it's been forgotten as for type of steel ask, the tools are hand made and can be bought individually or in a starter set..good luck....
 

KenH

Well-Known Member
Teter, what you "may" find on the difference in tools is quality of steel, difference in cast vs CNC made stamps. The CNC stamp should have a bit sharper image, and better quality steel that will last years even used for 100's of stamps/day while the cast, lower quality steel would last only a yr or so if used for 100's of stamps/day. I wonder if the final image in the leather would need an expert's eye to actually tell the difference when the tools are new.

"IF" you are only going to make a couple of sheaths/ week, and are just starting - I suspect you will never know the difference between Tandy and the high end tools. Look at Sanch's motorcycle seat for quality of work that can be with Tandy level tools (I think that was Sanch's indication). I suspect leather tooling is 99% personal skill, and 1% quality of tools.

Said another way, quality of tools is more an indication of how long the tool will last rather than how good the leather work will look when finished.

The above is written from the perspective of someone who's worked with hand tools for over 50 yrs, but only a small amount of leather engraving - and that is all with Tandy level tools.

Ken H>
 

BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
Staff member
A big part of the expense of the high end tools are that they are hand made and heirloom quality. Better wood, better fit and finish, a bit more ergonomic and a bit less production based design. It parallels custom knives vs production knives a bit. Both cut, one cuts with a lot more style and will likely out last the other. I have seen a lot more guys get in and out of leather working than get in and stay in. It's just not for everyone....just like knife making. My advice would be to get in cheaply with opening price tools, if you like it buy a higher end tool at a time and sell the cheap one to someone else starting out.

Keep in mind, the guy with the best and most tools wins...
 

teter09

Well-Known Member
Oh yeah, I am definitely in with the standard Tandy tools so far. I bought one of their kits that was on sale since it had 8 or 9 stamping tools, an 8 ounce plastic mallet, a swivel knife and even some leather projects I could practice on and it was all for $50 bucks. Another reason I was asking was because I live in Florida where to be honest we have a lot of estate sales when a family member has passed away. I like getting high quality tools for cheap and sometimes if people don't know what they have, its easy to pick up a lot of tools for $5. That is assuming I can see from pictures the quality or luck upon them in a garge sale.

Hopefully makers stamp their tools or otherwise make them easily identifiable so I'll know they are a better quality tool!
 

BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
Staff member
we really need the Sultan of Moo, Sandy Morrissey to jump in here..He makes many of his own tools and we should all do the level of work he puts out...
I'm going to send him a note to pop in.
 
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Robert Dark

Well-Known Member
My $.02............ Tandy stamps, although cast in a far away land, can get you by if you realize that they may not be the same from side-to-side (example, basket-weave).

In my opinion, don't buy "cutting" tools from Tandy (example, round knife, edgers, etc.). I bought a round knife from Tandy a few years ago, and no matter how I try to sharpen it, it gets dull before I even get it to the leather. Same with edgers.

I made a small round knife about 5 years ago out of 1095, and even though it is a tad bit small, all I usually have to do is lightly strop the edge and it cuts like crazy.

Get yourself some quality tools designed for cutting, edging, skiving, ect. You can figure out how to best utilize the lower end stamping tools.

Robert
 

Sandy Morrissey

Well-Known Member
The question asked here is in regard to the quality of the tools in regard to the investment involved. This is a hard question to answer with authority as very few of us have used all of the makes that are offered. Most of us (even us old timers) when satisfied with a tool do not feel it is necessary to replace it with one that is fundamentally the same. The tooling and carving of leather is not the same as engraving on metal and the tool definition does not have to be as sharply defined. ------- Several things should be considered when purchasing your tools. (1) Are you a beginner? If so, buy the cheapest tools you can find, and learn to use them and acquire sufficient skills to determine if you wish to continue with the craft. Eighty five percent of beginners will cease the craft in less than a year, if not sooner. Do not throw your money away. (2) Are you doing this as a hobby/avocation or as a paying vocation? Cast stamps will do nicely for the hobbiest but the tooled stamps do not fracture or bend and will last a lifetime. Purchase accordingly (3) Are you into sports equipment such as knife sheaths, gun holsters and belts, or the artsy-fartsy trade? The finer detail stamps are good for the AF stuff but not a requirement for sports equipment. Most of carved leather is fashioned into sporting equipment. I have seen magnificent projects made with cheap stamps and some substandard work with expensive equipment.The tool is not the big item but the level of skill is and is not acquired by the expense of the tool.

If one feels that the better grade of stamp is required, you might spring for the better grade of basket weave or other interlocking stamps rather than the random stamps.

Too often leathercraftsmen acquire many more stamps than they need or use. This can only be justified if you are attempting to copy others work that have different stamps from different makers. Let it be known that you will not become well known by copying the work of others!



1 I make my own stamps out of stainless steel hex head bolts. I very seldom use over ten stamps on any project and I have been beating the crap out of cowhide for seventy years. In my tool rack I currently have 30 stamps and feel that is adequate for what I do-----Sandy
 
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Robert Dark

Well-Known Member
^ The master has spoken. Pay heed to what Pappa Sandy has to say. He has been there, done that, and got the T-Shirt.

Robert
 

Josh Dabney

Moderator
Teter09, Bring those tools with you on the next trip and we'll bang something out. I'll provide the leather and show you a Sandy Morrissey sheath.
 

Paul Long

Well-Known Member
Teter09: Well, I have read this entire thread with interest and I agree with some of the advice, but be patient and read what a guy 10 years younger than Sandy says. (That still makes me old enough to be set in my ways)

1. Gomph-Hackbarth tools today are not what they were when they gained their initial reputation back in the 30s 40s and 50s. The reason? The original makers are dead!

2. Craftool brand (Tandy) from the40s 50s and 60s were and are rally good tools. I've got a lot of them. They cost about $1 to $2 then

3. The top custom makers named ( Baird, Jueschke, King, Watt etc.) are all great and what they bring to the table is the highest quality which is defined in steel material, design, exact and equal dimensions (Hyper critical in basket weave, and other geometric designs). Baird is known for his VAST array of different tools and he is the foremost maker for the figure carvers. Top quality tool steel and each tool is signature gun blued. Quality is the best in general but other makers equal that quality. Jueschke, in my opinion, has no equal in the precision and exactness of his basket weave and geometrics, and his quality is equal to Baird. King and Watt have some of the "favorite odd pieces" in my collection of about 300 stamps. Also very good quality but on a scale of 1-10 only about 7 compared to Jueschke, and Baird, but way the hell above the current LF/Tandy cast stuff. Tools from these makers can and do cost from $40 to $100 with an average of about $50 to $70. To me, at my level of experience and the fact that like Sandy, I've dedicated over 60 years to the craft these tools are worth every penny.

NOTE: I HAVE OVER 300 STAMPS AND I REGULARLY USE ABOUT 20 OF THEM:9:

Now that you've digested that last paragraph, let me be quick to say that a beginner or novice really doesn't need to spend the big bucks right away because, let's face it, at this point in your learning curve you don't have the expertise to drag everything out of an expensive tool that it is capable of. The much lesser expensive tools (i.e. Tandy etc.) will do an adequate job until your skill progresses and you'll know when that happens. When it does happen I would suggest you spend your first big bucks on a Jueschke basket weave #1 and then your choice of three or four of his different geometrics. Along about this same time in your development you should pick up a tool here and there from the top makers just because it tickles your fancy. It is with these tools that you will further your individual style. In other words you stop copying and start originating.

The other hand tools on your bench are equally important two or three different weight mauls (any good brand will do, I have three and each from a different maker). A good set of plier punches (Osborne is good). A really good round knife, (I have six) learn to use it and you'll never go back. A number 2 edger, and a number 5 Creaser, both the best quality you can afford. They both come in sets of 5 but those two numbers are about all you will ever pick up. Then there is the drive punches and strap end punches and 20 or 30 other hand tools you will eventually acquire as needed.

If I haven't worn you out by now it's coming to and end pretty quick so hang on. If you are really sure you want to do this leather thing then I reluctantly toot my own horn and that of my friend Chuck Burrows. I have three sheath making DVDs out and Chuck has one or two. They are not cheap, BUT I guarantee they will shorten your learning curve immensely,and in my case, if they do not do that for you, I'll buy the darn things back.

Now, my friend Sandy posted some pretty good wisdom just ahead of me and I'll call on him to keep me honest.

Sandy: correct me wherever you feel necessary.

Good Luck my young friend.

Paul
 
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