Industry Tips

Petal Lifting 

By Ed LaBarre 

Petal lifting is the best way to bring the magic and life to your leaves and flowers. The use of under shot bevelers, that some call petal lifters, just cannot achieve anything even close to what hand-held petal lifters can do!  

 Petal lifters are cutting tools, so they need to be sharp; if they aren’t, they just won’t work correctly. But be careful, as they will cut you just as easily as they do the leather. There are a few really good petal lifters available, but of course I’m partial to the ones I make.  

 The basic action to creating stunning lifts is sweeping the tip from side to side to cut the channel into the leather. Twisting like a screwdriver opens and stretches the lift. Also, moisture content is very important: too little and it will squeak just before it rips open, too much and it will split when you are cutting in the channel. 

 The objective is to wind up after lifting, with a channel depth that is about half the thickness of the leather. If it’s too shallow, there is a possibility of ripping through the surface; too deep and you will punch a hole all the way through, which could damage your petal lifter if doing this on top of a tooling stone. So, I suggest either putting down a cutting mat first or finding a better place to do your lifting.  

In most of my lifted areas, the lifter goes into the leather about 3/8 inch to as much as 1/2 inch. This is plenty to achieve the desired effect.  Usually, the lifted area will be about 1 to 2 times the thickness of the leather you are working with.    

Step 1: When cutting in, try to cut approximately 1/3 to no more than 1/2 the thickness of the leather.   

Step 2: I always bevel the inside curves first. It’s important to bevel deep as you are setting the bottom of the lifted areas. 

Step 3: The beveling around the whole leaf or flower should be smooth and uniform.  

Step 4: Matting is one of the most important steps that unfortunately is often omitted. It’s a very necessary step to set the bottom level of all the lifts.   

Step 5: Lifting is only done after pear shading and adding micro veins.   

Step 6: When lifting, once you start cutting, sweeping the tip from side-to-side cuts the channel. Remember, you are wanting the very tip of the petal lifter to be centered in the thickness of the leather. Too deep means you will go all the way through making a hole; too shallow and you’ll cut through the surface leaving a jagged ugly rip. And, if your finger happens to be in the way, you will wind up with a bad cut! So, pay attention and be careful. 

Step 7: Cutting in at the proper angle, 3/8 inch to possibly 1/2 inch, will give you the best results with the highest lifts. 

Step 8: Up to now, we have only been creating the channel. To create the lift, gently twist the petal lifter. But, go slow to give the leather a chance to stretch.   

Step 9: This is how I use my other fingers to create a fulcrum for better more controlled pressure.  

Step 10: When done properly, the lifts can be 1 ½ to 2 times the thickness of the leather.  

Step 11: Background adds depth and separation, making your leaf or flower stand out. 

Happy Tooling, 

Ed “The Bear Man” LaBarre 

Photographs Courtesy of Ed LaBarre