O, WHAT’S NEXT?
By Bruce Johnson
One of the common scenarios I see is this: You have gotten into leatherworking as a small hobby with an entry level kit, found you like it, and want to step up to better quality tools. I’ve been there in a time period when there wasn’t as much information…and not as many tool makers and sellers. There wasn’t as much information available and not as many makers. We now have a lot of choices at several price points for shop and leather tools and you may not know quite where to start. I will share my insight as a leather worker and now seller on moving ahead in a somewhat logical way. This is all based on what type leatherwork you do, tools you need to improve your work, your budget, and then how to help yourself pay for those tools. Remember, you don’t need to upgrade everything at once or buy complete size ranges. Progression over time as you determine your needs and budget allows is fine. Let’s get started…
The first thing to upgrade in a set is your striking tools for tooling. For most tooling, the wood or lightweight plastic mallets do not have enough mass to do much except make you strike something 10 times that can be done once with the proper tool. There are a few good makers of mauls and mallets designed for leather work. The head material, shape and handle material are all factors to consider. The choice of maul or mallet is personal preference. My opinion is that everyone needs a 1# of which ever style you choose. It is a good general size for most tooling and hardware setting – you can choke up for a lighter touch or swing it for more force. Whether you choose to get a lighter one for small face stamps, like seeders and bargrounders, and a heavier one for bigger stamps, will come with time, but many people find a 1# is their workhorse for general tooling.
You will want something heavier for punches for sure. Some people go with a large dead blow hammer from the tool stores and some move to a heavier maul or mallet to use on both large geometric stamp and punches. I used a three-pound dead blow, and wore out three of them, before I stepped up to a 3# maul, which has done more than the three dead blows put together. It really depends on your anticipated usage.