Prepare, Sustain, Thrive and Survive Simply

Getting Crafty With Leather: The Secret to Cutting Clean Edges on Soft Leather

Cutting nice, clean edges on soft leather, like buckskin, can be next to impossible. It is especially exasperating when cutting the laces and fringes that are often a big part of soft leather craft projects. Here is a tip that will result in smooth and professional looking cuts.

leatherHandcrafts are an important aspect of simple, self-reliant living.

One of my favorites is leather work. When it comes to thrival and survival, several hides and basic leather working hand tools are on the list of prepper necessities.

If you plan to make anything with soft leather, you will want to adopt this technique for cutting clean edges.

Buckskin is a velvety soft leather used to make clothing and accessories. Cutting a clean edge on a buckskin hide, or any similar soft leather, can be a challenge. The hide will want to buckle and move, making it really hard to get a clean, professional looking edge. The multiple cuts required for many laces and fringes can be particularly exasperating when trying to cut soft leather.

Tools Required for Cutting Buckskin Fringes and Laces

  1. Buckskin hide
  2. Long metal straight edge
  3. 12” ruler and awl (optional)
  4. Utility knife with fresh blade
  5. Masking tape – wide as possible

Prepare the Work Area  

Use a workbench as long as your hide. Cover the surface with something that gives, such as a smooth piece of vinyl floor covering. Poster art board can be used if nothing else is available. The idea is to cover the surface with a material that the point of your blade can sink into. This will lengthen the life of the blade and provide better control as you cut the leather. Do your best to avoid creating seams that the knife will ride over. If you have to deal with a seam, make it as tight and flat as possible.

Examine the Buckskin

Lay your buckskin hide out grain side up. The grain side of leather is the smooth side where the animal’s hair once was. The flesh side is the rough side that was next to the flesh. When cutting fringes and laces in soft leather, consider that the backbone area is strongest and longest.

Apply Tape Before Cutting

Now flip the hide over flesh side up and apply strips of masking tape along the entire length of the area to be cut. The tape backing provides stability to the buckskin while you are cutting it up.

Turn the hide over, grain side up again. Install a brand new blade in your knife and lay the straight edge where the first cut will be. For a clean cut, it is important to make one smooth slice all the way through the leather hide and tape. Hold the straight edge in place by putting pressure on it with one hand, while cutting with the other. Make sure no fingertips are hanging over the edge. Once you have cut a piece of your finger off by having it hanging over the straight edge (like I have) it becomes easier to remember to check the position of your fingers before making a cut. After completing the first cut, don’t move the leather. This will further stabilize the hide as you continue to cut.

Remove the Masking Tape

When you are finished cutting, peel the masking tape off of the back of the leather. The tape will come off easily and you will have fringes and laces with nice smooth edges. I have done this many times, and the tape has never left marks or stains on the flesh side. However, once, when I put the tape on the grain side, parts of the surface came off when I removed the tape. That is why I only recommend taping the flesh side.

Article by Estar Holmes, published at




This entry was posted on January 24, 2013 by in Simple Living and tagged , , , .
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