Tag Archives: leather

119: Leather Twist Earrings Tutorial

Cutting leather was one of the first projects we did on the laser, way back in Week 3: Leather Cuffs.  While there really isn’t much new to say about the cutting and processing of the leather, I thought it would be fun to use some of the properties of leather (flexibility!) to make unique, laser cut earrings.  And, to make sure this post has something I’ve never done before, you’ll be getting a step by step tutorial!

Supplies Needed:

  • Leather, about 1mm thick or less.  One color, or 2 colors, whatever floats your boat.  (Pacific Leather has a great description of use by thickness of leather)
  • Leather cutting apparatus (we obviously used a laser, but Cricut machines can do it, and you could also use a simple blade or rotary cutter)
  • Ear wires
  • Jump rings (7mm or larger suggested, depending on your thickness of leather)
  • Two pairs of pliers, preferably smooth needle nose so you don’t damage the findings (ear wire and jump rings)

Step 1: Templates

Freehand paper template

For me, I actually had to make a hand cut paper version of this, just to understand the mechanics of it, and then transfer it to the computer.  I was having a little trouble envisioning the 3D-ness of the twist.  Luckily for you, I’ve done all the hard designing work for you, and you can print out this paper template.  Use it if you want to see how the mechanics of the twist works before cutting the real thing on your machine of choice, or as a guide if you are cutting by hand.

Get your earring template here!

This template is just for ONE earring.  If you want a pair, think about how you want the second earring to look.  If you’d like it to look the same, print out a second copy.  If you’d like your final earring to be mirrored (as I do), flip the template!

Step 2: Cut!

Cut your leather!  Refer back to Week 3: Leather Cuffs for specifics in laser cutting leather, and remember, it’s a sooty job.

Step 3: Twist!

What I did was make sure the holed lined up, and then gently wrapped the leather around each other. You can’t really twist like when you make paper twist – you still want the final product to lay flat.  So, a two dimensional twist, I guess.

Make sure you have two pieces where the zig zags are opposite each other
Lay one strip on top of the other.
Hold the base and gently start to wrap the pieces around each other.
Keep on twisting!
Fully twisted, holes neatly lined up on the ends.

Step 4: Fold in half!

I wanted to make the back look as nice as the front and create a little visual interest with a loop.  You can make your fold as sharp as you’d like it, or as sharp as the leather will let you.  Make sure the holes line up.

The length of twisted leather folded in half, so the ends, and all 4 holes, line up.

Step 5: Assemble!

Home made ear wire on the left, commercially made on the right, 7mm jump ring below.

Assembly can be  a touch tricky, as more commercially available ear wires have tiny loops, and will not accommodate 4 slices of leather.  I did try them on my homemade ear wires with a bigger loop, and while they did fit, they did not swing as well.  My final solution was to use a 7mm jump ring to thread through the holes on the ends of the leather strips.  This holds the dangle part together.

If you are new to jewelry making, here is a great Instructable on how to open jump rings properly.

Leather strung on the 7mm jump ring.  Ignore the fact I used a toothy pair of pliers.

To attach the ear wire and keep the earring’s orientation (aka – show the twist from the front not the loop) you have two options.  1 – put a second jump ring on to connect the ear wire to the jump ring you already have holding to leather together or 2 (my choice) – twist the loop on the ear wire so the hole is perpendicular to the hook.

Quick visual on how to twist the ear wire:

Hold the ear wire with two pairs of pliers. Make sure the pliers have a good grip on the whole loop, and the neck of the ear wire so you don’t distort the metal.
Twist the pliers in opposite directions so they are perpendicular
Wide loop is on the left, ear wire as manufactured on the right

Then open the loop like you did the jump ring and hook the jump ring on the dangle on.  Close the loop, enjoy your earring!

Step 6: Do it all again to make a pair!

How to make the alternate design on the right:

Alternate design – don’t twist! Just fold the stacked leather strips, continue on from there.
When the leather is not twisted, the strips don’t sit quite as nicely, and you can see by the bowing inside the loop. A dab of glue will fix affix it.

I hope you have fun trying this out!  You can also shake it up by only using the curvy strips, or the zig zag strips.  The design and tutorial is by Jennifer Putzier of Isette, copyright 2017, and is shared for personal use only, please!

47: Engraved Leather

Poor broken spine!
Poor broken spine!

My favorite binder is showing some wear and tear. Not a surprise, considering I’ve been using it for the past 20-odd years, since I was a little girl. It holds a legal pad, has a pocket for papers, and has more sentimental value than anything.  It’s made of inexpensive plastic and has the name of my father’s family business hot stamped inside.

So simple inside but it's perfect!
So simple inside but it’s perfect!

Not ready to part with it, I though I’d put my bookbinding skills to use and repair the spine with a strip of leather.  Leather is a traditional material for book spines; it’s flexible, but strong.  To use leather in bookbinding it should be thin; I happened to have some 1mm thick leather that was too thin to use for Leather Cuffs we made back in week 3.  To make it unique (and a project worthy of the blog!) we tested out leather engraving.

The leather is quite thin, and it had gotten quite wrinkly being stored away.  To smooth it out, we applied transfer tape to the back.  It held the piece nice and flat, and gave it a little more weight in the laser bed.  I taped the back because I wasn’t sure the tape wouldn’t ruin the finish on the front.

Top strip is wrinkled; the middle part has the tape backing.
Top strip is wrinkled; the middle part has the tape backing.
Gigantic ABCD
Gigantic ABCD

The design I chose to go with was the scalloped one Ryan made for one of his giant Abecediaries, and he kindly filled in a strip so we could see what the engraving would looks like (the original is just vector lines)

Tests of leather - 10%, 30%, 45% and 50% engraving power
Tests of leather – 10%, 30%, 45% and 50% engraving power.  The first one (on the far right) got a bit singed!  

The photo above shows all our tests, and top half has been cleaned with leather conditioner.  The final verdict was a medium engraving at 45% power, and the cut was at 25% speed (relatively quickly, so no more singed  edges!)  The spine of a book is a rectangle, pretty simple shape, but I added the slits at the top and bottom to help the book close.  Leather folding on itself can get a little bulky, so the slit prevents this.

Finished with the new "binding"
Finished with the new “binding”, with the Rock Band guitar peeking out from behind, oops.
Here is how the leather bends - quite nicely!
Here is how the leather bends – quite nicely!

When we first cut it, I was afraid the engraving would be too subtle.  Once it I cleaned it and let it dry, the contrast works!  My trusty binder has most recently seen me through my first semester teaching.  Hopefully the reinforcement will make it last another 20 years!

20: Leather Key Fob Strap

It’s the big 2-0! Jennifer worked on some leather a while back, but when our dear friend Brenn needed an elegant way to attach one of his new key fob to some spare keys, I volunteered to try my own hand at some fairly riveting work.

Prototypes, including a rivet I positively smashed before realizing how to hammer them.
Prototypes, including a rivet I positively smashed before realizing how to hammer them.

It didn’t take long to determine the leather to use based on the size of the opening available. I didn’t spend much time doing preliminary measurements, so you can see from the iterations that both length and rivet hole placement changed often. While I wasn’t ready to rivet with the first three pieces, I had better luck with hole placement on the fourth. Unfortunately, I discovered that you can hammer a rivet too hard and it got crushed at an unpleasant angle. Thankfully, the final strap had better luck with the hammer..

My second rivet attempt worked wonderfully.
My second rivet attempt worked wonderfully.
This leather cleaner and conditioner is an extra step, but totally worth it.
This leather cleaner and conditioner is an extra step, but totally worth it.

I was determined to etch “Brenn’s Spare” on the leather, but the etched surface was hard to see.  Thankfully, when I cleaned and conditioned the leather (mostly to get rid of smelly laser scorched edges) some of the rub brightened up the letters significantly. I hope they retain some of that brightness over time.

The leather conditioner brightened up the etch considerably.
The leather conditioner brightened up the etch considerably.

The trickiest part of this project was entirely due to my disinterest in doing some measurements beforehand. I just grabbed a piece of leather, decided on four inches to start, and went nuts. I was thrilled to discover that I had enough space to fit some nicely laid text on instead of trying to squeeze it in. I was also lucky that it only took five tiny bits of leather to get it right.  Now finished, I’m left wondering if Brenn’s main set of keys can feel envy.  Perhaps they should be given the custom treatment, too!

I positioned the rivet so that there would be little space for the ring to slide around.
Lookit that swanky set of yet unkeyed key fobbery!