Leather hardening has been around for such a long time that one might think that there was little left to discover, but [Jason F. Timmermans] certainly showed that is not the case. Right around the end of 2018 he set up experiments to compare different techniques for hardening leather, and empirically determine the best options. After considerable effort, he crafted a new method with outstanding results. It’s part of his exhaustive testing of different techniques for hardening leather, including some novel ones. It was a considerable amount of work but [Jason] says that he gathered plenty of really useful information, which we’re delighted that he took the time to share it.
According to [Jason], the various methods of hardening can be separated into four groups:
- Thermal: heat-treating at 180 ºF or higher, usually via some kind of boiling or baking process.
- Chemical: soaking in a substance that causes changes in the leather. Some examples include ammonia, vinegar, acetone, brine, and alcohol.
- Mechanical: hammering the leather.
- “Stabilizing” methods: saturating the leather with a substance to add rigidity and strength without otherwise denaturing the leather itself. Examples include beeswax, pine pitch, stearic acid, and epoxy.
We recommend making the time to follow the link in the first paragraph and read the full results, but to summarize: heat-treating generally yields a strong but brittle product, and testing revealed stearic acid — which resembles a kind of hard, dense wax at room temperature — was an early standout for overall great results. Stearic acid has many modern uses and while it was unclear from [Jason]’s reasearch exactly when in history it became commonplace, at least one source mentioned it as a candidate for hardening leather.
But the story doesn’t stop there. Unsatisfied with simply comparing existing methods, [Jason] put a lot of work into seeing if he could improve things. One idea he had was to combine thermal treatment with a stabilizer, and it had outstanding results. The winning combination (named X1 in his writeup) was to preheat the leather then immerse it in melted stearic acid, followed by bringing the temperature of the combination to 200 ºF for about a minute to heat treat the leather at the same time. [Jason]’s observation was that this method “[B]lew the rest out of the water. Cutting the sample to view the cross section was like carving wood. The leather is very rigid and strong.”
The world may not revolve around leather the way it used to, but there’s still stuff to learn and new things to discover. For example, modern tools can allow for novel takes on old techniques, like using 3D printing to create custom leather embossing jigs.
While it’s arguably a bit closer to the “Arts & Crafts” region of the making spectrum upon which we don’t usually tread on account our l33t sense of superiority, we’ve got to admit that the quick and easy notebook customization demonstrated by [Sean Hodgins] is very compelling. We don’t put ink to dead trees with nearly the frequency we used to, but when we do it might as well be Hemingway-style with a little black Hackaday emblazoned notebook.
As demonstrated in the video after the break, the process starts by designing the stamp in your CAD package of choice. For optimal results [Sean] suggests fairly large capital letters, but with practice you should be able to get into some more creative fonts. Potentially you could even use the logo of your favorite hacking blog, but who are we to dictate what you do?
Whatever you chose, it needs to be mirrored and placed on a relatively thick backing. He recommends a 2 mm thick “plate” with the letters raised on top. You’ll want to print it at a high infill percentage, but even still it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes or so to run off. Remember there tends to be diminishing returns on infill past 50%, so taking it all the way to 100% is not going to do much but expend more time and plastic.
Once printed, [Sean] hot glues the stamp to a block of wood since putting pressure on the printed piece directly would likely crack it. Then it’s just a matter of getting your notebook, printed stamp, and blocks of wood lined up in to a suitably beefy bench vise. Getting everything aligned is one of those things that easier said than done, so expect to mess up the first couple until you get the hang of it.
When the alignment looks good, crank it down and let it sit for a few minutes. If you’re embossing the design into actual leather, wetting it a bit before putting the pressure on should help. The final effect is understated but undeniably very slick; and with the Holidays rapidly approaching this might be an excellent way to knock out some legitimately thoughtful gifts.
Ultimately the idea here is something of a lightweight version of the 3D printed press break dies used to bend aluminum or the punch and die set used for steel plates. At this point it seems there’s enough evidence to say that 3D printed objects are certainly strong enough (in compression, at least) to put some legitimate work in.
Continue reading “Easily Deboss Notebooks With A 3D Printed Stamp”
No, you can’t print in leather — at least not yet. But [Make Everything] has a tutorial about how to produce a custom leather embossing jig with a 3D printer. From a 3D printing point of view, this isn’t very hard to do and you might want to skip over the first six minutes of the video if you’ve done 3D printing before.
The real action is when he has the 3D print completed. He glues the stamp down to some wood and then fits the assembly to a vise that he’ll use as a press. After wetting the leather, the wood and 3D printed assembly sandwiches the piece and the vise applies pressure for ten minutes. He did make the leather a bit oversized to make alignment more forgiving. After the embossing is complete, he trims it out.
Continue reading “Leather Working With A 3D Printer”
Why do people drop hundreds of dollars on designer goods? The easy answer is that, in theory, the goods are worth the expense. The materials, craftsmanship, and attention to detail are all top-notch and culminate in the finest finery money can buy.
So, would you spend hundreds of dollars on a designer wallet? If you have leather crafting skills and a thrift store nearby, you could just follow [Corter Leather]’s example and make your own. He found a diamond in the rough—a genuine, well-loved Louis Vuitton bag languishing in a secondhand shop. The leather bottom and handles were dry and worn, but the signature LV canvas was still in great shape. Never crafted leather? If you can’t get free scraps for practicing, then deconstructing cheap, used stuff is the next best thing.
To isolate the canvas, [Corter] carefully removed the bag’s handles, bottom, liner, and zipper and then popped the rivets and peeled the backing from the fabric. He drew up a pattern in Illustrator that pays homage to the illustrious designer’s wallets and cut the pieces out of 3oz vegetable tanned leather using card stock templates.
[Corter] brought his A-game to the details. Every visible edge is painted Italian red, which he applied with an awl for a crisp line. The larger pockets have hidden stitches that keep cards from drifting to the bottom and throwing off the shape. No need to open your wallet to see how he did it—just watch the video after the break.
Though it technically isn’t a real Louis Vuitton, a thief wouldn’t know it until later. Maybe [Corter] should add a pickpocket alarm.
Continue reading “DIY Designer Wallet From Designer Bag”
As a beginner’s step towards the famous Top Gear V8 coffee table, [English Tea] converted a small single cylinder engine into a desk lamp that uses the mechanical actuation of the piston to turn on and off. No able-bodied engines were harmed in the making of this hack as this one was already a corpse — perfect for [Mr. Tea] to prop up and display in his home.
Regrettably lacking a lightsaber, he settled for 30 minutes on a hacksaw to split the cylinder followed by some sandblasting to clean all the rust, paint, and gunk off all the internals. Once it was clean he repainted it himself. Between paint and clearcoats, he figured he added 20 layers onto the metal.
Next he created some wood sections and wet-formed leather over them which he later dyed black. Caring less about a new Walmart lamp than the motor, he vivisected it for its electrical components and wired it up.
Without a crank on the shaft it looks a bit awkward to twist the lamp on or off, but, only enough pressure is needed to poke a latching
momentary pushbutton and it seems to work just fine. For any readers looking to make their own, dead compressors and gas power tools are fairly common and nearly free at the junkyard. Engine-based projects can be intimidating to start if you need a working engine again at the end. Becoming familiar with them on a project like this where you are mostly only using the engine as a building material is an easy way to get your foot in the door.
See the video after the break of the piston bumping the light on and off.
Continue reading “Bisected Engine Makes Cute Lamp – Still Cranks”
After [Travis]’s media server died a couple months ago, his brother [Nick] secretly plotted to replace it for Christmas. Admitting it to be an “asinine Rube Goldberg” arrangement, [Nick] wanted something custom and remarkable for his sibling. Rather than go the normal SATA route, 38 USB hot-swap laptop drives were clustered together inside a custom leather enclosure with a bronzed glass top.
[Nick] picked up 45 of the 500GB drives for only $350 and designed the project around those. He spent $1000 on matching metal docks for each of them, powered by $800 worth of PCIe quad independent USB controllers – no hubs. A $550 Xeon motherboard with 14 USB ports, 16GB of RAM, a basic video card and a 1000W power supply rounded out the electronics.
Under Windows 8.1 all drives are arranged in a single giant array under Storage Spaces, no raid.
Everything was built into a wood-framed coffee table wrapped in high-end leather that [Nick] spent 65 hours hand stitching himself. Fancy brass corner braces hold the frame square. All the wires were run underneath the table so the visible surfaces are clean and clear. The table structure is lifted up on legs made from half-inch square barstock bent into a hairpin and bolted to the underside.
All together [Travis]’s Zerg-Berg media server cost in the range of $4500. [Nick] intends it to be something that lasts him a very long time.
See the video below for [Nick]’s
rationalization explanation of the hardware and methods chosen.
Continue reading “Brother Builds “Zerg-Berg” Coffee Table Media Server – 38(!) USB Drives”
Yes, Kindles are wonderful, a computer full of PDFs are awesome, and [Tim Berners-Lee] will probably go down in history as more important than [Gutenberg]. That doesn’t mean there’s not something intangible about books that brings out the affections of so many bibliophiles. Even a book filled with blank pages can be a work of art unto itself, and most of the time these volumes are handmade.
This video of a hardbound volume made by Smith Settle bookbinders covers the entire process from words on a page to a finished book. No, they’re not using movable type; the folios are created using lithography, but sorting, gluing, sewing and binding the folios is done in much the same way as it was done in the middle ages.
Next up is a wonderful film from 1968 by Iowa state university on creating the gold tooling on fine leather-bound volumes. You’ll be hard pressed to find a book with gold tooling nowadays, but it’s still a technique accessible to the industrious amateur bookbinder.
First, gold leaf is applied to the leather spine of a book. Then, custom-made tools are heated to a few hundred degrees and pressed into the leaf. The heat bonds the gold with the leather, and with custom-designed tools designs are burnt into the leather. After that, the excess leaf is simply wiped off, and a fine tooled leather book is born.
What’s really cool about bookbinding is the fact that just about anyone can do it. Go to a craft store, pick up some hardboard and paper, and bind yourself a book. You could make a blank journal, or for the nerds out there (myself included), make a hard bound volume of the NASA wiring standards.
Continue reading “Wherein Books Are Judged By Their Cover”