Tooled Leather vs Hand Tooled Leather

What is the difference between Tooled Leather and Hand Tooled Leather?

Hand Tooled Leather

Machine Stamped Leather

In today’s fashion industry, one finds many choices of decorative leathers in handbags,belts,boots, wallets and decorative leather objects.  Since many of us love the ornate decorative look of these objects, ways have been found to bring this originally hand crafted art to mass production.  So much so that it is helpful to know the difference between machine produced tooling and hand tooling.  So some basic facts:



  • The term “Tooled Leather” means leather which has been worked in some way to be decorative as well as functional.
  • The designs on tooled leather range from the simple to the ornate, and they are part of the artistic tradition of many nations. Numerous examples of leather crafts can be found for sale around the world, ranging from Italian boots to Western saddles.
  • Hand Tooled Leather refers to the designs stamped, carved, burned or painted onto leather by hand.  The artist may choose to use one or more of these techniques to create a unique piece of art.
  • Hand tooling is done only on full grain leather so tends to be on a thicker leather to allow for the depth and beauy of the design to be carved or stamped into the leather.
  •  Industrialization has allowed companies to create tooled leather with the use of machines, making it much more affordable for consumers. Tooled leather belts, shoes, and jackets are very common, along with mass produced saddles, upholstery, and similar leather goods.
  • Hand tooled leather is generally more expensive. Hand-tooled leather goods can truly be works of art, especially when they come from the studio of a talented leather worker.
  • People who are interested in tooling leather can find the basic tools at many craft stores and in shops which specialize in leather working. Leather working classes may also be offered in some communities, as well as video and correspondence courses.

Sources: The Wise Geek

Stohlman Museum


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