Usually, the first question people ask is “What tools do I need to start doing leatherwork?” and the answer is kind of unsatisfying. Leatherwork is an umbrella term that encompasses everything from saddlemakers, cobblers, armorers, and more. The tools needed to get started in any of the different interests might be radically different. What I recommend is to choose the first thing you want to make. Say that is a belt. You should then get the tools and supplies needed to make that item. There are a great many tutorials on youtube that can give you examples of what tools you will need to make a basic belt (or other item) all the way up to adding tooling, designer finishes, etc.
I recommend AGAINST buying Leatherworking Kits.
Keep in mind, these kits are put together by people whose job is to sell tools. Frequently, these kits are made up of cheaply made tools and contain many tools which most leatherworkers never end up using. So in the end, the tools you do use will have to be replaced since they won’t hold up to wear, and you wasted money buying extra tools you don’t need.
In my opinion, the first item you make should be something you will use, even when it isn’t a masterpiece. And your first piece will not be a masterpiece. If you’re one of those people who can’t abide not being instantly good at something, then leatherwork isn’t for you. Not only are leatherworkers ALWAYS improving their skill with each piece, but things like muscle memory and hand training takes lots of repetition and time to build. They are just as, if not more, essential than the leather or the tools.
But if your first item is something that can be useful to you, even if it is not the prettiest thing ever, then it is easier to see the value of the craft and continue pushing forward to gain skill.
A note about things you will NOT find on this list;
I do not have any Tandy stores listed. The reason why is because IN MY EXPERIENCE some Tandy stores care more about selling tools and leather than they do about actually selling someone what they need. I have also had some employees be very derisive towards makers who work on fetish gear, and I can’t tell you how many people I have had to re-educate because Tandy told them veg tan leather was vegan friendly.
I understand that for most people Tandy is close and they prefer to purchase their supplies in person, but just keep in mind that their goal is to sell you things, not make sure you have what you actually need. For those of you aspiring to be professional leatherworkers, Tandy is not an acceptable source of material for professionals for various reasons.
What You Will Find On This List
These are all professional sources for supplies. Most have Wholesale programs which can give you discounts if you have a resell number, but all accept retail sales.
The list includes a wide price range for all categories, all the way from cheap scrap leather to high-end handmade tools and industrial machines. It also includes many sources from outside the US. If you’re nervous about ordering online, I will say in ten years of business I have yet to have a tannery not try to make things right if an order goes awry.
Without further rambling, I give you THE LIST.