Looking for suggestions on where to find laser safe leather so I can cut and engrave.
Really any leather that is vegetable or oil tanned is safe. Do NOT use chromium tanned leathers.
What type of project are you thinking about? That can help narrow down what weight/thickness, temper and species you want to get (cow, lamb, goat…). If you don’t understand those terms, please educate yourself about them and different leathers before you buy.
Thickness is the first thing–Proof Grade “thin” and “thick” really means nothing in the world of leather. Leather is sold by the ounce. PG thin is about 2 oz, and their thick is about 4. I work with 1 to 10oz leathers for various projects, mostly etching, though some I do cut, or at least score so I can finish cutting by hand (I’ve been working with leather much longer than I’ve had my GF).
Also there are loads of other threads if you search for “leather” that some already name some sources.
There are many sites you can buy by the piece, or order bundles of scraps, until you’re ready to jump into buying by the side or full hide. (Montana Leather Co has 2 size options in addition to hide, another user loves Springfield Leather & there’s a thread about them, and good info). There are lots. Even on eBay or Etsy there are loads of leather sellers.
But it’s best if you can visit a store in person, and most larger cities have a Tandy or other store, and if your lucky, more than one! And some sell scraps (by the pound) in their stores (it’s how I started by playing with pieces out of the scrap bins at MacPherson Leather in Seattle–I now get hides, and have my own scrap piles!).
Im planning to make patches for hats, apparel, etc.
Well, you still have a lot of choices, but veg tanned and 3-8oz is a range I’ve seen used for many patches. If you like the PG “thick”, then look for natural veg tanned like that.
And if you plan to dye or stain yourself, you want undyed or natural–often sold as/marketed for tooling leather. Also for saddles, but that gets into 10oz and thicker.
But there are lots of finished leathers–the better ones are “thru-dyed” or “struck through”–meaning they were in the dye vats long enough for the dye to go thru the full hide, vs. cost saving of less time so only top & bottom have the color, but in the cross section you’ll see white…
But watch some leather making videos and decide what other tools you need. An edge beveler is a must in my book for any quality leather work. And natural/undyed veg tanned edges can then be burnished for a really nice polished finish, or design may suit leaving as-is–you’ll want to remove the soot from the etched & cut areas (I like a bit of soap on a toothbrush–most leathers I’ve used are no worse for it–undyed veg tanned sucks up the water, but dries fine–or you can mold it at that point, too!
And before scaling up to buying hides, recommend you get a snap gage for leather (many are pricey, but there are less expensive versions), or calipers, to check thickness. Advantage to the snap gage is it’s like a “C” so you can avoid the very edge, which on leather hides can be different than the body.