Leather question #1 #2 #3

I have my “saved” recipes in a set of 3 ring binders. since they look ugly according to the wifey, they are stashed away from the kitchen.

I suddenly remembered that I had a glowforge and and realized that I could make leather covers for the binders, so they look spiffy and can remain in the kitchen area :slight_smile:

so the question #1 is what weight of leather should I use?

and #2 would be how much should it be “oversized” to fit easily over the binder.

#3 what stiching spacing thread size should use? these are hard vinyl binders.

thanks all.


#1, I’d say that’s kind of up to you. You’re going to have the original binder structure under it so this will just be an aesthetic layer, so you’re kind of wide open here. I’d go to a Tandy location (or equivalent) and see which leather feels right to the touch.

#2 good question. Again, kind of depends on your intent. You’ve got a lot of options and requirements depending n how you’re covering it.

#3 Not sure. if you’re stitching through the existing cover then it’s not that important again, because the stitching won’t be where it gets its structural integrity – that would come from the binder structure. I’d recommend tandy again, because the people that work there love a good project and will have all kinds of advice.

I know the intent here is to have some fun and make things, but in case you’re thinking about it from a economics standpoint, it’ll be difficult to match the price of a premade leather binder.

From the basic:

to the ornate:

You’ll be hard-pressed to get a similar result for less money.

  1. Start with what type of leather you want to use before worrying about which weight. (chrome tanned, veg tanned, tooling, suede, pigskin, etc) They have different properties besides appearance.
  2. This will depend on your sewing skills, selected thread weight and the specific leather you end up with. Making up a test piece/pattern in cheap felt is always a good idea. Start with 1/4"-3/8" larger than your binder pieces and account for extra length for wrapping around the spine. (Taking measurements from a binder laid out flat will definitely come up short)
  3. Stitch spacing also depends on your leather and thread choices. Err toward wider spacing - perforating leather with a lot of holes just weakens it and makes it prone to tearing. You can’t unpoke a hole in leather.

WOW, those are pricey. :slight_smile:

my deal is I spent a Lot on BEAMER, and he sits in the office very very lonely. SOOOOO he needs to get busy. so making a cover that is Engraved is gonna be the really fun part of this project. also because I have other stuff I need/want to do in leather and this is as good of a starting project as any.

Luckily we do have a TANDY here locally. So I can certainly roll past there and get a “feel” for the weights. so that is a great suggestion. and by going OVER a binder like a book cover will certainly increase my options

So I will get by there as soon as I can.

thanks for all of the tips.


as it will get engraved VEG tanned is the first parameter that is set in stone.

Gotcha on the laying the binder flat. I had to make some book covers in my past school life, well WAY PAST LOL

got a chuckle at your UNPOKE comment. just like you can’t stretch that 2x4 you cut 1/2" too short.

well I will update when I got something going.

there is ANOTHER leather project on the horizon. just not there yet.

gotta do this one first. along with making a bunch of floating shelves, which won’t be on the glowforge.


No it isn’t. Almost any genuine leather is fine to laser. The chrome tanned thing has never been shown to damage the laser (correct me if I’m wrong here) and oil tanned is similarly fine.

Dan himself has posted leather projects with chrome tanned leather.

While different tanning processes may yield different types of fumes, you don’t want to be breathing any fumes from leather, regardless of tanning method. So, make sure your vent setup is working properly and (imo) the type of leather tanning process is irrelevant.


Hmmm… i always thought it veg tanned only. i wonder how I missed that memo.

I have great ventilation.


When you get to Tandy and start pawing all the leather @ekla’s point #1 will really hit home. All the different surface finishes and textures make a huge difference.

I try to go with veg tan in general but I’ve got some oil tan and chrome tanned stuff that I like a lot too.

  1. A 2-3oz veg. tan would be a nice choice.

  2. 1.5mm stitch hole. A 3mm distance is a prefect distance between stitching holes.

  3. You definitely want the height of your leather cover to be the same height as the vinyl covers. If the leather is larger with the height overtime the leather cover will start to bend.

  4. You will need to experiment with the width. You want the leather to be pliable so it can easily wrap around the vinyl notebooks.

Have a great time creating your covers.


Well, he said it was to be engraved. Although it all cuts, veg-tanned does take to engraving better in my experience. Likewise I prefer chrome tanned for tooling (after scoring/engraving the pattern that I can then follow with the applicable tools to impress the design in the leather).


I have used chrome tanned a few times, as well. No leather project I’ve ever made was large enough to pose any problems.


Thanks for all of the input everybody!

I knew that winging it would just be dumb. so I figured I’d tap all of the brain stored energy around here.

I will post the results. :slight_smile:


I haven’t noticed this before, but then I admittedly don’t engrave too much leather nor was I paying attention to if there was a difference wrt tanning method. All my leathers are different colors and weights so engraving performance is wildly different between say a heavyweight black oil-tan cowhide and a lightweight white chrome-tan deerhide liner.

The two pieces engrave very differently, but in this scenario I figured the physical limits of the leather and color contrasts are much larger factors than the tan method. Do you have any pics of what you mean about the difference between veg and chrome?


I’ve made a couple of large book and notebook covers, so if you want to chat more feel free to message me. You’ll be looking at quite a few stitches, a standard 3-4 mm diamond setup would be perfect. Honestly for the sizes of the standard binder I don’t think you’ll be able to use the proof grade leather since it’s not big enough. There are a few different size recommendations I have that might help in regards to the thickness of the leather, but in the end you’ll want what what works your budget best. There are some snafu’s I’ve ran into on my last project that I’d recommend you check out my post on it here

Now that solution might not be the best for your situation and that’s fine but there is much I learned from this petticuler instance that really did help shape my projects going forward.


Genuine Leather is not a real thing. There is cow hide, top grain ect but “Genuine Leather” is not real leather but a phrase used to make those who have no idea what they are looking at , think it’s the real deal. Here’s an article by a leatherworker who’s been in the business for years has put together.


Unfortunately no. What leather lasering I’ve done in the past few years has been for engraving and I’ve been buying from Tandy (we have a local store that gives me a Makerspace discount - I think because I used to get their First Responder discount and the manager felt bad I didn’t qualify after I stopped riding on the ambulance). So I get decently priced veg tanned pretty easily.

With chrome tanned leather, the metallic salts used seem to leave more of a carbon residue when engraving that then needs to be washed, wiped or otherwise cleaned off - more so than veg tanned seems to. Also, there are metallic compounds used in many of the colored chrome tanned leathers that apparently do the same thing with regards to carbon production/residue.

I was using low-power cuts (“scores” in GF parlance) to outline tooling patterns in chrome tanned when I was doing tooled pieces. That worked very well and because it’s only a kerf width being burned, I didn’t get the carbon residue I got from engraving. But it gave me perfect patterns to use stamps and irons on.


I don’t know about the semantics.

Real leather. You know, hide. Not plastic. Not sure who would have been confused about my meaning but if someone was… then that’s what I meant.


That’s how I took it. Actual animal hide.

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Thanks for the link. Never knew that about leather.


When I started getting into leatherwork I wanted to know why my wallets never lasted more then a year, and that’s the reason I found after research. I actually found it several different sites but that one was worded the best for everyday readers not in the know, so I try to keep it handy.