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The Leatherworking HandbookI have been interested in learning about leatherworking for quite some time now. While essentially it is just sewing, it is a specialized craft and I had a lot of questions I wanted answered before I stepped into the craft.  Question like: how do you use a sewing awl and do you really want/need one? what is a stitching pony? how do you dye and finish the leather? and what kind of leather should you use and why?  Surprisingly there aren’t a lot of coherent and cohesive sources on the internet, in fact I was amazed at how few blogs there are dedicated to this.  I also enjoy woodworking and there is no end to the blogs and sites that discuss that craft and from all sorts of perspectives. But leatherworking has very few and if you know of any tell me about them.
So I decided to purchase a book about leatherworking, “The Leatherworking Handbook: a practical illustrated sourcebook of techniques and projects” by Valerie Michael. I chose this book over the others available on the market because of the author’s leatherworking style. The projects in this book are more european and modern, while most of the others available are western (as in the Wild West) and while I like western movies, cowboy boots and hats, the type of leatherworking I am interested in is the more sleek european style.
The author, Valeri Michael, is described as having more than twenty years of experience (at the time of publication) as a professional leatherworker.  And while I have no reason to doubt that, the book didn’t read as if from someone with tons of experience, instead it read as a simple instruction book. Now to be clear, the book is everything it claims to be, it is an illustrated guide of leatherworking techniques and projects, but I was hoping for more. I wanted a book that gave tips and tricks from an artisan of the craft. I wanted a discussion on the strength and weaknesses of different techniques and materials. I wanted to feel like an apprentice serving under a master while I read this book. But instead I just got a basic instruction book with pictures and project ideas.
After having read this book I believe I have enough knowledge to work through the projects in the book and then on to others.  While some of the methods could have been better served with more detailed illustrations and description, the book gives the reader a strong enough foundation to discover what was meant and to move forward. Methods that could have been better served with more time include the dying, dressing, and preserving of the leather.  As well as a lengthier discussion about alternative leather (chromium tanned vs vegetable tanned) and methods (machine stitched versus hand stitched). While, I still have some questions I know that because of this book I have a firm understanding of the basic techniques of leatherworking.