For centuries, leather has been one of a crafter’s favorite materials for making fashionable and utility items. It is loved for its natural appeal, which radiates the native, boho kind of vibes.
In addition to making adorable gifts, the other reason why leather is loved is its formidable strength. Its fibers are tough and create some of the most durable goods.
To customize and elevate the aesthetics of this timeless material, leather is usually engraved with letters or designs. If you are new to leatherworking, leather engraving is the best way to add some pizzazz to leather crafts and give them a personal touch.
What are the best tools for engraving leather? The best tools for engraving leather are handheld rotary tools or laser engravers. These tools make engraving easy and efficient but should be handled properly and with the right protective equipment for safety.
If this is the kind of artwork you’ve been thinking of doing with your leather items to make them truly special, this post will be of immense help. We discuss the various leather engraving techniques, the tools you’ll need, and the five best leather engraving tools to help you get started.
Choosing A Leather Engraving Tool
If you are not familiar with leather engraving, it is the process of carving or etching into the leather surface to create permanent marks. These marks are a monogram that establishes a pattern or lettering for personalization, decoration, sentimental messages, or branding.
There are a couple of factors to consider before settling for a particular tool for leather engraving. Let’s quickly go over them.
Before buying leather engraving tools, you have to decide on one technique to execute the job. There are three: hand engraving, motorized engraving, and laser engraving.
Hand engraving utilizes manual tools such as a burin, graver, and a swivel knife that cuts into the leather manually. You can also use stamps with sharp edges designed to cut into the leather rather than merely pressing it down to make a depression, as with round-edged embossing stamps.
Another option is a handheld electric engraving device. Because leather is pretty soft compared to wood, metal, and glass, you do not need super powerful tools with a high RPM. Even the battery-operated stylus engravers work wonderfully. This technique utilizes burr bits rotating at high speed to forge the leather surface. It can be corded or battery-operated.
Laser engraving is the third and most efficient technique for engraving leather. A laser engraving machine utilizes a beam of light to mark the leather rather than cut it into it.
It makes the most precise marks and is very accurate, which is perfect for intricate detailing. However, it is an expensive device and probably not something an occasional leather crafter would want to invest in.
The other thing to consider is where you are at with such crafting and the skill set needed. Tools will often be labeled as professional, intermediate, or beginner level, so choose engraving tools accordingly.
In addition to considering the difficulty level, you must also think about the skills necessary for the chosen technique. If you are more of a handyman and want your leather goods to be handmade the traditional way, you are better off with hand engravers. Although the process is time and labor-intensive, the results turn out beautiful.
Still, it can be excruciating on the fingers for first-timers, and you risk cutting yourself if not careful. It would be best if you also were consistent with depth, or else you ruin your expensive leather.
Motorized engravers also require some hands-on skills but are easier on the fingers and don’t require any muscle work. It is like engraving by hands, only instead of guiding your hand, you’ll be controlling where the burr bit goes. The device does all the engraving for you. These tools work with fast and produce vibrations that can take some time to get used to.
If you are not familiar with using these kinds of rotating power tools, you have to practice. Go slowly and carefully to avoid making mistakes. But if you really know your Dremel or other power drilling tools, this should be a walkover.
Some people want less hands-on experience, faster and neater results, or lack the skills to carve things by hand carefully. If that sounds like you, you’ll benefit from a laser leather engraver.
However, you need a different skill set here, and that is computer literacy for setting up the machinery, as well as designing. Unlike the other two, where drawings can be transferred using stencil or freehand, laser engraving must be done using an app on a computer or smartphone.
You might find it to be complicated if you are not gadget-savvy.
Manual and motorized hand engraving tools for leather are much cheaper than their laser leather engraving counterparts. But the high price tag is justified by how much faster and efficient their performance is.
Compared to hand engraving, the accuracy of the results, particularly with intricate designs, is on another level. Plus, you can make multiple items quickly when repeating the same design. You can even engrave pictures! And laser engravers work on a multitude of different materials.
Since laser leather engraving tools require a significant capital investment, they are best for anyone in the business of engraving leather items. But if you want something for just engraving things at home every once in a while that is low budget, you’re better off with a hand engraving tool, whether manual or electrical.
That said, it is better to buy kits when it comes to engraving tools. With the kit, you get many other tools that you will need to work your sheet of leather into a finished product. Unless you are going to engrave ready-made leather items, buying each tool separately may not be cost-effective.
Another important budgetary consideration is the craftsmanship of the leather engraving tools. As with any other device, you get what you pay for.
Low-cost tools are usually made from cheaper materials and may not last as long. So go for devices that are a combination of reasonable prices but made from robust materials.
Steel is one of the best materials for leather engraving tools. If you’re going for the motorized versions, you want to look for tungsten carbide or diamond tips. A solidly built tool will cost you more but will last longer and is cheaper in the long run.
Size And Weight
Choose tools that are ergonomically shaped and light in weight to prevent any hand and finger fatigue. Engraving leather must be done slowly and carefully.
If you have multiple pieces to do or a large pattern, you can easily experience muscle pain with heavy and clumsily huge tools.
Type Of leather
There are many types of leather depending on the cut, processing, and finish. Contact engraving using blades or bits produces terrific results with full grain and top grain vegetable tanned leather.
If you intend to engrave faux, pearlized, painted, and other types of leather coated with a finish, you are better off laser engraving.
The Best Leather Engraving Tools
When it comes to engraving tools for leather, the market is seriously saturated. Without proper guidance, you might end up selecting products that are not up to the task.
But as promised, this article has already done the heavy lifting for you. Without further ado, let’s quickly look at the 5 best engraving tools based on performance, customer reviews, budget, and skills for the various crafters’ needs.
|1.||Dremel Stylo+ Rotary Tool||Electric, rubber grip, 6 tips, up to 22,000 RPM|
|2.||Tidalpool Easy Etcher||Lightweight, diamond tip, cordless, 10 stencils|
|3.||Dremel Engraver Rotary Tool||5 settings, carbide tip, lightweight, vibrating|
|4.||Butuze Leather Craft Set||20 stamps, steel, sharp|
|5.||LaserPecker Laser Engraver Machine||Portable, lightweight, app-controlled|
1. Dremel Stylo+ Rotary Tool
If there’s one power tool brand name every handyperson is familiar with, it has got to be Dremel. But unlike the big heavy-duty models you’re used to, this is a smaller, less powerful version with leather and other delicate materials within its capabilities.
The stylus-shaped electric engraver is narrow with a slick design and ergonomically shaped for maximum comfort. It has a rubber grip shaft that ensures a steady hold as you engrave.
It comes with 6 engraving bits for both general and detailed engraving with small sizes for precision. The speed is adjustable between 5000 and 22000 RPM, enabling you to switch gears depending on your experience, confidence, and skill level.
The tool runs quietly and doesn’t heat up even after hours of engraving. It is a corded model, reliable, and won’t die on you unexpectedly as some battery-operated engravers do.
The Dremel Stylo+ is a well-constructed, versatile, easy-to-use tool. It is the best tool for leather engraving designed with the everyday home crafter in mind.
2. Tidalpool Easy Etcher
1st runner-up is the easy etcher. The slim-bodied pen engraver is made from aluminum, making it lightweight and easy to handle for long hours without feeling fatigued.
It comes with two diamond tips and extra tips for texture effects. There are also 10 stencil sheets with letters, numbers, shapes, and various designs.
You’ll love that it is conveniently curved in at the tip where your finger rests and has a rubber shaft to provide the traction needed when operating vibrating tools. A control button is strategically located at the fingertip to pause the tool.
Its 12,000 RPM motor provides adequate power to engrave leather, and the speed is adjustable to your needs. The easy etcher is not only a top performer but a silent worker too. It runs quietly on a pair of AAA batteries, and you can take it with you to work from anywhere.
3. Dremel Engraver Rotary Tool
The second runner-up is this engraver from the Dremel brand. Like its predecessor, it is a keeper and gives exceedingly amazing results.
The difference with the other engravers is that this is a vibrating tool, so do not expect its bit to rotate. Yet, the same detailed precision is achievable with a bit of skill and patience.
It comes with 5 power settings on a dial, and the higher you go, the deeper it engraves. The carbide tip it comes with is replaceable with a diamond tip (bought separately).
Other than that, you can expect a powerful performance with this corded tool that makes 7,200 strokes per minute. It is perfectly sized and shaped for the palm, lightweight, and versatile.
You’ll be capable of jazzing up your leather at the lowest setting, and you can use the higher speeds for more rigid surfaces or tougher items.
4. Butuze Leather Craft Set
If you still enjoy doing things the traditional way, then the Butuze leathercraft set will take you there. It has the best tool for engraving leather by hand.
There are 20 stamps in a range of popular designs, one swivel knife, and one leather mallet, which is everything you need to get started engraving leather in an artisanal way.
The tools are made from robust steel. You can buy them with the confidence that they will last you a lifetime. All the cutting edges are also very sharp and do not dull with time.
5. LaserPecker Laser Engraver Machine
Laser leather engraving doesn’t always mean going bulky, heavy-duty, and splurging thousands of dollars. If it’s something you’d like to give a go at home, there are various entry-level models to kick start your passion, like the LaserPecker pro.
It is small, portable, lightweight, and has the same efficiency as commercial models but on a smaller scale.
LaserPecker pro comes with a couple of accessories to get you started right out of the box, including a USB charging cord, ruler, working mat, goggles, etc. With a power bank and smartphone, you’ll get this little wireless gizmo performing in no time.
The laser engraver features an in-app control mode that enables you conveniently design, upload, edit, and preview designs from your smartphone. Its blue laser beam effectively engraves leather with 0.15mm precision accuracy, which is quite impressive for a compact device like this.
Another cool feature is the autofocus stand that has built-in sensors. These detect the ideal focal distance to the target and auto-adjust height accordingly.
There are plenty of safety features for beginners, including auto shut down when it overheats, password locks, and motion detectors. It is also CE, FCC, FDA, RoHS, CDRH, and IEC 60825-1 certified, which is the ultimate safety guarantee you want for peace of mind.
If you are a leather hobbyist looking for a laser leather engraving tool to test the waters and get your feet wet, this unit is a great starting point. But for large-scale artwork, you may have to upgrade to a bigger, better model.