Leather paddle tutorial
by Spankart, 5 August 2008.
This tutorial explains step by step how to make your own leather paddle.
The plan is to make a double-layered leather paddle without sewing. We will use the strongest available type of leather such as is used for the soles of shoes. The resulting paddle is 8 mm thick, as heavy as a wooden one and stiff with just a little remaining elasticity, for a good thud.
Material and tools
- a piece of hard, heavy leather, about 4 mm thick
- cardboard, pencil, scissors
- a cutter knife
- cobbler's glue
- something to press
- something to grind/sand the edges
- a bit of dubbin
Before you start, it's a good idea to give some thought to the exact shape and size of paddle you want to make. I sketched a couple of designs before I knew what I wanted to go for. I chose a not too big size: 30 cm by 8 cm (12" by 3").
To get the shape exactly symmetric, the cardboard is a simple and effective tool. Fold it in half, unfold it, then draw the shape on it, aligned to the fold. Then fold it again and cut both halves together.
With the pencil, copy the shape to the leather and cut it out with the cutter knife. You may want to cut a millimeter or two bigger so you'll have some extra material to grind away later when finishing the paddle. You will not be able to cut a leather as heavy as this in one go, so take your time, don't apply too much pressure and patiently work your way around again and again until you're through. Make sure to put a cutting board or an old piece of wood or carpet underneath.
Repeat the process for the second layer. If you've done a good job with the symmetry, the two pieces should fit together. Sand the sides that will be glued together and wipe them clean. The surface must be dry, free from dust, grease and dirt. Apply the cobbler's glue according to the instructions on the glue. In my case, this meant application on both sides, 15 minutes drying time, setting together, pressing firmly, and letting set for a few hours.
Finally grind the paddle so that both sides are exactly level. I used a small grinding machine which was very practical. Bevel or round all edges. Finish off with sandpaper. At last, apply a very little bit of dubbin if you have some (alternatively, grease or petroleum jelly will do) — not too much — and rub it in. This will seal the surface and make it look nice.