Thursday, April 23, 2015

Making a Leather Feather

Here is an interesting project that can be completed in an afternoon. From start to finish, you can have your very own 3D leather feather.

These are the materials you will need to complete this project.

Materials needed:

• 6” x 15” Light weight leather piece (2/3oz or 3/4oz)
• 18ga. Wire
• ½” x18” (3oz) strip of deer or chrome tan leather
• Stylus
• Swivel knife
• B202L and B202R bevellers (Leaf Liner tool)
• Modeling tool (Spoon and Ball)
• Hair blade (fine)
• Craft knife (shears or round knife could be used if preferred)
• Eco-Flo Block Out Resist Finish
• Contact Cement
• Safety Skiver, or round knife
• Acrylic paints (Ivory & Dark Burnt Amber)
• Brushes
• Optional: 12”x12” Crescent mat board

Use the pattern below and re-size it (The length of the feather pattern should be 13.5” long). Prepare your leather piece by applying your casing solution to the entire leather. Turn the leather upside down onto your granite block to allow the water to penetrate down into the fibers. While you allow the leather to get ready, you can prepare your work area for this project.

Trace pattern onto your cased leather. If you are using a Xerox machine to make your copy; there is no need to transfer the copy onto velum or other tracing paper you normally use. You can use this copy to transfer your pattern directly onto the leather after casing it.

With your preferred swivel knife, cut all of the pattern lines. Remember to cut at least halfway through the leather, which will enhance the look after your beveling. Bevel both sides of quill using B202L and B202R making sure to use on the correct side to correspond to the direction of the feather's fibers. Beveling should be fairly deep.

From the back of the feather, lightly emboss the quill using a small ball modeler or a stylus to help give a rounded look to the top side of the quill. Also use a modeling tool to round off the beveled edge of the quill on the front of the feather.

Using your hair blade cut your fibers on the main body of the feather. Starting at the bottom of the feather, pull the blade from the quill all the way past the outside border of the feather. Pull the hair blade firmly against the leather to make the fibers of the feather very prominent.

The lines should have a very slight curve and keep the same angle until you near the last third of the (top) quill. At that point the fibers should start to change their angle (upward towards the tip) until they come nearly straight off the quill at the top of the feather. Repeat this on the other side of the feather.

Using a craft knife or round knife, cut around the perimeter of the feather. Do not cut off the loose fibers at the bottom.

Using a safety skiver or round knife skive the back of the feather so that the last 1/2” is very thin. The skiving should be tapered from farther in and end up paper-thin on the edge. If you accidentally cut out a divot while skiving, your piece is not ruined. Just keep going.

Using a craft knife cut very thin fibers below the main part of the feather. Do not cut all the way to the quill. Leave 1/16" to 1/8" distance from the quill, so that the fibers don't break off easily.

Cement a piece of light gauge wire on the underside of the quill for more stiffness to the finished piece. Cement a narrow strip of very light leather on top to cover the wire.

Because feathers are rarely perfect, make 3 or 4 cuts on one side of the feather starting about 3/4 of the way from the edge and following the line of the fibers. DO NOT makes them equal distances apart. (If you cut out a divot while skiving, that is a good place for one of these cuts.) Make 3 or 4 cuts on the other side, but DO NOT mirror the cuts from the first side.

Brush Block Out heavily on both sides of the feather. While wet shape the feather.

Hints for shaping:

• Pull loose fibers at bottom apart from each other and bend them so they are uneven and "messy.”

• Along outside of feather, curl edges under a little.

• Where you made your cuts along the sides, twist the top corner of the cuts to give them some shape

• Curve feather up so that it is a little higher in the middle if laid on its back.

• When you are done shaping, set aside and allow Block Out to dry completely.

Painting the feather

When most people think of a bald eagle feather, they envision a feather from a juvenile bird that is transitioning from the brown to the white state. They are extremely beautiful in that state and painting your feather that way makes for a very striking project. You can, of course, paint them any way you like.

It is a good idea to look at images of feathers on the internet for ideas on how to paint them. Remember that there is no right or wrong on the pattern. Each bird's feathers look a little different and various stages of transition will have differing patterns on the same feather.

Apply dye/paint by Stippling with a brush. “Stippling” is another term for keeping your brush perpendicular to the leather and bringing it down rapidly applying dye/paint to the area. With a loaded dye/paint brush, try to blend the two colors while making your way down the feather. Your dye/paint will lighten as you use the Stippling action with the brush.

Additionally: With the scrap pieces of leather, we encourage you to make smaller leather feathers that can be used as pendant or ear rings. Take a look!

Credit: I would like to personally thank Mr. Jim Linnell of the Elk Tracks Studios for his effort, passion and desire to pass on the techniques of leathercraft. He has opened up his knowledge to me and countless others and I appreciate it.

I hope you enjoyed another leather project brought to you by The Grain Side Up! Thanks for following my blog. Stay tune for more projects for 2015.