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Shaping Strap Ends Using Leather Punch Tools

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

Leather punches are great tools to use for leatherwork. They make quick work of cutting out shapes that would otherwise require a fair amount of accuracy and precision. We use leather punches quite frequently in our workshop. There are a variety of different punch shapes and styles out there. Here, we will share how we use half-round and V-shaped punches to shape strap ends (video follows at the bottom of the page). Before we get started, let's cover some important things about tool maintenance.

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How to Get Clean Cuts & Protect Your Punch Tools

Whenever using any punch tools, it is important to use them in a manner that will increase their longevity and performance. That means protecting your tools and choosing the right surface to punch on. How can this be done?

1. Having a sharp punch is a must. If the tools are not sharp, your cuts will not be as clean, and you will have to work harder to get the punch to cut through the leather. Much like a knife, you will at some point want to sharpen your punches. There are sharpeners you can purchase for this task, but what can be done to keep the tools sharper for a longer timeframe -and also help prevent little nicks from getting in them?

2. Using the proper surface for punching is also extremely important. If your tools are sharp, but you are still noticing it takes lots of effort and numerous whacks to punch through your leather, double-check the surface you are punching on. Often, we might assume the tools are bad or dull, when it is actually the punching surface that is the culprit. So, what should you use? There are many varying opinions on this, but a quick Google search will reveal that granite blocks topped with poly cutting boards are commonly used, as well as punch pads. If using a punch pad, see #3 below for more details.

3. Not all punch pads/cutting mats work as well as others for certain punches! For example, we will demonstrate in the video below how one punch pad allows us to punch through leather using half round punch with relative ease, while another pad (using the same tool) requires a bit more work. They both look very similar, but we have found them to be very different in their performance. With that being said, the pad that didn't work as well for the half-round punch worked really well for punching rivet holes (and protecting our blades when skiving).

Using Punch Sets for Straps and Belts

Half-round and V-shaped punches are commonly used for shaping the ends of leather straps, strap connectors, belts, etc. With these tools, you can get clean and perfectly shaped cuts. They are easy to use, but if you want good results, there are a couple of things to note.

1. Make sure the punch is centered on the end of the leather strip. If the punch is positioned incorrectly, it will likely result in a wonky shape.

2. Use a punch size that matches the width of the strip you are punching (or slightly larger). Avoid using a punch that is smaller in width than the strap. For example, in the video, the black strap is 1" wide {25.4 mm}. If there was a 25.4 mm punch in my set, it would be the perfect size for punching the strap end. However, the punches in my set come in increments of 5 mm, so there isn't a perfect punch size to fit my strap (the 25 mm is 0.4 mm too small). Since my strap width falls between the 25mm and the 30 mm punch, I would go up to the 30 mm punch rather than down to the 25 mm (more on this in the video tutorial).

3. Use a mallet or maul with a good bit of weight. This helps with getting cleaner cuts, and with fewer strikes.

4. I recommend practicing a few punches on scrap leather before using the leather designated for your project. You will get the hang of it in no time!

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