[caption id="" align="alignright" width="269" caption="Gears design, cut
on the cricut and tooled."][/caption]
Recently, our friends Ariel and Andy inspired me to try using the Cricut
(a 2D cutting plotter that can be controlled with third-party software
called Sure-Cuts-A-Lot) to assist in leather-tooling and provided some
leather scraps to try with. (I'd tried with the wrong type of leader
before without useful effect. Ariel suggested that it is necessary to
use tooling leather.)
Of the various leather scraps I tried, it appears necessary to use
reasonably thin "tooling leather" with the deep-cut blade holder. The
normal blade holder doesn't provide enough clearance (this seems to be
one major difference between them). Setting the blade to a depth of
around 4-5 seems to work fine (I haven't extensively tried other
depths). In addition to using the deep-cut blade, I also tried using a
modified bit that I made (from sawing down a nail of the same diameter
of the Cricut blades) and it seems to score the leather somewhat in a
way that can come out better with a wash.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="290" caption="Fleur-de-lis
pattern before coloring."][/caption]
I tried two patterns to experiment with: for the first one I used a
fleur-de-lis pattern built into the Cricut. For the second pattern, I
used a Steampunk-style gears design that I put together in Inkscape.
For the very small patterns, just holding the leather to the Cricut's
cutting mat worked ok. For the larger pattern, the leather wouldn't
hold effectively. After trying a few glues (rubber cement, superglue)
which didn't work, I tried stapling the leather to a worn cutting mat.
That seems to actually work reasonably well, although it's important to
ensure the staple doesn't get caught in the Cricut's mechanism. The
biggest problem that I encountered was that the Cricut appears to lose
registration for complex leather patterns, possibly due to the thickness
of the leather interfering with the in-and-out rolling distance movement
assumptions, or due to the mat shifting due to the leather scrap not
having uniform thickness. I will need to experiment a few more times,
although I'll need to get more large scraps first.
Following cutting the designs into the leather, I used a mixture of
tools to work the leather after spraying it with water. In addition to
the basic Tandy leather tools, I also found that jewelry screwdrivers
worked extremely well for tooling smaller parts of the design. As this
is my first attempt (and as the Cricut mat slipped a few times with the
gears design), some parts didn't work out as well as I'd hoped.
Following the cutting and the tooling, I then tried to color them. For
the fluer-de-lis pattern, I used a mixture of acrylic paint (Jo Sonja
Burnt Umber) with antiquing medium and then wiped it off immediately. I
really like the result:
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="542" caption="Fleur-de-lis
after coloring. The pattern in the upper-left wasn't actually cut, but
was embossed into the leather with my modified "nail bit" on the
For the gears design, I then painted it using acrylic paints, also using
some antiquing medium (and rubbing some of the darker color off). Note
that some of the gears pattern is off as the Cricut slipped and cut some
things in the wrong places.
I'm going to have to play with making a few more
other things with this technique. I will need to find ways to minimize
the impact of the Cricut slipping on the material. In general, I think
the more organic/natural/older designs may work better than something
industrial such as gears. At some point I'll have to try making some
larger pieces as well, although I have a few other projects that I need
to work more on first.
Note: We seem to be using our Cricut for plenty of crafty projects,
including many wedding projects. I've recommended the Cricut that we
have to a few people, but given that they are now suing the makers of
the Sure-Cuts-A-Lot software that makes it useful to us, I can no longer
recommend the Cricut. It looks like there are a number of new entrants
to this market since we got ours that are hopefully less litigious
against people who make their devices actually useful, so we may explore
getting one of those at some point.