Adjustable V-gouge

When you're working with leather, you sometimes need to create a fold or crease as part of a pattern. You might need to fold over a strap to create a loop, fold pattern pieces to fit together along seam lines, create folds to add volume to a bag or pocket, etc. Folding leather is not as simple as folding paper or cloth because leather is thicker and harder to crease, but with the right tools and techniques, it's not that hard.

The tool we are going to use to make grooves that enable folding is called an adjustable V-gouge. The V-gouge is like a wood carving tool, it carves a V-shaped trench in leather at different depths depending on how you adjust it. Turning the wheel at the base of the metal shaft changes the depth of the cut by moving the blade.

You need to adjust the depth of your cut based on the thickness of your leather so you don't cut too deeply and make your leather weak. It is usually a good idea to test the gouge on a scrap of your leather before you use it on an actual pattern piece. If your gouge cuts all the way through, or even creates a visible ridge on the opposite side of the leather, as you can see below, you've probably cut too deep. It is also a good idea to always gouge on top of a cutting mat because you can easily cut through or over-cut and damage the surface underneath.

If you can, it is best to make your groove by pushing the gouge along the leather in one smooth motion. This will always be easier if the blade of your gouge is sharp. However, sometimes the texture of the leather makes it difficult to cut smoothly, especially when you are gouging on the flesh side of the leather as you do most often. In this case, you sometimes need to create your cut by working the gouge along the leather in short choppy "sawing" motions, and even going back over the line a few times until you've made a deep enough groove. Hold your leather down firmly with your other hand as you gouge, and flip your leather around if you need to to get better leverage in different areas.

 

When you are using your gouge to create a fold, you almost always gouge on the flesh side of leather so you won't see the gouge, and also because leaving the grain side intact will help the leather maintain structural integrity.