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Leatherworking Demo on Wet Forming

Leather Wet Forming – All the tools, materials, and techniques needed to get started.

Wet forming leather can be fun, functional, and is a great way to take your custom leather working projects to the next level. However, it can be pretty intimidating for new leather workers, so today Ethan is going to show you three easy leather wet forming techniques that will show you just how easy and rewarding the process can be.

At a high level, leather wet forming is the process of soaking leather until its pliable, forming it around an object like a tool or knife, and then as the leather dries it takes and maintains the shape of the object it’s formed around. Probably the most common use for wet forming is for holsters and sheaths, but it can also be used to make things like leather bowls, trays, etc..

In today’s class, Ethan will demonstrate how to prepare the leather and form it around various items using three easy and inexpensive methods – wet forming by hand, using polyethylene foam, and finally using a standard vacuum seal bag. If you have ever wanted to learn how to get started wet forming your own products, this demonstration is the perfect jumping-off point to learn about this exciting leather working technique.

Types and Weights of Leather 

Most leather workers will say that you can only wet form Veg tanned leather and while that’s the recommended type of leather to use, you can wet form some Chrome tanned leather. Ethan has found that soaking Chrome tanned leather in very hot water, instead of room temperature water like you would for Veg tanned leather, provides the best results for Chrome tanned wet forming.

Another common question asked is what thickness of leather to use. Leather thickness is usually represented as a weight in ounces; this number should reflect the weight of one square foot of leather. Ethan finds that 4-7oz leather is the most versatile weight for wet forming, but thinner and thicker leathers should be considered depending on what you’re making:

  • 1-3.5oz leather – will take the shape very easily but will not maintain the structure very well and therefore isn’t recommended for heavily used items like sheaths or holsters 

  • 4-7oz leather – is thin enough that it takes detailed wet forming well and is typically strong enough to maintain a good form for holsters/sheaths

  • 8-10oz leather – due to its thickness, it’s typically harder to get detailed wet forming and may require two-part molds and clamping to achieve the form. 

  • Sailrite has a helpful conversion chart here:

Tools and Materials 

Wet Molding Specific Tools:


  • There are many places to buy leather online such as Weaver & Tandy. However, if you have a brick & mortar store near you, I highly recommend you go pick out leather in person because it’s a lot easier to get exactly what you’re getting by seeing and feeling it in person.

  • Ethan purchases most of his leather from two online shops:

  • District Leather Supply – where he gets most of his veg tanned leather. In addition to full sides, they also sell a variety of different size panels which is a great way to make sure the leather is what you’re looking for before investing in a whole side - 

  • Acadia Leather – where he gets most of his more economical full sides of chrome tanned leather -


High End Tools (for when you become obsessed and want to upgrade):


That’s as far as this class will take us today but if you’d like to learn more, leave a comment or let TMCU know. Ethan is also always willing to be a resource and answer any questions you may have and can be found on Instagram @ethancarterdesigns. Additional resources to get you started, such as how-to videos, simple downloadable PDF templates, and inspiration, can be found on Ethan’s website .


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