A Temporary Detour
by Bob Hunt
It has been a very long time since I last contributed anything to our website. As many of you may know, I got married again, for the last time, in late 2013. We both owned houses, mine in the country and Sandy’s in a gated community. My house had a full acre of land, and I had a fully equipped woodturning shop in the back yard. Hers had a preserve that backed up almost to the back porch, so we could not build a shop on the back, nor would the HOA allow it anyway. So, I took a hard stand and did what any self-respecting man would do. I moved into her house.
So, while getting my house ready to sell, I had to pack up my shop. I have not done any turning in almost 2 years, other than a couple of charity events with my turning club members. I have also retired since then, so I needed something I could do with my hands, something I could do in the house (power tools/noise not allowed outside in this neighborhood L), and something that I could put away at the end of the day so the house didn’t look like a shop.
One afternoon, Sandy and I went to the movies and dinner afterwards. As I made a U-turn to return home, I just happened to look across the road at one of the buildings in the office park and saw a Tandy Leather sign. It brought back instant memories of my days in the service over 40 years ago when I did leatherwork in my small room in the barracks. We decided to stop in just for old times’ sake.
As you might have already guessed, I came back 3 days later, which just happened to be Black Friday, and bought almost $1,000 worth of tools, kits and supplies. Again, for those of you who know me, I have made a number of trips back to Tandy and made more “investments”.
My justification for getting back into leatherwork, besides having something to do during my transition to married/retired life, was that I could use my past experience with pyrography on my turned pieces to do pyrography on leather. This would help keep my creative juices flowing, and keep my pyrography skills honed until the day we buy a new home and reestablish my turning shop. I had done some online research of pyrography on leather and decided I could easily incorporate pyrography on leather into many of my turnings, once I get that going again.
Of course, once my family and close friends found out I was able to make things from leather, my Christmas list filled up with ideas for purses, wine bottle carriers, “murses”, hair barrettes, belts and wallets. So, I spent the entire month of December, and the first few days of the new year, working long hours on gifts. Unfortunately, none of these gifts included any pyrography. I made them in such haste, and shipped most of them just as soon as they were finished, I did not get to take any photos of them.
However, one of the gifts I made for my daughter was a hair barrette, shown in the photo below. A very simple project, but an easy way to start back into leatherworking.
I also made a small foldable leather “bull” for my grandson and named it Ferdinand the Bull. I included a copy of the story about the young bull who wanted to chase butterflies rather than fight in the bull ring. My daughter said he spent the rest of the day pretending to chase butterflies while snorting like a bull. Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of the bull after I folded it and used the lace as a tail.
On one of my trips to Tandy, Sandy was with me. I needed to get an idea of what she may like for a Valentine’s Day gift. I thought she may want a key fob, an hair barrette, maybe a clutch purse. Having been married to her for a couple of years, and squeezing my stuff in her closet, I should have known she would want a large purse. She only has 25-30, so I insensitive of me to think she had enough! So, we chose a purse kit, but she didn’t like the carving pattern that came with it. It took a day of research on the internet to find one to her liking. I finished her handbag around 1 am of Valentine’s Day.
Since it was a Valentine’s Day gift, I had to make it somehow connected to that day, so I added this handwritten note inside.
So, what happened to my original plan to keep up my pyrography skills? Well, after finishing my wife’s handbag, I finally got to do something for myself. While at the local Woodcraft store for our turning club meeting, I found a couple of books on pyrography, one which was full of patterns and designs. I found one showing a stylized cow skull surrounded by a generic Native American border, which seemed perfect for a leather project. I used to work with a guy who did a lot of Native American designed leather projects, which made me think of the Dreamcatchers he would make. I bought the materials, burned the design onto a piece of leather, put it all together and finished with this.
After burning the general outlines, I spent many hours adding the finer details with a variety of pyrography pens. I find burning leather is a little easier to control the heat than on wood. The varying density of wood between the growth rings and the softer wood in between made it harder to keep a constant burn level, as well as much harder to “draw” a smooth, straight or curved line. Since the leather is a constant consistency, I have more control of these issues. Since I can burn at a lower temperature, there is also less smoke generated. Here is a close-up to show some of the detail.
So, where am I headed from here? Well, I still intend to make gift items, as well as leather items to sell , possibly online, just to help pay for my “investment” in my new toys. But, I saw the work of a wonderful Greek artist, Takis Psarros from Symi Island, Greece. He does such beautiful work burning images onto sides of leather, on ladies’ handbags, on boots, etc. Search for him on YouTube and you will see what got me so inspired and excited about progressing from the craft of making belts and wallets to creating such beautiful art using a simple woodburner and a piece of leather. Here is just a sample of what can be done with a little leather, one tool, and a huge amount of talent.
So, check back soon and hopefully I will have more pyro projects to show. If all goes well, and my house sells soon, I may be back in the woodturning business before the end of the year.