How to Use a Leather Skiver

Learning new crafts like leatherworking can initially seem intimidating, especially when using tools you’ve likely never heard of. But one tool that is an essential part of any leatherworker’s arsenal is the skiver, which might look primitive but does magical things to transform leather into beautiful works of art.

How to Use a Leather Skiver

A skiver aims to thin down the edges of leather to prepare it for stamping, coloring, or sewing, helping you achieve professional-looking results. In this blog post, I will walk through the basics of how to use a leather skiver safely and effectively. From different blade types to proper technique, you’ll be thinning leather like a pro by the end and ready to take your projects to the next level. Let’s get started!

Necessary Items

Before we dive into how to use a leather skiver, let’s go through the items you’ll need to have on hand for this task:

  • Leather skiver tool with a sharp blade
  • Cutting mat or work surface
  • Piece of leather to practice on
  • Leather project piece(s)

Types of Skivers and Blades

You’ll come across two main types of skivers: handheld and tabletop. Handheld skivers are a more budget-friendly option and great for beginners. In contrast, tabletop skivers are larger and more heavy-duty, typically used by professional leatherworkers or those working on more significant projects.

Both types have blades that can be straight or curved, each serving a different purpose. Straight blades are best for thinning long, straight edges, while curved blades are better for rounded or intricate shapes.

10 Steps on How to Use a Leather Skiver

Step 1:  Choose the Blade Type

First, decide which blade type you want to use based on your project’s needs. Then, carefully attach the blade to the skiver, ensuring it is tight and secure.

Attach the Blade to the Skiver

Step 2: Prepare Leather

Place the piece of leather you want to thin on a cutting mat or work surface, ensuring it is smooth and free of any wrinkles. If working with a more significant piece, you can also reduce it to a manageable size.

Step 3: Test Skiver on Scrap Leather

Before using the skiver on your project piece, practice on a scrap piece of leather to get a feel for the tool and its effectiveness. This is especially important if you are new to using a skiver.

Step 4: Start with the Straight Edge

If using a straight blade, start by placing the skiver at a 45-degree angle on the edge of the leather and gently pull it towards you. Move your hand down the leather as you go, applying light pressure to thin out the edge gradually.

Step 5: Move onto Curved Edges

For curved edges, use a similar technique as above but adjust the skiver’s angle according to the leather’s shape. This may take some practice to get the hang of, so be patient.

Step 6: Use a Back-and-Forth Motion

As you skive along the edges, use a back-and-forth motion instead of continuously pulling the skiver in one direction. This will help create an even thinness throughout.

Step 7: Keep your Fingers Safe

Always keep your fingers away from the blade while using a skiver. If necessary, use a finger guard or tape to protect your hands.

Use a Finger Guard

Step 8: Make Multiple Passes if Needed

Depending on the thickness of your leather, you may need to make multiple passes with the skiver to achieve the desired thinness. Take your time and be careful not to remove too much leather at once.

Step 9: Clean the Blade Regularly

Clean any excess leather fibers from the blade as you work with a rag or paper towel. This will help the skiver maintain its sharpness and prevent clogging.

Step 10: Practice makes perfect

Like any skill, using a leather skiver takes practice to master. Don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts are not perfect – keep practicing, and you’ll get better with time.

Using a Leather Skiver Takes Practice to Master

Learning how to use a leather skiver is essential for any leatherworker looking to achieve professional results. By following these steps and practicing, you’ll soon be able to quickly thin leather edges and take your projects to the next level. So go ahead and give it a try – your future self will thank you!

8 Things to Avoid When Using a Leather Skiver

Now that you know the basics of how to use a leather skiver, let’s go over some things you should avoid doing while using this tool:

1. Don’t Skive on Uneven Surfaces

Always ensure you work on a flat surface to avoid damaging your skiver blade or the leather.

2. Don’t Use Dull Blades

Using a dull blade will make the skiving process more complicated and result in an uneven edge. Make sure to sharpen or replace your blades as needed regularly.

3. Don’t Apply Too Much Pressure

Applying too much pressure while skiving can cause the blade to dig into the leather, potentially ruining your project piece. Use light and controlled pressure for the best results.

4. Don’t Skive Too Close to the Edge

Avoid skiving too close to the edge of your leather, as this can weaken it and make it more prone to tearing. Leave at least 1/4 inch of edge thickness to maintain durability.

5. Don’t Skive Against the Grain

Always follow the grain of your leather when skiving, as going against it can result in a rough or uneven edge. 

Always Follow the Grain of Your Leather

6. Don’t Rush

Use a skiver, especially if you are new to this tool. Rushing can lead to mistakes and uneven edges.

7. Don’t Skive on Thin or Soft Leather

Skiving is unsuitable for thin or soft leathers, as it can easily cause damage. Stick to thicker and sturdier leather types for the best results.

8. Don’t Neglect Safety

Always prioritize safety when using a leather skiver. Keep your fingers away from the blade and use protective gear to avoid accidents or injuries.

You can ensure a successful and safe skiving experience by avoiding these common mistakes. Remember always to be patient, practice regularly, and use caution when handling this tool to achieve the best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I wear a leather skirt with all types of leather?

No, using a skiver on thin or soft leather is not recommended, as it can cause damage. Stick to thicker and sturdier leather types for the best results. 

How often should I sharpen my skiver blade?

This can vary depending on how frequently you use your skiver and the type of leather you are working with. Generally, it is recommended to sharpen or replace your blade every 20-30 hours of use.

Is a skiver suitable for all types of leather projects?

A skiver is best used for thinning edges on leather pieces such as straps, belts, and wallets. It may not be suitable for thicker or larger projects like bags or jackets.

What is the difference between a straight and curved blade?

A straight blade is best for skiving consecutive edges, while a curved blade is better for skiving curved edges. Choosing the right blade type will depend on the shape of your leather piece.

Straight Blade is Best for Skiving Consecutive Edges

Do I need to use a skiver for every project?

Not necessarily. Skiving is optional and can add a professional touch to your finished projects. Use it when needed or desired, but feel free for only some projects.  Overall, skivers can be a valuable tool in any leatherworker’s arsenal, but like all tools, it requires practice and caution to use effectively.

How can I sharpen my skiver blade?

You can use a leather strop or sharpening stone to sharpen your skiver blade. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take caution while handling sharp objects.  Remember to clean and maintain your blades regularly for optimal performance.

Is it necessary to use a finger guard when using a leather skiver?

While it is unnecessary, using a finger guard or tape to protect your hands from potential accidents is highly recommended. Safety should always be a priority when working with sharp tools.  Alternatively, you can also use protective gloves while using a skiver.  Remember always to keep your fingers away from the blade and handle carefully.


In conclusion, learning how to use a leather skiver correctly is a rewarding experience. Not only is it one of the oldest crafting materials known to mankind, but you can make some truly unique items that will last generations! All you need are the right tools and practice – once you’ve mastered the basics, you can create exceptional projects. You can quickly learn to use a leather skiver with ease through training and experimentation.

As even small details make a significant impact when it comes to leather working, being equipped with the right tool, such as the leather skiver is essential for producing outstanding results.

Whether you’re learning how to work with leather for the first time or an experienced professional who just wants to spruce up their leather crafting technique, skiving can be the perfect way to go. So why not get out there and start dialing in your skills by using them on some of your upcoming leather projects? Who knows what kind of unique goods you’ll create!

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Enrique Howard

Hi, I am Enrique. I started my professional life as a handyman and did a lot of external and internal repair of home and office with a little bit of electric and plumbing support. I have extensive experience in tools testing such as drilling, turning, milling, and non-conventional machining like EDM. So let me help you on your journey towards becoming an enlightened DIYer with amazing tools that you can use on your project.

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