Cushion Your Work With Leather Battens - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Cushion Your Work With Leather Battens

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs

Cushion Your Work

I’m always looking for ways to protect my pieces as I work on them at the bench. Simple things such as a moving blanket (see my entry on that here) can save you a day of clean-up on a project before you apply the finish.

Now I have an additional defensive weapon. Earlier this year I did a collaborative project with Jameel Abraham of Benchcrafted. I built the tool chest carcase, and he made the incredible lid (details on that chest are here).

When Jameel shipped the completed lid to me for installation, he was a bit freaked that I would scuff the finish when I leveled all the joints for the lid. So in the box with the lid he also included two sticks of wood that each had one face covered in suede.

I didn’t use the leather-lined battens when working on the lid (I didn’t need them), but I have been using them on every project since.

They are fantastic for protecting assembled carcases and panels when you are working on them at the bench. Today I had to drive in some Japanese dome-head drum nails into a box and these battens protected the carcase from dings as I hammered them.

I have lots of leather scraps (thank you, Roorkee chairs) so I’m going to glue them to some more scraps of wood so I have several sizes of battens on hand.

(Technical note: You can use almost any adhesive to glue leather to wood. I use hide glue – it seems karmic – but contact cement is another good choice.)

— Christopher Schwarz

Cushion Your Work

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Showing 4 comments
  • BLZeebub

    Ditto on the scrap leather use. I’m adding this to the “must make” list too. Good one.

    • REFFI

      I have recently begun using pieces of Ethafoam that I picked up somewhere in my travels. (Ethafoam is a product of Dow Chemical.) It was used for packing material for items too heavy for styrofoam. It is the material from which Boogieboards are made. I wish I could find more of it because it is so useful. It is very light and very rigid. When working on panels, I have two pieces that are 4″ X 4″ that raise the pieces off the work surface so I can slide clamps underneath. I have one square piece that I make holes in using pieces of copper tubing (1/2″ and 1/4″) to hold my router bits. I’d thought of cutting up old shoes to get leather patches to glue on clamp faces to protect the workpieces, but I haven’t gotten around to trying that just yet (though I was tempted to stop and pick up a leather couch that was no the curb marked “free” just so I could cut the leather off it.

      • tsstahl

        Craft stores sell small packages of leather scrap for 10 to 15 bucks US–more than enough to cover clamp pads.

      • ChrisB

        Ahah! I did exactly that – stripped the leather off an old couch someone didn’t want, about 12 months ago. Now I have another use for some of it, thanks Chris.

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