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Paring Leather

I can't afford to spend an hour spokeshaving leather, nor does that activity interest me as a meditation (though I do understand how some folks get into it). My United Shoe Machinery paring machine (sort of looks like an industrial sewing machine, mounted on the same sort of table) does a great job on those occasions when overall edge paring is needed, as in leather case bindings or production jobs. Fortuna makes an excellent machine for this as well. Mine cost $75 at a shoe manufacturer's auction some years ago. There are also machines which will skive the whole piece of leather, in case you have a skin too thick to work with. I take mine to a wallet maker in Brooklyn who has one. That helps when I have to do 500 or 1,000 leather cases.

But for individual high-end leather binding I don't pare the edges. I prefer the old way of leaving it full thickness and paring only a semicircle at the endcaps. Sometimes if the skin is thickish I pare a bit just at the board edge so it turns in more easily. At the end I fill in the board on the inside with 2-ply museum board, which is the same thickness as the leather I use. I think the practice of paring the edges for that slick industrial-age look (which became so popular in the 18th century) weakens the edges, and you're more likely to wear the leather off the edge in a couple hundred years of taking it off the shelf.


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