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Step-by-Step: Transfer (Tap-Off)

Posted by Fallon Foster on

Our leather is formed and cased so now we're ready to start making marks on it.  The transfer process is how we apply our design to the leather just prior to tooling.  There's a few ways of going about it but for these items I'm using a tap-off.  The common alternatives are tracing a print-out (which I'll probably show in a few weeks) or drawing directly on the leather with a stylus.

Tap-offs are best used when you need to rapidly reproduce exact but simple designs.  They're particularly handy for designs with repeating elements but if the design is too complex they tend not to work very well.  A tap-off is made using a piece of heavy leather (often from some scrap) and cutting the mirror image of the design you want to tool into it.  I like to bevel the grain-side edges and sculpt the tooling as well but this is mostly to keep the impression as clean as it can be.

In the image above the piece on the left is the tap-off and the other three bits are awaiting their imprints.  Applying the design as as direct and simple as you might expect.  The tap-off is placed face down on the leather and then whacked with a mallet but good.  Once you've found the trick of it you can transfer the design directly the leather with just a minute or two (and while only minorly annoying the neighbors).