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Custom leather man has the tools

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Custom leather man has the tools

Bruce Johnson with various leather tools.

ALYSSON AREDAS/The 209


POSTED August 8, 2014 8:23 p.m.

For over 25 years, Oakdale resident Bruce Johnson has been working with custom made leatherwork and tools. Even though he recently made the decision to no longer focus on custom leather goods, his business, Bruce Johnson Leather Tools, still offers a wide array of modern and antique leather tools for experienced leatherworkers and novices alike.  

 “The tool side of the business was expanding more and more and the leather side was just staying static,” said Johnson. “I just couldn’t do everything, so I decided to do tools only.”

In order to refurbish these tools, Johnson employs a variety of techniques. Depending on the tool and the condition, he either finds himself cleaning rust off, re-polishing brass, or re-sharpening edges. On average, the restoration process for these tools can take anywhere from one to eight hours.  

“Some of it sure can be a lot of work, but it is kind of fun,” Johnson said. “It is cool that I can refurbish a leather splitter and it looks as good as it did when it was sold in 1870.”

When it comes to finding tools to restore, Johnson draws from a variety of sources, including tool auctions in Europe to EBay to local antique shops. The average age of the tools he works with is around 100 years old. Johnson noted that he is currently selling antique knives that are up to 140 to 150 years old.

In addition to knives, Johnson also sells rein trimmers, stitch groovers, and stamps. An exhaustive list of Johnson’s tool inventory, as well as leatherworking tutorials and samples of Johnson’s leatherwork, is available on his website. 

For anyone who might be interested in getting involved with leather tools and custom made leather goods, the leatherwork aficionado offered some advice from his quarter century of experience. 

“Seek out the knowledge from as many different people as you can,” said Johnson. “Just keep working at it and never be satisfied with your last project.”

For more information, contact Johnson at 505.3621 or visit brucejohnsonleather.com. 

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