How to Pare Leather: Knives, Machines, Techniques, Tips, and an Exhortation

At first glance, leather paring seems quite straightforward. You take a sharp knife, move it along the leather in a series of cuts, and gradually reduce the thickness. What’s so difficult about this? If you are using a spokeshave, just push it over leather to gradually reduce the thickness. Done. A razor blade paring machine? You don’t have even have to know how to sharpen the blade, just pop in a new one, and simply pull the leather through. Yet, like many craft activities, what is simple conceptually can take some time — often a frustratingly long time — for your hands to learn what your head knows.

There are three common methods of paring leather: a paring knife, a modified spokeshave, and a double edge razor blade paring machine. Most binders use a combination of these depending on the task. All have advantages and disadvantages. All have a learning curve. All are useful arrows in a bookbinder’s quiver.

CONTENTS

I. AN OVERVIEW OF LEATHER PARING KNIVES, TOOLS, AND MACHINES

II. HOW TO EDGE PARE WITH AN ENGLISH STYLE KNIFE

III. DETAILS OF ENGLISH KNIFE TECHNIQUE

IV. SURFACES FOR PARING

V. AN EXHORTATION

Edge paring with an A2 English style knife showing tip paring.

I. AN OVERVIEW OF LEATHER PARING KNIVES, TOOLS, AND MACHINES. WITH CONSIDERATIONS OF THEIR ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Many bookbinders, when getting into leather binding, are surprised by the wide variety of leather paring knives and machines. In bookbinding terminology there are four basic styles of knives and they are named for the nations that generally use them: English, French, German and Swiss. Other leather crafts use different terminologies for similarly shaped knifes, and leather workers often refer to “paring” as “skiving”.

In addition to paring knives, many binders use paring tools and machines. Most commonly a modified 151 style spokeshave, a double edge razor blade paring machine, or more rarely a razor blade plane. If you have a lot of work, skins can be sent out to be split, often by an a band saw type machine. A few also thin leather by sanding or grinding. Below are my observations on the advantages and disadvantages of all of these.

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A. ENGLISH STYLE KNIVES

In North America, most binders use an English Style knife for edge paring, often oriented around 45 degrees to its length, followed by a spokeshave for making a long, gradual bevels. This type of beveling is used for English style fine bindings and rebacking. The knife making firm G. Barnsley made the most common knives used by English bookbinders in the 20th century.

ADVANAGES

DISADVANTAGES

  • Can only be used for edge paring
  • You will need a different style knife, a spokeshave, or a razor blade paring machine to thin larger areas

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B. FRENCH OR SWISS STYLE KNIVES

French style knives are very popular with fine binders, many of whom were French trained. Both French and Swiss style knives have a round cutting edge, and the Swiss knife is usually a piece of steel without a handle One defining stylistic feature is a center mounted wood handle, however. The handle on the French knives has always puzzled me, since you tend to hold it more on the blade and rest your palm on the handle. The handle protrudes onto the leather, limiting the angle the knife can be held. To get lower paring angle, I was the first to introduce the top mounted wood handle.

ADVANTAGES

  • One knife can do it all, though some binders use this in conjunction with an English style knife
  • Can be used with a scraping motion for thinning anywhere in a skin, useful for headcap or spine areas
  • Round blades seem to stay sharp longer, since there is at least some area that is still sharp enough to get a “bite” into the leather

DISADVANTAGES

  • Much more difficult to resharpen
  • More difficult to learn to use
  • More difficult to control
  • Scraping with a knife is more dangerous than spokeshaving or using a razor blade paring machine

german-knife
Joseph Zaehnsdorf. The Art of Bookbinding. 2nd. ed. (London: George Bell and Sons, 1890), 91.

C. GERMAN STYLE KNIVES

I’ve only used these a couple of times, so don’t really have an opinion. I did have a German trained student who used it expertly.  The one I have is slightly flexible. In  Zaehnsdorf’s 1890 The Art of Bookbinding, the German paring knife looks like a regular chef’s knife. Even the modern versions have a wedge shaped taper, so that the back is fairly thick and the opposite edge is sharp. Did the modern German style knife morph from a regular chef’s knife?

spokeshave

A modified 151 spokeshave with shaving collector thinning leather.

D. MODIFIED 151 SPOKESHAVE

A modified 151 style spokeshave is a powerful and effective tool for making long, gradual bevels in leather; ideal for rebacking or an English style full leather binding. It can also be used to bevel binders board. It is a lot of fun to use. These were originally intended for woodworkers, and I think binders started to modify these for leather starting in the 1920’s. Here is some of my research, and a tentative type study of 151 style spokeshaves.

ADVANTAGES

  • Much faster than a French knife for reducing leather thickness over a large area
  • Less chance of tearing through leather, especially with a shaving collector
  • A must for calf, which tears or gets marked in a razor blade paring machine
  • Can also be used to bevel board creating much less dust than sanding

DISADVANTAGES

  • Difficult to modify a regular 151 style spokeshave
  • There is a bit of a learning curve to learn to use them
  • The leather must be clamped to the stone or glass, or the leather can be traditionally held with your stomach
  • Cumbersome to use with leather smaller than 6 inches or so in one direction, to allow for room for clamps and motion of the spokeshave
A spokeshave can also be used to bevel binders board.

E. RAZOR BLADE PARING MACHINES: SCHARFFIX, KNOCK OFF SCHARFFIX, BROCKMAN, AND THE FELSTED SKIVER

Razor blade paring machines, including the Scharffix, Brockman and the new “Felsted Skiver” all use a very similar arrangement: a double edge razor blade suspended above an anvil or roller. These are very useful for thinning small or large areas flat. Razor blade machines excel at paring leather very thin. Common bookbinding applications include millimeter bindings, spines and corners for half bindings, and most commonly leather labels. A spokeshave is sometimes used to clean up ridges created from overlapping cuts on larger pieces.

My favorite paring machine is the original style Brockman, which is not available new anymore.  One advantage of his design is a curved bed for for the razor blade, which gives it significant rigidity and positions it to cut into the the leather straight on, rather than at an angle. Older hand held double edge razor blade handles also bend the blade like this. Brockman told me he made the first 100 of them himself, which are painted blue, and the later black ones were manufactured for him. A third green cast version was briefly produced in the 2000s (?), which looked very nice, but I haven’t tried it.

There are rigidity problems with many Scharffix machines, so make sure to test them out before purchase. There are also extremely cheap knock-off versions of the Scharffix machines for around $50 or less on you know where. I bought one, thinking how bad could it be? After wasting three days trying unsuccessfully to get it to function I had my answer.

The Felsted Skiver is the newest machine. Malcolm Raggett designed and is selling these. He has tested a variety of commercially available double edge razor blades, which is very useful research, and confirmed the Feather as one of the best blades. I tried one for a short period of time and it worked quite well, much like an old Brockman.

ADVANTAGES

  • Short learning curve
  • The best for paring very thin, flat areas of leather, like labels or half-leather bindings

DISADVANTAGES

  • Difficult to create bevels (at least for me)
  • Almost impossible to use on vegetable tanned calfskin
  • Blades wear out quickly and need to be replaced
  • Some of the machines can be tempermental
  • Changing the blade can alter the cutting depth
The Felsted Skiver in action.

F. RAZOR BLADE PLANES

I wrote a brief history of them, then added some tips on their use, and later recorded my failed attempt to make a better version.  I ended up tearing a lot of leather, and went back to using a 151 modified spokeshave and razor blade paring machine. One quality skin can be more expensive as any of these tools.

G. INDUSTRIAL SPLITTING

This used to be common for french design binders, who even indicated what thickness the leather should be at various areas, through use of a template.  I’ve heard these specialists are disappearing, though. We do have leather manufactures who will split a skin (or more likely a dozen) down to a certain thickness. This is an excellent option if you are an edition binder. If the skin is thick enough you can get both sides back. The machine that does this is like a toothless horozontal bandsaw. I’ve used Hohenforst Splitting Company and they did an excellent job on a difficult leather; undyed and unfinished calfskin.

H. SANDING OR GRINDING

I wouldn’t recommend either of these methods unless there are extraordinary circumstances. Not only do these methods produce a lot of hazardous dust, they are very slow and, at least in my experience, grinding is very uncontrollable. I have done this if the leather is exceptionally weak, or need to level chatter that has resulted from an improperly tuned spokeshave. In this case choose a very coarse sandpaper, around 80 US grit. Sanding an entire piece of leather for rebacking or covering is very tedious.

II. HOW TO EDGE PARE WITH AN ENGLISH STYLE KNIFE

“One of the most admired skills in bookbinding is the paring of leather, yet only sharp tools and confidence are required.  Confidence is gained by experience, and sharp tools by a zealous consideration and care for knives.” Arthur Johnson, The Thames and Hudson Manuel of Bookbinding, p. 89

• As Johnson reminds us, make sure your knife is sharp. Strop it evenly on both sides to make absolutely sure. Then strop it again!

• Board your leather. This breaks down stiffness and reduces hard areas in the leather that can catch your knife, and cause it to veer unexpectedly. Boarding means folding your leather onto itself on your paring surface — flesh side to flesh side — and roll it over itself with your palms in four directions: top to bottom, side to side, corner to corner, and the other corner to corner.

• Place the blade angle of the knife at roughly 45 degrees to the edge you are paring. See the image below for the difference between blade and bevel angles.

• Cut into the leather place the tip of the knife so it is just shy of the paring surface. It should cut at an angle through the leather, coming in from the edge about a quarter of an inch.

• Place the length of the knife at low angle, relative to the paring surface. You may need to place your hand off the edge of the paring surface to achieve this.

• Use the fingers holding the knife as a jig to hold this angle

• Use your left hand to push the knife across the leather, taking off one long continuous strip. If you knife holding hand is strong, and your blade sharp, you will eventually be able to do this without the aid of your left hand.

• When the strip is made, go back the beginning and repeat the process form the beginning, but hold the knife at a lower angle, taking off 

• The most you can edge pare with an English knife is about an inch into the thickness of the skin. If you need a more gradual bevel on the leather, use a round knife with a scraping action, an M2 hybrid knife, or a modified 151 spokeshave.

III. DETAILS OF ENGLISH KNIFE TECHNIQUE

To flesh out the above, it is critical to pay attention to the blade angle of the knife, since it affects how the knife cuts, and the angle one holds the knife at, and consequently how the leather is cut. I’ve found that roughly a 40-50 degree angle works best for tip edge paring. First, a few terms defined.  The blade angle is from an imaginary line 90 degrees to the length of the blade.  I am calling a zero degree angle one that would be straight across where the dotted line is, pictured below would be roughly a 45 degree blade angle.  The bevel angle is the amount of slope on the bevel, in the case of leather paring knives usually around 13 degrees.  The diagram below is the style of knife a right handed binder would normally use. (1)

I’ve found there are two main issues that determine the optimal angle of the blade;  how much the blade is skewed in use and how the knife is held.  The way I hold and use an English paring style knife is outlined below, as are the reasons why I consider a 40-50 degree blade angle ideal.  

Skewing the blade in use reduces the effective cutting angle, improving the initial cutting performance and not altering edge retention.  Although the more acute the bevel angle in effect creates a sharper the blade, if it is too severe the cutting edge will be very fragile and quickly deteriorate. It is also difficult to sharpen, since the thin tip deflects. I haven’t figured out the math, but if the bevel angle is 13 degrees, I estimate an extreme skew reduces the effective cutting angle by half?

DIFFERENT WAYS OF USING AN ENGLISH PARING KNIFE

Although I outlined the a basic method of using an English knife above, I actually hold it in three ways when I am edge paring: first to make a series of cuts using moderate skew, then a few finishing cuts using extreme skew, and finally use the knife with no skew. This final way performs like a spokeshave and smooths everything out. It doesn’t seem to make too much difference if you pare across the skin, as pictured above, or push the knife away from you, which is the traditional heel paring.

THE FIRST CUT

To make a long, even bevel the angle of the knife held steady by my thumb and second finger on the other side of the the knife– they slide along the surface of the paring surface. In order to pare the leather evenly, the knife must be held at a consistent angle. (2) The angle the knife is held varies with the type of leather and skill of the binder- too high of an angle takes off virtually no leather, makes it more likely to slice through the flesh side of the skin and dulls the knife tip by digging into the paring surface.  Too low an angle makes the knife difficult to control, since most of the cutting edge is engaged into the leather.  Wide knives with long bevels exaggerate this problem.  Right handed beginning parers may want to use the forefinger of left hand to push the knife along the leather.  This allows one to concentrate on using the right hand to hold the knife at a consistent angle, as illustrated below.

After a first cut is made, a second (and possibly third or fourth, depending on how long of a bevel is desired) is made by holding the knife at progressively  lower angles.  The depth of the cut can be judged by changes in the color of the leather or folding the leather in half, which doubles any errors.    If the leather is disturbed to check the progress, it is imperative that any stray bits be cleaned from under the skin, otherwise the knife will cut through these thicker layers.

THE SECOND CUT

As the leather becomes thinner, it becomes weaker, so I adopt the second knife position.  I skew the knife towards a more extreme angle and press down harder, which creates a lower effective bevel angle. This helps prevent tearing the leather.  It is much easier to take the leather off in long even strips with the first cuts, rather than try to correct mistakes later on.  If there are many irregularities, sometimes it is easier to use a spokeshave to even things out. Note the fingers on my right hand used as a jig, to hold the knife at a consistent angle relative to the surface of the leather.

 

THE THIRD CUT

After the edge is pared to the length and thinness desired, I rotate the knife into the third position, so that it is not skewed, and push it forward to even the previous cuts out.  This is almost more of a scraping action than a paring cut, and is meant to smooth out irregularities left from the previous cuts, not remove a lot of skin. The angle of the camera in the illustration seems to exaggerate angle that the knife is being held- in reality it is almost parallel to the skin. Again, a spokeshave could do this as well. The cutting edge of this knife is one inch, which is slightly larger than most turnins. Most of the time 7/8″ is a reasonable turn in width–compromising between giving a little extra room in case the leather is torn, and conserving leather.  One unintentional consequence of the acidic nature of some leathers is that they rapidly stain the pastedown, making it possible to observe in detail the pattern of trimming and size of turnins.  I admire the judgement (and frugality!) of some binders, capable of covering the book so economically that only a millimeter of two of leather extends under the pastedown in various places.

OTHER  BLADE ANGLES

A roughly 45 degree angle seems to be the most comfortable in all three of the ways I hold the knife.  I have a set of knives that I use when teaching which consist of 22.5, 45, and 67.5 degrees, in order to compare what is most comfortable for each individual, and most opt for a roughly 45 degree angle. Another consideration is the angle of the wrist when using the knife– I’ve found around 40-50 to be most comfortable.  Keeping the angle of your wrist comfortable is important if you do a lot of production work, to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome.  Any numbness or tingling sensation is possibly a very serious problem, and medical attention should be sought.  Choosing a good quality knife, keeping it well stropped and sharp will also reduce the force needed to pare leather, reducing strain on the hand and wrist.  Finally, a 45 degree blade angle is much easier to sharpen than a 67.5 degree angle for two reasons– it is easier to get even pressure across the entire width of the bevel (especially the tip), and there is less metal to remove, so the sharpening is more rapid.  Paring leather is not difficult, as Johnson pointed out, it just takes some practice with a sharp knife, and an awareness of the blade angle.

***

NOTES

1. As a left handed binder pointed out to me, simply changing the direction of paring allows a right hander to use a left handed knife, or vice versa.  Below I am comfortably using a left handed knife, holding the leather at the top and paring towards myself.  

2.  Some find it more comfortable to hold a knife with a handle.  In this case, it is sometimes necessary to hold the handle area of the knife off the paring surface in order to achieve a low angle.  This illustration also demonstrates side to side paring.

 

 

IV. SURFACES FOR PARING

I really don’t think it makes much difference, as long as it is smooth and reasonably hard enough. Keeping it clean and free of debris is probably more important than what material it is made from.  Any small stray bit of leather can get trapped under the piece you are paring, and the additional thickness cause you to create a hole in your skin. Litho stones, glass, glazed porcelain tiles, 12 x 12 pieces of marble are all used successfully by binders I know. If you are cutting into your paring surface and damaging you knife, the problem is your technique, not the softness or hardness of the surface you are paring on.

I photograph many of my knives on litho stones, but not for functional paring considerations; rather it looks traditional, the stones are non-reflective, and also roughly 18% grey. In other words, perfect for photography. 18th century paring surfaces seem to generally be marble, I suspect the only reason litho stones became popular was that they were a cheap plentiful source of a flat surface in the late 19th. Save the litho stones for the printers or bookbinding photography.

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Charles Tomas Jacobi The Printers’ Handbook of Trade Recipes, Hints & Suggestions  (London: Chiswick Press, 1891), 265.

V. AN EXHORTATION

Most introductory bookbinding manuals contain a section on leather paring. This can help learning different ways of holding the knife, and understanding the basic concept of gradual thinning. Videos (and there are lots of them) can also help; when it is well done it looks so easy! More information is better than less information. But really, boils down to getting a feel for it, or “embodied procedural knowledge” if you want to use a fancy term.

Finding someone to give you some feedback on your technique in a class or workshop can really speed up the learning curve, save a lot of time, and reduce wasted leather. Chances are if you are really struggling, something is wrong that can be fixed.  Often it is your knife is not sharp enough. Sometimes just moving the knife a few degrees this way or that way can be the difference between success or failure.

But the best way to get better at paring is the most obvious: practice, practice, practice. So quit reading and make some shavings!

 

NOTE: the above is a compilation of revised blog posts I’ve written over the past dozen years concerning leather paring. 

New! Redesigned 151 Spokeshave for Leatherwork with Shaving Collector

modified 151 spokeshave
Modified 151 Spokeshave with shaving collector. It also makes a convenient stand when flipped upside down.

modified 151 spokeshave2
Note that the shaving collector does not interfere with thumb or forefinger placement.

English trained bookbinders often use a modified spokeshave for long shallow bevels on the turn-ins, reducing the thickness in the spine area of a full leather binding, preparing a new piece of leather for rebacking, and for beveling binder’s board.

I’ve improved the modified Stanley 151 spokeshave that I make and sell by adding a shaving collector. I first saw this on a spokeshave  James Brockman was using in 1990. I can’t quite explain why it has taken me so long to get around to making one for myself — I’ve been busy??? He kindly shared details of the design with me, and mentioned he first saw this while working at Roger Powell‘s shop in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s.

The shaving collector really speeds up work with the spokeshave, since you don’t have to stop and clean off stray shavings every couple of minutes, and they don’t get trapped under your leather, which can cause tearing or holes. Additionaly, it is easy to dump the full collector into the trash.   More information about spokeshaves for leather.

Other modifications to the spokeshave include: reducing the effective cutting angle by grinding the base, truing the adjustment knobs, rounding and lessening the surface area of the sole, opening the mouth, flattening the blade bed by filing and filling with epoxy, flattening the blade cap, and replacing the thin chrome vanadium original blade with a Lee Valley PM-V11 one. This blade is reground to a lower angle, sharpened, and the corners slightly rounded to prevent ridges formed in the leather. All of these modifications make the spokeshave a much more precise instrument and reduce chatter

Even if you rough out the leather with Scharffix or Brockman leather paring machine, this spokeshave can quickly help reduce the ridges and unevenness the results from overlapping cuts and blade changes if you are working on large pieces. It is also essential for gradual bevels wider than the width of a double edge razor blade. And it is a lot of fun to use.

MODIFIED 151 SPOKESHAVE: $275.00     How to purchase

 

Razor Blade Planes: Tips on Using Them to Pare Leather

In part one of this blog post, I presented an overview of a variety of razor blade planes. Here, guest blogger Eric Alstrom will share some tips for using these planes to pare bookbinding leather.

Eric Alstrom received his MILS in 1989 at the University of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies. After graduation, he apprenticed under James Craven at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library for four years. He later became Ohio University Library’s Collections Conservator. In 1998, Eric moved to New England to become Dartmouth College’s first book conservator. Currently, Eric is Head of Conservation at Michigan State University Libraries’ Wallace Conservation Laboratory. Eric also teaches binding and book arts at regional workshops. While at Dartmouth he expanded the popular Book Arts Workshop, which had focused solely on printing, into binding and artists books. He now teaches book arts and binding for the MSU Residential College for the Arts and Humanities. His design bindings and artists books have been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Eric has been a member of the Guild of Book Workers since 1993, has served on the board of directors since 2002. To view some of Eric’s design bindings, artists books and conservation work, please visit http://webalstrom.ftml.net/bookworks

  The Wil-Kro razor blade plane.

I was first introduced to the Little Giant when I was serving my apprenticeship with James Craven at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. He had a Little Giant and showed me how useful it was for paring leather As I remember (and it has been many years ago), Jim did all his paring with either his paring knife or the Little Giant. In fact, I don’t remember Jim ever using a spokeshave while I was apprenticing with him and the early model Scharfix was rarely used. In the years since my apprenticeship, I have always looked for a Little Giant and garage sales, antique shops and the such. I never was able to find one and adapted my paring technique to include a balsa wood plane (a plane similar to the Little Giant, but made of plastic, rather than metal with a proprietary blade, not a standard razor blade), a spokeshave, and of course my trusty English paring knife.

After a conversation with Jeff Peachey at the Tucson GBW Standards in 2010, he said he ran across these from time to time. I asked him to let me know when he next found one because I would gladly buy it. Fortunately, he found one rather quickly and I have been happily paring away since. What he actually found was a Wil-Kro model, which from what I can tell is pretty much identical to the Little Giant. The Wil-Kro can be assembled with the front base shortened, which may be useful for planing curved wood, but it is not suited for leather paring.

.The Wil-Kro razor blade plane taken apart, showing the blade assembly. Note the curved blade bed.

I immediately started paring with my Wil-Kro as soon as I got it; I have not modified it at all. A razor blade fits over a screw and onto a ridge so it is held exactly in the same place. The front of the plane that clamps the blade is curved so the blade has a very shallow angle. The blade protrudes evenly beyond the base about .008”, or just under the thickness of three pieces of .003” thick mylar.

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The blade extends about .008″, roughly the thickness of heavyweight paper.

Since double edge razor blades have two edges, I mark mine “1” and “2” so I make sure I don’t use the same edge twice. Just like a paring knife or spokeshave, how long a blade lasts really depends on the leather. When the blade no longer glides easily and shaves off the leather, it is time to change. Another sign to look for is if the leather looks more like dust rather than shavings. To use a razor blade plane, first, prep the leather – pare all edges before using the razor blade plane, same as if using spokeshave or Scharfix. Use a flat surface which is larger than piece of leather, such as paring stone or other surface used to pare leather. You can clamp (or tape) down the leather or hold it with one hand. For smaller pieces (e.g.. spine and corner pieces), I prefer to hold it down with one hand so I can turn the piece around or change angles easily. This is a big advantage over a spokeshave, which takes two hands to operate. I find the razor blade plane best for smaller areas, such as a piece of leather for a spine.

.Paring with the Wil-Kro razor blade plane.

The action is similar to a spokeshave, whereas you hold the plane at approximately 45º to the forward motion, which is called skewing the blade. Don’t apply to much pressure, at least not at first. See how the leather will pare: some leather pares almost by itself, other leathers will need more downward pressure to get the blade to shave anything off. I generally work parallel to the spine, not across the skin (except of course when you are paring the fore edges for a full leather binding).

.Some leather parings made with the Wil-Kro.

Put the plane on the leather a little bit further back than where you want to start the thinning (similar to a spokeshave). Start to move towards the edge and apply pressure as necessary, depending on toughness of leather. All action is done by pushing the plane away from you (same as spokeshave). I start in the center of the edge I am paring and move my plane gradually towards one outside of the piece of leather then back towards the other edge. Don’t always start this process the same place or you are more likely to have uneven thickness in the leather. For example, when paring along the head for a full-leather binding, I might start midway between the spine and the corner of what will be the turn-in on the back cover. As I pare, I move the plane towards the corner a little bit after each stroke. Once I reach the corner, I slowly work my way back to where I started and then all the way to the spine. I’ll clean out the leather shavings and start again. But this time, I’ll start right next to the spine and work towards the corner and back. Then for a third pass (if needed, always check often!), I’d start near the corner. As I move towards the edge, I increase the pressure a bit to thin the leather more along the edge. You have to be careful, though, because you can easily shave through the entire thickness. I find the edges I am working parallel to are more vulnerable to this than in the middle. That said, I will sometimes “tip” the plane as I move towards the parallel edge to thin down that edge. I don’t actually tip the plane, but I put more pressure on the side that is adjacent to the edge.

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The Wil-Kro in action.

I find the razor blade plane very useful tool in the leather paring arsenal. It won’t replace a spokeshave (for efficiently paring large areas) or the Scharfix (for exact work such as onlays and labels) and definitely not the paring knife (for edge paring), but it has its place. For smaller pieces of leather, such as a spine for a leather reback, I find it better than a spokeshave and easier to use. For larger pieces, it can be useful along side the spokeshave for thinning out the corners or along the headcap area. Care must be taken because it can shave through the leather, but with practice and mindfulness, this shouldn’t happen any more often than with any other leather paring tool. The Little Giant (and other similar razor blade planes) aren’t the easiest to find, but they are worth the search.

Thanks Eric!