Published On: 06-11-2012 12:27am

Comments: 13 - Hits: 0

Category: Leather Finishes

Burnishing means to smooth and polish the leather, usually on the edge.  We burnish the edges of belts to make them look better and make them slide into the belt loops easier.  We also burnish the edges of note books, portfolios, scrapbooks, etc.  So, what to do and how to do it? 

If you have an edger, use it to ease the top and bottom edges of the belt or notebook.  If you don't have an edger, use some 60 or 80 grit sand paper to sand the edges into a rounded shape.  IF you want a smoother surface,  use a finer grit. You can burnish an edge that is not rounded, but the rounded edge looks better. Dampen the edges with some plain water - use a sponge, spray bottle or a rag.  Now rub the edges with something hard and smooth.  Use an antler tine, a smooth piece of wood, a ball point pen,  a bone folder, etc.  (Many tools are available commercially).  Continue to rub briskly the entire length of the item.  Soon you will notice the edges getting smooth.  If you have some saddle soap - either the cream or bar - rub some on the edges.  Many people prefer saddle soap and water to just plain water.  Now, use a piece of canvas, blue jean material, or other coarse cloth and dampen it and add some saddle soap.  Rub very fast and hard along the edges.  You will see a nice smooth edge develop.

The combination of heat from the friction and the pressure of rubbing will smooth the edge.   There are lots of other lotions and potions people use.  Try several and decide what you like.  Many people use Gum Tragacanth in place of the saddle soap.  I have had good luck with several of the "all in one" cleaners and polishers.  

Now, wait until the edge is dry and then rub it with a bar of paraffin.  Briskly rub the edge with a coarse cloth until it is smooth once more.  The wax will keep the edge smooth longer than plain water or water and saddle soap.  There are many other edge products available.  Try some and remember to keep notes. If you want a dyed edge, use the dye before burnishing.  The saddle soap and/or wax will make a dye job difficult, if you burnish before using dye.

NOTE:   Don't work over a carpet!

Phew, lots of work, but wasn't it worth the effort?  A plain, raw leather edge is fine in some cases, but a nice rounded and burnished edge makes your work look and feel more professional.  And some people wonder why good leather artists charge the prices they do.  This is only one example of the time and effort that goes into a fine piece of leather work. 

Many Leather Workers use paint (usually Acrylics) to cover their edges.  Often the first coat will raise some leather fibers. Lightly sand the painted edge with a fine grit paper and repaint.  This will result in a colorful edge.  Tandy has a new line of colored edge treatments by Fenice.  They are certainly worth a try and many colors are available.  No, Tandy doesn't pay me to say nice things about their stuff.

Reader's Comments

By Guest on 01/06/2017 @ 12:47am

cheers pal :)

By Guest on 11/20/2016 @ 02:49am

Best info that I have found on the subject! Thank you!

By Guest on 07/19/2016 @ 07:43pm

Quick to the point, to the point no fakin'. Burnishing edges when you're leather-makin'. Translation: This article was very straight-forward and helpful. Thanks.

By Guest on 04/08/2016 @ 04:25pm

Very nice

By Guest on 04/08/2016 @ 04:25pm

Very nice

By Guest on 09/28/2015 @ 12:15am

thanks sir

By Guest on 08/13/2015 @ 12:16pm

Do I use Tandy edge paint before or after burnishing?

By Guest on 12/23/2014 @ 04:43pm

I have a problem when burnishing edges that I can't find advice on anywhere. Currently, I'm using a plastic bone folder to burnish my edges, but no matter if I use saddle soap/water, wax, anything, it's like my corners that I just beveled come back. I don't know if I'm pressing too hard or if I need a bigger size beveler, but the roundedness always goes away. If I'm not careful, the edges will actually roll over back to the flat part of the leather, creating a lip. Any advice would be appreciated.

By Guest on 12/15/2013 @ 12:02am

Very helpful for this first-time leather worker! Thanks!

By Guest on 10/23/2013 @ 06:59pm

The article contains information rather than the usual fluff of "excellent", "super", "great". Well sanded hard tools with rounded edges to smooth rather than shave the edge, heavy, fast, brisk brushing to create heat from friction, and wax/soap options to seal the leather are all useful. I appreciate your informative writing style. Leather tooling is many faceted, and I look forward to another informative piece on leather making.

By Guest on 09/25/2013 @ 03:02pm

i burnish with saddlesoap/water/canvas, dye with alcohol dye then work in paraffin with wood edge slicker and burnish again with canvas. so far looking great. i'm using english bridle leather right now.

By Guest on 08/07/2013 @ 04:59pm

I don't know How to Thank you for this USEFUL tips. It really helped me out! in Country that I live, you cant find any kind of Burnishing tools and potions, so your simple tips really saved me from that. Thanks again.

By Guest on 03/20/2013 @ 09:32am

Thank you. However I am still searching for ways to burnish thine leather without damaging it? Thanks fmrazaq@gmail.com

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