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Leatherworking Research - Boy Scouts

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I'm doing some research about leatherworking in scout troops and packs.

Do any Boy Scout troops do any leatherwork outside of the leatherwork merit badge at camps or expos?

Who owns the tools?  Troop, Scouter, borrowed, other.

How much do you spend every year replacing tools that get lost or stolen?

How much do you spend on other related items, not including projects.

What kinds of projects do you do?

For troops that don't do any leatherwork other than camps and expos:

     Would you like to?

     What would you need?


I'm talking about projects other than the small ones done in the Leatherworking merit badge.  



     Book Covers for the scout handbook.

     Custom projects like dutch oven cases, axe covers, knife sheaths, etc...


Any help with this would be appreciated.









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Ours doesn't but I wish they did. My wide-brim leather hat wore out, and the company that made it, no longer makes that width.😪

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As with most things in the volunteer world,  if there is a "someone"  who takes a lead in it,  it happens.  Canoeing?  Rock climbing?   There is no "Scout Program"  for it, unless somebody takes on the lead.   

Leatherworking MB is like that.  Bugling MB is like that.  "Gee, I wish somebody would...."

The tools for Leatherworking are rather esoteric, Somebody wants to own them, take care of them, share the knowledge the skill the tools....  

"We need a CPR class.   Anybody know.... "  

Nice topic for RoundTable.... 

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FYI - I suffer the same annoying problem that my dad has.  I can't tell a short story and get right to the point. So you are all stuck with whatever I post.  Sorry.

Also, I am probably totally over thinking this thing and everything is fine the way it is but as a former CPA I have to be anal retentive about everything.  And today it is leather tools.  I keep my stamps organized by number in a blueprint or map cabinet separating each manufacturer with each and every tool entered in a spreadsheet.



Several years ago my old Pack called me to see if I had the Pack's leather tools.  I told them that i gave them to the scoutmaster, 7 years earlier, when my son crossed into Boy Scouts.  They eventually found them but there was a lot of stuff missing.  I remembered when I originally took over the tools that they were in poor shape and not even a complete alphabet set.  I spent a couple of years building it back up and when I left there was a very nice set. 

I started asking around and other units had the same problem.  Someone would build up the set of leather tools and several years after they left a lot of them would be missing, if not completely gone.   The reason, of course, is that nobody wants to volunteer in Cub Scouts so when the current leadership starts to get "stressed" they just assign tasks to people hoping they would step up and get more involved.  After all it's only an hour a week, right.  Then, if the unit does not have a central place to store all their supplies, which most don't, it goes home with the person assigned to that part of the program.  The tools are now sitting in someones garage and get buried behind stuff or they let their kids and their friends play with the tools.  Stuff gets lost.  Or, the family moves and no one remembers that they have the tools, so they disappear.   Then when it is time for leathercraft, the cycle starts over again.  "Where are the leather tools?"

I had been buying leather tools on ebay for a while and not a month before she called I sold most of the tools because I didn't think I would need them.  Anyways, after the call I started thinking about this problem and it festered in the back of my mind.  How could this problem be solved?  After all, this was costing the units a lot of money, or they just quit doing leatherwork all together.  So the latest iteration of my plan is this:

Put together a large set of leather tools.


Ok, there is a little more than that.


I put together a set of leather tools and take them to Scout meetings and help them with their leatherworking program.  I would have everything they would need to complete the projects they selected.  I would have 8 to 12 projects to choose from, they pick 2 or 4 (or buy their own), and I show up with everything.  I could run the meeting completely or assist them.  They would pay the costs of the projects plus a fee of say $40.00.  Which would cover my gas, the costs of disposables (paper towels, gloves, dyes, paints, etc...) and a little thrown in for the purchase of new stamps and tools as they come out.  I would come to 2 meetings one to tool the projects and another to dye and assemble the projects.  Also, they would pay the replacement costs of any missing tools.

The point being that I would have a much larger variety of 3d stamps, alphabets, handle stamps, dyes and other tools than they would ever have the money to acquire.  The unit wouldn't have to spend money on tools, maintain them, replace dried out dyes and paints and get everything together before the meeting.  In addition, I would have many examples of the projects and give design assistance, instead of the kids just stamping willy nilly all over the place. 


I put together several sets of leather tools that I would loan out to the units for a nominal fee of say $20.00  They bring them back after 1 or 2 weeks and only pay the $20.00 plus the replacement cost of any missing tools.  They would however get a limited set of tools instead of the huge selection I would bring if they chose option 1 above.  The reason being that many of the stamps and alphabet sets I have cost me a pretty penny and I wouldn't let them out of my sight.  I would probably buy like 6 sets of all the current stamps that  Tandy currently offers and enough mallets, handles for the stamps, 3 different alphabet sets and other tools to cover about 100 kids.  Then add the new stamps that Tandy brings out each year,, i.e. 3d, handle stamps, alphabets and stamp sets.  So the set grows each year.  In addition I would add older stamps whenever I got 6 of them. 


Have the units pool their tools to create multiple sets of tools that each unit could borrow.  Only paying for any tools that are missing.  Each unit buys their own projects, dyes, paper towels, etc...   A fee could be added to purchase new tools and fill in any missing tools to complete the sets. 

I believe this would be the hardest to do because the units might not want to give up their tools.  I think I have a way to make it fair for all the units involved but it is complicated.  

Step 1 - all units turn all their leather tools.  Each unit will receive a "credit" for the tools they turn in, equal to each item's cost at Tandy.  

Step 2 - Separate the tools into X number of sets.

Step 3 - Calculate what it would cost to make each set mostly equal, using pricing at Tandy.  

Step 4 - Add the amount from Step 3 with the total amount of "credit" from step 1.

Step 5 - Divide the amount from Step 4 with the total number of units participating in this.  This is the total cost per unit for all the tools.

Step 6 - For each unit, subtract their "credit" from the amount in Step 5.  If this amount is positive then the unit pays the difference.  If it is negative they have a credit on their account that could either be paid back to the unit or spent future "use" of the tools or the purchase of projects.


The dollar amounts mentioned are examples only as I'm not sure of the amount that should be charged.  I have been charging 20.00 for option 1 to Girl Scout troops in my area and I know that isn't covering all the costs.

This is not a money making opportunity for me.  But under Options 1 and 2 the tools are mine and I would control where the fees are spent.  So if I wanted to use better quality leather or have 40 colors of dyes it is up to me and not a committee.  Under Option 3 the Council would own the tools and someone would have to be in charge of them and check them in and out, making sure the fees are collected and replacements are charged for and acquired.  

AND all this depends on someone like me making sure it is all taken care of.  That is easier said than done. 

I don't have all the details worked out yet, but I'm almost there. 

I know the Girl Scouts are very receptive to the idea but the BSA is a lot more controlling and would assume I am trying to make money off of this when all I'm trying to do is not lose money.

I know I gave a lot of information and if you've read this far please give me some feedback, good or bad.  I will not take offence at any comment. 


















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15 hours ago, BigDale said:

For troops that don't do any leatherwork other than camps and expos:

     Would you like to?

     What would you need?

Yes, we would like to.

We need reliable consistent access to tools and knowledge.

I would like to see Belts & Knife Sheaths.  Axe Covers, Yes, I don't think we could afford dutch oven cases.

I would use both options 1 & 2.  Option 3...avoid like the plague.

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Thanks Southpaw for the feedback.  I'm not a fan of option 3 either but i throw it out there to see what other's think.  I just posted another (lengthy) post 


Not sure this link will work but if you get a chance to look at it let me know what you think.  the story above is only part of the story about how I got to this point.



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I'm also an anal retentive accountant so I can appreciate your posts and your way of thinking.  I don't mind the scouts too much but it is very frustrating when the adults cannot properly care for troop equipment.  I would spend my own money on items and they would just disappear.   Hmmm, last person I saw it with was a scout leader.  

I like your ideas as long as you were investing in the tools for your own use as well.  If it would only be for the troops then I don't think its a good idea because you may get a lot of interest or you may get very little or interest may diminish over time.  We needed axe covers and I felt they were too expensive to purchase so I made some with leather from items I purchased at thrift stores.  They weren't fancy but I was proud of them and they worked well.  It would have been nice for the scouts to do it but I was using random tools I have in the garage and not leather tools and I was in a hurry. I'm sure they would like making personalized leather items but after they've done it once, then I suspect most would not be interested in doing it again.  It probably wouldn't be repeated until the PLC leadership has changed to mostly newer scouts that had not done it previously.  I'd say the number of troops and girl scouts in your area should be a big factor on your decision.

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I agree about the adults not caring for the tools and equipment properly.  And have the same issues with spending my own money on stuff only to get "lost" if I don't keep a tight rein on them.  

I do plan on using the tools also.  The 3d stamps are the only ones I would share with the scouts.  There are so many that it wouldn't make sense to have 2 sets of them.  Although some of the older stamps are very hard to find and also very expensive to buy on ebay.  So I will probably have a bunch that I won't take to the scouts or have the scouts sign them out/in if anyone wants to use those stamps.  I have also been lucky about buying larger lots of the stamps and getting them for between 2.00 and 4.00 average cost.  it depends on how many of the stamps I need from that lot.  

I actually have multiple goals for getting tools. 

  1.  Get enough stuff for me to have group classes of my own for up to 30 kids.

  2.  Get enough of a very specific set of tools to have  intermediate level classes for up to 12 kids.

  3.  Inventory our BSA council's leather tools, repair and clean them. 

  4.  Donate extra 3d stamps that I have to supplement their set.  

  5.  Raise enough cash to purchase the latest 2d/3d stamps, stamp sets, replace their missing tools, and donate them to our council.

As far as the troops go, maybe just providing a space that they could come and make what they need.  That way only those that need to make stuff show up.  But I don't totally agree with you about the scouts not wanting to make additional stuff.  I think it depends on the instructor and their ability to inspire.  I would like to show the kids that leatherworking can be a great hobby and even a part time or full time business.  

Since I live in Las Vegas, we have a ton of scouts, church and other youth groups.  So I think I can be as busy as I want and the tools should be well used. 


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I am good with what you are doing and your goals.  I wish you where in Salt Lake, I would take advantage.  

Over the winter when we have two feet of snow on the ground, I think Leather work would be a great opportunity/activity.  Our challenge is the cost of repeat projects.  $5 each person and they get a 3" round thing, while that is cool the first year, I don't see it holding their interest every year.  I feel, having a variety of projects that a group can work on, but, at the same time keeping the price low is a must.  So, what are your plans or what are you thinking for projects?

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Sorry for the late response.  I am still learning how this site works.

That is a difficult question.  Cost is a very real concern because even the smallest projects can be expensive.  

But my main concern is that the kids make something they will actually use.  And a rounder isn't it.  I consider those practice pieces.  And repeating projects every year is no fun also.  

Here are some thoughts:

Neckerchief slides are good projects would be used every time the uniform is worn.  Especially if the whole pack makes them with a common design.  They can be bought in packs of 100 at a cost of about 65 cents.  Add a foot long piece of leather lace and maybe some beads and you have a nice item.  Comes out to less than 1.00 each

Wallet - A very good project because in involves different pieces of leather and some lacing.  It's a good project for the webelos because they will have an ID card from school and a place to keep money.  But the cheapest kit I've found is still 9.00 each.

Wristband - I like these but I've discovered that the kids don't wear them very long.  I think it is because most scouts want to just stamp as much as they can fit on them and there is no design.  Around 2.00 each depending on size.

Bookmark - This is a simple and often overlooked project but having them make one for use with their scout handbooks will keep the project used for a long time.  These can be purchased for less than 1.50 each in bulk.

Book Cover - I think this is a great project for Boy Scouts.  There are a lot of customizing options with this project and the scouts can get very creative and really make it their own.   It is also a good project for tooling.   But this is a very expensive project.  My price at Tandy is about 25.00 each.

Key Fob - A good project for older scouts because they will be driving.  Or younger scouts can make one for their parents.  I also let the parents make one if they want to.  The key to this project is a wide variety of 3d stamps.  But most programs don't have a large number of stamps.  I just donated over 200 3d stamps to our council's Day Camp program so they could have 4 identical bins of tools.  So, along with their stamps, I put together 4 identical sets of 60 stamps each.  And I still don't think 60 is enough of a variety. I have about 400 different stamps and there are about 350 that I don't have.  Anyways, these cost less than 1.00 each.

Coin Purse - Admittedly this is a better option for Girl Scouts but if I was doing a class just before mother's day or Christmas this is a good present for mom.  The kit I would use runs about 5.00 each

Mystery Bracelet - There is not much stamping you can do on these but the cool thing about it is how it is braided.  You can even get these pre-finished so all you have to do is the braiding.  Unfinished ones at Tandy are around 2.00.

Rounders - I consider these practice pieces but can be used for multiple projects.  Coasters are obvious,  but punch a button hole at the top and a small hole at the bottom with a piece of lace running through to add beads to and you have an award "patch"  Make sure they stamp the name of the event on it and the date.  Depending on size they run about .50 each

Leather Braided Bracelet - I think this is a great project because braided bracelets are still "in".  There are a lot of designs that use no hardware so that keeps the cost down.  There are also a bunch of colors of round leather lace in different sizes so that leaves tons of options.  Plus the Leatherwork Merit Badge requires a braided project.  And let me tell you that using plastic lace and even paracord for that requirement is not real popular with the kids, but sooooo widely used.  Once again we come to cost.  I'm still looking for the best prices on the internet so I don't feel comfortable listing any. 

Leather shapes.  There are a lot of leather shapes you can purchase and design a project around them (like all 50 states). Costs vary but are reasonable.

So these are the project ideas that I have right now.  I want to do a more research with actual kids to see what they would really want.  So I'm thinking of starting a few leathercraft clubs at some of high schools and middle schools in my area.

An important factor that I've mentioned several times above is design.  I think that if the kids got a bunch of scraps to stamp all over and get it out of their system then we could concentrate on design.  Starting with a name, initials or 3d stamp and a nice border. is all they need for most projects.

Another really important factor is the finishing of the projects.  That is why I want to spread the class to two meetings.  The 2nd meeting is for dyeing, finishing and assembly.  Not just a clear coat, but giving the kids a choice of colors.  I think Tandy's Professional water based dyes come in 23 colors.  I want to be able to offer each of them.  Once again cost comes into play.  

So where do you draw the line?   I don't know.  I want to do some fundraising to raise a bunch of money so I can provide all the dyes, paints, finishes, varieties of lace, etc...  Who knows, maybe even offsetting at least part of the cost of the projects.  Buying the projects in bulk saves a lot but has a big upfront cost.  

It comes down to how much the troop or pack wants to spend.  By not having to purchase tools every year they could spend more on projects.  So there is that. 

As far as my actual plan, I'm still working on it.  I'll probably let the unit pick the projects and charge them  slightly above cost plus a fee for replacement of the dyes, paper towels, disposable gloves, etc...  maybe 25.00.  Still working out the details on that part.  I'm not trying to make money, I just don't want to lose any.  





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Hi Dale... I get the feeling I am following your digital trail (assuming you are also on leatherworker. Net)

I’m also trying to set up a leather program in our area, focusing on the Girl Scouts, and have been brainstorming some progressive project designs that re-use the same dimension pieces, thus reducing inventory and scrap. Making my job easier to supply the kit while still giving the troops flexibility to choose projects related to their skill and interest levels.

Would you like to discuss off-line & share ideas?


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Hi @Mic, welcome to the forum. Why not discuss it on-line? We're trying to do a leather work event at our next camporee and any ideas you guys come up with is interesting to me.

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I teach the Leatherworking Merit Badge and I allow the scouts to make anything they want as long as it is a tripod stool. This makes it much easier to know my costs upfront. They can make whatever design on the stool, use rivets, sew, transfer patterns and learn edge detail. Best part is that they all bring these on campouts, save room in the trailer and because most put their names on the stool they know which is theirs.

Tribolts sold at Tandy, legs made from dowels from Home Depot, I buy a discount 3/4 leather Veg tan side for around $70. I make straps to go around the legs with scraps.


We charge $25 but real costs are $30 - 35.



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@MattRCan certainly add it here, but I thought it would just clutter the thread.

Several ideas have been adapted from MakeSupply Free Patterns. The base pattern piece is roughly 5.8" x 7.8" rounded rectangle.  From this, you can adapt:

  • midori-style notebook cover (single piece of leather with a few punch locations, elastic cord threaded through to hold soft-bound journal inserts) this would be passport-sized
  • 5x7 photo frame (two pieces of leather, one with a 4.5 x 6.5 cutout in the center for a photo to be slipped in, lace or stitch three sides to hold the frame shut)
  • Journal cover with pockets (of a similar idea to the first project, but multiple pieces to be stitched together to add pockets in the front/back)
  • Passport cover (two pieces, optional pockets, the inner piece has a cutaway in the center to slip the passport cover into) 
  • Wallet (tri-fold, cut the primary piece in half lengthwise & stitch together adding extra pockets if desired)

The struggle I will have with the Girl Scouts is we often have everyone at camp - 5k Daisies all the way through 12th grade Ambassadors, and sometimes we have adults who participate and are vocal about quality or lack thereof of projects (yeah, I know the standard argument, but if I can anticipate the grumbling and counteract it, the program stands a far better chance of succeeding). This year, we had ~200 scouts at one week of camp. The class periods are 35-45 minutes long, making any "real projects" challenging. I don't know the budget per kid, but I'm guessing it's only a couple dollars.

My biggest struggles getting this off the ground are:

  1. finding Girl Scout 3D stamps - they were made eons ago, and are just not easy to locate. GS-USA has no formalized programming to learn leathercrafting and our local council has no resources whatsoever to borrow. Sure, I have a collection of other stamps, but all the other kid programs (4H, BSA, etc, around here have custom stamps) eBay is going to cost me $$$, and usually only has the Brownie or Daisy stamps (I really want one single traditional GS Eagle, Craftool 8484, so I'm saving my pennies and will suck it up and buy it when it appears).  As questionable as it is from a trademark point of view, I may resort to milling my own GS stamp.
  2. tooling up for projects - Tandy kits are great, but not cost effective on a large scale (say 50+ kids).  My hope is that with a set of standardized projects, I can get a set of 4-5 pieces, we can run a fundraiser, have clicker dies made, and cut pieces at one of the local machine shops (or maybe the high school or community college!) with donated time on their press.
  3. Dependable adults willing to get up to speed on the skill enough to help at the activity.  I'm not asking them to become experts, just learn - but that is always the case, isn't it? My hope is with a nicer project, maybe I can make a service area event for adults (or roll this into the Camporee that has adult patrols), and the adults will cherish their own handmade items enough to pass along the skills.

I have back-of-the-napkin sketches for the different projects, but not handy enough to post photos.

I do have a photo of the cutting die I'm experimenting with at the machine shop - I've never done leatherwork before, so this is all new to me when the scouts asked for it a couple years ago & I've been trying to get it together ever since. The tool is the big black chunk of metal, a CNC'd piece of steel (color changed after gundecking the hardening process), needs to be sharpened, but you can see the keyfob created by the first trial. The drill chuck has been modified with a straight steel 3/8" shank to mount on an arbor press and an internal bore milled out to make a flat transfer point for stamp shafts - this lets me do a quick, no-tool, stamp change at an event & keeps my set screws where I want them - secured properly in the ram of the press! 


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