Friday, March 2, 2012

Variance in Leather Weight and Size

This is something that came up recently in a conversation about a custom order, so I thought I would write it all out for easy reference.

So first things first. Tooling leather is sized in ounces (oz). The bigger the number in oz, the thicker the leather is.

These are the two sizes of leather that Eve and I work with. The left is 4oz leather, the right is 8oz leather.

8oz is roughly 1/8th of an inch thick. As such, 4oz is about 1/16th of an inch.

So why choose one over the other?

The thickness of the leather determines what you are able to do with it. Thin leather can be shaped dramatically with all sorts of gorgeous ridges and curves. This mask by beadmask is a beautiful example of what can be done with thin leather! This is a 4-5oz mask.

Sometimes masks with such dramatic shaping look better without tooling because the tooling can get a little warped and distorted.

As the thickness increases, it becomes more difficult to achieve such sharp folds in the leather, but tooling becomes less of a pain because there is actually depth to hammer into.
To the left, we have our Autumn Forest Mask, which is 4oz leather. As you can see, each leaf is hand tooled, but there is still a significant amount of what I call "tight flexibility." The vines can be twisted into tiny little tight curls. 4oz is a great middle ground if you want something that can be tooled as well as intricately shaped. There's also a lot of layering that can be done without making the mask too heavy or unstable.

Thick leather allows for gorgeous deep and intricate tooling. 4oz can be tooled, but not as dramatically as 8oz can be tooled. Shaping an 8oz mask is a bit trickier and requires a fair amount of wrestling to work with. It's also mildly heavier, but still very comfortable to wear.

That's not to say that you can't do some awesome things with 8oz leather in terms of shaping! The dragon mask is a great example of shape paired with detail. This is what the full mask looks like, in all of its horned and finned glory. The key difference here is that while the horns do spiral up, those spirals are wide and not at all tight like the curls in the Autumn Forest Mask.


  1. Hello,

    I've been getting some views to my site from your blog. Thank you for linking back to me in your informative article on mask making!

    I think you're making a good point on the different uses for different thicknesses of leather and I really appreciate your efforts to educate would-be mask buyers! However, my Wood Elf mask that you've pictured here is actually made with 4-5 oz leather, just like your Autumn Leaves mask that you've compared it to.

    With that said, medium weight leather like this can be tooled AND intricately shaped. It took me a few years to get the hang of this kind of shaping, but it certainly can be done :)

    Thanks and best wishes,
    ~Andrea Adams

    PS. My business name is actually "Beadmask". "Beadcave" is the domain name/webspace that I have shared with other artists for the last decade plus; but my sub-domain and business name is Beadmask. If you check around the site, you'll see a distinct difference between the 4 artists/projects hosted there ;)

    1. Thanks for clearing that up! I'm interested in the technique you use, because I have definitely attempted smooshing 4oz around and making tight folds, but it doesn't fold nearly as flat and sharply as the mask you've created (which is why I had assumed it was a lighter weight leather haha).

      I'll probably just replace that bit to avoid confusion :)


  2. Completely tangentially, I would like to thank Eve for leaving a comment at my recent PBP post, because your work is AMAZING.