Carving Celtic knots in leather is a lot of work

Working on a guitar strap as a gift for a friend. He requested shamrocks and a Celtic Knot.

Sketching out the knot was entertaining (took two tries to get the proportions and still managed to botch the over/under but caugh the mistake in time).

Carving the knot with a swivel knife was tedious and cramp-inducing. I found it useful to break it down into subsections with repetitive cuts.

I then came back through and connected the subsections. I made a final pass to ensure that each line ending connected to the overlapping correctly to the side of the overlapping line.

Ready for tooling.


After tooling, dying, and oiling (forgot to take a tooling done pic).



My uncle has a Celtic store and had a guy doing this in the shop for about a week. One of the cool tricks was how he laid out his design. He had a perforated stencil that he use chalk to transfer to the leather. He had different perforations for each tool he used. Instead of doing a single line at a time, he had different length double line tooling. His really special tools were the corner tools. he had about 6 different turns in three different widths. With the right tools it can go really quick. But, you still have to dial in the tool edges to make it perfect. He had a few flourish dies as well, that really felt like cheating. LOL

Nice work Mike.


Tooling would definitely help with layout. Tandy sells some Craftaid templates for Celtic knots, but I’ve not invested in any.

I did it old-school: I drew out my pattern by hand on printer paper, laminated it with packing tape, taped it down with bluetape, and then just traced the pattern with a stylus onto the cased leather. That gave me enough of a pattern to then be able to cut it out with the swivel knife.

It’d been a while since I’d done any swivel knife work. I’ve been cheating and using the laser to do my cutout of late, but didn’t feel up to trying to make a digital version of the knot pattern.


Great work. The final result is beautiful. I’ve drawn some Celtic knots myself, and just the drawing of them is cramp-inducing. I can’t imagine the swivle knife work. Outstanding!

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