Burn-Etching Leather Tips

To Get that Legolas, Wood-Elf Look

by Emily D.


  • Leather (soft cut, sued, or for vambraces, hard leather)
  • Wood burning kit with a fine point nib
  • Chalk
  • Nice ventilated spot to work in, with something under your work area that won't be ruined if you burn through (wood burners are smoky, and VERY hot.)

I'm not an expert etcher or wood burner...but I do know a bit, and  I'm glad to share with anyone who has questions! My directions below are just a guideline. Be creative though!  This will be fun!

Please practice on scrap leather before you take the hot iron to our beautiful costume.

Step 1.

  • Chose your leather (NOT faux leather) and cut out pattern.
    • I would suggest doing the etching before you sew the leather into the finished garment.
  • Heat that wood burner up!
  • Now, while that's heating...draw on your design.
  • You can do any type of design on your leather. But, to make Lord of the Rings "Legolas" type etchings, draw dainty, swirly lines with chalk. At the end of the "tree vine" swirls, you might put a leaf or what looks like a half feather.

Step 2.

  • Now, your wood burner is nice and hot (don't touch!), and your ready to "burn" the leather.
  • Hold the handle firmly, and follow along your chalk lines.
  • Depending on the type/quality of your leather, and the look you're going for, you may want to go over your design a few times to ensure a lasting burn.


Burn lightly before applying full pressure. The harder you press, the deeper the lines becomes. Light lines may be scratched gently off the some "soft" leathers if you make a mistake (sometimes).

Step 3 (Optional).

Though I have not tried this, you might want to "paint" the indented etching you just created. You might use Acrylic paint, or  fabric paint.

Wah-la! Hope things turn out nicely for you!

This page was last updated 04/22/08