The first step is skiving the leather. Skiving refers to the process of splitting leather lengthwise to reduce its thickness. Lay the lace flesh (bottom) side up on the cutting board. Hold the knife so it is nearly parallel to the lace and carefully cut away from your body. Most people prefer to skive with a very sharp blade, but I actually like my knife to be a bit duller than that. Similarly, I do best with the number eleven blade, but know of others who prefer a curved blade. There is no one right or wrong way. Don't be afraid to experiment to find what works best for you.Close up of the knife blade cutting through the leather. Skiving is definitely a learned skill. Most people will struggle with it early on. Thankfully it does get easier. However, there are still days when I just can't skive at all.
Here's a look at the flesh side of the lace after my first pass with the knife. It is a little ragged and uneven. At this point I'm not worried about that. My main goal is to have reduced the bulk to a similar degree throughout the length of the lace.
Step two is sanding. I hold the lace flesh side up with my left hand and sand down on it with my right. The sandpaper will even out the ragged sections and also continue to reduce the overall bulk.
When the lace has reached the desired thickness, it's time for step three. Stick your finger in the bottle of Gum Tragacanth and...
rub a generous amount onto the lace. The Gum Tragacanth will "knit" the flesh side back together so that it is smooth and easy to evaluate. Slide the lace through your fingers to check for uniformity and thickness. Expect to find some areas that need to be reprepped. I nearly always go back in with the sandpaper at least. Sometimes I start all over again with the knife. This is boring work, but it makes such a difference in the quality of your final product. It's worth taking the time to get everything just right.