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1 hour 30mn



Being someone who enjoys burning incense in his home, I set out one day to make a leather holder and ash collector for my interior. I wanted to experiment with more organic shapes than the rectangles that composed my first drafts.

It is during a hike in the mountains that a friend suggested trying to replicate an Aloe Vera leaf. Brilliant!




  • X-acto knife
  • Cotton swabs or equivalent for dyeing
  • Edge burnisher
  • Stitching Awl

Bill of Materials

  • >=5oz vegetable tanned leather
  • Green leather dye
  • Oil
  • Leather finish


The free pattern can be downloaded here.


Printing and cutting the pattern

The PDF for the pattern can be found here.

Print it on A4 paper and cut-out the leaf. exclamation

Make sure that the pattern is not resized by checking your print settings. You can check if it was printed properly by measuring the test box on the pattern to ensure that its sides are 5cm long.

Print on thick paper to make it easier to trace the shape on the leather. 200g/cm2 and above is ideal as long as your printer can handle it.

Tracing the pattern on the leather

Trace the outline of the leaf on your piece of leather and mark the position of the hole into which the incense stick will be inserted.

Dyeing the leather

I chose to dye the leather before cutting out the leaf because I wanted the edges and the rough side to keep their natural colors. Should you wish to make an all green leaf, switch to [Cutting the leaf] and come back to this step afterward.

To achieve a realistic effect mimic the colors of the Aloe Vera leaf, dye following a gradient with a lighter green near the outline and a darker one in the center.

Use a linear motion to apply the dye so as to create a ” leaf fibers” effect.

Start with the lightest layer. I used a dilution of 1 part dye / 2 parts water. Dye the entire background with this and wait for the top grain to be dry to the touch (10/20mn).

For the second layer, I used 1 part dye / 1 part water and removed the excess dye from my applicator by rubbing it on a piece of paper. Partially drying out the applicator helps create a fading effect when you are adding this layer on top of the light background. More details in the footnotes. Wait until dry to the touch.

For the third and final layer, I used undiluted dye, drying out the applicator almost completely to increase the fade and fiber effect on the center line. Let dry completely.

Oiling the leather

Generously apply oil on the leather to re-hydrate it and help it retain the pigment.

To do so, get a good drop of oil on your fingers and massage it in circular motion until complete absorption of the oil by the leather.


Try to be swift in your motions once the oil is on the leather to avoid creating darker spots. If this happens not to worry though, just leave it half an hour under the sun (rough side up so that the top grain doesn’t tan). The heat will help the oil spread out evenly in the fibers of the leather.

Cutting the leaf

A little bit of patience is required for this step.

Burnishing the edges

Sand the edges, rounding the curves between the needles.

Burnish the edges with the method of your choice. I am using Tokonol and a wooden edge burnisher here.


You can achieve a very similar effect dampening your edges with water and rubbing them vigorously with a cotton rag.

Just a little bit of branding but this is 100% optional.

Wet-forming the leaf

Dampen the backside of the leather with water. I used a spray bottle to control the amount of water that the leather absorbed. You want it as wet as possible while avoiding a complete absorption so as to keep the dyed side dry.

Then shape the leaf following your own heart. Try to give it a flat bottom so that it is stable even when it holds the incense.

Making the hole to hold the incense

Position your awl so its angle to the leather is mimicking the angle that the incense should have once inserted so that all the hash will be collected within the leaf.

Go through the leather with the awl and check with your incense stick that the hole is wide enough to accommodate it while narrow enough to keep it in place.

Finishing the leather

Apply a coat of leather finish on the leaf.

Let dry for the appropriate amount of time.

Rub with a cotton cloth to make it nice and shiny.

Final result

There you go! You’ve just made an original incense holder, directly inspired by nature.


The following online content provided some assistance and/or inspiration during the making of this project:

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