Custom Tooled Leather Briefcase / Messenger Bag





Introduction: Custom Tooled Leather Briefcase / Messenger Bag

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Create a pattern, either using a preexisting or purchased pattern, or creating your own. In this case I created my own based on the final dimensions I wanted the bag to be.

Step 1: Choosing and Transferring Artwork to Be Tooled.

You can draw your artwork onto the pattern and then case the leather and transfer the pattern by tracing onto the wet leather with a stylus, or in this case, I used digital images and traced those onto the leather in the positions and sizes I had laid out on the pattern.

Step 2: Carving and Tooling

You'll need an array of different tools to embossing the designs into the leather. To do this by hand, you'll need a swivel knife for carving the edges of the designs, a series of different sizes of bevels, a couple circle stamps, and a backgrounding tool is optional. This can be a time consuming process so I only case (wet) one piece of leather at a time.

Step 3: Dying and Burnishing

Dye your pieces and burnish the edges before beginning the assembly process and stitching.

Step 4: Glueing, Stitching and Riveting

Interior compartments and inlays need to be glued to the frame work pieces that were tooled and dyed. Once the glue is set, punch stitching holes using prong punches and a leather maul. Only work with 2/3 pieces connected at once with glue, then as you stitch them, add the sides, bottom, etc, so you're not having to work with a large pile of pieces and stressing the glued joints until they're stitched. The entire bag is completed by hand, double needle style saddle stitching, then stress points were reinforced with brass rivets.

Step 5: Completion

Double check for loose thread, stress point integrity and finished using Satin Sheen. Custom made padded shoulder strap is clipped on the D loops and it's ready to go. A fully custom, chemistry themed briefcase/messenger bag hybrid made 100% by hand, in it's entirely by Lederhart.

Step 6:



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    Nice looking bag. Need to get around to making one for myself. If I may add one slight criticism, the prong punch in your stitching really stands out, and not in a good way. Learn to use a stitching spacer and an awl and the stitch finish will improve 100%. Tandy's awls, while not the best, are more than adequate if you take the time to polish and sharpen them. Skip the multi-tool they have and just buy their haft and a small diamond awl. I have not tried their pro versions so I do not know if they are worth the additional cost.

    Love this. You have a really good eye for what looks great in shades and design. Well done.

    How much material would one need for this and what would you estimate the total cost of materials to be?

    The materials I used, including liners, hardware, etc, was probably close to $200-250. You need at least a shoulder of veg tanned 8-10oz, and 4-6 sq feet of the inlay (brown) leather, then 1 1/2 yards or so of liner fabric plus your hardware, shoulder strap, etc. Best thing to do is get your pattern together and take an inventory what you need from the pattern.

    I made a much simpler laptop bag a few years ago, no tooling, looks more like an old style school satchel than anything. Now you've inspired me to get out the leather again and try to make something much better - the one you've showcased here is simply gorgeous!

    But for those of use not versed in the professional stuff, it would be nice to have more detail on what is meant by "case" and "swivel knife" and some more detail of how to do the actual embossing would be really useful.

    This is a really, really nice bag :)

    Are you interested in selling your work on Etcy or any similar site? :D I want a bag like this, but I can't make it on my own :D

    I don't have an Etsy, but you can go through

    Thank you all for the flattering comments! I'm overwhelmed! FYI… I post things on instagram/facebook ( @lederhart) while I'm working if you want to see more. Next time I do a big project I'll post another instructables and maybe even a video if I can figure that part out! Not a big tech person.

    This is just beautiful. I'm hoping to do more leathercrafting now I've moved to the USA with ready access to Tandy leather. I am inspired by your work.

    Lovely stuff.