Introduction: DIY Leather Tablet Case
In this Instructable I'll take you through the steps I used in transforming a few pieces of raw leather into a high-quality and long-lasting tablet case, lined with suede. If you're new to working with leather, I will take you through each step I went through. I learned how to do leather tooling when I was in the Army in 2002. A very kind disabled veteran taught me how to work with leather back then and we spent many hours on it together. But, more than 10 years passed and my leather and supplies were locked away in the basement until now. I had to buy a few more things and was ready to go. Thanks to Instructables for creating this contest and igniting my interest again! I really missed leather tooling and am so happy to be back into it now. * Please note, I created this for my Kindle fire, which is close to 4 3/4" wide by 7 1/4 - 7 1/2 inches tall. You'll need to make adjustments to work with whatever device you have.
If you're new to leather tooling or working with leather and want more information, there are some great books available. I saved my book, "Leathercraft Tools," by Al Stohlman for many years and it was a great reference guide for using all sorts of tools and figuring out how to do almost any technique you can think of with leather. It's a very useful resource.
*If you like this Instructable please VOTE for me - thanks so much! I really appreciate it!*
Step 1: Supplies for Leather Tablet Case
- Leather (Please see Image for Detailed Measurements Also)
- The main body piece was made with tooling leather approximately 1/8" thick or 7 to 8 oz. in weight. You need to decide if you want to create this from one large piece of leather (I recommend as this is much easier) or from two pieces. I only used two pieces because I didn't have a long enough piece to work with. Please refer to graphic for measurements - and also have some scrap pieces ready to cut out for the part that holds the tablet in place. See graphic for pattern pieces for that. I noticed some leather pieces being sold on Amazon that might work, like this one: Springfield Leather Tooling Pieces (12"x24", 6/7oz) <- the leather for tooling is more expensive than others.
- Suede Lining - same length as full pattern pieces and a little extra to be safe
- Basic Leather-work tools
- a rawhide or basic wood mallet - wood ones are affordable, like this one - Wooden Mallet
- a hard surface - ideally a marble or granite slab if you plan to do tooling
- swivel knife - a necessity
- some beveling tools - something similar to this or smaller - any brand is fine
- If you want to create the feather design, you may want to get the stencil I used: feather craftaid
- Ruler & Cutting Tools - scissors, utility razors or rotary cutter
- For the Snap Fasteners
- You'll Need the fasteners (they usually come in a kit) - there should be a stud, eyelet, socket and cap
- You also need some setting tools - or a "setter" for locking the parts together
- A hole punch tool
- Materials for Sewing
- Needles for sewing leather
- Waxed thread for sewing leather or sinew thread
- Pliers - sometimes are needed when pulling needle through holes
- Awl - needed for punching holes into leather
- A Creasing Tool - used to create a nice even line on edge to prepare for sewing
- Overstitch wheel - it indents so you know where to punch the holes for even stitching
- Craftool Stitching Groover - this gouges a channel along the edge to prepare it for the holes & sewing
- If you really want to get into leather tooling, here is a multi-tool that can be used for creasing & the groover - 7 in 1 Tool Groover & Creasing Edge Beveler
- Other Materials for Treatment of Leather
- leather dye - optional (please note: I bought Fiebings light brown color but it turned super dark - another option for a lighter color is to use a hi-lighter)
- leather glue - some people use rubber cement - I used Eco-Weld & Brush to paint it on
- disposable gloves & a sponge and rag
- Satin Sheen - if you want to give the leather a shinier appearance - I loved how this turned out
- Spray bottle with water - used to get the leather wet
- Ruler & Cutting Tools - scissors, utility razors or rotary cutter
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Step 2: Cutting Out & Shaping the Leather
The first thing you'll need to do is cut out the leather to the specific size needed for your device or tablet. If creating one for the Kindle, you can use my pattern or dimensions given in the last step. I included photos of the process I used - which involved numerous extra steps because I didn't have a single piece of leather long enough. So, I cut out two pieces and then needed to sew them together.
If you also need to use two pieces to make yours - then I'll take you through those steps here. First, cut out the leather pieces. Out of habit, I then used the edge creasing tool on the outside edges (see photos). I got the leather wet - sprayed it so I could fold it and begin to give it a basic shape. Once dried, I then cut out the flap piece of material. My leather for the flap was slightly thinner than the rest so I easily cut it with a scissors. At the time of making this, I only had black sinew thread and that is what I was using to sew the pieces together. I lined the pieces up and sprayed them with water. Then, I glued them together with the adhesive. I used a brush to brush on adhesive on one piece of leather and then the other. I let them sit and get tacky before putting the pieces together. Then I placed something heavy along the pieces that I just glued.
About 20 minutes later, I sprayed the leather to get it damp and used the creasing tool, then the stitching groover (which gouged out a line for sewing) and then finally the overstitch wheel to create marks so I know where to make holes. Please see photos for demonstrations of how I did all of this. Then, with a couple cutting mats underneath my work area, I used the awl to create holes through both pieces of material to prepare to put stitches through. The proper way to do this is to use a clamp on a stitching horse but I didn't have those things - so I improvised. I then completed the hand-sewing - while pulling the thread as tight as possible in between stitches. It's a bit difficult to explain how to hand-sew leather, but I found an excellent photo guide here if needed.
Once done stitching, it's time to reform the leather. Even if you didn't do any stitching as you had one single piece of leather, you'll need to do this now. Spray the leather all over and get it nice and moist. Then, you'll need to wrap your tablet up in plastic wrap (or even use a book that is close in size) and put it in the leather. I personally used a book which was similar in size to the Kindle. Then, I shaped the leather around it and put something over it (to avoid crease marks from objects) and then placed some heavy items on it as it dried. Be careful if putting your tablet in it while doing this. You can use clamps also but be super careful that you have something under the clamp which is protecting the leather itself so it doesn't get weird creases all over it. See images please.
Step 3: Tooling the Feather
Now it's time to have a little fun! You can do any type of tooling you like on your piece of leather. But, I decided to use a stencil of a feather. Part of me wanted to add more to the piece but then once I finished the feather I really liked how it looked by itself. So, I used the stencil by placing it onto my dampened leather. I then used a smoothing tool (you could also use the back of a spoon) to smooth or push over the specific stencil I wanted transferred to the leather. Once done, I took out the swivel knife and cut along the lines.
Re-wet the leather if it dries out. Then take out a basic beveling tool (I used only one the whole time) and your mallet and start by going around the outside edge lines with the tool. Tap it with the mallet and move it along the line a little, tap it again, move it along and continue on until you're done. Then, do the same with the inside lines. If you hit it harder, you can create deeper contrast and darker marks. Lastly, I used a tool that I had on hand for hair and used it along the center areas and out to create and interesting line texture.
Step 4: Suede Lining for DIY Leather Tablet Case
In this step we will be adding the lining to the case. Cut out the piece of suede and prepare to glue the suede to the inside of the leather case. Use a brush to get the adhesive evenly spread onto the inside of the leather case as well as on the one side of the suede. Once slightly dried and tacky, take the suede and place it onto the inside of the leather case and smooth it all out as fast as possible. In this project, I decided to dye both the outside leather as well as the inside suede. If you prefer not to dye the suede also, then you may want to dye the leather first and add the inside part later. Once dry, trim off any excess suede.
Step 5: Adding the Inside Pieces to Secure the Tablet
In this step we will be adding the inside pieces which will hold your tablet in place. This step can be tricky if you're not precise. So you'll need to place the tablet into the center area, then close the case up so you can get a feel for exactly where the tablet should be placed. Then, put a few small pins into the suede to mark the areas where the kindle should be placed or lined up so you know where to put the little corner holders.
You'll need to cut out the pieces for the corner holders. Once all cut out, one piece for upper left corner should have a hole punched out of it (this is just for the Kindle as there is a speaker there). Once that's done, use your adhesive to secure the little pieces as shown in the photos. Wet the leather and use the awl to pierce holes into the little pieces to sew the two long pieces to each corner piece as shown in the photos. Once all pieces are sewn together, then wet them again. I personally re-wetted them and then placed them around the tablet exactly as I wanted them to be placed and I let them dry. By letting them dry it shaped them properly for me. Once dry I removed them one-by-one and had the bottom strips overlapping each other and used the awl to punch holes. I then punched holes in the proper place on the main leather piece and secured the small pieces to the main leather case by sewing them together in three spots. Please see final image for detailed results. I had more images of this but they didn't transfer for some reason.
Do each corner piece one-by-one and measure and re-measure as needed to be sure it will hold the tablet in the proper place. Once done, you're almost finished with your case!
Step 6: Adding the Snap Enclosure
In this step you'll be adding the snap enclosure. Try to find the spot where you want to add it, center it as much as possible, and make a small mark. Do the same for the bottom part or where you'll put the bottom snap to line up with the top one. Then, wet the leather and use the rotary hole punch to make a hole before adding the snaps.
With your snap kit, there should be instructions. You can also refer to my photos to see how the pieces are lined up, with the leather in between. For the top snap with the flat metal piece, you'll want to have the small metal anvil piece underneath it. For the top piece, it will have the cap and socket and the bottom piece consists of a stud and eyelet below it. You'll then use a craftool setter and the mallet to tap the pieces together to lock them in and secure them. For the top piece you'll have the metal anvil, then the cap which has the top protruding through the leather hole, then the socket.
Step 7: Dying & Finishing the Leather With a Satin Sheen
The final two steps consist of dying the leather and applying a satin sheen finish. It looked much duller without the finish. Please note, I also decided to add a piece of suede to the back of the leather case. I did this to cover up stitches. I glued it on as you would in the other steps. In the future, to ensure that the suede stays on here permanently, I could go back and stitch all around the edges. In the meantime, I really like how it looks as it is. Also, please note that the Fiebings leather dye says to not dye suede. But, I have seen this done before and I like how it turned out - so I did it anyway!
Before dying the leather, it is advised to clean the leather with a deglazer or some other method. Some people in leathercrafting forums recommend using rubbing alcohol. Once this is done and dry, then get out a pair of disposable gloves. Please test out the dye on a scrap piece before going at it with your final case. I did not test it. I was excited or something and just went to town on my leather piece and was shocked and a bit horrified at how dark it was. I chose light brown and it turned a very deep brown which appears slightly red in the sun. I now like it a lot - but didn't at first! Another alternative is to use a hi-lighter which enhances the color without dying it completely. The dye should come with a soft "dauber" so you can apply the dye evenly. You can also use a soft cloth to really rub it in. Let it dry fully.
Once completely dry, you can then go over it with the satin sheen. You should have gloves on again and use a slightly damp sponge to apply this in an even layer. Once dry, you can add more layers for more shine. This made a huge difference in the appearance of the leather and I really love the look of it now.
That's all - you are finally done!
Step 8: Final Photos of the Beautiful Leather Tablet Case
Here are some more photos and views of the final case! It took quite a few days for me to complete this from start to finish. It was a re-learning experience for me and I loved it!