Did you ever get a free flask when you bought a bottle of whiskey? I did, in fact I noticed I had stockpiled quite a few. What to do with them? Hard to re-gift a flask with a brand name on it, so I used leather to give the old flasks a make-over and they are terrific!
If you know about tooling leather (creating designs on the surface using blades and other tools), you can create one-of-a-kind treasures. Or leave the leather plain for a classy look. They all look better and better as the leather ages and takes on a smooth, worn patina.
Step 1: Things You Will Need:
razor knife or strong, sharp scissors
leather hole punch, 1/4" diameter
Good to have:
flexible measuring tape or piece of string
leatherworking tools: beveler, burnisher, tooling tools, leather conditioner
Step 2: The "Zip"
Use 2 rectangular leather scraps to test out how the zip works.
- measure a line 1/2" in from the center edge of each piece that runs from top to bottom, the holes will be centered on this line. I don't draw a line on the leather because it will show later, I just hold the ruler in place while I mark the 1/2" hole centers with a pen or pointy thing
- make a mark every 1/2" along this line starting 1/2" from the top on one piece (scrap B) and 1/4" from the top on the other piece (scrap A), this way your holes will be alternating rather than opposite each other. All holes are 1/2" apart along their lines
- the holes need to be at LEAST as wide in diameter as the space between them. I used a 1/4" punch
- punch the holes out, including half-holes on the piece that started 1/2" from the top edge (scrap B)
- Cut slits out from holes as seen in the pictures, DO NOT cut the top and bottom holes in the side that started 1/4" from edge (scrap A), this will keep it from unzipping. Cut the top and bottom of the other piece (scrap B) into little arrowheads to help anchor the zip
Lay the scraps side by side, center edges touching and measure across it. Write this number down, it is IMPORTANT!
Step 3: Zipping the Zip
This part is a bit fussy, but you can't ruin anything if you have your holes in order. Practice on your scraps and when you've got it working, you'll be ready to start on your actual project!
Insert one of the arrowhead tips into the top hole on the other scrap piece. Then wiggle the flaps into place, working down until you get to the other arrowhead and that will fit into the last hole. This is where you may want to use a pliers to pull the arrowheads through the holes, doesn't matter if the leather tip gets a little chewed up, it won't show. The little flaps should lie pretty flat on the back.
The pictures show what it looks like from both sides when it's zipped up.
Step 4: More Measurements!
Take your zipped up scraps and lay them on the concave (back) side of your flask. Now measure all the way around the flask from one edge of the scrap to the other. The picture shows 6 15/16". Everybody's measurement will be different. Write it down someplace.
Now go find the other measurement (width of both scraps together but not zipped) and add that number to the measurement you just made and then add 1/8". That is how wide your leather should be to cover your flask and allow for the overlap of the zip. The extra 1/8th will give you a little wiggle room, better a little loose than too tight. Been there, done that. Ugh.
Step 5: Paper Pattern
Using the number you just came up with and the height of your flask (I like to leave a little of the flask showing at the top and bottom), make a paper pattern. It should go around your flask with some to spare.
Step 6: Cut Your Leather
I like to rough cut my leather, then tool and THEN do a precise cut of my leather. Sometimes the tooling can distort the leather a bit.
Use a ruler to get nice, clean edges.
Step 7: Optional Tooling
Now's the time to add decoration if you are going to. I'll leave this up to you. That's an entire project in itself!
Step 8: Make the Holes
You practiced this earlier, now's the time to do it on your actual leather. Same steps, same tools. Depending on the height of your flask, you may have to fiddle with the first and last holes. Mine was 5 inches high and it worked out perfectly. Breathe...
Step 9: Bevel and Burnish
This step is what makes your piece look really professional. If you don't have a beveler, don't worry, it will still look amazing when you are finished.
Bevel all edges and if you are going to dye or stain your leather, now's the time...AFTER you make the holes and after you bevel the edges. My brother wanted his flask cover to be "natural" so I left it as is. Over time it will mellow out to a nice golden-y color.
Now burnish the edges until they shine. Sometimes I use gum tragacanth, sometimes water, and sometimes saliva! They all work. Put a bit on the edge and rub it with the burnisher until you get a shiny, smooth edge.
Again, if you don't have the tools to do this, no worries, it will be fine, just a bit more rustic looking.
Step 10: Zip It Up and Slip It On
Zip up the seam, try to get the flaps inside as flat as you can so they don't bunch up inside. Slide the flask into the sleeve you've created, it should be snug and it can take a bit to wiggle it into place, be sure to line up the zip on the center of the concave/back side of the flask. If it seems loose, you can smear some contact cement up inside the back next to the seam. Put a wine bottle or another flask, if you have one, on top of the seam to push it down and use a belt to hold it in place while it dries.
Step 11: Finish It
I like to use neatsfoot oil as a conditioner on my leatherwork. I follow it up with a weatherproofer called sno-seal and buff it up until it shines. Remember, your flask will be holding liquids, so use something to help it resist drips. Never put it in water, but if it gets wet (you fell out of the canoe!) dry it with a towel and let it dry out naturally, not in the sun or by the fire. Re-treat with your leather conditioner.
All leather things like to get conditioned from time to time. They'll look nicer and last longer.
Good luck and have fun making stuff!