Here's a super classy way to spruce up the top of your nightstand. This easy project can be finished in a few hours and makes a great gift for Dads and even looks great in an office.
Step 1: Materials
List of materials for this project.
-8"x8" 6-8oz Vegetable Tanned leather (try shoe repair shops for cheap scraps, and also eBay!). The heavier the weight, the thicker the leather. Obviously the thicker the leather, the harder to work with. During this instructable I used 6oz leather, but the picture above is of my first one of these, which was 8oz. It's really up to you, I know I will only use lighter leather for any more I end up doing :)
-Leather dye of your choice (in this instructable I used Fiebing's Tan dye, but had to use multiple coats to reach the color I wanted. I have now started to use light brown, it works well)
-Heavy duty thread color of your choice (preferably waxed, but not necessary, I used an off white color)
-Box cutter with good blades
-Small Right Angle Awl (or large needle)
-Standard size hammer
-Bucket or large pot of warm (not hot) water
-A fork. Yes a fork.
Step 2: Cut It Down to Size
Cut your 6-8oz veg tanned leather to a 8"x8" square. The more square the cut, the easier it will be to line up your edges later.
Step 3: DYE! DYE! DYE!
I used Fiebling's Tan dye for this, but you can use any color you like. They have many. Obviously more coats will get you a darker finish.
Make sure you use your gloves (or don't, and watch strangers recoil in horror as you try to shake hands), but seriously, use gloves. Also this is when you need the bucket or pot of luke warm water.
Start with your dry square of leather, and apply your dye to a rag. Apply the dye to both sides of the leather in small circular motions trying to get an even coating throughout. When done with your first coat, give your leather a dunk in the water. pull it back out and pat dry the surface with a clean dry rag and let it sit for 15-20minutes. This will help even out the finish of the dye. Once it dries off a bit (you don't need it bone dry, just enough where the leather will soak up some more dye) see if you like the color, if you want it darker repeat the previous steps until satisfied.
While working through the rest of this instructable, keep dunking your leather in the water as it dries. This will keep it malleable and easier to work with.
Step 4: Cut It Again!
Lay your carpenter square diagonally across your leather from one corner to the other. Now cut from the tip (ouch) toward the center 2.5" on each corner.
Step 5: Make Your Mark.
Now it is time to space out your stitching as a guide for the real thing. I used a small fancy fork I found in the kitchen. (I will not be held responsible for death by beating. Ask your wife/mother if this fork is okay to use). Use the fork to make indentations on the flesh side of the leather, giving you something to follow to try and have a decent looking stitch in the end. Follow the slits you made in the corners giving enough room on each side so you don't rip through the edge of the leather.
Step 6: The Stabbing.
Use your awl, or large needle to make permanent holes through your leather, following the guides you made with your fancy stitch guide fork. Be careful to LEAVE ENOUGH ROOM so you don't tear through the leather when stitching. I know I said this already, I just want you to succeed alright? This is where the hammer comes in handy, as well as making sure you have something softish under the leather for the awl or needle to drive into. I used a scrap piece of wood.
Step 7: Stitch It Up
I'm no master stitcher, so some of you might have a better way to do this, but this is what I ended up doing.
Before you start stitching, give your leather a dunk, dab it dry and do not dunk it anymore. Unless you want the stitching to turn the color of the leather, which I did not. Again, it's up to what you want.
Obviously thread your needle. Start at the bottom of a corner and work your way to the top. Once you get to the top, loop around the corner multiple times. I just think it looks good. Loop over your cut end and tighten it as much as you can. I put a dab of leather glue over it to keep it sturdy.
Do this on all four corners and you're basically done!
Step 8: Optional Finishers
By this point your leather should be all stitched up, lookin pretty and still kind of damp. You can totally just let this guy dry and it's basically good to go. But personally, I like to see a perfectly flat bottom (the only time I've ever said that in my life, btw). So what I did was cut down a piece of 4x4 and round the edges slightly with a sander, put it in the center of my tray and clamp it down for a few hours. This gave the bottom a nice flat profile so it doesn't rock on my desk.
Also, as an afterthought, I put a single hammered copper rivet through each corner. These are completely aesthetic. You can find plenty of instructionals online to show you how to set a copper rivet.
Again, this is completely optional.
Happy crafting friends, hope you enjoyed my first instructable.