Instructables
Picture of Leather flask
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Show ye olde style, while saving the earth by stopping the use of disposable waterbottles. Carry, the flask...

The flask is quite the fashion piece these days, just wait, soon ye'll see ye olde Lady Gaga wearing it... And nothing else... >barf<


Anyway, it's quite cool, and gets a lot of comments wherever you take it. So, jump on the train and make one yourself. This flask holds 3 cups of water (*or, 663 ml, or 23.4 fl oz) or if you prefer it can hold 23.4 fl oz of whiskey...


P.S. A note I forgot to add earlier. At first, the water stored in it for long amounts of time may get a leatherish/beeswax flavor to it. It isn't too bad, and it diminishes with use. When I make one I like to fill with water, let it set for several hours, and empty then repeat. this repeated for a few days will diminish much of the flavor.  (I personally kind of like it, but some people don't).
 
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Step 1: Tools and supplies

Picture of tools and supplies
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Tools

  • Sharp knife
  • contact cement
  • marking tool (I use a fine tip sharpie)
  • two sewing needles
  • overstiching wheel (for marking sewing points)
  • edge beveler
  • drill or drill press with small bit (I use 3/32" but one size smaller might be better)
  • Optional - leather tooling tools (make it look cool!)
  • pattern
     

Supplies

  • Heavy Veg Tanned leather (I believe mine was 10-11 oz)
  • False sinew
  • beeswax
  • paracord (I use it for a shoulder strap)
  • a wine cork
  • lentils (or small beans, or something like that, you just need something to hold the shape for it)






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mrpmurphy16 days ago
This is beautiful, I'm looking forward to making my own attempt at it! Well done!

Super awesome... I'm gonna make one for myself this Christmas.

excellent instructable! thanks. I'm doing some leather journals & your design on the front caught my eye. This will help me with what I'm working on-
Vodika1 year ago
This is great, this is the kind of leather work I'm looking for, I will be starting one tonight and I will post what it looks like when I get done, and that was a good input about the Veg Tan instead of the Crome I would have never know
Thanks for this well done Instructable. I was able to make a flask on my first try. I used a laser to etch a pattern and cut the holes and edges. Next time I will cut smaller stitching holes. These were 3mm and way to big. I thing 1.5mm is plenty probably.
Wax 551.jpgFlask Pre-wax 549.jpgWax 549.jpg
jamesriot1 year ago
Great results useful instructable!
I've decided this will be my next project with my 9 year old son. His will be a water flask, mine will be a "water of life" flask. Gorgeous!
hi great instructable ! ive been going through a few of yours now and you truly are a talented person. i was wondering if i made this a larger size (not exactly sure what size yet) would i also have to enlarge the hole ? or could i leave that at the same size ? also im just wondering how much damage this can take ? like how long would it last getting dropped/thrown to the ground ?
just a side note wouldnt embedding an o-ring into the stopper make it watertight ?
cheers
downright amazing
oldanvilyoungsmith (author) 3 years ago
As a note to some of the recent comments, the wax isn't to harden it, you're filling the leather pores with wax to waterproof it. The hardening is just a byproduct.
mephit3 years ago
Just as a note, you don't actually have to soak the leather in beeswax to harden it. The word for hardened leather is cuirbouilli. This is medieval French for "boiled leather." As far as we can tell today, the traditional method was indeed to dip the piece in boiling water for a particular length of time, but this takes a great deal of practice to do properly without ruining the leather.

With modern ovens and accurate thermostats, it's far easier to bake the wet leather instead of trying to actually boil it. Instead of shaping it first and then soaking in beeswax, soak the tooled and sewn leather in water. Soak it until it stops bubbling and no longer floats. This may take an hour or more. When you take it out of the water it'll be very floppy. Be careful not to damage any tooling you've done! Pack it full of warm, dry sand until you can't fit any more in, then cork the bottle. place it in your oven at a temperature of about 150 - 170 Deg F. Carefully bake until dry. This may take some experimentation. Once cooled, dump the sand out and clean the inside and you have a cuirbouilli bottle. This can then be treated with a coating of beeswax for waterproofing (or brewers pitch, or liquid epoxy, or whatever you choose).

This technique permanently and rather radically alters the leather at a molecular level. It causes the tannins in it to polymerize, making the leather more like a plastic. It will not soften in hot weather or if left in a car. In fact, if you take it too far and harden too much, you can make the leather so hard it becomes brittle and will crack if struck. With some practice you can make anything from slightly harder but still a bit flexible, to so hard it's like a piece of wood.
I have yet to try any of this, but I just recently read on other websites dedicated to leather that actually boiling it would cause irreparable harm, and suggest water no hotter than 180*F. (and they say it smells REALLY bad if you heat it at too high a temp.)
Like I said, though, I haven't actually tried it yet.
With modern technology, it's become possible not only to see what changes happen to the leather on a molecular level, but when. Because of this, we know the tannins polymerize at about 160 deg F. Of course, before the days of modern scientific equipment and precise temperature control, it would have been much harder to know exactly when this change happened. Whatever the details of it, our ancestors used the technique they knew worked, even if it might not be ideal by modern standards. But in simple fact you can certainly make hardened leather with boiling water. I've tried it myself before.

To some degree, I think it comes down to your definition of irreparable harm. For some people, I'm sure making the leather no longer flexible at all is harm because they have no experience with truly hardened leather. Wax "hardened" leather is often still somewhat flexible. It's rigidity comes from the wax being hard, not the leather itself hardening. The tannin polymerization seems to require water in some way not fully understood yet as dry leather won't harden when baked. Probably for some others, they haven't practiced it enough and had little blobs of former leather that would shatter like cheap plastic. Or they didn't realize that water-hardening leather will cause it to shrink by as much as a third of it's original dimensions and so wound up with something tiny. Or they didn't use wet enough leather and it started to burn instead of hardening. All those things could be considered irreparable harm but don't necessarily invalidate the technique itself. They just prove it's not an easy art to master!

Another thought that occurs to me is I also don't know what tannage of leather they were using. I've never had a bad smell from leather in boiling water for a short time (though burning leather smells pretty bad), but I've only ever used standard vegetable tanned tooling leather. I can't afford real oak bark pit-tanned leather or anything like that. Perhaps the somewhat different tanning methods could produce unpleasant smells.That's just a guess on my part, though.

The technique is worth a try, if you wish to practice it some. You'll almost certainly ruin all your early attempts, though, so don't get discouraged! I know my first attempt at a gorget was small enough for a child and snapped in half with my bare hands. It took several tries to get a workable neck armour, but I wound up with something quite usable in the end. I wish I had any pictures of it to show you, but I stopped using it many years ago and lost it shortly after.
Broberg; you can find Veg-tanned leather pretty easily. Try www.tandyleatherfactory.com, www.deadcowleathersupply.com, www.tanglefoottraders.com, www.leathersupply.com, and sites like that.

I have business pricing with Tandy, and just bought about 6 square feet of veg-tanned for $7.99. Most of those sites you can buy by the square foot, sides, splits, etc.

Oldanvilyoungsmith, I would recommend specifying that you used vegetable tanned leather for this project, if someone mistakenly used chrome tanned or latigo it wouldn't work very well. For experienced leatherworkers, it became obvious when you stamped it that you either used veg-tanned or rawhide, but for someone just starting it would be nice to know.

Other than that, this is an AMAZING idea! I'll have to try that sometime soon, just have to get enough beeswax!
bajablue3 years ago
I see a lucrative Saddle-making career in your future! Love the impeccable detailing of this flask. EXCELLENT work!!!
oldanvilyoungsmith (author)  bajablue3 years ago
I don't know, I'm more of a forger. I'm really into knifemaking, I just do some leatherwork for fun, I started doing it because I needed to make knife sheaths, and every once in a while I'll mess around with other stuff like this.

My dream would be to become a mastersmith (one of the most accomplished knifemakers in the world) someday. I figure that haveing started making knives at 16, I might be able to do it by 40.

As a thought though, a saddle might be an interesting project, maybe in a year or two, I might mess around with one, be cool to have a handmade saddle for my dad's tennesee walker.

Thanks for the compliments, always nice to hear that other people like some of my stuff.


(P.S. if you want to see some of the knives and such that I make, take a look at my blog - eagleeyeforge.blogspot.com)
I think you'll excel at whatever you set your mind to. Enjoy the journey!!!
Greg C.3 years ago
Hey, good to see you're on here as well as Bladesmith's forum. Great instructable, I'm going have to make one for a pre-1840 reenactment that I do.
Is this your first bottle? (not including the shriveled-up thing in the last photo)
I saw you posted it on DFogg forums, that was awhile ago.

Greg


oldanvilyoungsmith (author)  Greg C.3 years ago
Hey Greg, thought I was the only Dfogger except Ben Potter on here. Nice to see ya. No, this is my 3rd succesfull one (I've ruined two).

Stephen.


P.S. (for all otheres, we're referring to a knife makers forum, check it out if your knifemaking interested. Bladesmithsforum.com)
Thanks for the great link! Loads of great stuff on there. Beautiful flask by the way :)
Yep, I'm on here. Don't submit may instructables, but I sure take advantage of the wealth of info on this site :)
jamiec533 years ago
Wow. Just awesome!
just1jane3 years ago
Your design and execution are beautiful. Thank you for uploading this.
oldanvilyoungsmith (author)  just1jane3 years ago
Thank you. And you're welcome.
acelsziv3 years ago
I have no words you are very smart. This flask is beautiful
oldanvilyoungsmith (author)  acelsziv3 years ago
Thank you
Sabata3 years ago
I recommend punching the holes through the leather rather than drilling them. That way, once it's all stitched up, the leather will sort of "heal" itself around the thread because you've only pushed the fibers aside instead of removing/cutting/tearing the fibers. The easiest way I've found to punch the holes is with your drill press. Nip the head off a finish nail, grind the point if necessary, chuck it up and punch away.

Great work, BTW!
Use a Awl not a hole punch ! The hole punch removes the plug of leather, It will not heal as you clam . Making the holes with a Awl is much different the tip of the Awl separates the flush like a snow plow pushing snow,,After stitching the leather craftsmen then will pound the the stitch line with a raw hide mallet to make the leather seal up around the thread or lacing . The pounding is pushing the flush fibres back to the it was moved from when the Awl pushed the the hole open. there is no heeling going on at all remember leather is just dead skin .
oldanvilyoungsmith (author)  Fred826643 years ago
I do believe he knows it isn't literaly healing, he was just using a term. And he wasn't saying to use a punch either. But to use a sharp nail in my drill press to push through the leather (he said punch, but it does the same thing as an awl). By putting it in the drill press you can get more leverage.

Stephen
well forgive me in using professional terms and lessons on a armature board. If the leather is cased properly you would not need such a power amplifying in leverage of a drill press in the first place ! I have worked with vary heavy leather in the rage of 18 ,19 OZ with ease when it is cased properly and your tools are in good condition it to is like working with wet clay. By the way A punch and an Awl are two different tools.
Because of the confusion around the term, I've used the following definitions for years to be more specific when discussing making holes in leather. I suggest using the word pierce to describe using an awl as opposed to punching which is done with a punch or drill. As has been stated above, making the holes by drilling or using a leather punch will cut through fibres of the leather, weakening the hole. Using an awl (or the nail chucked into the drillpress as suggested above) pushes the fibres apart rather than tearing or cutting them, making for a much stronger hole and one which will much more readily seal when properly finished.

And indeed, working vegetable tanned leather wet will make piercing the holes much easier. I regularly use a simple, round hand awl (commonly called a prick awl) and put stitching holes in everything from 4 to 18 ounce leather with little trouble. I actually find it much easier than trying to drive a punch through the really thick leathers.

For simple repetition and ease, the drillpress idea should work well, though. I would definitely grind the point round and give it a sharper taper before hand, though. The faceted point of a standard nail would cut fibres like a knife as it is driven through the leather. Just put a piece of softwood like pine or a sacrificial cutting mat or board under the leather to keep from prematurely dulling the point of the ersatz awl and regularly check the point for sharpness. (These last two hold true whether you're working by hand or using a press)
Sabata mephit3 years ago
Sorry for the confusion. I did indeed mean to pierce the leather like one would do with an awl, not punch holes with a hole punch. :-p I was in a hurry earlier and just hammered out that comment before heading out the door.

While the added leverage of a drill press might not be necessary, it helps folks with less experience make their holes nice and straight like this | | | | | | | |. My first sheath's holes were made with a finishing nail and a hammer. The holes going through the leather looked like this... | | / | / \ \ \ / | / . I think you get the picture. Also, if someone already has a drill press in their garage, they can try out leather crafting without buying an awl they might not use again.
mephit Sabata3 years ago
My apologies if I implied you specifically were causing the confusion. It wasn't my intention. I just wanted to pass on my personal definitions of the terms in case they're helpful to others. Sorry!
Sabata mephit3 years ago
mephit, I appreciate that but there is no apology necessary from you! :) I could see right from the start that (as usual) Fred82664 was trolling and causing all the trouble.
Wow if that was your first set of holes you have no idea of craftsmanship! There are cheap was to mark your stitch line as for hole placement 1 a kitchen fork would make a set duvets in well cased leather much straighter alignment 2 any wall mart and many other places sell a tool called a stitching wheel under $5.00, all you do is role it along the stitch and the teeth will make a duvet where you put the hole. If wish to continue working in leather I highly suggest you get in to some books by Al Stomen. you can get them at Tandy or any leather supply shop. then do as it instructs. this will make your time and work much more of a vale to you and much better craftsmanship.
oldanvilyoungsmith (author)  Fred826643 years ago
Fred, please calm down, I understand that you are trying to help out other leather workers, but you're reminding me of my brother with the haughty and rude manner of sharing the information. There is no reason to word your replies like that. This is a sharing site, and sometimes people arent as good as others like you. Just because his first seam was bad doesn't mean he has no idea of craftmanship, it was just a bad seam. Just like my first sheath. I had bought some leather and needles and sinew, and tried to make a sheath without learning much first. I didn't understand leather, so it was a bad sheath. It doesn't mean I have no idea of craftmanship.

When you are typing a reply, look at the red bar below you. It says that this website has a be nice policy. Think about it.

Stephen
you may want to look at a few more other postings if your talking nice respect . I never said the project was bad in fact it looks nicely done .
And yet, everyone who reads your posts finds that you're being rude. If you were more polite, people would value your experienced input. As it is, you're just making this site a less pleasant place to be.

Also, spelling and grammar do matter when reading posts here. If we have to spend time re-reading your posts to try to figure out what you're saying, they're of less value. You speak of craftsmanship...taking time to craft your statements is just as important.
Spelling and Grammar only counts if it is putting a grade on a paper or money in the pocket. (Real Life ) the rest of the time it is BS ! I here the slang in the streets and all the funky terms and gangster punk speech! now you wish to call it on me here ROLFMO !!!! In the real world Money talks and BS walks ; )
Cheers, Stephen. You handled his rudeness much more diplomatically than he deserved.

You've done a great job of describing your project here, and most of those commenting have given polite, constructive suggestions on things that they might change. That's what's so great about this site...people working together to create and learn.
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