Introduction: Making a Tablet Case From an Old Leather Jacket
This instructable describes the process of making a case for a tablet using leather recycled from an old jacket.
The materials and dimensions given in the following text can be used to make a case for an 8" Samsung Tab S2 tablet, I've tried to highlight where adjustments would need to made for other tablets.
I recently treated myself to a new tablet and decided I needed a case for it. I could have just gone out and bought one, but nice ones tend to be expensive and I can never find exactly what I want so I thought it would be enjoyable to try making one, hoping it would be cheaper but mainly just for the challenge of doing so.
Using recycled leather for this project appealed to and I considered using old handbags, but while scavenging in my girlfriend’s wardrobe an old leather jacket became a better option as there was much more material available in the jacket.
I chose to glue the leather as I don't have a sewing machine capable of stitching leather and I didn't want to buy tools for a single use project. Some test pieces indicated that the bond from the glue would be strong enough so I took a risk. A reduction in the case's longevity seemed like the most obvious risk from fixing together using only glue so I tried to design the case in way that would give itself the most strength.
At the end of the process, I was mostly happy with the result, but there were a couple of things that could have been improved. These are described in the last section.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Thin leather – I used an old jacket. You could use any scraps you have lying about, a handbag might work if you can find one big enough. You will need at least 4 times the area of the tablet, preferably with at least one continuous piece which is twice the area (I didn't have this, see section 4).
Leather glue - I used about 1 1/2 20ml tubes
Elastic – black 6mm x 1m
1.5mm Plywood – 1 x A4 sheet (or 2 x the area of the tablet, whichever is greater)
Unpicking tool (optional)
Craft knife (sharp)
Stanley knife (heavy duty)
Try square or equivalent
Set square or equivalent (with 45° angle)
Scraps of sandpaper
Step 2: Make a Cardboard Template
It's not essential, but a cardboard template is useful to avoid risking a getting glue all over your tablet or scratching it with misplaced knives or steel rules. You will need to use it repeatedly later on to check your measurement.
Measure up the dimensions of your tablet with a tape measure, measuring to the mm is sufficiently accurate. Write down the area somewhere (the bit of card you're using is ideal).
Draw out the area of your tablet on the cardboard using the try square and cut out the template using the steel rule and craft knife.
Double check the measurement of your template against the tablet. The template must be accurate as you'll use it later to mark out the leather, if it's not accurate, adjust accordingly or start again.
Step 3: Prepare the Leather
Cut the leather at the stitched seams. I started by using a knife as I couldn't find a proper unpicking tool. It worked fine and wasn't too slow, but once I located the errant unpicker, it became much quicker and easier
Remove the leather in panels to give the largest area. The leather on the jacket I used was quite thin, so where the seams were fiddly I was able to simply cut with the scissors.
Once the panels have been removed, trim them to size using scissors and / or a knife. I didn't have a piece big enough for the full back cover so I glued two of the bigger pieces together by overlapping them by. If gluing, rough up the shiny side of the leather with a piece of sandpaper.
Using the template, cut two more pieces 5 to 10mm shorter and narrower than the template.
Step 4: Make the Plywood Cover Inserts
Measure and Cut
Mark out your size on the plywood using a try square. Measure as accurately as possible. Check and re-check by measuring using the rule and the template.
Starting from the middle, so that you have a chance to re-measure and re-cut if you make a mistake, cut out the plywood using a craft knife and steel rule. I found that the best technique was to hold the rule firmly and make multiple shallow passes with the knife, rather than attempting one deep cut. This prevented slipping with the knife and splitting the thin wood down the grain.
Once the pieces are cut out, gently sand down the edges to remove any splinters.
Mark one piece 'front' and the other 'back. Set aside the front piece. Mark which way is to be the top on the back piece.
Place the tablet on the back piece then lay a piece of elastic across the corner of the tablet so that it covers as much of the corner as possible without obscuring the screen (I used an elastic band of the same dimensions that I had to hand instead). Mark the inside edges of the band on the back piece.
Pull the band taut so that it holds the tablet securely without excessive pressure. Mark the band at the two points the band touch the edge of the back piece. Transfer this measurement to each piece of elastic by marking with chalk.
Use the try square to extend and replicate the markings to each corner using the try square.
Cut notches outside the marked boundaries of each corner using a knife. The notches should be approximately the depth and width of the elastic. Make a double width notch at the top and bottom on the right side of the back piece.
Lay the pieces of elastic around the back of the back piece, use the chalk markings to position the elastic in the notches. Glue the elastic to the back piece with super glue. Repeat for the remaining three corners.
Attach one more piece of elastic vertically between the two double width slots. Leave enough slack for the elastic to reach around the tablet without tension. This piece will be the strap which holds the case closed.
Step 5: Glue the Leather to the Cover Inserts
Lay the leather out on a flat surface, suede side up, with the cover inserts next to it. Mark the positions for the cover inserts with a 15mm gap (adjust according to your tablet's thickness).
Spread a generous amount of glue all over the leather and cover, don't glue the tab at this point. Leave the glued parts for a few minutes to dry then press the pieces together firmly. Take care to position the pieces accurately, repositioning after a misglue isn't impossible if done immediately, but should be avoided for best glue bond.
Cut the leather out to the pattern shown. Use a set square to measure a 45deg angle at the edge of each tab. On the outside corners, cut one angle touching the wood and leave a 2-3mm gap between the angle and the corner on the other side. This is used to ensure there are no gaps when folding over the corners.
Step 6: Finish
At the points where the elastic crosses from the front to the back, make a diagonal cut to about 1mm from the edge of the cover, then make a cut to the width of the elastic parallel to the edge of the cover.
Before gluing, fold the leather tabs around the elastic and hold into place to see the fit. If there are small gaps exposing the wood underneath, the appearance can be reduced by roughly colouring in the general area with paint pen.
Glue all the tabs down using the method described in the previous step. Align the corners to ensure there are no gaps, shave off excess using a craft knife if required. Take care not to get glue on the elastic, folding the tabs under the elastic can be tricky.
Once all the tabs are fixed in place, cut another panel to cover the inside of the spine and glue in place, allow slack.
Rough up the shiny sides of the leather with sandpaper, then glue the final sheets of leather onto the insides of the cover, take care to glue down the edges securely.
Step 7: Review
A few things I would have done differently in retrospect.
1. The leather I used was quite thin, this meant the back panel turned out a bit lumpy. Two layers probably would have improved this appearance.
2. For the band which holds the case shut, I cut the leather too far from the edges. After a couple of weeks use it has become stretched from folding the band around the back of the case, and exposes the wood underneath.
3. The inner spine panel was an afterthought, once I had already fixed the front and back panels in place. Attaching this inner spine panel slightly reduced the distance between front and back panels when the case was closed, this meant the case doesn't is slightly stretched when folded over.