Introduction: Mustang Leather Tool Roll
Finalist in the
Leather Goods Contest
If you are on this site looking for things to make then you probably have sets of tools lying around or getting carried away by your 2 year old and stuffed in the bottom of a toy box or the oven compartment of their PlaySkool Kitchen set. A few months ago I made this tool roll that I quickly fell in love with and figured I would share the project with you. As you can see from the picture above the original sleeve that came with this particular set of graduated wrenches dated back to the sixties and weathered as well as Keith Richards; very tattered around the edges but holding on to life like a champ. I used the original sleeve as a template but made a slight alteration by ditching the hanging grommets at the top corners and including a flap and buckle closure.
Step 1: Sizing the Panels
For this project I used a "Mustang" hide. Now don't go crazy thinking I turned Sea Biscuit into a tool roll. Every tannery has ways of tanning ordinary cow hide to make it look similar to the hides of other animals. There is also a "Kodiak" hide made to look like brown bear and a Buffalo hide that...well...that one is actually buffalo. This "Mustang" hide is a garment hide used to make things like leather jackets, chaps, and satchels worn by the likes of Indiana Jones himself. I cut a panel 24" x 48" which would be used for the main body, inner panels, and flap, Using the tallest wrench as my upper height limit I laid it in the middle third of the panel on the far right side and folded the bottom third up to a point within 4 inches from the top of the wrench head. At this point I laid the plastic wrench sleeve from my template on top of the leather and scratched a line all the way the diagonal to the far left. This created a sleeve that would be equidistant from the top of the smallest wrench to the largest. I did the same thing for the smallest group of wrenches in the upper left corner of the roll. I then cut the bottom flap from the main body to create two distinct inner panels. I brought the flap down to make sure it lined up properly with the bottom, and since I always measure twice and cut once, it did.
Step 2: Lining and Punching
The next few steps are the longest in the project. These tools won't just keep themselves in place without your help. If it was plastic we were working with we could just glue them or heat weld them together to form pockets, but then some yahoo would be sitting in his office chair 74 years down the road thinking words onto his bendy plasma glasses trying to show you how he is improving on a flawed design. Everything I do is hand stitched. If you have been following the stuff I have been putting up here over the last few days you are probably already sick of hearing about it, but that's not going to stop me from saying it again. Hand stitching is the only way to make sure something lasts forever. They are still pulling stuff out of the ice that cavemen made out of leather at the dawn of civilization that is still holding together. I try to make stuff that you want to be buried with and the kids get to fight over the shovel.
I digress. In order to stitch the inner panels properly to the main body we have to make sure the wrenches are aligned in a 90 degree perpendicular orientation (straight up and down) from the bottom edge of the main body panel and spaced properly to accommodate the canted socket end at the bottom. The good thing is that even if you don't space it exactly right, this pre-oiled garment leather is very forgiving and will loosen up with the proper application of brute force and ignorance.
Once the spacing and alignment are set press the leather around the tools to form an impression on the leather. Remove the wrenches and, if you have one, use your 90 degree ruler to score a line between each wrench impression (straight up and down) from the bottom. Before you start flailing around with your mallet like you're playing whack-a-mole it helps to secure your panels first to prevent them from moving around during the process. I set rivets in the corner of each inner panel. This also adds strength and stability when the tools are repeatedly removed and replaced during the life of the roll. From there you can take your thonging chisel, awl, or ice pick and poke holes through the inner panels and main body panel. This is ultimately how you will stitch the whole thing together.
Step 3: Punchin' and Stitchin'
After your holes are punched in both inner panels and your rivets are set it is time to snitch cuz snitches get stitches and you're gonna be doing a lot of stitches. If you do this right there are roughly a thousand stitches in this thing. As always I use two harness needles, braided and waxed nylon thread, and a figure eight stitch. It is a rock solid stitch that will never fail you. How you stitch each line is up to you. I use one 15 foot length of thread and start in the corner. I run one leg up a line and back down to the bottom where it meets up with the other leg and work my way over to the next vertical line where the one leg takes a trip north and south and the left leg just keeps moving forward. I do this because I hate knots in my work. Knots are a point of failure and if I can minimize knots then I increase the strength of the product and reduce the chances that the knot will work it's way loose and 25 pounds of tempered steel wrenches introduce themselves to the soft, pink, tender flesh of your toes as you try to fix your serpentine pulleys while wearing your Mario Battali edition Crocs. It takes FOR-EV-ER, but it is worth it. You will never have to repair that stitch. When you get to the end of the line and you have stitched yourself dizzy then all that is left is to tie it off in a good knot ( I prefer a double square knot, but it's up to you), trim the excess thread, and burn the knot slightly to melt the wax and nylon together in a hot little ball of napalm. Now take a minute to pat yourself on the back before you realize you still have to stitch the small panel up above.
Step 4: Strap It Up
I used a buckle strap to close it up. I cut a strap about 12 inches long and punched a oblong hole for a buckle about 4 inches from the end. I set the buckle in the strap and rivet the short end to the main body panel half way between the top inner panel and the bottom inner panel. This way, when I roll it up from the largest wrench to the smallest the strap can wrap around the roll and buckle securely. I will come back and add some photos of that process later. I did not have this site in mind and I made that strap up on the fly at the end. Well there you have it. As always I appreciate you reading this far without bouncing your head off the keyboard. There will be more of these on the way.
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