Introduction: Simple Durable Leather Camera Case
Compact cameras are very popular, small enough to bring on backpacking trips, but powerful enough to take awesome photos that your phone sucks at (you know what I'm talking about).
One of the main problems with these compact cameras is that there are few quality cases to carry them in. There are even fewer that are durable enough to be regularly carried on a belt. So when brainstorming for a ideas to do a instructable on, I thought of making a camera case so that I could bring my camera with me wherever I go without hassle.
Some of the requirements I made
1. Needed to be fairly simple, as I recently started Leatherworking.
2. Requires only a few tools, as Leatherworking tools are expensive.
3. Needed to have a soft lining to protect the camera
4. Be comfortable enough to wear all day
5. Have a hard shell to protect the camera
6. Fit on a belt and (of course) look good
After planning and making a prototype, this is what we (my sister and I) came up with.
You will only need a few basic tools to make this camera case; although proper tools will make the work easier and give you a better result. However, a hundred dollars worth of tools is not required to make an awesome case.
There are no patterns here, just instructions on how to make a case that fits your device (whether it be a compact camera, phone, gps, radio, etc. - the choice is yours). Have fun!!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
We suggest that you use 5–6 oz. leather veg tan leather, but leather of different weights will work just as well. The majority of the leather pieces we used were pre-dyed leather scraps from the hobby store. For the molded piece for the brown camera case we used around 8oz oil tanned leather, which turned out great.
Essential Tools for this project include:
- Mallet (Yeah, Yeah I know mine is ugly, was made in ten minutes with a piece of 2x4 scrap)
- An L-square or other straight edge/measuring tool
- Scrap wood pieces (around the size of your device )
- Clamps or a staple gun and staples (Used for keeping the leather over the mold)
- A sharp knife
- Scratch Awl or tool for punching holes in leather
- stitching material (we used artificial sinew)
- Fleece or felt (This is optional depending if you want a soft lining )
- Contact Cement
- 3/4" Velcro piece 2 inches long. (If using a a velcro strap)
- Superglue ( Used to permanently set the end of the stitches together to prevent unravelling )
- Edge Beveler
- Burnishing tool and Edge Wax
- Stitching groover
- Pricking wheel ( A cheap substitute we found was a flattened fork to mark were to punch the holes. )
- Leather finish
- Tooling stamps for decoration
Step 2: Sizing the Leather Pieces
You will need three separate pieces to make this camera case. The first piece will need to be able to cover the front and three sides of your camera with at least ½'' to 1'' of border width around the three sides (although it's possible to use a piece with slightly less border width, it's really a pain to try and mold a piece with barely any edge to clamp down). You can either fold the leather piece over your camera and eyeball it; or use a measuring tape to measure across the front width and sides of your camera and add 1'' to 2'', then measure the front length and bottom side and add ½'' to 1'' for the minimum dimensions of your front leather piece.
Your second piece will need to cover the back and one side of your camera as well as at least 2'' of the front for the flap. You will also need at least ½'' of border width around the back side of the camera. Again, you can place your camera flat on the piece of leather and eyeball it; or you can add ½'' plus at least 2'' for your flap length to the back length and top side measurement of your camera; then add 1'' to the back width measurement for the dimensions of your back leather piece.
For your third leather piece, you will need a rectangular strip 1 ½'' x 3 ¾'' for a belt loop.
(Optional: If you prefer a flap keeper to velcro, you will need a piece for that too. A strip ½'' x ¼'' more than the width of your front leather piece should do the trick).
Step 3: Making the Mold
Cut out a wood block with roughly the dimensions of the device you're going to be making the case for. If you're using felt or fleece to line the case, then the wood block will need to be just a little bigger than your device.
Sand this block smooth to remove any rough edges.
Step 4: Molding the Leather
Now that you have all the right pieces, you need to wet form your front piece. Soak this piece in warm, clean water for at least 20 min. Once your leather has soaked, carefully clamp (or staple) the edge to a flat surface, then fold and stretch the leather piece over the wood mold made in step 3. If you are using veg-tanned leather, you will need to cut several v-shaped slits in the bottom edge of your leather piece in order for the corners to form properly (You might also need to un-clamp near the corner so that your leather can stretch where it needs to). Be careful not to cut your slits too large or you will have to deal with sewing over them later, and your end product might not look as good. For the oil tanned piece I found that I did not need to cut any slits in the leather; I just formed it around the mold and stapled it down (see picture).
Once you've got the leather formed nicely over the block, finish clamping (or stapling) around the remaining sides.
(Note: Just in case you were wondering, we did NOT staple the leather into the table, but had a piece of 2x10 underneath. :)
When clamped down leave Your leather to dry for about 24 hr or more. (Do not try leaving it in front of a fan to speed up the drying process as this can make the leather warp. "I warned you")
Step 5: Cutting Fleece
Next, you'll have to cut out your fleece pieces. To get the dimensions for the piece lining the molded front, figure out the dimensions you will need to wrap around the three sides and bottom and add 1/4'' to length and width. (This leaves room for error.)
For the back inside lining, measure the dimensions of the back of the device; add the thickness of the device to the length, then add 1/4" to both dimensions. (To cut the fleece pieces, I like to first cut out paper squares with the correct dimensions, pin them to the fleece, and cut the fleece around the paper).
Step 6: While You're Waiting for the Molded Piece to Dry....
Now you can start to assemble the back of the case while the molded piece is drying. Start by beveling the edges of your belt loop piece (since we did not have a edge beveler we used a hobby knife to do this), then burnish them. Once you have your edges finished, mark a line 1'' from the short end of the belt loop piece. Wet this half of the leather piece and fold on the line. Take your back leather piece and mark the approximate area of the top of the case by lining it up with your molded leather piece and marking its edge on the back leather piece with a line (picture 2). Find the middle of the line and mark it, too. Mark the middle of the fold on the belt loop piece, match your middle marks, and trace around the folded over part of your belt loop to get the area where you will need to spread the contact cement (pictures 3-4). It's a good idea to roughen up this area as well as the back of the belt loop fold so that the cement will better bond the two pieces. Following the instructions on the bottle, cement the folded top of the belt loop to the back of your case. Once you've done that, mark where your stitches will be, punch your holes , and saddle stitch. (Here is a good instructable on how to saddle stitch leather : )
(I learned that artificial sinew even when backstitched tends to loosen, so on all stitches make sure to put a drop of super glue at the end.)
Then mark on the back leather piece where the bottom edge of the belt loop is going to be, roughen the area where you will stitch, and contact cement together. Mark, punch, and stitch as with the top of the belt loop.
The last thing you can do before your molded piece dries is glue on the back fleece lining. Leaving an even border around, center the fleece piece on the bottom half of the case and contact cement in place.
Step 7: Fleece Lining and Velcro
Once your molded leather piece has dried remove it from the mold and inspect. Then mark a semicircular slit in the sides of the piece and use a hobby knife to cut them out. Then fit the front fleece piece into your molded leather piece. Smooth it down into the molded piece so that the fleece covers it smoothly except for extra folds at the corners. Cut triangular pieces out of the corners of the fleece piece to get rid of the folds and cut semicircular slits into the fleece piece to match those in the molded leather piece.
If you are using velcro as a closure for your case, you will need to stitch it onto the case before you attach the fleece. If not, skip this part. Cut the piece of velcro that you will use (a 2'' strip of ¾''-width velcro is good), use contact cement to glue it where you want it, mark your stitches, punch your holes, and saddle stitch the pieces.
Once you have your fleece piece fitting smoothly into your molded leather piece, carefully cement it to the inside of the piece (make sure those semicircles still match up). Then trim off the excess.
Step 8: Making a Case
Spread contact cement around the edges of your front molded piece as well as on the corresponding area of your back leather piece and glue together.
Now you've got a case, but we're not done yet. Mark your stitches around the bottom and sides of the camera case as well as around the top edge of the molded piece (stitching across the top will secure your inner fleece piece more firmly in place), then punch your holes (you might need an extra pair of hands to help you punch the holes on the corners). Note: If you are using the flap keeper option, you will need to moisten your keeper, fold it over the front of your case, and punch corresponding holes in it. Saddle stitch together. When you reach the first corner, where you have to switch from sewing the front and back leather pieces together to sewing the inner lining to the front leather piece; the needle coming out the back of the case will need to go back a stitch, then forward again through a single piece of leather. After you've finished stitching, trim the excess leather around the case.
If you wish, you can also saddle stitch across the top of the back lining to more firmly anchor it in place (as shown on the brown camera case).
Step 9: Finishing Touches
Now for the flap. If you are using velcro, fold your flap over the case and mark where your corresponding velcro piece will go; then cement it, mark your stitches, punch your holes, and saddle stitch. Trim your flap any way that works for you. You can round it off or you can draw a simple border on the underside of the flap and cut that out (heh heh, I cut an unusual but decorative border on the flap of the black case to compensate for my back leather piece being uneven:). Once you've got the flap how you want it, then you can bevel the edges of the case and flap if it's needed. Then, rub edge wax around the edges and burnish them, and put on a leather finish.
Step 10: Done!!!
You're done! Step back and admire your work!
The time it would take to make this case is about 6 to 8hr depending on skill level, I hope you will have as much fun making this project as I did.
If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below,
and I would love to see any cases you make.