Introduction: Small Leather Card Wallet

Picture of Small Leather Card Wallet

These leather card wallets are perfect for carrying up to 4 bank and I.d cards plus a few folded up bills. They fit into your front pocket and take up very little room when you really don't need that billfold full of stuff.
Acrylic sealed and carnauba waxed, guarantees many years of use.
Be imaginative on your designs, the possibilities are endless.
Most important of all....HAVE FUN!

One more thing

You don't need a box full of leather tools to produce a nice product. When I first got started I bought a toolbox with an odd assortment of tools off the auction site. And a basic stamping set and still use most of them. Of course as your skill grows so does your toy chest. So if I list something and you don't have it, don't fret. Whatever you have to do that step will do with great results of you take your time.

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Picture of Tools and Supplies

For the leather
I'm using 3-4 oz economy veg tan leather I picked up at Tandy on sale, it has scars, holes, brands and other blemishes. But I work around bad stuff and incorporate other stuff to add character. As the pic shows I even use otherwise unusable parts in places that won't be seen..

Veg tanned leather is cured using vegetable products such as tree bark and stuff like that, it can be stamped and dyed and formed into just about any shape when it is moistened, there are numerous thicknesses and grades and even different levels of durability available,

The most common other leather is chrome tanned, it is cured with chromium salts and other stuff, it is used in the clothing, auto and furniture business a lot, it comes pre colored and is very soft and supple, But, you basically cant re-dye it with good results and it doesn't stamp well without special machines and tools,


For finishing
I use mostly Tandy chemicals, they are mid range and they sell tons of it so its fresh and consistent. There are many excellent brands available online all at reasonable prices, I just find it easier to get them all in one place when I drive down to the local store,

Heres my stuff list.

compass\wing dividers, ginsu scissors, razor knife, hole punchers, harness needles(blunt end), waxed thread, mallet, sandpaper, various leather stamps and bevelers, edge slicker, swivel knife, bone folder, contact cement.

eco-flo water based leather dye, super shene acrylic leather finish, carnauba creme wax,

bees wax.

Step 2: The Original Template\cutout

Picture of The Original Template\cutout

I planned to make a few of these so I made up a template, I started by laying a bank card down on a card stock and tracing around it about 1\4 inch with a compass, this gives me room for error and sewing, and it wont be too bulky, then I used a cd and traced around it for my opening radiuses, I labeled the front A, the center B, and the card section C, the B piece is somewhat scarred but it wont be visible so I used it here,

I transfer these to the leather and cut them out with the old ginsu shears, I use a razor knife for longer runs because it makes a crisper, cleaner line ,

try not to use the leather cutout for tracing your next piece, this will make the new piece somewhat larger and your alignment might be off,

Step 3: Getting Started and Part C.

Picture of Getting Started and Part C.

Casing-- casing leather is the process of getting it wet (not wet rag soggy) but fairly damp and letting it rest for a period of time to let the moisture evenly distribute throughout the leather, different thickness and tempered leathers take different times for this to occur, usually waiting for the original color to start to appear is fine for this type of work, it makes shaping and stamping the veg tan leather possible, (Not possible with chrome tan), if the leather is too wet the impressions will lift out and dry with a poor design and if its too dry the tool wont penetrate enough to leave a good impression.

these are fairly thin so a few seconds under running water over the top side and about 10 - 15 minutes casing should do, You can case all three pcs at once for this project as it wont take very long on each piece. leaving the unused pcs under a plate or plastic wrap will stop the drying process.

once cased to your liking, starting with the C pc. make a 1\4 inch lip on the radius with your wing dividers, and very lightly scribe a1\4 inch line all around the rest of your piece, this will give you sort of a border to stop at with your design, you will be creasing the bottom and 3 sides somewhat and sewing them,

using your swivel knife or razor knife carefully cut into the radius line about 1\2 way through beginning and stopping about 3\8 inch or so from either edge, then using a beveler follow along that line with the bevel facing away from the lip, this will give the lip a raised effect,

for the center I traced around a quarter to make my letter border and cut and beveled around it in the same manner with the bevel to the inside, you can certainly freehand draw or trace your favorite font for this or any lettering but I used a stamp, then I decorated the rest of the piece up to the thin edge border with various stamps

Lay 2 plastic bank cards taped together on a hard surface and position the C piece with the bottom edge 1\4 inch below the edge of the cards and centered between the sides. with a bone folder or the back of a spoon carefully compress your edges down to stretch the leather around the cards and form a lip for sewing, take your time fingernail gouges and accidental dings are hard to remove. you will stretch it more later, after the sewing is completed,

whew... that was the hardest part

Now let that dry completely overnight. Meanwhile move onto part B.

Step 4: Part B. the Center Divider

Picture of Part B. the Center Divider

There is little to do here for now.
On the top edge go ahead and make that 1/4 inch wide lip as you did on part C.
Instead of punching a design on the rest of the piece we are going to use a camouflage tool or any stamp used multiple times very close together not applying too much pressure. This makes a light texture on the surface and gives it a little grip including added design.
A little on stamping/tooling leather here*** when doing heavy stamping on leather, the shape of the piece will often become distorted. This causes many issues. Alignment is one major issue. After stamping like mad on a piece and then trying to connect it to a part that is left unstamped or lightly stamped they just don't match up right. Gluing it to cardboard with Rubber Cement before casing and peeling it off when you are finished and its dry is what most people do. Others use packing tape because there is less residue. I've used both with good results but not here as I'm not doing a lot of deep tooling.
I turn the tool this way and that way so I don't create a pattern and go about 2/3 of the way down since most of it will be covered by the C piece.
Set this aside and let it dry overnight with the C part. Meanwhile you guessed it. Part A

Step 5: Part A. the Front or Back Depending on Your Point of View

Picture of Part A. the Front or Back Depending on Your Point of View

Ok this is where you get to do more fun stuff.
You can add the lip on the radius if you like as you did in the other parts or leave it off for more picture room. Just remember the 1/4 inch line all around the bottom and the sides for sewing. Go ahead and make that light border now before you forget.
I mentioned in the beginning about tracing your favorite picture. Once the leather is cased you can trace over your picture with a fine point stylus or any dull pointed object. You don't have to press very hard,it will leave a nice mark. Then cut it with the swivel knife or craft razor and use your bevel tools to give it a raised effect.
Using a fine point stylus I traced around a poker chip for my outer circle then drew a circle about an 1/8 inch in to complete the outer ring. Then traced around a penny for the center circle and free hand drew the sun rays. I then cut my lines with my swivel knife and beveled the ring with the bevel facing away from the ring to give it the raised effect. Then I used my stylus and traced inside the lines of the rays to widen the gaps, I didn't bevel these except on the flat bases closest to the ring. I traced inside the inner circle lines to widen them too a little then used various stamps to fill in the rest of the picture.
When you are happy with your picture set it aside and let it dry overnight with the other parts or at least 5-6 hours. When it dries I use an edge beveler to shave a hairs thickness off the radius edges because it will be hard to neaten these up later.

Step 6: Stitching Groover Vs No Groover

A stitching Groover is an adjustable tool with a little sharpened gouge at one end, it has 1 basic function with several added benefits. It's main function is to cut a small groove in your leather along an edge deep enough to protect your threads from wear after sewing. You set a distance and drag it along and it does its job. One added benefit is that it gives you a straight line to punch stitching holes with a diamond chisel or run a hole spacing tool down the groove for indentations to use an awl in. Either way it's usually a good idea on goods under a lot of friction.
It's best to do this before dying because it will take off your layer of dye and leave an unfinished area not hidden by threads.
When using lighter leathers such as we are using it is not always necessary to run a groove. Just the process of tightening your stitch often countersinks it enough to protect it. Just don't pull too hard, this can cut right through your project and make a mess of things. I've had my wallet over a year with no signs of thread wear.
If you have a Groover and want to use it set it around 1/8 to 3/16 inch (about 1/2 way into the edge you made around the cards in step 3) and go around the C part from top edge around the bottom and up to the other top edge. Then lay your C part down on top of the B part. Mark just below where the C part ends and groove your B part from that point up and stop just before the top rounded corners. Do this on the left and right side, but you won't groove on the A part, this will give you room to dig inside of the top with your fingers to get your money out. We won't be sewing into the top corners anyway. The reason for doing the B-C side only is that opposite sides don't always line up after gluing when you are just learning and your holes on the back side Might be off centered.
If you aren't using a Groover let's move onto dyeing, we'll make a stitch line later when we punch the holes.

Step 7: I'm Dyeing Over Here..

Picture of I'm Dyeing Over Here..

Dyeing leather can be messy business. It can and will get on everything if you don't take certain precautions. First is your work surface, lay down some cardboard or very thick paper, dye will soak through thin stuff quite rapidly. Then your hands, wear latex exam type gloves unless you like scrubbing with harsh chemicals. Your hands are leather and this stuff is made to stain them permanently.

It is common to dye a portion of leather before cutting it out so you get a more uniform color. But stamping afterward doesn't work all that well. It's best to do that process for untooled projects. For this wallet I'm using evening blue dye.
There are volumes written on how to dye leather but for this wallet we are gonna do it this way.
Prep your area and your hands. Lay out your 3 pcs. Have paper towels available and a few clean small dry rags.
With a small dauber or clean cloth apply the dye in a circular motion and then steady straight lines from edge to edge on both sides of your pieces until thoroughly covered.
Wait about 3-5 minutes and apply a second coat. This should give you uniform coverage. Usually 2 coats is sufficient if not then do a third coat. This is where I usually leave for work and let it dry for the day. If not then at least 4-5 hours depending on how saturated the leather was.
Once the leather and dye has dried you are going to buff it well with a soft clean cloth, this will remove any pigment that didn't penetrate into the leather. Do this until your cloth stays clean. Skipping this part will result in your dye bleeding out onto your clothes afterward.

Step 8: Sealing the Deal

Picture of Sealing the Deal

We've come a long way and it's time to seal this wallet. Sealing is an important part of the process. Sweat and moisture of all types will penetrate the leather and allow the dye to leach out onto your clothing and skin. Sealing it before assembly will ensure that this won't happen and ruin yours or someone else's stuff. I'm using super shene from Tandy. Its a water based acrylic sealer and dries tough but don't crack when flexed a lot. Some stuff is thick and requires diluting but this is pretty thin.
The one precaution you must take is to try not to get it on your glueing areas. Glue won't adhere well to this stuff and your parts might pull apart before you get a chance to sew them.
You basically use a damp sponge or a small brush and apply it everywhere you want it, don't slab it on too thick just give it a good coat it will dry clear. Make sure you get it in every nook and cranny of your tooled design. Let this dry for at least 4-5 hours. Then give it a light buffing but don't rub it all off. I know all this waiting for stuff to dry is getting old but it's necessary to achieve a great final product.

Step 9: Glueing It Together

Picture of Glueing It Together

There are many types of leather adhesives. I've used double sided hem tape with excellent results, that's some sticky stuff. And I've used different types of slow drying glues to glue sticks for just tacking before sewing. You almost always want something that's gonna dry somewhat flexible. My best results have come from contact cement. The thing with contact cement is when you stick it together it's there permanently. You rarely get a second chance to adjust your pieces once stuck together unless you put them together before allowing a film to appear on the glue surface. I use adwoods from major depot stores it's reasonably priced. I got a can of another brand at the swap shop I'm burning through right now and that works great too.
So following the glue mfg. directions. we'll start with parts A+B. First prep the leather, lightly sand and mar the surfaces you are applying the glue to, this will remove any sealer that has gotten onto your gluing areas. Only glue up to the bottom of the top corners. Don't go into the bend. Take your time and apply your glue less than 1/4 inch wide around the sides and bottom of your pieces. Once it becomes ready to adhere,Pay attention and carefully put the pieces together working your way around from corned to corner. Lightly hammer these together to help create the bond.
Next you will lay the C part over the B part in it's proper place and mark just below the top edge of the C part on the B part. This will tell you where to stop applying the glue. Prep the areas that will be accepting glue and proceed as you did on parts A-B. Guess what? more waiting.
We're 3/4 way done
Let this cure for at least 3-4 hours

Step 10: Punching Holes

Picture of Punching Holes


I take my compass set to about 1/8 to 3/16 inch (about 1/2 way into the formed edge around the cards you made in step 3) then scribe a light line all around the 3 glued sides of parts B-C starting just below the rounded top corners. Pay attention going around corners this will give you a straight line To follow with the punching chisel or awl if that's what your using. If you used the stitching Groover earlier you already have this line. If using a chisel use your last tine in your last hole to set the spacing for your new set of holes. You can use a small fork or any close spaced object to make stitching indentations to punch through with your awl.
First on the the B part Just above the part C pocket I locate that spot and I punch a single hole on either side ( see pic )to ensure you have a hole very close to the edge then punch holes upward from that point to just before the top rounded corners. Then downward around the bottom and up to the other side. I do it this way to ensure I have a nice alignment at the crucial stress areas where the cards fit in. Make sure to punch straight through, you want to keep an even line on the opposite side and not go over the edge. Especially around those small corners.

Step 11: Saddle Stitching

Picture of Saddle Stitching

Saddle stitching is the most reliable type of sewing. It is done with 2 needles going in opposite directions through every hole. This way if one thread fails for any reason there is always another thread in that hole securing your pieces. There are many styles to achieve many different effects in Saddle stitching but the outcome is just as strong, just more or less aesthetically pleasing. The video channels have excellent instruction on how to do this or you can just do a running in out stitch with 1 needle and back over your stitches if you prefer. It's faster and less technical but achieves the same basic results. I suggest learning and practicing on some scrap before continuing.
I built this stitching pony out of scrap wood. It secures my projects and acts as an extra set of hands, it's not necessary but very helpful. 2 wood planks and a bungee cord propped up between your knees will hold it just fine if you just gotta do it like that.
Start sewing from the A side on either top corner, 3 holes down. Holes are generally larger on the side you punched them and easier to see and start your needle. From the 3rd hole sew up to the top hole and back down over your stitches (back stitching). This gives added durability to the corners. When you reach the pocket go over the lip and back stitch one hole then back over the lip, this gives strength to this corner too. Work your way around to the other side and repeat the process. When you get to the top corner back stitch down 3 holes again snip your thread close and burn the thread ends to secure it. I've melted a pin drop of wax here on some projects but not this one.
Woo hoo we are almost done

Step 12: The Final Stretching

Picture of The Final Stretching

Acrylic sealers seal the leather well but are not waterproof. That's a good thing here. I know you hate to wet this thing on purpose but we need to unless your desired amount of cards already fit inside. Probably not.. The glueing and sewing process tightens up the openings considerably. We'll start with the bone folder, it's like a heavy duty plastic knife used for making sharp creases in crafts. You can use the back of a very dull butter knife here but don't cut your threads. Insert your tool into the larger top pocket and along the edges all the way around, carefully and gently pry the glue open,up to your stitch line. You need to recapture this real estate to get your bills to fit inside.
Do this same process to the smaller card pocket as well.
Here's the scary part. Somewhat...
We are going to run water into the smaller card pocket for a few seconds. More like 10-15 seconds
Insert your finger into the card slot and open the hole up, then under warm running water fill the hole with water and let it run for about 10-15 seconds. This will saturate the leather and make it pliable, No need to wet the top hole we aren't going to go there but don't worry too much about getting it wet.
Let the leather case for about 5 minutes. This should be sufficient. Then insert 2 bank cards into the card pocket (between B and C). It might be snug so go slowly and give the leather time to stretch. Next you will slowly work 1 card between those 2 cards and finally the last card between those cards. This process avoids cutting the wet leather with sharp card edges. If you really want to you can insert your bone folder or the handle of a thin utensil into the top money slot now. Since, once the wallet is dry, folded up bills won't come completely to the edges they will bulge more in the center. Just don't crack your cards or overstretch the leather it may tear.
Yup you guessed it. Let this dry completely for several hours.

Step 13: The Finishing Process

Picture of The Finishing Process

Ok now the leather is dry and the cards fit snugly and even a few folded bill fit into the money slot. We are going to clean up the edges a little with sandpaper or even a craft knife if they are that scruffy. Be very careful to NOT sand or cut your threads.
. Do a final cleanup, Smooth your edges with fine sandpaper and remove any excess glue that is exposed between the layers. Watch those threads...
Now it's time to wet it again ..WHAT again. Yup but only the edges.
But first if you need to touch up the dye do that now around the edges very lightly with a cotton swab. Let that dry for a few minutes. Then with a damp sponge or moisten paper towel you will moisten the edges of the wallet and let that case for a minute or two. Then with an edge slicker or a dry (disposable) cloth you will rub like a mad man over the edges to polish them to a hard durable finish. The heat from the friction causes the fibers to bind somewhat together and makes the appearance of a single solid piece.

Step 14: Wax

Picture of Wax

I use a product called carnauba creme. It's an overall good final wax. It will soak into your thread line and any exposed raw spots you may have. Helping preserve the project. I guess any liquid wax should do but some ingredients may speed up the rotting process. I don't know.
For this product I will use a small brush or even my finger and apply it all over my wallet even on the insides of the openings a little way down then let it dry completely. It will leave a white residue inside your tool marks,mI use an old clean toothbrush to get it out of there. Then once it's totally dry, about an hour or so I give the whole thing a good buffing to shine it up. Then take your chunk of bees wax and rub it along your outer edges to get a good coating and rub it in well with a rag to soften it with the friction and get a good shine.
That's it we're done. Not a whole lot of work just a bunch of waiting for things to dry so we can move onto the next step.
I hope you understood my explanations I tend to ramble a little. If you have any question on this or other leatherwork shoot me a message. I'm no expert but I might be able to help or point you in the right direction.
Thank you for following G.

Comments

ALD3 (author)2015-01-14

Like your card design. I use a bowl of water and a Tandy sponge to wet case my leather, you can easily re-dampen a large piece of leather quickly. Did you do an Instructable on your lacing pony? I have 1 that is about 25 years old from Tandy's but been thinking about making a taller 1.

eugenekaub (author)ALD32015-01-14

Hi thanks for the advice. I made that pony out of a trash pile from a construction site about a year ago. I can send you my dimensions if you'd like along with how high it reaches on my chest its perfect height for sitting on my tailgate and working on pieces at the park or beach. G.

ALD3 (author)eugenekaub2015-01-14

Thanks that would be good and maybe a picture or 2. been looking at several and always see a different twist on each 1. I'm not very good with woodworking, so haven't jumped in yet. Like seeing all the different ideas that I can and picking what I like out of each 1.

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Bio: I'm a professional chef and in my idle time I keep busy making leather and fabric products. Just about anything I put my mind ... More »
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