Whether you're deep in the woods fighting for survival or just in your back yard picking berries, there are times when you need an extra set of hands or just a place to stash a few items as you go about your business. To solve this problem I built a Leather & Canvas Fold-able Belt Pouch. This useful piece of gear folds up discretely when not in use and then with the unsnap of a fastener, it unfolds into a roomy pouch perfect for storing or carrying all sorts of things. The best part is that whether folded or unfolded the pouch is always clipped to your belt, leaving your hands free to tackle whatever tasks may come your way.
In this instructable I'll teach you how to build a belt pouch of your own. I'll cover how to cut the leather, how to sew the bag, and how to install the various hardware. Along the way I'll include measurements and tips and tricks so that you will have all the information you need to make this project for yourself.
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Step 1: Here's What You're Going to Need:
- Leather - For this project I used 6 ounce vegetable tanned leather. This is my go to leather as it is thick enough to hold it's shape but not so thick that it is overly rigid or hard to work with. Tracking down a leather supplier can be a bit tricky, I suggest checking local saddle or upholstery shops as they sometimes have small scraps that they'll give away for free that are perfect for projects like this. Online suppliers like Tandy Leather are also a great option as they offer a variety of leathers in a wide range of colors and weights.
- 4" X 4" Square of Thin Sheet Metal - This is going to be modified to provide a rigid support frame for the leather case. I used a pre finished 14 gauge steel tile but you could DIY this by purchasing a thin sheet of steel or brass and then cutting it down to 4" x 4" in size.
- Snap Fasteners (Button Snaps) - These come in a wide variety of sizes and finishes. The ones I'm using for this project are 3/8" diameter with a nickel-silver finish.
- Canvas - The canvas I used for this project is referred to as "Duck Canvas". It's not the same thing as the canvas used for painting so don't mistake the two. If you have a fabric store like Jo Ann Fabrics close to you just go in and mention Duck Canvas and they'll take you right to it. It's available in different thickness's so look for a slightly thinner canvas like what a canvas tote or duffel bag might be made from.
- Metal Spring Belt Clip: There's a variety of belt clips out there used for things like holsters or cell phone cases, out of all of the ones I looked at, the one I chose to use for this project seemed to be the best in terms of price, quality, and strength. You also get the rivets for mounting it which means you'll have to buy one less thing to complete this project. The included like will take you right to the Amazon page where I purchased the clip.
- 6" long piece of 1/2" Round Stock - Used to bend the edges of the metal support so that they are half round.
- Bee's Wax - Used to finish the surface of the vegetable tanned leather. Also waterproofs the leather.
- Utility Knife and Straight Edge
- Snap Fastener Setting Tools
- Sewing Machine
- Edge Beveler and Slicker
- Clamps and Wooden Blocks.
- Leather Hole Punch
- Heat Gun
Step 2: Cutting the Leather
Measure and cut a rectangle of leather that is 10" long by 4" wide, (the same width as the sheet metal square.The 10" length is only a guess at this point which will leave plenty of material to dial in the final length later on. As you cut, remember that the trick to cutting leather is to do it in multiple passes. If you try to hack through the leather in one pass then you're going to botch your cut or injure yourself, so take your time and make light successive cuts until you slice the whole way through.
Step 3: Shaping the Front of the Leather Case
The shape of the front flap is one of the main factors that determine what your end product is going to look like. For my leather case I used a compass to scribe an arc onto one end of the leather and then used a Xacto knife to follow the line and make the cut.
Step 4: Creating the Metal Case Support
To help the leather case hold it's shape I created a metal support frame that fits inside it. The support is made from a 4" X 4" 16 gauge metal square that has been gently curved on two sides to allow the leather case to wrap around it.
Creating the curves can be a bit tricky, to make things easier I welded a simple jig that I used to bend each side. If you don't have access to a welder you can accomplish the same task by clamping the steel square against a piece of round stock in the jaws of a vice and then using your hands or a hammer to work the square around the round stock to create the bend.
Step 5: Making the Canvas Pouch
With the leather cut and the metal support created, the next step is to whip up the canvas bag. Start by cutting your canvas so that it is 16.5" wide by 15.25" long. Stitch all around the canvas using a zigzag stitch to keep the canvas from unravelling. Next, fold down 1/4" of the top (longer side) and stitch it over to create the hem that will go around the lip of the bag. Once the hem is complete, fold the canvas in half and stitch the side and bottom to complete the bag. Lastly, turn the bag inside out so that all the stitching and rough edges are hidden on the inside.
The last thing I did before calling the bag done was to stitch a 1" X 3" rectangle of canvas onto the upper center of the back of the bag. This provided me with a stronger mounting point for the snap fasteners that will be used to attach the bag to the leather case in a later step.
Pro Tip: The duck canvas I used to create the bag is awesome stuff and I have no doubt that it will last for years, but it is also quite thick which limits how big the bag can be before it's to big/thick to fit into the leather case. If you were to switch to a thinner fabric, like linen, then you could make a larger pouch while still keeping it the same overall thickness once folded. Sure it wouldn't be as strong as the duck canvas, but I designed the pouches to be replaceable anyway. You could even make several pouches of varying sizes and materials that could be switched out based on your anticipated needs, a large light weight linen bag for picking berries or fruit, and a smaller heavier weight bag for holding tools, ammo, etc.
Step 6: Trimming the Leather Case to It's Final Size
You now have all the basic components of the belt pouch, the leather case , the metal support, and the canvas pouch. Fold up the bag and do a test assembly of the parts to see how they will fit together. Now you can mark and trim the leather to it's final length, which should be right around 8.5" from end to end. When you trim make sure to leave at least 1" overlap on the ends when cutting the leather to it's final size. The overlap will be used to mount the snap fastener that is used to hold the leather case closed.
Step 7: Stamping (Optional)
If you'd like to add some stamped decoration to your pouch now is the best time to do so. Being a big Legend of Zelda fan I designed and created a custom 3D printed Triforce stamp that I pressed into the surface of the leather case. This is one of my favorite tricks for tooling leather as it always yields great results with very little effort. If you'd like to learn how to make custom leather stamps of your own, you can check out my instructable, " How to Design, Print, and Use Custom 3D Printed Leather Stamps."
Leather Stamping Process:
- Wet the entire piece of leather.
- Allow the leather to to begin drying so that the surface of the leather is lightly damp while the core of the leather is still wet.
- Use your preferred method of tooling/stamping to add decoration. Because the core of the leather is damp it will hold the designs you tool into it allowing you to add some really amazing detail to your project.
Step 8: Drilling/Punching the Holes for Attaching the Snap Fasteners and Belt Clip
The next step is to layout and drill/punch the holes that will be used to mount the pocket clip and the snap fasteners used to attach the canvas bag to the leather case. Start by laying out the hole positions onto the back of the sheet metal case support as diagrammed above. Use a hand drill or drill press to drill the hole positions into the metal support and then use it as a template to transfer the hole locations onto the leather.
Step 9: Finish the Edges of the Leather Case
This is one of those steps that really makes or breaks the quality of your final project. Finishing the edges of leather makes the whole project better, even if it's not that great of a project, if you finish the edges nicely it really pulls the whole things together; (kind of like putting a really nice frame on a not so nice painting, all of a sudden the painting looks better just because it's got nice frame to hang in.
Below is a quick step by step guide to finishing the edge of your Leather Belt Pouch, but I highly suggest you also check out the awesome instructable created be Jessyratfink on finishing leather edges, "How to burnish leather edges". Everything she says is 100% on the money and she does a great job showing the step by step process:
Finishing Leather Edges
- Use an edge beveler to bevel the edges of the leather, making sure to bevel both sides.Lightly sand the edges using 220 grit sand paper to remove irregularities or facets creating during beveling.
- Apply Gum Tragacanth uniformly to the edges of the leather. Be conscious to not apply the Gum Tragacanth to the surface of the leather as it will act as a resist when applying finish.
- Allow the gum to begin to dry, it will become slightly tacky.
- Burnish the edges of your project rapidly with an edge slicker. This will work the Gum Tragacanth into the leather fibers and will help the fibers to bind together into a polished edge.
- Apply more Gum Tragacanth and continue burnishing/slicking until a polished edge appears.
Step 10: Applying a Bee's Wax Finish
For this project I decided to try a completely new technique which was to finish the leather with bee's wax. Up until now I had been applying oil finishes to my leather projects, but a fellow Instructables member told me that bee's wax makes a wonderful waterproof leather finish, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
Here's how you apply a bee's wax finish:
- Melt the bee's wax. I used a hot plate and kept a close eye on the wax as it started to melt. be mindful of the hot wax as it is flammable if it gets too hot.
- Use a cotton cloth to apply the melted wax to the front and back of your leather. The wax finish is going to look awful at this point, it will be blotchy, cloudy, and chalky, don't worry everything will be okay.
- Use a hair drier or heat gun on it's lowest setting to warm the leather. This will allow the wax on the surface to absorb down into the leather which will even out the blotchy surface color.
- While the leather is still warm and the wax still liquid, use a clean cotton cloth to clean off any residual wax on the surface of the leather.
- Once the leather has cooled use a soft cotton cloth to buff the entire piece. This will finish working the wax into the leather and will impart a soft sheen to the surface of the leather.
Overall I am very pleased with the wax finish, it was a bit harrowing at first, (when the wax looked awful and I thought I ruined my project), but once I started heating the waxed leather and the finish started evening out I relaxed and found the finish to be pretty simple to apply with very nice results, (and the water proof leather is a huge bonus, it's pretty amazing how the water just beads up and runs off.)
Tip: Applying bee's wax leaves the leather with a slightly darker natural color. If you'd like to change the color of the leather more significantly there are a variety of commercial leather finishes that can be purchased.
Step 11: Installing the Snap Fasteners for Attaching the Pouch to the Leather Case
The canvas bag is held to the leather pouch using snap fasteners. Two male snaps are are attached to the leather pouch and two female snaps are attached to the canvas bag. The snaps hold the pouch securely on the leather case, but they can also be undone if you'd like to remove the canvas pouch for cleaning or replacement.
Leather Case(Male Snaps)
Each male snap is made up of two parts, the stud and the post. The stud is the "snap" and the post is the part that goes through the leather and fixes the stud in place. To mount the male snaps, push the post through the holes you punched/drilled previously in the leather case and metal support so that the end of the post is on the same side as the metal support. Position the stud onto the post and use the snap set tool to mushroom the post locking it to the stud.
Canvas Pouch (Female Snaps)
Each female snap is made up of two parts, the Cap and the Socket. The socket is the "snap" and the cap is the circular dome shaped piece that goes through the canvas and fixes the socket in place. Mount the female snaps to the pouch so that the caps are on the inside and the sockets are on the outside.
If any of that was confusing then just reference the pictures above and everything should be clear.
Step 12: Leather Case Front Snap
With the canvas pouch folded and in place inside the leather case, wrap the leather around the folded pouch and mark where it passes over itself. Install the snap fastener in the center of the area where the leather overlaps.
Step 13: Installing the Belt Clip
The last step of this project is to attach the belt clip to the back of the leather case. The holes are already in place for the rivets that are used to attach the clip so all that you need to do is to install the rivets and use a hammer to fix them in place. You will need to use a small block of wood on the inside of the case to support the rivet heads as you attempt to hammer them into place.
Step 14: Done
The Leather & Canvas Fold-able Belt Pouch is not complete! When you're ready to use the pouch just unsnap the button and allow the pouch to fall open, ready for use.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my Instructable on how to make a Leather and Canvas Fold-able Belt Pouch. I hope you enjoyed this project and found the information interesting and fun to read. Since making this Instructable I have been using my belt pouch for all sorts of things, from picking blue berries to foraging for wild mushrooms, to holding tools when I need both hands to work on something. It really is a handy piece of gear and I love how small and discrete it is, I barely notice that I have it until I need it and when I need it I'm very glad to have it.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
If you enjoyed this project please consider voting for it in the Survival and Leather Working Contests!