Introduction: 5 Pocket Leather Card Holder.

This instructable shows how to make a 5 pocket card holder entirely by hand. It will assume you already have some knowledge of leather work (including saddle stitching) and tools. Not all of the techniques or tools used are necessary but most of the optional stuff does lead to a nicer overall result. I will try to indicate when something isn't absolutely necessary. With that said some of the techniques used here will be difficult for beginners, I suggest you have some practice with skiving, stitching and clicking (cutting). You should also read the entirety of this before starting to understand why certain decisions are made.

Step 1: Tools You Will Need and the Pattern

Heres the tools used:

  • Wing dividers -pricking irons (I suggest 3mm)
  • deadblow hammer/ rubber mallet / leatherworkers maul
  • 004 john james harness needles
  • glue spreader
  • rulers
  • framing squares
  • A knife for cutting
  • A knife for skiving (A japanese skiving knife can be used for both tasks)
  • scratch awl
  • diamond awl


  • Stitching clam/pony (Highlyrecommended)
  • edge beveler
  • edge creaser
  • corner punches
  • canvas cloth
  • wooden edge burnisher
  • glass burnisher ( a glass rectangle with rounded and smoothed edges)


  • Leather
  • Thread ( I used vinymo MBT #8 which is about 0.4mm)
  • Glue (Pva will work fine if you dont have something made specifically for leather)
  • burnishing compound ( I suggest CMC/Tylose powder or tokonole)
  • Sand paper

I used black english bridle for this project. For leather thickness i suggest something in the 0.8mm to 1.2mm (2oz-3oz) range. Veg tan or some chrome tans will work fine. Chrome tans will not burnish so would have to be edge painted instead (not covered in this). You want something with a medium to firm temper. There is a lot of misinformation on chrome tan leather it is not inherently inferior than vegetable tanned leather, it depends on the specific leather not the tanning method.

Step 2: Cutting

With all of that covered we are ready to begin. English bridle often has as wax bloom visible as the white stuff on the surface of the leather, It buffs off easily. If you are using CMC or tylose powder i suggest mixing this first. A ratio of 3/200 cmc to water works well but you can go by feel.

First of all start by cutting a straight edge on the hide you are using. From there i suggest cutting a long 51mm (2") wide strip of leather. This will be cut into card pockets later, but it is much quicker to do it this way than to cut them all from the side separately. Then cut out 2x rectangles measuring 110mmx 80mm.

Now cut four 120mm wide rectangles from the 2" strip we cut earlier. These will become our card pockets. With these cut we need to cut 2 of them into t slots...

Step 3: Cutting and Skiving T Slots

T slots help to reduce the thickness of the wallet at the edge. Im going to use overlapping t slots in this instructable, they are harder to make but produce a better result in my opinion. Cut the T slot according to the pattern in step one.

From there we skive the bottom edges shown in the pictures. They both should be skived fairly thin. It is important to skive the edges shown in pictures 4 and 5 of this step on both side of the t slots as this will overlap with the card slots that fits on top of it. This means that it should smoothly overlap with no obvious sudden step in thickness. The card slot will overlap with the t slot 3mm so this much or more should be skived down.

The overlapping of T slots is not a necessary step and can be avoided if you find it difficult. Simply place the bottom of the sides of the T (the edge you would skive) against the top of the card slots. Basically the t slots will be staggered up 15mm from the bottom of the card slots when assembled. When gluing up it will be important that these two edges are pressed firmly together and that the T slots are cut accurately to prevent gaps. This comparison can be seen in picture 6 of this step. An example of a gap is seen inside the red oval. Its pretty small (I would guess its half a mm wide). Its a small issue but its nice to be able to avoid it.

Step 4: Burnishing the Back and Tops Edges. (Optional)

Burnish the tops of each panel. This will produce a much smoother edge to the tops of the pieces. I highly recommend burnishing the edges if you are using veg tan. If you are using chrome tan either edge paint, or turned edges are necessary. If you want you edge to match in colour you can use a small amount of matching dye on the edge before burnishing, I chose not do do this meaning all of the layers are easily visible.

To burnish the edges first lightly sand them with 400 grit upwards. Followed by applying some water or your chosen burnishing compound and rub the edge with a piece of canvas cloth or a wooden burnisher. Do not apply pressure when doing this on thin leather. Only the top edge of each panel needs to be done for this step, the rest will be done later.

The flesh side of the leather you are using can also be burnished to smooth it down if necessary. This step is completely optional and just makes the leather smoother inside the pockets. If the flesh side your leather is already smooth don't bother with this step. Apply burnishing compound to the back and rub it with a glass burnisher.

Step 5: Creasing the Top of Each Panel (optional)

Here I'm using a fileteuse (edge creaser) to crease the tops of each component piece. This particular creaser is expensive and is heated with a electric heating element. You can easily get cheaper ones that you manually heat. The amount of heat you use will depend of the leather, test it in scraps/off-cuts first to get a feel for it.

This step is done now as it is easier to do these edges before assembly.

Step 6: Gluing and Pricking the T Slot Onto the Inner Panel.

First we mark 12mm (15mm if you are not overlapping) up from the bottom edge of the inner panel with some wing dividers or a scratch awl and ruler. This indicates where the bottom of the t slot will be. Now scratch a line a couple of millimeters wide above this to give a rough surface for the glue to hold onto. Then spread a line of glue onto the bottom edge of the t slot, Before Aligning it to the line we marked. Press the bottom of the t slot down and double check that the bottom of the t slot is 12mm above the bottom of the bottom of the inner panel. The top should be 17mm below the top edge of the inner panel.

With this done mark a line 3mm from the bottom of the t slots for pricking. Then use your pricking irons and a hammer to punch holes into the leather for stitching. take your time and follow the line you have marked, you cant remove holes once they are there.

Repeat this for the other side of the card holder.

Step 7: Stitch the T Slot to the Inner Panel

Saddle stitch the t slot to the inner panel. Exit your back stitches into the inside of the card holder, if you are using synthetic thread you can trim them short and burn them with a lighter. Be careful not to burn the leather.

If you do not know how to saddle stitch, there are plenty of good tutorials on Youtube. This instructable would be too long if i explained it here.

Repeat this for the other side of the card holder.

Step 8: Glue the Outer Card Slot On

Now we are ready to glue the card slot onto the t slot and inner panel assembly. The steps are largely similar to the previous glue up. you need to rough up all of the grain side surface that will be glued. This includes underneath and the overlapping portion of the sides of the t slots. If you are going to round the bottom edge like i do account for this in your roughing and glue, it need to hold the edge together if you are burnishing.With all of this roughed up you are ready to apply glue and carefully align the card slot before firmly pressing it down.Remember the T slot and outer card slot will overlap 3mm by design.

Repeat this for the other side of the card holder.

Step 9: Trimming the Excess

The T slot and card slots are intentionally made wider than the inner panel. This allows for more error during cutting and glue up. This excess now should now be cut off. to do this i used a Japanese skiving knife with makes it fairly easy to cut straight lines free hand. If you haven't practiced with one or don't have one use a ruler aligned with the edge of the inner panel as a guide to cut off the excess.

Step 10: Round the Bottom Corners ( Optional)

Round the bottom corners of the card holder if you prefer them. I'm using a kyoshin elle round corner punch which has an effective 2cm diameter. This gives are reasonable curve to the bottom repeatably and quickly. If you want to round the bottom corners and dont have one then use a coin to mark the curve on the corner and you can cut it by hand. I suggest cutting lots of straight lines tangentially to that curve rather than trying to cut it in one go. you can then sand to smooth the curve.

Step 11: Pricking the Two Halves

This step is important, BEFORE continuing make sure everything lines up correctly between the two halves or you will have difficulty when trying to assemble and stitch.

In a slight change to the construction order so far i choose to prick each half separately before gluing. This doesn't have to be done in this way but it can produce nicer looking stitching. If you dont have much experience i suggest gluing the two halves together first before pricking through them both in one go. Just make sure you prick through perpendicular to the surface of the card holder every time or you will end up with the back side of your stitching being wavy.

First mark a line 3mm from the side and bottom edges of both pieces. Before following that with your pricking iron. One important thing to note is that its best to start pricking at the area where all of the pieces of leather overlap. If you have cut and glued everything accurately you should be able to prick holes with a 3mm iron with each edge in between the pricking irons teeth. This means that you with not cut the edges of the card slots. Prick all four areas when the card slots and t slots meet first, then prick the rest of the card holder. If you have rounded the corner use a 2 tooth pricking iron to follow the curve.

You may find the area where the two lines of pricking holes meet, may not line up exactly. Deal with this by dividing the uneven spacing with an awl. For example you may prick from both sides and meet in the middle but have an 8mm space between two holes you have pricked. 8mm isn't divisible by 3mm so it will not match up perfectly. You can deal with this with an awl. Divide the gap evenly to so that you get as close to a 3mm spacing as possible and mark that spacing with you wing dividers.Then prick through with your diamond awl to match that spacing.This pattern is supposed to have a longer loop of stitching going over the top of the card holder (visible in the completed photos). I made that decision for strength, as that area is one of the most stressed areas of the card holder.

With the card holder pricked you can glue the two halves together ready for stitching (if you haven't already). ONLY GLUE THE PERIMETER AND NOT THE TOP or you will not have a central slot. Be careful to align the the two halves, you can use needles through the holes to help with this.

Step 12: Stitch Up the Card Holder.

With the pricking and glue up done you are ready for stitching. Saddle stitch the sides and bottom of the two halves that you have pricked. Begin with a couple of back stitches, as you want symmetry on the card holder. Finish the wallet with the same number of back stitches and exit the needles through the inside of the card holder on the last stitch. Trim the thread excess thread off inside the wallet. With this step done you Have a functioning card holder, the next steps are just finishing the edges.

Step 13: Bevel and Crease the Edges. (Optional)

Sand the edges flush and smooth with progressively finer sand paper (i used 400 finer would have given a slightly improved edge). Then bevel the edges with a small edge beveler, this rounds the edges and prevents the from 'mushrooming' out when burnishing.

If you have a edge creaser, crease the outer edges that you haven't done yet.

Step 14: Burnish the Edges (Optional)

Dampen the edges with your burnishing compound or water, and rub either a piece of canvas or a wooden edge burnisher/slicker. This takes the edge from being 'furry' to nice, smooth and slightly shiny. The more sanding you do the better this will be. The overlapping t slot will be visible in the edge as you can see in picture 2 of this step.

Step 15: Finished.

If you have done all of those steps you are now finished. Wallets and card holders can
be harder to construct than they first seem. When doing this by hand small mistakes do occur, as you get better they just become fewer and less noticeable. Thanks for reading i hope you have found this helpful.

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