Introduction: Brass Steampunk Pouch How-To

Recently I uploaded just a few photos of  this pouch with out instructions, but after some work, I've been able to explain it in better detail.

I've been into steampunk for a few years now and it has pushed me to try out different skills such as leather working and metalsmithing. I wanted to add a more steampunk look to my outfit and I did not have a good pouch at the time, so I endeavored to make one. I had a very limited knowledge of metal working when I made this, and while making it, I did not take the best photos for a step by step, so bare with me, some of my images are photoshopped.

So, in this instructable, I'll try to tell you how to make a metal pouch you can wear on your belt and hold a few essentials.

A sheet of 20 gauge brass. It needs to be at least 20x20 inches. (if you would like to use a thicker or thinner gauge, that is fine as well)

Contact cement

Paint thinner (about 2 cups)

Rubbing alcohol

At least 10 leather rivets for the leather and the lock. More if you choose to rivet the metal together.

A 10x10 sheet of leather. It needs to be a thick sort use for tooling leather, the pouch is heavy and thinner leather or fabric might not hold it.

Leather dye, in whatever color you'd like.

Leather sealer

A small metal tube at least 6 inches long. The thickness will depend on how big you make your hinge

2 brass round head nails. These need to fit snuggly into your metal tube.

I used this turn lock from Tandy leather, but with tweaking, you cold use any locking clasp you'd like (

(Optional) Poster board, tape, and a pencil, for making a paper mock up before cutting into metal (Highly recommended)

Clear spray paint. Glossy or matte will depend on your preference.

A ruler.

Masking or painters tape

Jewelers saw and blades for cutting metal details

I used a jump shear to cut my metal, which was available to me, but this is obviously not a normal household piece of equipment. You'll need a way to cut out your large pieces. A jewelers saw will work, but it is slower.

A sheet metal bender. Once again, this is not something I would think a normal household would have. I would think you could use a vice and a hammer to bend the metal. You will need to bend some pieces at a 90 degree angle.

Pliers, preferably those without teeth, as they might scratch the metal.

If you have an anvil, that's awesome, but a flat piece of granite will also work, or even a sturdy table. This is for setting rivets and bending metal.

A drill press or a hand held drill.

Drill bits made to drill metal.

A center punch, to mark your holes you will drill, which prevents the drill bit from 'walking'. A nail and hammer can be used instead of this. This just punches a tiny dent where you want your hole to be drilled and holds the drill bit in place while drilling.

Metal files, to fine tune your metal after cutting it with your jewelers saw and to file down burs from the drill.

Sand paper and polishing tools.

Leather cutting supplies, a box knife will work fine.

Leather rivet setting tools

Scraps of wood, this will go under the metal as you drill holes into it. I think I used a 2x4 and a few 1x4s.

Safety tools
Safety goggles

Leather gloves

Painters face mask (don't breathe in the metal dust while sawing)

Please be safe when making this. The metal can be sharp, and there are a number of sharp tools that you could hurt yourself with. If you have access to machinery like the drills, jump shear, or metal bender, please do not use them unless you feel safe doing so. It's always a good idea to have someone with you to help as well. Even the tiny jewelers blade can cut you if you are not careful.

Step 1: Cutting Out Your Pieces

Our first step is to cut out our main pieces. We will have a back plate, a front plate, a lid, a side piece, and 2 lid flaps, used to hide a gap.

I made mine out of 20 gauge brass, but you could go up or down a few gauges if you'd like. The finished pouch will be 5.5 inches wide by 5.75 tall, and 2 inches deep. The front plate is the exact size of the pouch, but the back plate will have a hinge cut out of it on top, so it is taller than the front. The lid will also have a hinge cut into it, so it is cut taller than it will be when finished. The lid flaps were hastily added, so feel free to make your own pattern. If you make a great paper mock up and get your pattern down perfect, you may be able to avoid the gap that I had and eliminate the flaps all together.

The side piece will wrap around the sides and bottom of the box. It is cut 3 inches tall, because we will fold the top and bottom edge over by 1/2 an inch. 18 inches is an arbitrary number, we will cut it down to fit flush with the front plate in a bit (I believe my side plate is about 16 inches when finished, but it's better to be too long than too short)

I used a jump shear to cut my brass sheet into rectangles, and then rounded the bottoms off by using a jewelers saw. (If you have photoshop, using the rounded rectangle tool set to 50 px radius gets you the same roundness I have.) I printed the shape, then traced the round edges with a pencil and cut them out. I believe I cut the entire lid flaps out with a jewelers saw. You could use a jewelers saw to cut out all of the pieces, and while this will take some time, it gets the job done. If this is your first time using a jewelers saw, you may break a ton of blades. I know I did, it takes a lot of practice to not snap them.

So, cut out these shapes, with your safety goggles on of course!

Step 2: Side Piece Work

Now, get your side plate. We will now bend the top and bottom edges into a 90 degree angle, at 1/2 an inch in. I used a metal brake bending tool, but if you don't have access to one of these, perhaps you could c-clamp the piece onto a table and hammer the sides in.

Once you have the edges bent, you'll notice it is almost impossible to bend this piece. In order to bend it to fit around our pouch, we'll cut notches into it. These notches will match up to the rounded corners on the bottom of the front and back plate. After some experimenting, I found that a notch of 5/8th an inch fits pretty well with the roundness of the corners. So, find the middle of your side piece and measure 2 inches to each side. Your notches will start there.

I found it easiest to have my side piece flat on the table, and then to cut downwards with the jewelers saw until the bend, then to turn the saw and cut right along the bend. Once again, many saw blades met their death in this step, but it can be done!

Once your notches are cut, we can easily bend the side plate to fit the curve. I used my hands, it was very easy. But, you must try to match the curves of the rounded corners on the front and back plates. If you mess up, straighten out the side plate with your hands and try again. The side plate will be sandwiched between the front and back plates, and hopefully everything matches up pretty well width wise!

Remember, the side plate will be taller than the front plate. You can measure it and cut it flush if your pieces fit well everywhere else. Just be sure to measure it height wise with the front plate, and not the back.

Step 3: Hinge Work

Now, we'll be making our  hinge. (Though, you can save yourself A LOT of time and stress by buying small box hinges at your local hardware store and attaching the lid to the back plate that way. Just be sure to adjust your pattern accordingly if you do so.)

Start out by gluing your back plate and your lid together, making sure they are flush at the tops. You can use the contact cement or rubber cement, just be sure to follow the instructions on how long to wait before sticking the pieces together. As always, use these cements in a well ventilated area. We're just gluing them together for a short while, so don't be too liberal, this won't be permanent. Allow the pieces to dry, according to the bottle, and then measure out the tabs. 

We glue the pieces together to ensure the pieces will fit perfectly after cutting. Please pardon my odd measurements, but these worked well for me. The tab on the far left is 7/8th of an inch, then the next 5 are 6/8ths. The last is 7/8th again. Cut in to 1/2 inch deep with a jewelers saw. Just cut straight in (we will cut out alternating tabs soon) Now, we need to unglue the pieces. You can soak them in paint thinner for a few minutes, and they should come apart. Remove the contact cement with paint thinner and then clean with alcohol.

Now, we will cut out the tabs all together. Follow my pattern here and cut out alternating tabs. Since we have cut in, all that is left to do is to cut straight across on alternating tabs. They should fit together pretty well once they are all cut out. These will eventually be curled into tubes. If you would like less work, you could only do 3 large tabs, 2 on the sides of the back plate and 1 in the middle of the lid. Or you could do 19 tabs, and be super crazy. I don't know why I chose to do 7, but there it is.

Step 4: Bending Hinge

This part was pretty difficult for me. We now have to bend these tabs into little tunnels for a rod to go through, making a hinge. I tried many methods, but the thing that worked best for me was using pliers and curling the tabs in. Curl each tab down. I'd recommend using the tube as a guide. Once you get the tab starting to curl, make sure it curls around the tube and is big enough for it to fit through. If the curl is too tight, the tube will not go in, and the hinge will not work.

As you can see, this is not very pretty. Thankfully, when the pouch is closed, you never see this, and even when it's open, you'd have to be inches from the hinge inside to see it. So, hopefully you can make something prettier than this!

My biggest error was curling the tabs too tightly. I started out with a tube about the size of the second largest tube in the top left picture, but after curling, I found the tube would not fit. I had to go down to a tube about the size of the 3rd largest tube, the one in the middle. I wish I had a better measuring system than "oh, it's about this big" but I don't, I'm sorry!

To hide the holes at the edges of the hinge in our final steps in this pouch, I put a brass round head nail, which fit perfectly. This really helps hide how ugly this looks. But, that is a much later step.

You do not have to cut your tube to fit perfectly at this time. I'd suggest leaving an inch on each side. Put your lid and back plate together and work the tube into it. This can be tricky, but slight tweaking with pliers can help. If your tube is very thin, you might want to cut the tabs down shorter than 1/2 an inch, as you won't need that much to curl it around the tube. This is tricky, and if you plan to make a hinge, make pattern after pattern with paper and be sure your measurements are perfect!

Step 5: Decorating

So, if we continued this way, we'd have a plain brass pouch. Admittedly an awesome one, but pretty plain. So, I decided to cut out a design out of 22 gauge nickel. I did not include this in the supplies list, because you may not want to, and it does not affect the actual box as far as structure goes. This is just decoration.

I hope you design your own decorative plate though! I fit it to match the front plate perfectly, cut out the rounded corners, and then started to cut out the design. Because I want it to be one solid piece, I can't just cut into the side and have at it. So, I must drill holes into the areas that I will cut out and insert my blade, then attach the blade to the saw handle of my jewelers saw. The red dots on the first picture show where I drilled in with a drill press. I then cut out all the white areas.

This took FOR-EV-ER. The fact that this was like my first time ever cutting out precise shapes, and the fact that my saw handle was too shallow (I highly recommend getting a deep jewelers saw) made this very hard. I designed this in photoshop, making the measurements exact to the front plate, then printed it and used rubber cement to glue it to the nickel plate. Gluing a pattern on assures the lines will be straight (or not, if you happen to be me, and even when there's a line you can't follow it) but, a pattern is a good idea. Sharpie can rub off, so I recommend paper. After you're done cutting out, use paint thinner and alcohol to get the cement and paper off, then files to sand down the bur and even out the lines and curves.

I also decided to etch the front brass plate so I made a design and printed it on special etching paper. I will not be explaining how to etch in this instructable though. Mainly because, I had help from someone who did this every day, and they basically did it for me, so...I kind of stood there and helped, but I have no idea how it really happened. Magic would be my best guess.

Step 6: Drilling

**this is the most important part, I believe. The measurements and holes need to be perfect. I apologize for the novel you're about to read**

We now need to attach the front plate, back place, and side plates together somehow. This is where the folded 1/2 inch edges on the side plate come in. I do not have a great picture of this step, so here's my photoshopped version.

We will start with drilling the front plate to the side plate. If you have made a decorative plate, you will need to tape this in it's exact place on the front plate. Decide how you will be attaching the metal. Will you use leather rivets? Perhaps pop rivets, or maybe you'll cut down some round head nails to make your very own rivets. Or maybe you'll screw up and have to resort to sewing it together like I did. Oh the possibilities!

But, remember; attaching the front plate will be easy, but getting the back plate on will be very hard, because then you've only got a 2 inch space inside the box to work with. Rivets can still be used though, just be sure to plan it out. When you've decided upon your attachment method of choice, find a metal drill bit that is the exact size as the shaft of whatever you'll be using. I planned to use round head nails, so each hole I drilled, the pin fit *perfectly* into. This ended up not working due to time constraints, and I was lucky my sewing needle's head fit through the hole. A problem with making the hole be exact was that if anything moved, even a fraction of an inch, some pins would fit and others would not. When drilling, drill a hole then insert a pin into each hole. This will help keep your pieces stable and prevent movement.

Tape your front plate securely to the side plate, leave the back plate off for now. Tape it perfectly, there will be no changing it once you have the holes drilled (you can drill them bigger if needed, if you're careful). Obviously, plan before you drill. Draw out how far apart you want your holes to be, and how many you want on each side. I have 9 on the sides and 8 on the bottom, but that's just me. Now, wherever you want a hole, use your center punch (or nail and hammer) and punch the exact spot. You'll need something secure under the metal, a table edge will do, otherwise the metal may bend under the stress. This little dent you've made helps keep the drill bit stable and ensures you get the hole in the exact spot you want it. A center punch on the top layer will do, you don't need to center punch the side piece, as long as you have the pieces taped securely.

So, to drill. Build up a little stack of wood that your box can sit on. Because of the side piece's fold, this can be difficult, but you need to have wood directly under the hole you're drilling to prevent the metal from bending. Also, make sure you 'catch' the side fold when you're drilling, do not drill too far into the middle of the box. We're making holes to attach the two pieces together. Note: this is my original side piece, and the folds are not 1/2 inch, they are smaller. I adjusted the width because I had problems catching it.

A drill press made this go faster, with very little problems. A hand held drill will work as well, just make sure the bit you're using is made for metal. You will want to have someone help you no matter what you use, as a second pair of eyes and hands is always helpful. Always wear eye protection as there will be metal dust and shards flying about, and a face mask would be a good idea as well. Hold the box securely, as it can get caught and you'll end up with the box spinning around with the drill bit! If your drill bit is smaller, it will go through faster but it may break easier. If it is larger, it will take longer to go through, but be patient and do not put too much force on it.

Like I said, after each hole, insert your rivet, or something that fits exactly into the hole, to prevent the metal from moving. You can go back and redrill to make the holes bigger if you need to, but this may have it's own problems.

You can also use this time to drill holes for the rivets for your bottom lock. Place the lock where you want it, mark the holes, remove the lock, and drill into the front plate (along with the decorative plate, if you have one, like I did).

Once the front plate holes are drilled, take the top plate off and tape the back plate onto the side plate, making is perfect. Center punch and drill just like the front plate. Yay, holes are drilled! Now, go and file and sand each hole down, as there will be terrible burs from the drill bit  and this may hinder your riveting or thread. Do not attach anything just yet.

*If you have a decorative plate like I did, with a border than goes all around, you can drill holes along the top edge to secure the brass front plate and nickel plate to each other, but you don't have to. The decorative plate will be attached on 3 sides, and not securing the top side won't cause any problems.

Step 7: Attaching Belt Loops

Now we will attach the belt loops to the back. I used veg. tanned leather from Tandy Leather and cut out 2 strips, 7.5 inches long and 1 inch wide at the tips, flaring to 1.25 in the middle. I won't get  in to leather working here (Tandy's website has some great video tutorials for beginners though).

I finished the edges, punched 2 holes at each end that lined up with each other, dyed them, and sealed them. I measured and using a drill press, drilled 2 corresponding holes into the back plate. Remember, the holes in the leather and in the metal need to fit the rivet perfectly, too loose and the rivet will lean, making the rivet weak. I used two rivets on each to prevent the loops from turning or falling. So that's that, pretty simple, and now you have a back plate with loops! Make sure your belt of choice will fit in, and adjust if it's larger.

Step 8: Attaching Bottom Lock

You will find that it is easier to rivet the bottom lock onto the front plate before attaching everything together. We've already made sure the hole is the perfect size for a leather brass rivet (right?) so just follow your normal riveting routine and rivet the lock on. (

There you go!

Step 9: Attaching Everything

Okay, now we can attach stuff! Like I said, I cut all of these little round head nails down and sanded them to make my own rivets, but it was just taking way too long to actually get them to work. So, I resorted to sewing everything together. I used upholstery thread, quadrupling it so it was very thick. Sewing the front plate on went well, but putting the back plate on, because I only had 2 inches inside the box to fit my hand and needle, was a bit harder. Using a curved needle helped a lot.

Because of how many holes I had, I had to have the knots on the outside on the top. If I had planned on sewing from the very beginning, I could have avoided this. I chose to put them on top instead of the bottom corners, I figured they'd be less noticeable there. I was at first disappointed by the thread, I felt it would be flimsy and weak, but if you pull tight enough, it is actually a surprisingly strong hold, I feel very confident that it will hold up  well. You can use any color, obviously, and different types, such as waxed thread.

However, if you planned well and decided to use rivets, then go for it! Rivet the front plate on first, I would say, because that needs to look better than the back, and you may run into problems on the back. I found that using a long T stake in a vice allowed me to get into the corners of the pouch for the rivets, and this will work on the back as well. If your holes have gotten slightly off, perhaps using a very small round file will help open them up for the rivet.

If you do use rivets, show me, so I can see how my baby should have looked. (When I make another one, I will be using the brass rivets, and it will be awesome)

You do not need the hinge or lid on for this step.

Step 10: Bending the Lid

So, everything is pretty much held together. Now, fit your lid and hinge back on. We need to bend the lid down at 90 degrees so the locks can meet.

Hold the box up and look up at it. Pretend that you are Rafiki and the box is baby Simba. See where the front plate and the lid meet? Mark this line, make it straight and precise. Remove the lid from the box and bend the lid down at this line at 90 degree. Make sure it still fits onto the hinge and falls right; if you made the bend too far in, it won't close, too far out and the locks might not work, and it will forever have an over bite. This line should be about 2 inches in.

If you have made a nickel plate for the lid like I did, you need to tape the nickel to the brass lid before bending. Still mark the brass plate where it meets the front, and bend both pieces in one go. Again, I used a metal brake bending machine, but you may be able to do this just as well with a few vices and some elbow grease.

*So, I thought I measured really well when designing the nickel lid piece, and I thought the gears I cut out would not be caught in the bend, but alas, this was not so. The very top of my gears were folded over. If you have another layer, account for this bend and decide where you want what. It's not a terrible problem that the gears are in the fold, but for aesthetics, I wish they were not.

Step 11: Attaching Lid Flaps

The box on the left, as you can see, has a terrible gap between the lid and the sides. This can be avoided people, just plan accordingly and learn from my mistakes. The back plate is too tall. I can't fix that really, as I have a hinge on the top and rounded corners on the bottom that match up to the side plate perfectly. So, I decided to make some lid flaps in a rather hurried fashion. I didn't give them much thought, so please feel free to either correct the gap mistake or design better flaps. (Though, I do like that there is something on the sides, they looked so plain)  I would suggest waiting to cut these out until you've bent your lid down, so you can make sure they will fit perfectly before cutting.

If you have a nickel top plate over the lid, I'd suggest placing the flap between the nickel plate and the brass plate. I made sure the flap's over hang was not bigger than the border on my nickel plate. If you do not have a nickel plate, then perhaps the flap would look better under the lid. Or, you could just cut the lid out with flaps on it, as one big piece, and fold them down. Just don't get too crazy with them, as they are attached to the lid, and will move with it. Having these flaps somewhat restricts the ease of getting objects in and out of the pouch, but it's not too bad.

So, if the flaps are separate pieces, we need to attach them. To the drill press! We will need to drill holes. If you do not have a nickel plate, simply tape your flaps to the lid (which is removed from the box), center punch, drill, and sand like you did the front and back plates. Attach as you see fit. If you have a nickel plate, tape everything together, plan and center punch your holes, and drill. This may require turning the piece, as it  now has a 90 degree bend in it, but this won't be too hard. The reason we wait to drill before bending is because when you bend two pieces of metal, one over the other, this may skew the holes slightly, which can be bad. Untape, sand, then rivet/sew!

Step 12: Attaching Top Lock

Before attaching the lid for good, we need to attach the top lock. We will do this by riveting the lock to leather, and riveting the leather to the lid.

The reason we need leather is because the lock needs to swing out before the lid can swing up. If we attached the lock to the metal of the lid, it would never be able to open. This is the case for this lock at least. If you use a different lock, you'll need to experiment.

So, you've already attached your bottom lock to the front plate, right? Now we need to measure how much leather we'll need for the locks to meet. Pattern and plan! It needs to be almost perfect, it is not very forgiving if you're off. Here's an example pattern of the leather piece I used. Cut out your leather, punch holes, finish the edges, dye and seal. I then riveted the top lock to the leather, and then the leather to the lid. You'll have to drill a hole in the lid of course for this, but you can do this after you've attached the flaps and decorative piece to the lid.

Miraculously, it fit perfectly right off the bat. Yay!

Step 13: Attaching Hinge

Almost done! Now all we have to do is attach the hinge. Get your tube and fit it into your back plate tunnels. You don't need to fit the lid on with it right now. Mark the tubing exactly flush to the back plate's edge tunnels.

Remove the tubing and cut it 1/8th an inch shorter than the mark you made, so the tube is 1/8th too short when in the back plate. **I know the picture says to cut it exactly, but what are you going to believe, what I type here or what I typed in photoshop?!** Believe what I type here, cut it an 1/8th inch shorter.  Be careful, it may be hard to remove the tubing from the back plate tunnels once it's cut, as it's a tad short. I used a tube holder and my jewelers saw to cut the tube, do not use wire cutters or you'll crimp the ends and ruin the tube.

Now, get one of your round head pins that fits perfectly into the tube and put contact cement on it (not too much it'll mostly get pushed off by the tube and make a mess) then push the pin into one end of the tube. You can also take a hammer and tap the tube around the pin, which slightly crimps it, securing the pin in tight even more. Like I said, the contact cement has probably all been pushed off, clean this with a paper towel. Insert the tube into the hinge, with the lid on as well. The round head pin's head should be wider than the back plate's tunnel, preventing the tube from going all the way through. If the tunnel is too wide and the pin can go through as well, use pliers and try to close this so the pin cannot fit through.

Take your other pin and put contact cement on it and push it into the tunnel and fitting it into the tube. Try to wipe as much cement off as you can, but any left on will not prevent the hinge from working, so it's ok if you can't get it all. If the tunnel is too wide on this side, try closing is up as well. Now, your tube should not be able to come out at all, as the pin heads prevent this.

Step 14: You're Done!

So, there you have it! Your lovely brass pouch. Depending on how you attached it together, it's pretty strong. Don't throw it on the grown or anything, but it'll hold up to a lot of stuff.

Now, the metal will tarnish. If you want it to stay shiny, spray it wih a clear coat of spray paint. If you riveted, you can spray it once it is all done, but mind the leather pieces and the lock (which I'm sure has a finish over it, I've had a silver version for ages and it's never tarnished) the spray may impede the lock turning, so be careful. If you sewed it, try spraying it before you sew it, as the spray may make the thread brittle.

I ran into a lot of problems with technique and this is not my ideal finished product, but after everything, I quite like it. It is a tad heavy, but when I wear it on my belt around a corset at cons or fairs, I'm sure I'll never notice the weight.

It should hold your phone, small camera, and wallet pretty well. This is my first metal project and I am still very new to this craft. I'll try to answer any questions if anyone has any, forgive my odd explanations and ramblings!

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