Introduction: Carved Leather Wallet

I started working with leather 10 months ago when i needed a leather briefcase.
Then in my search on the internet for the ideal briefcase for me I discovered this place. I found a very well explained instructional (thank you Phiske) and I realized that working with leather is not so difficult that I imagined.
Since then I became very interested in leather working and now it's more than a hobby to me.

I will try my best to explain well all the steps in small details so everyone can have a good understanding how to make this bifold leather wallet.

The wallet is made from vegetable tanned leather, hand carved and tooled, saddle stitched and manually finished.
It can fit various bills and it has 4 card slots.
Dimensions 22.5 cm x 9 cm

Step 1: Prepare Materials

Here is the list of materials that were necessary to make this wallet :
-Vegetable tanned leather or saddle leather :

- 2mm thickness 23x9cm (exterior)

- 1mm thickness1 A4 size 20x30cm (interior parts)

-Cutter or a knife for leather
-cutting mat
-corner punch
-packing tape
-wing divider
-carving tools (bevelers, pear shader, seeder, undercut beveler, basket weave, modeling spoon ...)
-swivel knife
-maul (mallet or hammer are ok)
-edge beveler
-burnishing tool (edge slicker)
-leather cement glue
-2 needles for saddle stitching
- stiching thread
-stiching chisel
-printed pattern
- sandpaper, 2 types 120 and 900 grit
-leather dye


-acrylic finish
- burnishing gum or tragacanth
-edge finish

I notice from my short experience that with professional tools the quality of products increases remarkably.

Step 2: Prepare Leather for Carving

For carving we need to cut a piece of veg tan or saddle leather size 22.5 x 9 cm.
On the back of leather we must apply packing tape to prevent stretching during tooling process.
Cut the corners with a corner punch if you have or in my case I used a rounded knife to cut the corners. You can also place a coin on the corner and cut around the coin with a cutter.
Trace the borders with a wing divider around 7 mm from the edge. You can go up to 10 mm from the edge.
Use groover to mark the place for stitching channel.
A very important step before carving is casing the leather. I usually sink the piece of leather (2- 2.5mm thickness ) for 3-5 seconds in the water take it out and wait up to 5 minutes before start carving. The time to keep it in the water increases with the thickness of the leather I would say.
It's not a rule for casing leather but if you practice for few times it's easy to figure it out when the leather is properly cased and ready for carving.

Step 3: Carving and Stamping the Exterior

Now that the leather is cased, first thing, cut the borders with a swivel knife, for a straight cut use a ruler.
Next, download the eagle pattern in the photo and print it 6-7cm tall.

Trace the printed pattern on the leather with an awl or a stylus.

I put my stamp on all my leatherwork and I did it on this wallet too.
I tried to include the tools I used for stamping in the photos.
Not sure if the tools have the same numbers all over the world but if you are interested in the tool numbers that i used here let me know in the comments and I will gladly answer you.

Use a beveler for the borders.

Cut the pattern with a swivel knife.

Use checked beveler for the edges of the pattern.

For the eye use a under cut tool and seeder.
A small background tool I used for the nostril.
2 different types of pear shader where used for the eye and beak.

After the eagle is finished its time to tool the rest of the wallet.
For this I wanted to try new tool I just got, it's a type of basket weave.
In the lower part and around the eagle I used a pebble matting texture tool.
Simply beveling or with another tool like a veiner or a camouflage tool you can create a nice border pattern.
After you finished carving it's time to leave the leather to dry well. Until the next day should be fine.

Step 4: Dyeing and Finishing the Exterior

After the leather got dried, carefully use a paintbrush to dye around the carved eagle, then dye the rest of the surface.
Buff the leather after it dries with a cloth to remove the excess of dye and give a nice finish.
Now might be a good time to finish the upper edge of the wallet.
To protect the dye from bleeding and seal it from water use an acrylic finish and leave it dry well for few hours or until next day.
After removing the tape the back of the leather becomes hairy, to make it look neat use some burnishing gum. I used an old card to spread the gum all over, it did a good job.

Step 5: Prepare the Interior Parts

Let's cut the interior parts of the wallet now, the dimensions are shown in the photo.
The inside of the bifold is a bit shorter than exterior to fit properly when it's folded and to give a fast access to bills when it's open. (21x9 cm)
Make the corners round, same size as the exterior corners.
After cutting all the parts,the next step is dyeing them, leave it dry and buff them with a cloth to remove the excess of dye.
Finish all the superior edges or card pockets now before assembly.
Apply an acrylic finish to protect the dye from bleeding.

Step 6: Assemble the Interior Parts

Glue the interior parts.
To make this more effective, use a 120 grit sandpaper or something similar to clean the leather area around edges where you will apply the leather cement glue.
Here is a trick that I use to keep a straight line close to the edges, I cover the leather with an old card leaving around 5 mm from the edge then use the sandpaper to remove the dye from the leather. This will also protect the leather from being scratched in unwanted areas.
Apply the glue on both sides, leave it dry for few minutes until it becomes tacky then stick the parts together and press it or slightly hit the glues surface with a hammer.
Use a groover to mark the stitching lines for cards pockets, here the white part of the leather was exposed after using the grooving tool and had to dye again.
Now punch the holes with a chisel and get ready for stitching.
I use saddle stitching (with 2 needles) and polyester thread most of the time, because it's very strong, works well and looks good, but there are a lot of other options to choose.

Step 7: Assemble the Wallet

Now that we have two parts left ( Interior and Exterior of the wallet) let's assemble the wallet.
Start first with one half of the wallet.
Glue both parts together carefully placing them precisely one on top of another.
We already grooved the stitching channel in Step 2 now just punch the holes and stitch.
Next is the other half of the wallet, repeating the same steps : glue, punch holes and stitch.
Use a bone folder, or something similar, put it inside the card pocket and run it down sides and along the bottom to remove any glue excess left inside.

Step 8: Finishing the Edges

Very important is the look of the edges,
A beautiful finished edge gives a professional look at your leather creation. This is the last step and should not be underestimated.
(I'm still working to improve my edges look)
Use a sandpaper, 120 grit first, to remove the glue excess and align the edges.
Bevel the edges.
Now polish the edges with a 900 grit sandpaper .
Apply some burnishing gum, and rub it with the edge slicker (or burnishing tool), you can repeat this step if you consider that it's necessary.
Dye the edges carefully not to stain the wallet.
Apply an edge finish to protect the edges from water and for a beautiful look.

And the wallet is ready now.

Thank you.

Tandy Leather Contest 2016

Third Prize in the
Tandy Leather Contest 2016