Handmade Leather Mousepad

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Introduction: Handmade Leather Mousepad

There is something about leather that just feels so premium and luxurious. Not only does it feel good to touch, it also ages very well and develops a nice patina over time - giving it character and personality.


It’s that patina aspect of leather that I really dig and that inspired me to upgrade my current cheap mouse pad into a more premium version. However, when looking at the prices online, I quickly decided that it was perhaps a better solution to acquire the tools and materials needed to make such a mousepad and make it myself.


This project is probably the easiest leatherworking project you could think of. There are no folds, no pockets, no buttons, just some decorative stitches. Thus, it makes for a perfect beginner project to get your hands dirty in the field of leatherworking and get some feel for how leather as a material feels to work with.

Supplies

4 oz natural vegetable tan leather

Leather die

Exacto blade or skiving knife

Rotary cutter

Edge beveler

Two needles

Waxed thread

Beveled hole punches

Plastic or wood hammer or mallet

Cutting mat

Step 1: Watch the Video

As always, I made a quick video about the project:

Step 2: How It Will Work



The mousepad will be made out of three pieces of leather. One for the top, one for the bottom, and one that will be hidden in the middle and will give a 3D shape to the mousepad. The top piece needs to be good quality leather, however, the middle and bottom can be made out of scraps.

To make cutting the leather pieces easier, I made a quick PDF template that be printed out with a scale of 100%

Step 3: Making the First Cuts

To cut out the pieces, I used a combination of a rotary cutter and a knife for the edges. To make the work easier, later on, make sure to leave half an inch of extra material near the edges, so that when we are going to trim all the pieces to the final size, everything will match up.


For the middle leather piece (in black), the final dimensions need to be cut early on. For the corners, use a skiving knife or a scalpel to remove material little by little till you get the desired roundness near the corner.


Also, because the middle leather piece will be hidden, it can be made out of multiple scrap pieces that have the same thickness. Just use some CA glue to hold the pieces during assembly and no one will be able to notice the seam once it gets covered up by the other layers :)

Step 4: Glueing the Layers

Once the leather is cut, you can glue all the layers to get a nice leather-smelling sandwich.

I used a water-based glue that doesn’t smell as bad as its chemical counterparts. After applying it to both sides, I let it dry for ten minutes, then pressed the pieces firmly together.


Make sure to read the instructions on your glue bottle, as the times you need to let it dry on the leather may vary.

Step 5: Cutting the Final Shape

Once the glue has dried, we can use a leather burnisher to unveil the location of the middle leather layer by rubbing the burnisher against the edges.

Then, you can cut out the final shape of the mousepad by cutting through both the bottom and the top piece at the same time.

Step 6: Punching the Holes

Okay, time for the hardest step: the stitching!


Using a set of angled leather hole punches, make your way around the whole perimeter of the mousepad, while always making sure that the punch is perfectly perpendicular to the leather before hammering.


Use a wide punch for the straight lines and a punch with one or two prongs for the corners.

To always get the same spacing, you can place the punch on the leather in a way that one of the prongs enters a previously punched hole (like on the photos).


As you can see, in my case, the holes were often too far away from the middle leather piece. To get a cleaner result, make sure that the holes are just tightly next to the bump.



Step 7: Staining

The leather could be left natural, but in my personal opinion that would look unfinished. To stain leather, there are special dyes that penetrate deep into the material and give it a richer look.

I like to use Fiebing's Pro Dye as it’s very strong and has a nice selection of colors. The one I used is Golden Brown.


When applying the dye, make sure to wear gloves, because no surprises here…leather dye stains also human skin pretty good.


I used a piece of cloth to rub the dye into the leather in multiple passes (5 in total).

Step 8: Stitching

Essentially, you need to proceed in steps:


First, let’s prepare the thread:


Step 1: Put the thread through the eye of the needle

Step 2: Put the needle through the thread

Step 3: Pull on the needle to get a small knot at the end of the needle

Step 4: Repeat for the other end of the thread with a second needle


Next, time to stitch:


Step 1: Widen the hole with the first needle

Step 2: Put the right needle through the hole

Step 3: Pull the same needle with the thread (now on the left side) away from yourself

Step 4: Put the second needle through the hole so that the needles are on separate sides again.

Step 5: Repeat


It’s a pretty tedious process, but on the bright side, once your muscle memory has learned the technique, it goes a lot faster and you could listen to some podcast you have been putting off for a while as your body does the work automatically.

When done, the ends of the threads can be melted with a lighter and pushed into the stitches for a cleaner look.

Step 9: Beveling

To make the edges smoother and prettier, you can use an edge beveler. Try to make the cut in one continuous motion to get the cleanest result. After that, I restained the edges with a cotton swab - in fact, I should have beveled the edges before applying the die.

Step 10: Slickering

By default, leather edges are a bit rough and hairy. Luckily for us, there is a way to clean up these edges and make them much more resistant to dirt.

For that, we use a process called burnishing. In order to do that, you will need a hard and smooth surface that you can slick the wood against and some sort of compound that will help to make the leather plastic again. If you’re on a budget, you could use a BIC lighter as a slicker and some lukewarm water to make the edges soft again.


To get a cleaner result, I used a wooden burnisher and a wonderful magic compound called Tokenole. Just applied some drops of it onto the edges, then using the burnisher, rubbed the edges to generate heat and work the compound into the leather fibers.

The result is a smooth and shiny edge that looks much more professional than the hairy edge we had before.


Step 11: Final Touches

As the last step, I like to rub a coat of leather balsam into the leather to get a much deeper color and a texture that feels much softer.

Step 12: Done!

And just like that, we have a homemade mousepad that will last you a lifetime!

I hope you learned something new and that you enjoyed this Instructable.

If you make this mousepad I would love to see the result - don’t hesitate to post it in the comments! :)


Thank you for reading so far, and have a wonderful day! :D

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    5 Comments

    0
    ScottM6
    ScottM6

    5 weeks ago

    It's a wonderful looking mousepad. The only thing I would BEG is not to simply pour the stain onto the leather and spread it around. It's very wasteful and unless you seal your work afterwards you're going to have a Lot of that dye coming out on your hand for a long time. Applying it with a soft cloth or a wool dabber works the best and gives you much better control over how it's going to look....and you'd use about 1/4 of the stain, leaving more for the next project.

    0
    Handy_Bear
    Handy_Bear

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    Thank you for the tip.
    In the beginning I used to apply the stain with a piece of cloth, but the natural leather I used is so porous that after 10 minutes of drying time, most of the dye had migrated to the inside of the material, leaving the outside very pale. Meaning I had to apply much more coats that with the pouring method, until the leather wasn't as thirsty anymore, to finally have a dark and uniform appearance.
    There are leatherworkers who dip their work into a small bath of stain, making it saturated in just one pass. The pouring method is a nice compromise between that and the cloth method, I think.

    You can see some hardcore leather staining here (at 2:54): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qvHizUTvCo

    0
    KesterY
    KesterY

    5 weeks ago

    Great tutorial! I especially loved the patina on the leather!

    0
    Handy_Bear
    Handy_Bear

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    Thank you!

    0
    PeterM520
    PeterM520

    5 weeks ago

    If you go to a place online like Springfield leather, you'll find an amazing source for all things leather. In addition to all kinds of leather and suede -- all thicknesses, finishes, colors, prints -- you'll find lots of tools and supplies. As well, there are many, many videos there about working with leather. On top of all that, the people who work there are extremely helpful and exceptionally nice to deal with.