Introduction: Leather Case for GoPro

I recently bought a Go Pro Hero 7 Black action camera, and I wanted to make a protective case for it. Not that it really needs it, but I just wanted to protect the lens and screen from scratches while I'm carrying it in a backpack. These instructions are of course equally valuable for making a case for any other brand of action camera (or even for other objects).

Since I'm primarily a woodworker, who sometimes dabbles into other crafts, I incorporated wood into the design. Not only is the combination of wood and leather very appealing, this design requires absolutely no stitching. So in essence, it's very easy to make, if you can get the measurements just right. Moreover, you can make it entirely with hand tools!

Let's get to it!

Step 1: The Mock-up

A mock-up is a kind of prototype. Although you put a little extra effort into making one, it's usually worth it. Especially so when trying a new design, like in this case (no pun intended). All the necessary materials are shown in picture 1. The blue plastic is some kind of PVC foam board that I got for free from a company that prints billboards. Thick cardboard would work equally well.

First, mark the thickness of your GoPro onto your sheet material, adding a couple of millimeters extra on each side (pic 2). Then cut off of the excess with a sharp utility knife (pic 3). This PVC is easy to snap after giving it a couple of passes with a knife. Next, mark the height and cut to length (pic 4). Don't forget to take the mounting loop into account.

Next, mark the center and draw a round-over (pic 5). Cut the corners off with a coping saw (pic 6), but make sure you don't go past your line. Work towards your line with a file (pic 7). Once you've made one side piece, you can use it to trace the shape onto the other one (pic 8). Repeat sawing and filing to make the second side piece.

Prepare a piece of cardboard of the right width. It should be slightly wider than your GoPro, with the thickness of the wood added on each side (pic 9). To glue the cardboard to the side pieces, use a hot glue gun. Because the PVC is thinner that the wood we'll be using, off-set the side pieces so the inside edge lines up with the pencil lines (pic 10).

Once it's glued together, determine the length of the cardboard and decide how you want to shape the flap (pic 11). You should have a decent overlap. Cut it out (pic 12) and test fit your GoPro (pic 13).

By making this mock-up, I learned 2 valuable things:

1) The GoPro has too much play from side to side -> leather should be about 3 mm narrower

2) The case is unnecessarily deep -> wooden side pieces should be shorter

Step 2: Wooden Side Pieces

For the wooden side pieces, I used a leftover piece of oak. Plane one side smooth (pic 1) and mark the preferred thickness (8 mm in this case) with a marking gauge (pic 2). If you have to reduce the thickness a lot (like me), first use a scrub plane for fast wood removal (pic 3). This plane has a curved blade that yields very thick shavings. Follow with a smoothing plane, to get 2 smooth surfaces. The width is taken from the width of the side pieces from our mock-up. Plane the edges the wood piece carefully until you get to the desired width (not shown). The length is also taken from the mock-up, minus 10 mm, because as you remember, the pocket was too deep.

Next, take a coping saw and saw off the corners, just like we did on the mock-up (pic 4). For the other side, just follow the curve with your coping saw (pic 5). Work towards your pencil lines with a wood rasp (pic 6), and refine all edges with a file (pic 7). Make sure both pieces are the same shape. If needed, you can clamp them together and shape both at the same time to make sure of it.

Lastly, give both pieces 2 coats of shellac to give them a protective finish (pic 8). Sand with a high grit sandpaper in between coats.

Step 3: Cutting the Leather

As stated earlier, our leather piece should be about 3 mm narrower, and a good piece shorter than our cardboard mock-up. To test how much shorter, test fit the cardboard around the wooden side piece (pic 1). I ended up cutting away about 25 mm (pic 2). Put the cardboard onto your piece of leather to find a spot that is larger enough (pic 3). I didn't choose the upper part because that area had some flaws in it. When doing leather work, always cut with the good side up, so you can easily spot any flaws.

Since the leather piece should be narrower, we can not simply trace the cardboard. Carefully measure the required width (pic 4) and cut it out with a sharp utility knife and a ruler (pic 5). Cut out the shape of the flap as well. Start by cutting off the corners (pic 6), then round them over using the knife. Finally, bevel the edges with a tool made specifically for this purpose (pic 7).

Step 4: Install First Part of Snap Button

Since the bottom part of the snap button would be difficult to install once the leather is glued to the wood, it's best we do this now. I bought a pack of 10 buttons, and it came with the necessary tools to install them, along with instructions (pic 1). To determine the exact location, fold the leather around the side pieces (pic 2). Mark this location. Punch a hole (pic 3) and install the snap according to instructions (pic 4). If the snap buttons you bought didn't come with instructions, I can refer you to lesson 6 of this class:

Beginning Leatherworking Class

Step 5: Gluing Up

It's time to combine the wood with the leather. For this, we'll use transparent contact cement (pic 1). Using a spatula of some sort, spread the glue evenly along the edges of the wooden side pieces, taking care not to apply glue to the top edge. Apply glue to the edges of the leather as well (pic 2). Again, take care not to apply glue all the way to the end (where the flap is). It's a good idea to add painter's tape so you don't accidentally put glue where you don't want it.

Wait for the glue to dry according to manufacturer's instructions (about 15 minutes in my case). Then press the pieces firmly together, and you should end up with something like in picture 3. I gently tapped all glued surfaces with a hammer, just to be sure. As it turns out, I didn't apply any glue near the ends, so I had to redo these 4 surfaces (pic 4), waited 15 minutes, and pressed them firmly together.

Step 6: Install Second Part of Snap Button and Add Reinforcements

Once everything is in place, we can now determine the exact position for the second part of the snap button. Put some marker ink on the stud and close the flap to reveal the exact position (pic 1). Install the second part of the snap according to manufacturer's instructions (pic 2).

Since the flap will be opened and closed a lot, I thought it would be a good idea to add reinforcements at the hinging point. This is just in case the glue fails. I had some upholstery nails that are perfect for this (pic 3). Drill a hole first (pic 4) and gently tap them in with a hammer (pic 5).

Step 7: You Made It!

That's it, you've finished the case. The only thing left to do is test fit your GoPro. Mine was a perfect fit (pic 1).

I hope you found this Instructable useful. I'm entering this into the Leather Challenge. All votes would be duly appreciated.

Take care.

Leather Challenge

Runner Up in the
Leather Challenge