Introduction: Leather Compass Case

About: Hobby woodworker, leatherworker and tailor

In this Instructable I will be showing the process of making a compact and lightweight case for my favourite compass.

For this project you will need:

  • Leather of the appropriate thickness 1,0 - 1,5 mm
  • Holepunch (regular and for stitching)
  • Metal ruler
  • A good knife for detailed cutting
  • Thread and needles for leatherworking
  • Button w/ kit
  • Boiled linseed oil
  • Lighter (for finishing stitching)
  • (Optional) Cutting mat
  • (Optional) Wax for additional finishing

Step 1: The Compass:

The compass is produced by Ecobra, and is 100% metal. It has a very solid feel to it, and rarely slips when i use it. The plastic casing it arrived in is, however, another matter. It is big, bulky, and as i later found out, quite brittle. The hinges broke off after half a year in my backpack, which i guess is to be expected, anyhow, it was time for a replacement.

Step 2: Planning

I went for a single-button folding case, with a small slot for the little black lead-holder. The longest piece on the drawing is the one which will fold over the others. I had some ideas for accommodating the different parts of the compass, while still limiting the size of the case. I ended up with an open design, to allow the different screws to stick out of the case, greatly reducing the size needed, without much loss in terms of protection.

Step 3: Cutting the Leather

After cutting templates out of a copy of the plans, it was time to do the real cuts. The leather i used was 1.5 mm calf leather for the backpiece and 1.0 mm calf leather for the front and lead-slot (or so i thought, i will get back to this) which i bought some time ago in square-feet sizes.

Some points about the cutting:

  • I use a metal ruler to make sure my cuts don't go wrong. I have had some bad experiences with plastic rulers, especially when using sharp knives, because the knife can catch on the ruler and cut into it, which never happens when using a nice and straight metal ruler.
  • When working with leather this thin, I seldom need more than one pass with the knife to cut completely through the leather.
  • I use an X-Acto-like knife for the cutting
  • I use a 60x45cm cutting mat, made in Taiwan.

I make all the major cuts this way, to get the general shape of the parts.

Step 4: Wet-molding the Pieces to Shape

I moisturized the leather, and held it in place with some gluing-clamps. In hindsight this was too much pressure for the small part, and i ended up having to redo it. Using some tape or putting some books on top would be more than enough pressure. The parts are kept this way overnight, until they have dried.

Step 5: Cutting Out the Details, Making the Holes for the Stitching.

The long rounded holes are made by punching holes with a hole-punch, and then cutting out the leather in-between. I make the stitching-holes with a set of diamond-hole leather-chisels and a mallet. I use some pieces of cardboard as additional backing when i make the holes, to save my cutting mat from the worst abuse.

Before punching the holes, I made a groove 2 mm from the edge of the leather, which makes it easier to get a straight line of holes.

I punch through the lead-holder and the front to make holes for the lead-holder, and then again through the front and back pieces, having tied them together in the corners. I also punch two holes for attaching the button in front.

Step 6: Oiling and Waxing

When oiling I almost always use boiled linseed oil, and this was no exception. I warmed the oil in a plastic cup for 10 seconds in a microwave, it gives it the little extra absorption. (Do not soak the inside of the leather, as it has a tendency to get sticky if you apply too much finish.) I covered both sides once, and wiped off the excess.

It was at this point the different colors of the leather really came through, and i remembered that i also had some buffalo-leather lying around, and i must have gotten the pieces mixed up. They are, after all, almost indistinguishable when they are dry. I did not mind the different colors, but figured it made for a nice detail.

After the first coat has dried i rubbed on some of my homemade treatment, which is a 50/50 blend of beeswax and boiled linseed oil. I rub on a rich coat, let it sit for ten minutes, wipe of the excess, and give it a good rub.

I apply this only to the outside of the leather. Let it dry.

Step 7: Fastening the Button

The button I used comes with a kit for assembly, and is a standard clip on/clip off button. fastened the parts with the included bits and a hammer.

Step 8: Saddle-stitching

I always use saddle-stitching when sowing leather, which is a technique which uses a thread with a needle in each end. There are videos on Youtube which explains the process much better than I would be able to in this Instructable.

First i stitched on the lead-holder (not shown in pictures), then i proceed to stitch on to stitch the two main pieces together.

The thread used is a waxed thread made for leatherworking, as are the needles. They do usually not cost much on online stores, even if you buy from "western" stores.

Step 9: Finished!

With that, the case/holster is finished! The pair of compasses fit snuggly, as does the lead-holder. I really like the way the adjusting wheel of the compass stands proud out of the holes in the sheath.


  • I did not burnish the edges in any way, mainly because i do not have a lot of experience with the technique. I will experiment with different ways in later projects.
  • All tools and supplies are bought online, except for the cutting mat, which i picked up at a local store.

If you have any questions about the project or any of the supplies i used, leave a comment or send me a DM, and i will be happy to answer to my best ability!

Thank you for reading my instructable, and happy leatherworking!