Introduction: Leather Rucksack

About: Naturalist, scientist, builder, and maker.

In my effort to live a handmade life, I strive to MAKE things for myself. When I can, I also like to support other MAKERS by bartering or buying their wares rather than purchase mass-produced stuff from faceless corporations. This is not to say that there isn't good stuff to be had out there, just that I want to minimize my participation in big global business and keep craftsmanship alive.

This Instructable is not really a how-to, just a show-and-tell of a recently completed project that I hope will outlive me and be handed on someday. I started this in 2011 and have spent time working on it around many other projects that have cropped up along the way. In my world, nothing is ever really done. Just ever changing and on a trajectory through it's use-life.


Now, like a lot of experienced Makers, I don't always need a super detailed set of plans. Like the saying goes, "To help someone build a house, you shouldn't need to teach them to wield a hammer or saw a board." Foundation skills need to be learned along the journey. This little Instructable won't teach how to select or cut leather, nor teach how to sew. Hopefully though, it will start someone toward making their own custom leather project. If you want it, make it and enjoy yourself. Cherish the imperfections and their uniqueness of your creation.

Step 2: The Basic Rucksack Design

Here is the basic design for the body of my pack. I kept this small and minimal, in part to prevent myself from overloading. The above images are raw, oak-tanned leather prior to oiling. It is fairly heavy-weight which helps it keep it's shape while protecting the contents. These photos are also prior to the ladder-style tie downs being added to top and bottom.

This is all hand sewn with a traditional double needle technique and riveted to help strengthen some high stress areas.

Step 3: Portmanteau

The next step was to create a detachable 18th century style portmanteau that could connect to the top or bottom as well as find a use on it's own.

Step 4: Put It All Together

Here's the basic rucksack assembled and off for a hike. Definitely heavier than nylon but the durability is unbeatable. What's next? I plan to line the shoulder straps with sheepskin for comfort.

I regret not documenting the process but hopefully, just seeing this example will serve to inspire someone to make their own leather project.

See more work like this on my blog:

Leatherworking Contest

Runner Up in the
Leatherworking Contest