Introduction: Wet Formed Leather Cell Phone Case
Learn how to make a wet formed cell phone case with a belt clip! This project was created for an iPhone 8 but can easily be adapted to any phone using the same basic concept. You can also get creative and personalize your case with unique stamps, tooling, or hardware! The leather used in the tutorial is 4/5 oz. and 8/9 oz. natural veg tan and dyed using Black Pro Dye.
What You Need:
- Steel Square (65-3039)
- Veg Tanned Single Shoulder 8/9 oz. (11-1202)
- Veg Tanned Single Shoulder 4/5 oz. (11-1202)
- Stitch Groover (8069)
- Master Tool Edge Beveler, 3/64" (00080-1)
- Master Tool Edge Beveler, 1/16" (00080-2)
- Dressing Sponge (50-1985)
- Leather Slicker (65-2962)
- Scratch Awl (CSO4-2)
- Revolving Punch (65-6230)
- Master Tool Round Strap End Punch, 3/4" (00076)
- Master Tool Oblong Punch, 1" (00072)
- Rawhide Mallet (65-2520)
- Master Tool Round Hole Punch, 1/8" (00082)
- Poly Cutting Board (65-2916)
- All Purpose Cement (50-2129)
- 1/8” Flat Chisel Set (67-7254)
- Fiebing's Pro Dye, Black (50-2030)
- Wool Daubers (50-1950)
- Leather Balm (50-2188)
- John James Saddler's Harness Needles (L3912)
- Ritza Tiger Thread, 0.8 mm (77-7300)
- Stitching Pony (65-2949)
- Snap & Rivet Setter (65-6275)
- C1087 Belt Clip Nickel Plated, 7/8" (C1087-NP-7/8)
- #2200 Double Cap Rivets, 5/16" (02200)
- 4P Durable Snaps (77-7140)
Step 1: Pattern & Mold
Create Your Pattern:
The pattern needed for this project is relatively simple, using only three pieces that can be easily adjusted to fit your phone perfectly. If you have a thinner case or screen protector that you keep on your phone at all times, make sure to leave it on and include it while taking measurements.
On the left side of the attached digital pattern, you'll see a rectangle with rounded bottom corners. This is the pattern for your backing piece, which will be made from your heavier 8/9 oz. leather. You'll also attach your belt clip and strap to this piece using rivets.
For your backing piece and pocket, the top edge should come up high enough to cover your phone screen, leaving the top inch or so of your phone sticking out. This allows you to grab your phone and pull it out of the case with ease.
For your backing piece, measure the length of your phone from the top edge of your screen to the bottom of your phone. Then add an additional 1/2" to the bottom to accommodate your stitch line. Measure the width of your phone and add and additional 1/2" to each side.
The larger square on the right side of the pattern is for your molded pocket piece, which should be made from 4/5 oz. leather. This piece is overcut to give you enough room to shape the leather around the mold, and accommodate a stitch line around the three closed sides.
The top edge of your pocket should also come up high enough to cover your phone screen. Measure the length from the top edge of your phone's screen to the bottom of your phone/case. Add an additional 1-1/2" at the bottom. Measure the width of your phone and then add an additional 2" to each side.
Your strap will wrap from the back of your case, over the top of your phone, and snap onto the front. This piece will also be cut from 4/5 oz. leather. In the video tutorial for this project, Chuck cut his strap to be 7" long and then later trimmed to size. 7" is a good starting point for most phones, and then you can trim to the perfect length once you're ready to attach your strap. The width is a standard 3/4".
The measurements that Chuck used for his iPhone 8 case can be seen in the photo above. The placement of the rivet holes and oblong should remain the same no matter the phone model, since they are placed in regard to the belt clip and strap's size.
Create Your Mold:
You can create your own mold for this project out of wood, or a few layers of scrap leather glued together. Cut the material to be the same shape as your phone. Make sure your mold is slightly thicker than your actual phone, so that the finished pocket is large enough to let the phone slide in and out with ease. (In this tutorial, Chuck's phone was 5/8" thick, so he used a 3/4" thick mold.)
If you don't have the materials to make a mold, wrap the phone in plastic wrap to protect it from the wet leather and use that as a mold.
Mark a straight line across the top of your mold, indicating where you want the top edge of your case to fall (at or slightly above the top edge of your phone screen).
Step 2: Trace and Cut
On your 4/5 oz. leather, trace your pocket pattern with a normal pen (this will be covered later with black dye, but you can also use a scratch awl) and then cut it out using a snap off knife and straight edge. Make sure to get a clean, straight cut on the top edge of your pocket, as this edge will not be trimmed again later.
Step 3: Groove, Bevel, and Slick Top Edge
On the top grain side of your pocket piece, groove along the top edge with your stitch groover.
Using your #1 Edge Beveler (3/64"), bevel the front and back side of your top edge.
Use a dressing sponge to wet the grooved and beveled edge. Try to avoid getting water on the face of your leather.
Let the damp edge hang slightly off of your table and fit the edge in the appropriate size groove on your slicker. Gently rub your slicker back and forth along the edge about a dozen times, creating a bit of heat and friction. You want just enough to round and smooth the edge out.
Step 4: Punch Snap Hole
With your scratch awl, mark the hole for your snap near the top of your pocket. This should be 1" down from the top edge and centered. Punch the hole using the 4th tube on your rotary punch.
Step 5: Mold Leather
Fill a container with enough water to cover your pocket piece. Submerge the leather and let it soak for about 15 seconds.
Remove your leather and let it sit for about 5 minutes to allow the moisture to wick in.
Drop your leather onto your mold, lining the top edge up with the mark you made indicating where the top of your case should fall. Press the leather down around the edges of your mold, while making sure that the front of your pocket stays flat against the face of the mold. Work the leather for a few minutes, applying pressure all around the edges with your fingers. Make sure to work the corners as well.
Let your leather set on your mold for 45 minutes to an hour. When you come back, continue pressing the leather around the mold for a few more minutes.
Give your leather about 8 hours or overnight to dry completely before removing it from your mold.
Step 6: Trace and Cut Out Backing
On your 8/9 oz. leather, trace and cut out your backing panel.
Use your knife to carefully round the bottom corners. An easy way to do this by making 4-5 small straight cuts, angling around the corner as you go.
Step 7: Mark Punch Holes
Place your pattern on top of your backing panel. With your scratch awl, lightly drop in marks for your rivet holes and the ends of your oblong punch.
According to the pattern, you should have a rivet hole 1/2" down from the top edge and centered. 1/2" below that rivet and centered will be your horizontal oblong punch. 2-1/2" below the oblong will be your second rivet, centered.
Step 8: Groove, Edge, and Slick Top Edge
Groove the top edge of your backing panel with your stitch groover.
Use a #2 Edge Beveler (1/16") to bevel the top edge on the front and back sides.
Use a dressing sponge to wet the top edge, then slick.
Step 9: Cut Strap
Use a strap cutter to cut your 3/4" strap out of your 4/5 oz. leather. If you don't have a strap cutter, you can measure out and cut the strap using your snap off knife and straight edge.
Square both ends and trim the strap to the correct starting length (7").
Step 10: Groove, Bevel, and Slick Strap
On the top grain side of your leather, groove both edges of your strap lengthwise.
Use your #1 Edge Beveler to bevel both edges, front and back.
Wet the edges with a dressing sponge and slick.
Use your scratch awl to drop in a mark for your rivet hole. This should be 1/2" from one end of the strap.
Step 11: Punch Leather
Use a 3/4" Round End Punch to round the end of your strap that you marked for your rivet hole. Punch the rivet hole using a 1/8" Round Hole Punch and a rawhide mallet.
Move to your backing piece. Use a 1" Oblong Punch to punch where you marked. Make sure it is parallel to the top and bottom edges. Punch your rivet holes in the backing piece using a 1/8" Round Hole Punch.
Step 12: Trim Pocket
Once your pocket is completely dry, you can remove it from the mold and trim the edges to size.
Place your pocket flat on your cutting board. Using your straight edge and snap off knife, measure and trim the excess leather about 5/16" (8 mm) outside of the molded portion of leather on the three overcut sides. You need enough room around the edges to attach the pocket to the backing piece without significantly changing the shape.
Carefully use your snap off knife to round the bottom corners. The corners should line up exactly with your backing panel, and you can use your pattern from earlier as a guide to achieve the same shape. The scrap paper left from where you cut out your backing panel pattern should be the same size and angle and can serve as an inside corner template.
Step 13: Glue Case
Use a sanding block to rough the three edges that will be sewn on the inside of your backing piece.
Apply all purpose cement all the way around the three edges on your backing piece, and around the three edges on the inside of your pocket (from outside edge to where your leather begins to bend).
Let the glue set for about 5 minutes. Drop your pocket in on top of your backing piece, starting at the top corners. Adjust and bend the pocket as needed to align with the edges of your backing. Apply pressure around the edges and corners.
Use a straight edge to press around the inside edges of your pocket, to ensure that your pocket isn't drawing in and you have a good meet all the way around. Carefully trim the edges if you need to. You can also use your sanding block to smooth the edges and corners all the way around.
With your stitch groover, groove around all three edges on the front of your case.
Step 14: Chisel Holes
Drop in your chisel line, starting at the top edge of your pocket. To ensure your stitches are parallel on each side, line up your first chisel on the the groove line that goes across the top edge of your pocket. Keep the holes evenly spaced as you go by placing the first tine of your chisel in the last hole you made.
When you reach the corner, use your two-tine chisel to lightly mark around the curve. Space the holes evenly by placing your first chisel in the last hole you made to measure out the next. Use your single tine chisel to punch clean holes in the marks you made.
Continue your stitch line around the corner, but stop before you reach the center of your bottom edge. Punch around the other side, starting again at the top edge in the groove line. When you reach the center of the bottom edge, bring your chisel lines together, making sure to space the holes evenly between them.
If you get to the bottom and notice that you're going to have too much or too little space left for your chisel to fit exactly, you can use your single-tine chisel to gradually spread out or contract your stitch line and keep it looking evenly spaced. Use your 2-tine chisel to measure and lightly mark where your next hole should be, then use your single-tine to chisel your hole on the edge of this mark, just barely pulling it in closer or pushing it farther out. (You want the change in spacing to be so slight that it isn't noticeable.) Repeat this until you can fit your larger chisel evenly in the remaining space, or you finish the stitch line.
Step 15: Bevel and Slick Edges
With your #1 Edge Beveler, bevel the three chiseled edges on the front side of your pocket.
Use your #2 Edge Beveler to bevel the three edges on the back side of your pocket.
Use a dressing sponge to wet the edges.
Because your case is so thick, it won't fit in one of the grooves on your slicker. You can use the rounded edge at the top or bottom of your slicker to slick the edges from the front and back of your pocket.
Step 16: Dye Leather
Use a wool dauber to swipe dye all over the front, back, outside and inside of your pocket. Try to get as much coverage as possible on the first pass of an area. Make sure to press the dye into the seams on the inside of your pocket. Apply a second coat around the edges on the face of your pocket.
Dye the front and back of your strap using the same method.
Let the dye dry for about 3 hours.
Step 17: Apply Leather Balm
Once your case is completely dry, use a lightly oiled rag to clean all sides of your leather and remove any excess dye that may rub off.
Take another cotton rag and use it to apply a light amount of leather balm to your case, rubbing in small circular motions.
With a dry cotton rag, buff all over the surface of your case in circular motions.
Repeat this process on both sides of your strap.
Step 18: Hand Sew Pocket
Use a Saddle Stitch to sew around the three edges of your pocket. Cut your thread length to be about 4 times the length of what you need to sew. Thread one of your saddler's needles onto each end of the thread. You should have a needle in each hand with the thread stretched in between.
Begin sewing at the top edge of your pocket on either side. Start by reinforcing the opening of your pocket with a double loop. On the front side of your case, push one needle through your second hole and pull your thread halfway through. You should now have a needle and half the length of thread on each side of your case.
Take the needle on the front side of your project and thread it back through your first hole. Now both needles and thread ends should be on the back of your case.
Take the thread that's still in your second hole, and pull it straight back toward the first to open up the hole a bit. Take your second needle (the one threaded through your first hole) and insert it into your second hole, and pull the thread through to the front of your case. Try to avoid splitting the stitch that is already there.
Take the needle on the front of your case, and thread it back through your first hole again, to make a second stitch between the first and second holes. With this same needle, push it through the second hole again, to the front side of your case. This completes your double loop. You should have a needle on each side of your case, with both thread ends coming from your second stitch hole. Pull your thread taut to tighten the loop.
Continue around your pocket from the second hole with a regular saddle stitch. Push the needle on the front of your pocket into the third stitch hole, pulling it halfway through. Insert the back needle into the same hole, so that both needles are threading in opposite directions through the third hole. Pull both needles and thread through completely, so that each needle is now on the opposite side from where it started.
Continue stitching all the way around your case, ending with another double loop in your last hole. Finish by taking the needle on the front of your project, and inserting it back into the second to last hole. However, angle the needle so that it only goes through the first ply of leather, and exits through the inside of your case. Repeat this with the back needle, going into the second to last hole and through the backing layer, and out from the inside of your case.
Pull both threads taut parallel to your stitch line to lock it in place.
Step 19: Tie a Square Knot
Finish your stitch line by tying a simple square knot (right over left, left over right) on the inside of your case.
Use your finger to press the knot down into your pocket while tightening it.
Trim the thread ends with your snap off knife. Hold the knife close to the knot inside your pocket, and then pull the threads across the blade.
Step 20: Add Snaps and Rivets
For your snap, you should have a base, an inside phalange, an outside phalange, and a cap. Place your base on the inside of your case and through the snap hole on the front of your molded piece. Add your inside phalange on top on the outside of the case. Slide an anvil inside of the case and underneath the snap. Use a scrap piece of leather or two to raise the anvil to the correct height and avoid denting the face. Set your snap using a setter and rawhide mallet. Make sure the snap is secure and can't spin in place.
Flip your case over to add the hardware to the back. Open your belt clip and slide the flat half through your oblong and onto the inside of your case.
Use a pair of pliers to place the back of your double cap rivet inside your pocket and through the hole on the bottom of your belt clip, and the corresponding hole in the backing panel. Add the other half of your rivet on the outside and use your setter (with an anvil placed inside your pocket underneath) to set the rivet. Make sure to let the portion of your case with the snap hang off the edge of your workspace to avoid smashing it when you set the rivet.
Place a second rivet inside your pocket through the top hole. Add the rounded end of your strap and the other half of your rivet on the outside, and then set it, with your anvil placed underneath. Make sure that the grooved side of your strap is facing out when you bend it around your case. Again, let your snap hang off the edge of your workspace to avoid damaging it.
Step 21: Finish Strap
Slide your phone into your case and wrap your strap over the top to find the correct length. With your scratch awl, mark the point where your strap overlaps the snap.
Use the 4th tube on your revolving punch to punch a hole in the spot that you marked on your strap.
Use your 3/4" Round Strap End Punch to round the end of your strap, about 3/4" away from the snap hole. You can use a permanent marker to color in the undyed leather on the rounded edge after you punch it.
Add the cap of your snap to the end of your strap on the outside. Flip your project over so that the strap and back of the case is laying flat on your punch board. Add the snap's outside phalange on the inside of your strap, and set it so that it's secure and doesn't spin in its hole.
Your wet formed cell phone case is now complete!