A Leather Ebook Case, 21st Century Style




About: I'm an Engineer, who originally inherited the family business (Thanks Dad (RIP JC Taylor, 1938-2011)) after working in it for 25 years, designing and building scientific instruments. In 2013, I was head-h...

Whilst carrying a cup of coffee and a suitcase out of my hotel in Seoul recently, I dropped and smashed the carrying case of my Sony Ebook, much to my dismay. There was no repairing it, so I decided that I needed to make a new leather case myself, and, since I have a laser at work, I set to, and made it with that before I went back to Seoul !

The old case and Ebook were perfectly sized for my favourite leather waistcoat - my coat of many pockets which is SO handy when you travel, so I was keen to copy the size and design at first; but having used the naked, and now very slim book on its own, it seemed a shame to lose that, so this time I made a slip case, which will stay in my pocket permanently, and the book slides in and out

Here's the result:

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Step 1: Materials.

Veg tanned leather - the best stuff for this project, as we will be moulding it to shape, this uses a piece about 160mm x 300mm - I used 1.6mm thick, or 1/16" - step 5.

MDF board, same size as Ebook - see step 3 and 7.

Leather working needle and thread. - step 6

...and a laser cutter..... Step 5 !!!

The laser isn't essential, but BOY does it make cutting out easy !

Step 2: In Use..

Here's the book and case slipped into my inner jacket pocket. Its great, because it also helps hold my passport and boarding cards ready for easy finding.

Step 3: Design

The design begins with a very simple model of the book - I was slightly generous on the sizes, to be on the safe side.
I cut a piece of MDF board, to the same dimensions - this will be used later on.

Next, I used my CAD system to draw the case ! My CAD system is called Alibre, and the version I use has some special "sheet metal working" tools....so I designed the case in "sheet metal", but actually cut it in leather - its going to fold in a similar way in the end.

If there's interest, I'll do an 'ible on using Alibre sheet metal, but until then, here' s picture of it.

Alibre sheet metal parts begin as a single flat tab, to which we will attach flanges, and to which flanges in turn we can add more flanges. The clever magic happens when you "drill" holes in the project, not only do the holes line up in the model, but they will line up on the finished project, as Alibre cleverly calculates the bending allowances to make it do so in the developed drawing.

Step 4: Here's the "final" Drawing.

The next step is to tell Alibre to export the sheet metal model to a flat drawing, and to "develop it" - that means that the program will open and flatten all the folds, and work out how the metal has to be bent, or in this case, how the leather has to be bent. The drawing is exported to DXF file (the AutoCAD standard) for the laser system, but it needs some modification first.

The drawing ALSO includes all the "fold lines" that would be used by the sheet metal maker to work out where to place the tools used to make the folds. These needs deleting - I zapped them through CorelDraw and edited them all out in there.

The file is then "laser ready"

Step 5: Laser Cutting

To be honest, laser cutting isn't THAT interesting to watch, unless you get a fire in the machine. This project took around 2 minutes to cut out on a 40 W laser, running at 12mm/second.

Step 6: Finishing:stitching

Finishing consists of first stitching the leather sides together, in the traditional twin needle way - weaving in a figure of 8 up wih one needle, down with another and vice versa, then backstitching the seams to stop the thread unravelling.  One side is easy, the other ideally takes two people, one to grip the leather joint, and the other to sew it, that's because the leather for one side is larger than the other and though, finally, it will line up in the project, for now, its a stretch.

Step 7: Finishing:moulding

GMJHowe's excellent instructable https://www.instructables.com/id/Leather-iPod-Touch-Case-using-Water/ will show you the technique for moulding, and how to stitch.

In my case, I soaked the leather, then stuffed the MDF piece I made in step 1, which I wrapped in Saran(cling film) to keep it dry, then stuffed into the wet leather pouch.

I then took a bamboo chopstick, with a pleasing radius and stretched and curved the leather to meet the MDF former, then I placed the whole assembly in a warm room to dry.

Step 8: Job Done.

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    27 Discussions


    4 years ago

    i have a bottle mercury


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice workmanship, but how can a leather case be 21st century? Most of the environmental organisations on the planet agree that we need to wean ourselves off animal products. That said, a good classic car trimmer would be able to sell you some old Jaguar leather.

    The sleeve would be just as nice without dead animal, in fact I have a piece of ultrasuede, which is made of old recycled drinks bottles, just too small to make an iPad case. I might have to add a go-faster stripe...

    14 replies


    Dead animal product works better than synthetics and since it is created effectively from a waste product, after the animal is eaten, considerably more environmentally friendly than a plastic. It will also ultimately decay.

    Most of the leather substitutes are recycled and recyclable, Mercedes Benz has just put millions into replacing leather in most of their cars. Historically many Benzs have little or no leather in them and now it is just an option. Most recent cars with 'leather upholstery' only have seat facings made from slaughterhouse products, usually with only the lightest skim of leather backed by a stronger textile. The res of the interior is plastic. This is why I mentioned looking for a classic car specialist because in an old car what looks like leather usually is leather.

    In economics terms the value of all the component forms of the carcass including skin, bones, hooves and whatever else can be used are all in the business plan of the producer. They don't give the skin away, they sell it. Leather is a product, not a by-product or a waste product. Trust me, there is a LOT of old leather out there that has already weathered, this is why I think leather is a legacy material and we should move on.

    Finding a new way of doing things is very much within the Instructables ethos, so I think it's time.

    The leather substitutes I've seen don't mould like real leather does, upholstery leather is a whole different material to the veg-tanned I use.

    I don't see a synthetic as anyway superior to the natural product here I'm afraid.

    The new materials are not really available yet, but will be available in different weights for different applications such as shoes and bags.

    Until then, surely some sacrifices can be made for the the sake of ethics and the environment? Would the sleeve be a worse sleeve if it were made from an ethical and environmentally friendly alternative?

    I must point-out that it is the '21st Century' part of the description on which I'm commenting.

    The 21st century bit is derived from the facts that it is a case for an Ebook, generated in CAD and made by CNC laser cutting.

    I am not sure how ethical a synthetic, and likely oil-based approach to a material which is pretty optimal as-is, is bio-derived and bio-degradable really is.

    As I mentioned above. The new materials are generally made from the plastic bottles we put into recycling centres.

    The material is ethically neutral, it does no harm and no good other than replacing a material taken from an environmentally harmful process, which animal agriculture certainly is.

    I understand the 21st century handling methods, I just have a problem with the thought that into a new century we are still using animal products because of a vague consensus on perceived quality which no economist could quantify or from which derive a test.

    I had better do some work! I'm reasonably likely to make a sleeve though, I'd better start looking for a bigger off-cut...


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    So you'll continue to try to dis-suede people from using leather? It'll be a LOT harder to convince people to turn vegetarian, so this leather is better just thrown away instead is it? Because if you dissuade people from using leather, it'll be one of the only parts of the animal that won't be used.

    What about culls of herd animals? Deer in the UK are controlled population, without controlling them their populations explode and they cause a nuisance on arabal farmland. You think it is more ethical to just kill them and then what? Burn them? As it is the meat is used, the bones are ground and the hides are tanned.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not sure this is relevant!

    Yes, I have answers for you, I've been a researcher on this subject for fifteen years and have effectively answered the issue you mention on a number of occasions.

    Steveastrouk and I were discussing the modernity of the material.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I don't understand why you see the use of a waste product, animal skin, as unethical. I would expect that the in curing of hides vs the melting, processing and refining of plastic bottles, the curing of hides would be less energy intensive. And since they're both waste products, surely leather is preferable. Or are there other things to consider, like the chemicals used for curing animal hides?

    I'm not trying to troll, just interested. What papers have you written? I'd be interested to have a browse.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It's a waste product AFTER it has been thrown away. As I said above, the skin is a part of the economic package of the carcass and is SOLD to leather producers. Using leather is no different from using meat, both are products.

    In terms of energy, look at the various recent UN reports regarding the amount of oil required to raise livestock. Even the UN thinks we have a big problem with livestock production. Given that the UN usually makes such a huge effort not to change anything, to recommend massively scaling back animal agriculture is an astonishing step for them.


    You'll find that culling and 'controlling' of wild populations is declining; it doesn't really work.

    I'm an ethics researcher, I occasionally post in this way to monitor public opinion and to see if anyone has a new angle; nothing for some time... I haven't published to date but I am hoarding for an upcoming education project. I can recommend stuff. Meat Market by Erik Marcus is a good start, it's the definitive look at the economics of the situation and the work of the Princeton ethicist Peter Singer is where I began my search.

    Good luck with that lot!

    Do you post anywhere? A blog, tumblr, twitter? I'm studying philosophy and intend to do my masters in bioethics. I'm following Peter Singer's work, I find some interesting points in what you are saying.

    It's a waste product AFTER it has been thrown away.

    No, it's not. Waste products can also be sold. Animal skin is a waste product of the butchering process which can be turned into leather, a marketable commodity. The very concept of recycling depends on the fact that "waste" doesn't mean "can't be used for anything ever ever again."

    >As I said above, the skin is a part of the economic package of the carcass and is SOLD to leather producers. Using leather is no different from using meat, both are products.

    People are not going to stop eating meat anytime soon (and you will be hard pressed to convince this forum that meat eating is unethical), so using the skin - a byproduct, or waste product, of the meat production process, which can be sold and consumed - is better than throwing it away.

    >I'm an ethics researcher, I occasionally post in this way to monitor public opinion and to see if anyone has a new angle

    I can only interpret this two ways:

    1. You're looking on the internet to see if by individual posts you can track trends on how the public thinks about ethics. And you...didn't study statistics. And ethics research is a LOT more loosey-goosey than I thought when it comes to method. O_o

    2. You're looking on the internet to see if you can find A) genuine ethical insights and/or B) armchair philosophizing. In which case, Bwahahahahaha!

    >Given that the UN usually makes such a huge effort not to change anything

    Ummmmmmm. *What?*

    The UN makes lofty declarations and sets optimistic goals all the time.

    Or have you not heard of the UN campaign against FGM, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Millennium Development Goals, proposals for "the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction," the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, or the ENTIRE UN peacekeeping effort, to name a tiny, tiny sampling?

    >You'll find that culling and 'controlling' of wild populations is declining; it doesn't really work.

    [citation needed]

    matthewbateMr. Sparky

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Interestingly, I have had a quote that you would not believe to re-trim a Porsche Panamera in the materials discussed here, the materials are twice the price of leather which is a commodity the production of which is supported by governments world-wide.

    Leather is cheap.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Although most of the time I love my Sony case with the built in light wedge, there are times when I could use a less bulky version, so I think I'll request another one to be cut for me :-) I would also like to try carving/tooling a design in the leather so we can tell which case is whose. The veg tanned leather should take a design really nicely.

    Sewing the case up was pretty easy, we used a heavy duty terylene thread and a couple of big, sharp needles. I started sewing at the top (open) edge of the case so that if the sewing should start to unravel it would be at the closed bottom end where there is less chance of the seam pulling apart.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very neat work, I like how easily you solved the bottom U bend.
    I have used a rotary hand punch with equestrian heavy leather,
    ergo my curiosity.  Did you have the laser cut the stitch holes too ?