Custom Tooled Leather Briefcase / Messenger Bag





Introduction: Custom Tooled Leather Briefcase / Messenger Bag

Create a pattern, either using a preexisting or purchased pattern, or creating your own. In this case I created my own based on the final dimensions I wanted the bag to be.

Step 1: Choosing and Transferring Artwork to Be Tooled.

You can draw your artwork onto the pattern and then case the leather and transfer the pattern by tracing onto the wet leather with a stylus, or in this case, I used digital images and traced those onto the leather in the positions and sizes I had laid out on the pattern.

Step 2: Carving and Tooling

You'll need an array of different tools to embossing the designs into the leather. To do this by hand, you'll need a swivel knife for carving the edges of the designs, a series of different sizes of bevels, a couple circle stamps, and a backgrounding tool is optional. This can be a time consuming process so I only case (wet) one piece of leather at a time.

Step 3: Dying and Burnishing

Dye your pieces and burnish the edges before beginning the assembly process and stitching.

Step 4: Glueing, Stitching and Riveting

Interior compartments and inlays need to be glued to the frame work pieces that were tooled and dyed. Once the glue is set, punch stitching holes using prong punches and a leather maul. Only work with 2/3 pieces connected at once with glue, then as you stitch them, add the sides, bottom, etc, so you're not having to work with a large pile of pieces and stressing the glued joints until they're stitched. The entire bag is completed by hand, double needle style saddle stitching, then stress points were reinforced with brass rivets.

Step 5: Completion

Double check for loose thread, stress point integrity and finished using Satin Sheen. Custom made padded shoulder strap is clipped on the D loops and it's ready to go. A fully custom, chemistry themed briefcase/messenger bag hybrid made 100% by hand, in it's entirely by Lederhart.

Step 6:

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    38 Discussions

    Nice looking bag. Need to get around to making one for myself. If I may add one slight criticism, the prong punch in your stitching really stands out, and not in a good way. Learn to use a stitching spacer and an awl and the stitch finish will improve 100%. Tandy's awls, while not the best, are more than adequate if you take the time to polish and sharpen them. Skip the multi-tool they have and just buy their haft and a small diamond awl. I have not tried their pro versions so I do not know if they are worth the additional cost.

    Love this. You have a really good eye for what looks great in shades and design. Well done.

    How much material would one need for this and what would you estimate the total cost of materials to be?

    1 reply

    The materials I used, including liners, hardware, etc, was probably close to $200-250. You need at least a shoulder of veg tanned 8-10oz, and 4-6 sq feet of the inlay (brown) leather, then 1 1/2 yards or so of liner fabric plus your hardware, shoulder strap, etc. Best thing to do is get your pattern together and take an inventory what you need from the pattern.

    I made a much simpler laptop bag a few years ago, no tooling, looks more like an old style school satchel than anything. Now you've inspired me to get out the leather again and try to make something much better - the one you've showcased here is simply gorgeous!

    But for those of use not versed in the professional stuff, it would be nice to have more detail on what is meant by "case" and "swivel knife" and some more detail of how to do the actual embossing would be really useful.

    This is a really, really nice bag :)

    Are you interested in selling your work on Etcy or any similar site? :D I want a bag like this, but I can't make it on my own :D

    1 reply

    Thank you all for the flattering comments! I'm overwhelmed! FYI… I post things on instagram/facebook ( @lederhart) while I'm working if you want to see more. Next time I do a big project I'll post another instructables and maybe even a video if I can figure that part out! Not a big tech person.

    This is just beautiful. I'm hoping to do more leathercrafting now I've moved to the USA with ready access to Tandy leather. I am inspired by your work.

    Lovely stuff.

    This is amazing. Really well done, Lederhart. This is probably the most inspiring instructable I've seen personally. How much material would one need for this and what would you estimate the total cost of materials to be? Thanks.

    I think your work is amazing, but if you could provide some more detail on some of the steps, I think it would help some folks be able to recreate your work for themselves (which seems to be one of the main focuses of this site). For example, you briefly mention the tools that you use, but you don't show and describe them, or where one might obtain them. You also didn't mention what parts and supplies you would need. There are a number of questions that, if answered, might help as well, like how did you determine the size of bag you wanted? What glue do you suggest? How much glue do you use, and is there a specific tactic that you use to not over-glue or have the glue seep out of the wrong places? What do you use for stitching? What size of stitching do you suggest? What process do you use for dying? What process do you use for burnishing? Any extra detail you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    1 reply

    Thanks. Please see my last comment to the group regarding more pictures and details. I'll be more thorough in the future, now that I'm familiar with this awesome site! For glue, I like Barge and you don't need much, just weight the joints or clamp them until it's dry (directions are on the cans). If some does roll out the edges, it's easy to remove with friction and a soft cloth (except suede). Stitching is done completely by hand using the prong punches I mentioned in the instruct able. They're from tandy and I like the 1/8" spacing for larger projects with so much stitching. Double needle, saddle stitching is very strong but time consuming, but it's all I use. immediately after tooling when the leather is still slightly damp is when I dye and I just use sheepskin daubers unless I'm trying to achieve a patina. For burnishing I use hardwood attachments made for my dremel tools, but I used to buy the burnishing rods at tandy and clamp it into a drill press, or just use it by hand. A little gum tagacanth helps too. Then wax the edges and smooth down the wax with the burnisher, or a flame. A lot of these things are trial and error and you'll want to play around with it to see what works for you. Plus leathers are different, some dye and burnish differently than others, so you may have to play around with your techniques are you go along.

    Thanks everyone! I really appreciate the compliments. I just found out about this site earlier this week and posted the in progress photos I had or this project, but I actually completed it some time ago. For the next projects I post I'll know this forum better and be able to make more detailed Instructables and include better pictures and materials/tools list.

    Again, many thanks!


    3 years ago

    Beautiful wish I had some talent and ability would love a wheelchair bag along those lines rather than anything I can buy in a store I.e navy ripstop boring
    You are a craftsman and if you love chemistry then you are in my heart x

    1 reply

    Voted of course

    I LOVE this! Now if I can fit it into all my other hobbies. As for the leather, "I can get it for you wholesale!"

    Damn, this is truly inspiring! I've been toying with the idea of making my own....this helps tons!

    Great instructable should be able to get one done as a christmas present for one of the family.

    you should make videos of this and put them up on youtube or something. i pretty sure you would get a lot of views. i am not a leather worker so i would love to see a video on how to make one