Introduction: How to Make a Leather Belt Case for a Pocket Moleskine Notebook - With Penholder - or Other Similar Stuff..
Pants have back pockets but I don't like having things in 'm, especially when I'm driving or doing activity stuff (like fixing a flat tire. .) :-(
At the same time I usually carry a small notebook, the paper kind, for various reasons. One important feature is that it never runs out of batteries.
So, I made myself a leather belt case to carry my pocket Moleskine and a couple of pens, also suitable for the "lefties" amongst us, and tried to make an instructable out of it.
Hope you like it. .
Step 1: It All Starts Whith an Idea..
Begin your project on paper, cloth or cardboard and start drawing. One could use Sketchbook, AutoCAD or even just simple paper and pencil for that matter...
Don't hurry... Take your time...
Leather deserves it and it is ever so safe.
The point is: think it through, avoid mistakes and try not to waste your leather (I'm sure I have..)
Step 2: Tools and Materials. .
You can use whatever material you like, but since this is a leatherwork thing, you might need the following:
-- at least :
some free time and effort and a solid place to work..
pocket notebook (to carry and measure)..
vegetable tanned leather ( I used thickness 2 mm)..
paper or cardboard to make your pattern. .
elastic band, rubber cement..
a sharp knife or scissors, a metal ruler and a writing tool..
a surface that doesn't mind cutting..
something to draw a round shape with..
a round drive punch or rotary punch..
hammer or maul..
two needles, thread and sewing awl..
a stitching groover..
matches or a lighter..
two snaps 15 mm (had to shorten them with small saw)..
a snap setter and anvil. .
a clean sponge and some water. .
-- optional :
a metal stamp and mallet for tooling..
leather dye (had to use black) and sealer..
edge beveler and slicker..
an overstitch wheel..
a bone folder..
a clean cloth to shine and shine and shine....
Step 3: The Plan..
A case is mostly dedicated to a certain object.
I made this one to fit a Moleskine pocket notebook, which officially is 90 x 140 mm and about 15 mm thick.
It doesn't hurt to try to fit the actual object in the design. I discovered that I needed a slightly larger fit since mine is 93 x 143 x 15 mm.
To stay on the safe side I used 95 x 145 x 15 mm as dimensions for my case. It turned out alright.
I also took the opportunity to try to design a way to carry a pen and that turned also quite alright IMHO.
Next thing is that some people like to carry a case on their left side, others on their right side. Some people like to change sides frequently and even prefer a high or a low carrying fashion.
I wanted to please them all but that resulted in a case with opposite opening flaps, applicable in all circumstances.
Last but not least the case is to be attached to a belt, which can vary in width and thickness. I thought a system for a 50 mm belt or smaller was not a bad idea.
I need a belt keep, a back, a front and two sides with pen holder (what did I get myself in to...?)
Step 4: Making the Side(s)..
You need two sides of equal length, why not cut them both the same time? Design in a 1/1 scale and compare your pattern with the actual workpiece to avoid mistakes.
Used an old washer and an exacto knife to cut the top of the sides round. It closes the case nicely between the flap and side.
Bevel the edge that goes on the inside of the U-shape you will form later on. This is not mandatory but contributes to the quality of the finished case.
Use the stitching groover to make a groove on the flesh side of the leather to create a folding line. Also do so on the skin side but not on the same spot or you'll cut through the leather.
The idea is to create a stichting groove that holds and protects the thread. It looks professional and solid the same time. ;-)
Use the overstitch wheel to mark where you want to make the holes for stitching (use the stitching awl later).
Dampen the folding lines. Don't worry, the leather gets darker because of the water.
Use a ruler and/or a bone folder to fold the leather in a U-shape, skin side on the inside. Be careful with your fingernails as they also can leave marks on the leather.
Let 'm dry. If it does not look extra straight it's ok.
Just make sure the four folded sides are the same as they affect the look of the whole case.
Dye and let dry..
I'll explain how to dye later.
Step 5: Making the Pen Holder..
There is just enough space in the U-shape to keep a pen.
Cut in the folding groove and push the elastic through.
I kept one side further down then the other one, not all pens are alike.
Bend the elastic over and fasten it with rubber cement. Try not to inhale the fumes, they tend to be nasty. So, ventilate or go outside.
Let both cemented parts dry before you put them together!
Then join 'm using pressure and wait. Time depends on the application of the cement. In this case I let it rest overnight but an hour or so seemes sufficient enough.
Step 6: Belt Keep..
Made a pattern to be able to punch holes to make the slots (scale 1/1 remember ?). Be sure to use a soft surface that doesn't damage your tool.
Cut between the holes to create a slot. Start cutting at a hole and stop somewhere in the middle, turn the workpiece and start again from the opposite hole.
Make a stitching line around the slots. You could use a stylus to aid in the proces.
Stitching around the slot makes it stronger.
Use the stitching wheel to mark the stitching holes and punch through with the stitching awl.
Be careful: an awl is intended to be sharp! I tend to keep mine covered with a piece of cork.
Bevel the edges, cut a small piece of the corners.
Dye the leather. Wear some rubber gloves or plastic bags to protect your hands. Use a douber or a sponge and dye in a circular motion. The more you dye, the darket it gets.
I dyed both sides for the look of it but it is not really necessary.
Start stitching, I used a saddle stitch - it's an extra effort but it is very strong. Make your thread about four times the distance you need to stitch.
Go over the thread with a stitching wheel and flatten it. Tie both ends en seal it with a lighter.
You'll have to stitch the belt keep to the back part later.
Step 7: Making the Back..
The back is actually nothing more than a piece of leather with rounded edges at both ends. All other parts are sewn on it.
It helps to try to visualize the project in order to find the needed dimensions.
I used a compass to round the edges but I'm sure you can find a round object like a cup or a bottle that fits your needs.
Bevel the edges.
Again, you don't need to but it will look ever so smart!
Dye and let dry..
Step 8: Making the Front...
This is also a simple piece, with a catch..
You will have to cut a nice oval form in order to get the notebook out of the case easily.
It is not mandatory but I think you will like it later.
There are tools to do that for you, but I prefer to do it the hard way (poor me..).
Trace the leather with the stylus. It will help guide the knife cut out the form. Be patient, don't rush it. Messing up is not only frustrating but can be dangerous too!
If your knife moves in an interrupted way, it might need sharpening.
Bevel the edges, cut small pieces of the corners and make stitching grooves..
If you like to put a personal touch to your work, you could add some tooling.
In that case don't dye yet, please see the next step.
Step 9: Tool ..
Tooling can make or brake your project. It is an art of itself and completely beyond the boundaries of this instructable.
You don't have to do it, but it gives that extra touch of "je ne sais quoi.." to it. It makes your work unique in the world.
I'm not ashamed to confess that I don't master that art. Nevertheless behold my contribution to the world:
I got myself a prefabricated stamp of the letter "E" and stamped it four times clockwise in a square.
The slightest deviation results in a ruined workpiece.
Therefore, I cut a square out of a scrap piece of leather and used that as a pattern.
First you have to case the leather: dampen it with a sponge resulting in a change of color. When the original color reappears it's time to begin.
Get a solid surface, like a granite block, and lay the leather on it. Start stamping or tooling. Don't use a metal hammer on your tools, or they get damaged.
Practice on scrap first - good luck.
Afterwards you can start to dye.
Step 10: Assemble..!
Putting it all together..
Basically you fix the pieces to one another with rubber cement, give it fixing time and stitch. Too much cement can make a mess, so sometimes I use tape to see what I should be doing.
Cement the two sides to the back and stitch.
Fix the belt keep to the back and stitch also. You may have to push the awl through in an angle as not to damage the side pieces. Bit tricky but it works. This is a slow part of the proces, thought it would be worse.
Attach the front to the two sides, same procedure as above.
****!!! I made the mistake of fixing the front to the sides and then tried to attach the snaps. It worked but I'll do it the other way round next time!
I also intended to put a protective layer between the snaps and the notebook, but it was already too late for that! Lesson learned! ****!!!
BTW: the snaps turned out to be too large to fit the leather. I used a small saw to shorten the eyelet and tried it with a piece of scrap first. Seemed to work just fine!
For the final stitching I used a small block of cork (a few layers glued together) to support the leather in order to use the awl and stitch it. Sometimes I use layers of cork to make a form to mould leather. I find it easier to work with compared to wood.
Burnish the edges as a final touch, give the case a protective coat and start shining.
Let's see what we got...
Step 11: And the Final Result Is...
I could have designed the case with only one pen holder but hey, it is what it is..
There happens to be some space between the case and the notebook so that it is not damaged by the snaps, but that was mere luck (maybe room for a small leather cardholder?).
It also slides a little rough over the belt, but that will get better in time.
The case holds a notebook, two pens and can be carried left and right and in low or high fashion (and IMHO looks nice too).
If I may say so: I'm pretty happy with the result.
Step 12: Thanks for Reading..
Leatherwork is fun. That does not mean that it is always easy.
This is not an instructable about leatherwork, I'm not a professional, so please bare in mind that this instructable is to show the way how I went through this particular project. There are other ways to get to the same result.
There is much more to leatherwork than meets the eye. You could read some books (at Amazon.com for instance) or search the web for that matter e.g. Springfield Leather Company (USA) has some really interesting video's you should see. There are also some nice instructables in this contest you could learn a lot from ;-)
You could take the project further then is shown here but in that case, depending on your experience, you might want to acquire some extra skills and/or invest in special tools..
Your imagination is your only limit..
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Comments - and votes - are always welcome ;-)