Let's take your travels to the next level with a leather passport case. This simple but elegant accessory will add a touch of class to the least classy place in the world: the airport. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!
Step 1: Materials/Tools
This project can be accomplished with a fairly limited and inexpensive assortment of tools and materials. I will make a note of tools that are not totally necessary at various points in this project, and most of these tools can be purchased on amazon and ebay for under $10 each.
- Ruler (metal is preferred so knives don't gouge it)
- Rotary Cutter
- Stitching Chisels
- Burnishing Tools
- Edge Creaser
- Leather Needles (Dull tip)
- Edge Skiver
- Cutting Mat
- Vernis Edge Paint (Navy Blue)
- Ritza Tiger Thread (0,6 mm - Mid Brown)
- Gum Tragacanth
- Contact Cement
- I used Chevre Chagrin "Sully" goat leather in caramel cut down to 2.5 oz
- I also used a medium brown cowhide, I don't recall the name of it as I found this leather in my scrap pile
Step 2: Cutting
Cut out all of your pieces from the hides. It is helpful to print out templates of each piece and hold them to the leather as you cut it to ensure accurate cuts. When cutting pieces larger than a few inches, it is best to use the rotary cutter with a long ruler as a guide. When making small, precise cuts, I usually use a small knife and freehand it. Remember to cut out two of the largest pieces as one of them will serve as the exterior piece and the other will line the inside of the case
Step 3: Skiving and Glueing
Use your edge skiver to cut down the edges of each piece to reduce the bulkiness of the case when it is all put together. Skiving leather can be tricky so I recommend trying it out on a few test pieces before moving on to your actual project. Simply hold the skiver with a firm grip and keep the leather in place with your other hand. Have the end of the skiver (opposite side as your hand) facing out from your piece and "hanging over" by about half an inch. Apply firm pressure to the skiver and pull it along the edge of the leather in small strokes to ensure an even skive. Don't be discouraged if you don't get the hang of it right away; skiving is an acquired skill and takes practice.
Once your pieces are skived, take both of your main body pieces (the 2 large ones) and apply contact cement to the backside of one of them. Once you have covered the entire back of one piece with a thin layer of contact cement, place the other leather piece on it and lay some books on top of them so they glue evenly. You will end up with a single piece of leather with the backs of the 2 glued to each other, and the finished sides facing out.
Note: you may find it helpful to cut the inside lining piece a little shorter lengthwise than the exterior before you glue them together. This will reduce the amount of bulk on the short edges of the piece. I usually cut about an inch off the inside piece so the exterior piece is about half an inch longer on either side.
Step 4: Trim, Detail, and Edge Finishing
Trim any overlapping that is not totally flush on the two pieces you glued together, you want a consistent edge.
Use your edge creaser to form a distinct line along the inside edge of each interior pocket, I usually crease about an eighth of an inch away from the edge. Basically, the edge that will not be stitched down will get a nice crease. This is a totally optional step, and you can use either a manual creaser with firm pressure or an electric one, but it adds a nice level of detail that will take your project to the next level!
Once your edges are creased, apply a thin layer of the gum tragacanth to the edge you just creased. Take your burnishing tool and apply light pressure to the edge while running the burnisher along the edge quickly. The goal of this step is to create a lot of friction and heat to seal the edge.
If you don't want to burnish the edge, you can also apply edge paint to each edge. I will cover this more in detail later on when we finish the outside edges, but you will want to apply a thin layer of paint to the edges using your awl. Sand in between coats and reapply paint until you have a smooth coat of paint without bumps and grooves.
Step 5: Stitch the Cardholder to the Lower Card Holder
Now that your edges are trimmed and finished, we can start stitching the interior card holder.
- Mark a line halfway across the upper card holder, leaving about an eighth of an inch on either end.
- Place the upper card holder on top of the lower card holder, making sure 3 edges are even and flush with each other
- Hold a pricking iron in one hand and your hammer in the other
- Place the pricking iron on the mark you made along the center of the leather and double check to make sure the two pieces are lined up properly
- Hit the pricking iron with the hammer a couple of times with a good amount of force, don't whale on it but don't be too timid either
- Work your way up to the end of your mark on the upper card holder
- Once all of your stitching holes are finished, get two needles and about 18 inches of thread
- Slide the thread through the end of one needle and then poke the needle through the middle of the thread about 2 inches away from the end
- Pull the thread back up to the eye of the needle and you will have just created a knot, repeat this process with the other end of the thread with the other needle
- Poke one needle through the innermost end of the line of holes
- You want to start and the inside and work your way to the outer edge when stitching so your knot is at the outer edge and not the inside edge where your cards may snag it
- Pull the thread so there is an even amount of thread for each side
- Poke one needle through the next hole and pull it through a few inches, now poke the other needle through the same hole so you will still have one needle on either side
- Repeat this process until you get to the end
- When you finish your line of stitches, poke each needle through just one layer of leather and tie 2-3 knots
- You will end up with a knot in between the upper and lower card holder that cannot be seen once the piece is finished
Step 6: Pre-Assembly
- Paint a small line of glue along the outer edges of the passport holder and the cardholder you just stitched.
- Press each piece to the leather you laminated together
- At this point, it will start to resemble a passport case and you are now ready to stitch the exterior edges
Step 7: Prick Stitching Holes Along the Exterior Edges
- Use your creasing tool to mark a line about and eighth of an inch off the exterior edge on every exterior edge
- These lines will serve as your guides for the stitching holes
- Use your hammer and chisels to punch holes along the lines making sure the chisel makes it through each piece of leather since you will now be chiseling through 3-4 layers of leather
Step 8: Stitch the Edges
- Use the saddle stitch method you used when stitching the cardholders together to stitch the edges together
- When you are cutting the thread for the edge, cut a little over 3x the length of the edges to ensure you have enough to make it all the way around
- When you finish the last stitch, tie off the threads so the knot is in between pieces of leather so you won't see it
Step 9: Finish Those Edges!
- Sand down the exterior edges with 400 grit sandpaper to make sure the edges are flush with each other
- Dip your awl in the edge paint so a small bead of paint builds up on the end, you don't want too much paint on the awl or else it will drip off and potentially stain your leather
- Let the edge paint drip off the end of the awl once it is touching the edge to be painted, smooth it out so there is a thin layer, repeat until you have covered the entire edge
- Work with one edge at a time
- Once it has dried (4-6 hours), sand it down lightly and paint another thin layer. Repeat this process until the edge has an even layer of paint without any bumps or grooves
Step 10: Book a Flight and Enjoy Your New Passport Case!
- Congratulations! You just made an awesome new passport case. Now all you need to do is book a flight and take your new case on vacation. Thanks for reading!