Introduction: Leather IPhone Case (buckle)
A few years ago, my job required me to crawl around under desks to run cabling and wiring for office cubicles. I usually kept my phone in my back pocket, but far too often it would slide out of my pocket as I was "crab crawling" on my back. I tried the standard belt holsters, but found that I'd regularly knock into things with it, and when crawling around it got in my way if I had to roll to my side. I kept thinking that it'd be great if my phone was in a holster right over my belt buckle. It'd be easily accessible almost all the time, even when driving down the road with my seatbelt fastened, but alas, I was unable to find such a product to purchase. After YEARS of thinking about this, I finally decided to try making one.
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Step 1: Case Construction
Step 2: Changing Colors
While the natural color of vegetable tanned leather looks good, I wanted this thing to be black. After looking at various leather dyes, I ran across a technique called 'vinegaroon'. Vinegaroon is not actually a dye, but a solution that actually changes the leather black. It is made by putting some rusty steel wool into some vinegar. The nasty rusty solution is then applied to the leather. A magical chemical reaction occurs and the result is black leather. You can find plenty of other explanations via Google if you're interested.
There are definite pros and cons to this method.
-done with readily available materials
-won't rub off or bleed onto clothes or skin
-smells like vinegar
The first picture shows the vinegaroon solution in the back, the small piece of leather in my hand is my test material, and the natural colored case on the right.
I had previously stitched the sides of the case, but for the next couple of steps, I needed access to the inside so I ripped the stitching out. I'll redo it a little later. Plus, I didn't want the thread absorbing even more vinegar.
Third pic shows me pouring the solution on. You can also brush it on as well, which may result in less vinegar smell?? I've also read that different shades can be achieved with this method. Maybe brushing a light coat on is how this is achieved??
Fourth pic is immediately after I removed it from the solution. I didn't have a large amount of vinegar, so I had to turn the case several times to make sure all surfaces got covered. It was in the solution for approx. 2 minutes.
***NOTE: Since vinegar is acidic, you need to neutralize it in a bath of baking soda and water.
Fifth pic is after the case dried overnight.
Essentially, if you didn't unstitch the case for dying, you could be finished and have a nice protective case that is easily stashed in a pocket or handbag. Like I mentioned earlier, I had a specific plan for this one. Keep reading to see how it turned out.
Step 3: Leather....meet Copper
This next step will be joining the leather case with a belt buckle that I made from a piece of copper pipe. If you haven't seen that Instructable, check it out here (https://www.instructables.com/id/Copper-Belt-Buckle)
To ensure that belt loops weren't going to interfere, I did some eyeball measurements to get an idea of where these two would be joined together.
I had tossed around with the idea of making some copper or aluminum rivets to hold the two pieces together, but doing so would have required lining the inside of the case to prevent scratching the phone. If I would have done rivets, I would have likely used the thin foam sheets that are found in the craft dept of Walmart (33¢ each). Instead I decided to hand stitch the buckle on.
I started by marking 3mm from the edge using a set of digital calipers. Then I marked the stitch holes spaced at 4.5mm. Once all were marked, I used a spring loaded center punch to keep my bit from wandering. I started with a 1/16 bit and stepped up to a 5/32 bit. Once all the holes were drilled, there were some burrs that needed to be smoothed off. I used a much larger bit (don't remember the size) to remove the burrs on both sides of the buckle.
For the last pic I used some fine grit sandpaper to get it fairly smooth and then hit it with a buffing wheel and some jewelers rouge for a mirror finish. There were some deep gouges that I didn't bother sanding out since this will be covered up. It really shines up, but it's hard to get a good pic of the shine.
Step 4: Stitching
This step is fairly straightforward. Place the buckle where you want it and mark the stitch holes.
There are many tools available to make stitch holes. From punches to chisels to awls, but I don't have any of those tools, so I used a drill with the same size drill bit as used on the buckle.
Once all the holes are made in the leather, it's time to start stitching. I used the double needle stitching technique. Basically, you cut a piece of thread about 3 times longer than the length of the stitch. Then thread a needle on each end of the thread. Needle through the first hole with equal lengths on each side. Thread one needle through the next hole from one direction and the other needle through the same hole from the other direction. Pull tight and repeat until you are finished with the stitch.
Step 5: Side Stitches
Now that the buckle is in place, I use the same double needle stitch to stitch up the sides. The end result turned out pretty good. The flap on the case bounces around too much, so I ordered a thin rectangular neodymium magnet that I'll sandwich between another small piece of leather stitched to the flap. Then I'll stitch a piece of steel to the front of the case just like I stitched the buckle to the back.
All said and done, I'm very happy with it even though my wife calls it my fanny pack. ?br> Right now, the major downside is the smell. With a shirt tucked in, you don't really notice it much, but today I wore a shirt untucked so the vinegar fumes would build up. When I lifted my shirt enough to grab my phone it was a fairly strong whiff of a vinegar-leathery smell that leaves a lot to be desired. I've currently got the thing sitting in a tub full of straight baking soda in hopes that the baking soda will absorb the odors from the leather. The only other thing that I may change is to eliminate the top flap from the case as I've had a few occasions where it's gotten in the way trying to get the phone out. Still way better than unhooking a seat belt and arching your back to dig it out of a pants pocket though.