Make a Leather Passport Wallet

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In this instructable I will be teaching you how to make your very own leather passport wallet. This is a simple yet practical design which provides storage for your passport, two cards, and features an inner pocket for cash, receipts, or anything else you want to throw in it. This tutorial covers some of the basics of leather craft while adding some optional extra details which will lead to a more refined and polished looking final product. This is an excellent first project if you're new to working with leather and will leave you with the tools and skills required to continue improving your craft.

In this tutorial I will be showing the basics required for each different skill involved in making a wallet. I hope to inspire some new crafters to try their hand at leather work and I would love to see what you create so feel free to post your finished projects at the bottom!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

All of the items listed above can be found at Tandy Leather and are just examples for each of the tools. Don't feel limited to these specific tools as any suitable replacement can also be used. This is a fairly extensive list of tools but they will all last for many years and will prove to be good investments if you plan to continue working with leather.

Step 2: Creating the Pattern

The pattern consists of four separate pieces and the dimension for each can be found below. This is just a simple design so feel free to make any changes along the way to cater the design to your own unique taste. I have used curved edges for the card slots here but have also used straight edges in the past. Don't be afraid to try something different and I encourage you to get as creative as you want!

  • Grab your poster board or card stock, and carefully draw the pattern out. It is important to be as accurate as possible during this step. If your pattern pieces are cut inaccurately or are not square, that will reflect in your finished product.
  • Cut the pattern pieces out using a utility knife and a square or ruler.

Pattern Pieces:

Main Piece: 14 x 22 cm

Passport Slot: 14 x 9.5 cm

Back Card Slot: 14 x 10 cm

Front Card Slot: 14 x 8.5 cm

Step 3: Cutting Out Your Pieces

  1. Gather the following tools & materials:
    • Leather
    • Pattern Pieces
    • Steel Square or Ruler
    • Utility Knife
    • Scratch Awl
  2. Arrange your pattern pieces on the leather without marking the leather
    • If you have only a small amount of leather lay them out in a way to ensure you have enough to cut each piece
  3. Using a scratch awl, trace the pattern pieces on to the top (smooth) side of the leather
    • Be careful not to move the pieces while tracing
    • Stick the pattern down with scotch tape if needed to ensure the pieces do not move
  4. Carefully cut the individual pieces as accurately as possible
    • I recommend using a Steel Square for this part
    • A ruler can also be used but be sure to cut accurately to ensure the pieces line up properly

Step 4: Burnish the Inside Edges

Gather the following tools & materials:

  • Edge beveler
  • Water
  • Q-Tip or wool dauber
  • Wood slicker
  1. Identify the edges that will be on the inside once the wallet is complete
    • Both Curved Edges
    • One of the long edges on the small rectangle piece
  2. Bevel these three edges of leather on both the front and back
    • To bevel the edge, run your edge beveler along the edge of the leather removing a small string. This process slightly rounds the edge resulting in a cleaner look
  3. Using a Q-Tip or wool dauber, apply a small amount of water to the edge
    • Do this step one edge at a time, and continue to step 4
  4. Run the wood edge slicker back and forth repeatedly until the edge is smooth
  5. Repeat for all three edges

Bonus Tips:

This step is completely optional but will result in a more refined looking product. If you prefer a look that is more rough around the edges, skip this step

Repeat a second time replacing the water with a burnishing agent such as Gum Tragacanth for an even more polished edge

Step 5: Glue the Inner Pockets Together

Gather the following tools & materials:

  • Scratch awl
  • Glue
  • Hammer
  1. Align the curved slots by placing the smaller one on top of the larger one
  2. Mark the bottom piece of leather at the curved edges of the top piece
    • These marks will identify where to apply glue
  3. Using a scratch awl, rough up the bottom piece of leather along the edges where it will be attached to the top piece
  4. Apply glue to both pieces of leather along the edges to be glued together
    • Wait a few minutes for the glue to become clear and tacky
  5. Carefully align the two pieces and glue them together
  6. Hammer the pieces together to ensure a good bond is made
  7. Allow the glue to dry completely
    • Rushing this process may result in a weak bond and cause the pieces to come apart

Step 6: Stitch the Card Slot

Gather the following tools:

  • Scratch Awl
  • Ruler or Square
  • Stitching Chisel
  • Mallet
  • Thread & 2 Needles
  • Stitching pony (optional)
  1. Using a ruler, lightly score a line with a scratch awl down the center of the card slot
    • Mark the line from the curved edge to ~1cm from the straight edge
  2. Stitch the two pieces together using the saddle stitching method described in Step 9

Step 7: Attach the Inner Pockets to the Exterior Piece

Gather the following tools & materials:

  • Pen
  • Glue
  • Hammer
  1. Align the inside pockets on the exterior piece of the wallet
  2. Using a pen or scratch awl, mark the spot where the pockets extend to
    • These marks will act as a guide to show where glue needs to be placed
    • Do not apply glue to the area where there will be nothing attached
  3. Glue the pockets to the wallet exterior using the same method as before
    • Remember to let the glue dry completely before proceeding
  4. Round the Corners (Optional)
    • Place a quarter on the corner of the wallet
    • Cut the curve out by cutting a series of straight cuts around the quarter

Step 8: Stitch the Wallet Together

Gather the following tools & materials:

  • Stitching Chisel
  • Mallet
  • Thread & 2 needles
  • Stitching pony (optional)
  • Wing Dividers

Stitch the wallet together using the process described in Step 9

Step 9: How to Stitch Leather

Stitching leather is done with a 3 step process.

  1. Mark the stitching line
  2. Punch the stitching holes
  3. Stitch

Mark the Stitching Line

For stitching the card slots, this step is done with a scratch awl and a ruler

For the stitching along the exterior, follow these steps:

  1. Adjust your wing dividers to 4mm
  2. Applying light pressure, carefully run the wing dividers down the edges to be stitched
    • Take it slow with this step and practice on scraps if needed
    • If the wing dividers slip you may accidentally mark a line in the leather where there will be no stitching

Punch the Holes for Stitching

  1. Line the stitching chisel up on the stitching line
    • Start with one tooth hanging over the edge to secure the seam to the second piece
  2. Using a rubber mallet, hammer the chisel completely through the leather
    • Hold the chisels firmly to keep them from slipping
  3. Work your way around the entire stitching line, overlapping one tooth each time you line up the chisel
    • For the line dividing the card slots, continue until you are ~1cm from the outside edge of the wallet
    • For the exterior lines, continue until there is one hole overhanging each edge

Bonus Tip:

Hold the Stitching Chisel as vertical as possible. This will result in a very straight, clean looking stitch. This is especially important for the exterior stitch lines. Holding the chisels at an angle will results in uneven stitching on the side opposite of where the chisels are being punched from.

Stitching

Stitching is done by attaching two needles to the thread, and passing them through the holes from each side of the leather

  1. Cut a piece of thread ~4 times the length of the line you will be stitching
  2. Thread both ends into a needle
  3. Place one needle through the first hole, pull the thread through so there is an equal amount on both sides
  4. Insert the first needle through the next hole down and pull all the way through
  5. Insert the second needle through the same hole (from the opposite side) and pull tight
  6. Continue this process until you reach the final hole
  7. Once at the end, work your way back toward the start for 2.5 stitches
  8. End with both needles on the same side of the leather, cut the thread close, and melt the tips

Bonus Tip:

Insert the needles through the same part of each hole for a consistent looking stitch

Step 10: Finish the Exterior Edges

Once the wallet is stitched, it is time to finish the rest of the edges. If you did not burnish the inside edges earlier, this step can be skipped. I would recommend staying consistent and either finishing all edges, or none. If you are not finishing the edges, clean up any excess glue with sand paper and you are finished!

Finishing the Edges

  1. Sand the edges until they are flush using a medium grit sand paper
    • Don't be afraid to sand fairly excessively
  2. Once the edges are flush, sand with a finer grit to smooth the edges
  3. Bevel the edges on both sides along the entire perimeter of the wallet
    • The small part on the inside where there is only one layer can be skipped
  4. Burnish the edges using the same process in Step 4

Step 11: Complete

Congratulations! You have made your very own passport wallet which will last for many years to come.

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    8 Discussions

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    wrecks135

    7 days ago

    Is the passport made to go entirely into the primary pocket or do you just slip the back page into the pocket so the passport as accessible?

    1 reply
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    Crd119wrecks135

    Reply 6 days ago

    It's made so that just the back page of the passport slips into the pocket. If you want the entire passport to fit add about 1cm to the height of the pattern.

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    Crd119davidninan

    Reply 7 days ago

    Yes I did, it's violet Pueblo. Gorgeous stuff!

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    jeanniel1

    9 days ago

    For the wooden burnisher - do you let it roll as you run it along the edge, or hold it still? What a beautiful instructible. Thank you!

    1 reply
    0
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    Crd119jeanniel1

    Reply 8 days ago

    Thank you! I don't roll the burnisher when I'm slicking the edge. You want to create a good amount of friction between the burnisher and the leather, so I believe rolling it would be less effective.

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    Crd119audreyobscura

    Reply 8 days ago

    Thank you! I can't get enough of that purple thread!