Mustang Leather Tool Roll




Introduction: Mustang Leather Tool Roll

About: I started working with leather in order to replace a wallet. It became a hobby that became a passion that became therapy that is turning into a business. My web page is a little out of date, but you can see ...

If you are on this site looking for things to make then you probably have sets of tools lying around or getting carried away by your 2 year old and stuffed in the bottom of a toy box or the oven compartment of their PlaySkool Kitchen set. A few months ago I made this tool roll that I quickly fell in love with and figured I would share the project with you. As you can see from the picture above the original sleeve that came with this particular set of graduated wrenches dated back to the sixties and weathered as well as Keith Richards; very tattered around the edges but holding on to life like a champ. I used the original sleeve as a template but made a slight alteration by ditching the hanging grommets at the top corners and including a flap and buckle closure.

Step 1: Sizing the Panels

For this project I used a "Mustang" hide. Now don't go crazy thinking I turned Sea Biscuit into a tool roll. Every tannery has ways of tanning ordinary cow hide to make it look similar to the hides of other animals. There is also a "Kodiak" hide made to look like brown bear and a Buffalo hide that...well...that one is actually buffalo. This "Mustang" hide is a garment hide used to make things like leather jackets, chaps, and satchels worn by the likes of Indiana Jones himself. I cut a panel 24" x 48" which would be used for the main body, inner panels, and flap, Using the tallest wrench as my upper height limit I laid it in the middle third of the panel on the far right side and folded the bottom third up to a point within 4 inches from the top of the wrench head. At this point I laid the plastic wrench sleeve from my template on top of the leather and scratched a line all the way the diagonal to the far left. This created a sleeve that would be equidistant from the top of the smallest wrench to the largest. I did the same thing for the smallest group of wrenches in the upper left corner of the roll. I then cut the bottom flap from the main body to create two distinct inner panels. I brought the flap down to make sure it lined up properly with the bottom, and since I always measure twice and cut once, it did.

Step 2: Lining and Punching

The next few steps are the longest in the project. These tools won't just keep themselves in place without your help. If it was plastic we were working with we could just glue them or heat weld them together to form pockets, but then some yahoo would be sitting in his office chair 74 years down the road thinking words onto his bendy plasma glasses trying to show you how he is improving on a flawed design. Everything I do is hand stitched. If you have been following the stuff I have been putting up here over the last few days you are probably already sick of hearing about it, but that's not going to stop me from saying it again. Hand stitching is the only way to make sure something lasts forever. They are still pulling stuff out of the ice that cavemen made out of leather at the dawn of civilization that is still holding together. I try to make stuff that you want to be buried with and the kids get to fight over the shovel.

I digress. In order to stitch the inner panels properly to the main body we have to make sure the wrenches are aligned in a 90 degree perpendicular orientation (straight up and down) from the bottom edge of the main body panel and spaced properly to accommodate the canted socket end at the bottom. The good thing is that even if you don't space it exactly right, this pre-oiled garment leather is very forgiving and will loosen up with the proper application of brute force and ignorance.

Once the spacing and alignment are set press the leather around the tools to form an impression on the leather. Remove the wrenches and, if you have one, use your 90 degree ruler to score a line between each wrench impression (straight up and down) from the bottom. Before you start flailing around with your mallet like you're playing whack-a-mole it helps to secure your panels first to prevent them from moving around during the process. I set rivets in the corner of each inner panel. This also adds strength and stability when the tools are repeatedly removed and replaced during the life of the roll. From there you can take your thonging chisel, awl, or ice pick and poke holes through the inner panels and main body panel. This is ultimately how you will stitch the whole thing together.

Step 3: Punchin' and Stitchin'

After your holes are punched in both inner panels and your rivets are set it is time to snitch cuz snitches get stitches and you're gonna be doing a lot of stitches. If you do this right there are roughly a thousand stitches in this thing. As always I use two harness needles, braided and waxed nylon thread, and a figure eight stitch. It is a rock solid stitch that will never fail you. How you stitch each line is up to you. I use one 15 foot length of thread and start in the corner. I run one leg up a line and back down to the bottom where it meets up with the other leg and work my way over to the next vertical line where the one leg takes a trip north and south and the left leg just keeps moving forward. I do this because I hate knots in my work. Knots are a point of failure and if I can minimize knots then I increase the strength of the product and reduce the chances that the knot will work it's way loose and 25 pounds of tempered steel wrenches introduce themselves to the soft, pink, tender flesh of your toes as you try to fix your serpentine pulleys while wearing your Mario Battali edition Crocs. It takes FOR-EV-ER, but it is worth it. You will never have to repair that stitch. When you get to the end of the line and you have stitched yourself dizzy then all that is left is to tie it off in a good knot ( I prefer a double square knot, but it's up to you), trim the excess thread, and burn the knot slightly to melt the wax and nylon together in a hot little ball of napalm. Now take a minute to pat yourself on the back before you realize you still have to stitch the small panel up above.

Step 4: Strap It Up

I used a buckle strap to close it up. I cut a strap about 12 inches long and punched a oblong hole for a buckle about 4 inches from the end. I set the buckle in the strap and rivet the short end to the main body panel half way between the top inner panel and the bottom inner panel. This way, when I roll it up from the largest wrench to the smallest the strap can wrap around the roll and buckle securely. I will come back and add some photos of that process later. I did not have this site in mind and I made that strap up on the fly at the end. Well there you have it. As always I appreciate you reading this far without bouncing your head off the keyboard. There will be more of these on the way.

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53 Discussions

great job .... I need one too


super awesome, very expensive too. What thickness of leather? And where did you get the leather? Thanks.

1 reply

You can get leather for a great price at sporting goods stores that process dear or elk. They are not full sized skins but cheap and you can look through to find the one or four you like.

Hey Everyone! I'm sorry for being tardy to the party, but I have had a lot going on lately. Got laid off and started a new job in the middle of kicking off two very big projects (new business and Non-profit). I am just now getting to the point where I can breathe again and as soon as I do I will record the video showing the stitch on this roll. I appreciate your interest and your patience.

Thanks again


1 reply

Thank you Tony! By the way. Gorgeous job on the roll! I am now contemplating all my favorite hand tools I want to include in my own roll haha. A video of the stitching process would be great, do you leave slack in the figure eight, or crank each "eight" down? What weight leather did you use? And how did you get that nice "formed wrap" around each box end wrench, heat? Blood sweat and tears? Did you use an overstitch wheel for the holes? So many questions! An answer to any would be greatly appreciated. You sir, have inspired many to start their own attempt at bad ass leathercraft. Great job Tony!

Can you please do an instructable on the stitch?
Great post. I hope mine turns all right

2 replies

Any chance you can do an instructable on the stitch yet? This tool roll rocks, but before I dedicate some leather to it, I'd like to know how to do the indestructible stitch you pontificate about. Sounds like a feat in and of itself.

Whoa, I cringe at the idea of destroying a leather jacket, as mentioned here. Where I live, everyone loves leather sofas, and occasionally they appear on curbsides for bulk item pickup. In one weekend I got about 4 yards of leather just driving around my neighborhood, walking to the store, &c. I always carry a pocket knife, and rarely skip an opportunity to skin a sofa. Its the back panel of the sofa you want, the part up against the wall usually, the low traffic area.These make good tool roll materials.

1 reply

Just to mention a technique I use that others may find useful. The blade from a hand plane makes a nice tool for skiving down an edge, which is moistened, formed over, and placed in a press. Soon enough a finished edge not much thicker than the hide itself can be sewn. There is like a leather work contest going on I think? Just thought to share. I made something "tool roll-ish" while back and finished the interior with another material under the leather hem.

For inexpensive leather, I've always managed to find old purses or jackets at garage sales. It might be tough finding anything large enough for this type of project, but it's a thought.

1 reply

That's the trick, but it is a great idea. Nothing says it has to be one piece. I kinda like the patchwork look.

For those of you who spit coffee out of their mouth and nose, as I did, when they read the price one might need to pay for a chunk of leather (up to) $238.99 may I suggest an alternate material.

I've made several tool rolls over the years and for me good strong canvass has worked well. There are a couple other Instructables available here. And even denim if you have trouble stitching heavy canvas. Most home sewing machines will sew denim, just but a needle for denim.

I wonder if a person found a suitable old leather jacket that it might be re-purposed?

3 replies

I checked out the link to a certian leather retailer all over the page and saw leather that would work for a lot less than 238.99.

I understand the sticker shock. When I first started I could never afford that kind of stuff. After a couple years when my skills got better I was able to start selling pieces and that adds up pretty quick. Also, Tandy has other excellent leathers at lower prices and many in smaller quantities. You can certainly do this project with a variety/combination of materials. Canvas and leather always looks great and I think denim with a leather strap would look cool as well.

Thanks a bunch. If you can't have fun with your work whats the point in doing it ;) I appreciate your support.