Showing posts with label leatherwork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leatherwork. Show all posts

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Workshop apron from leather scraps

Now that I've recently added a welder to my workshop, I need something a bit more protective than just the usual old clothes I use as workshop attire, so I've been planning to build a leather apron.

What makes this project a bit different though, is I have inherited a large box of leather from another leather crafter who sadly passed away. It's a significant amount of material, so I don't really want to go purchasing yet more for this project.

So the challenge that I set myself is to 'frankenstein' the apron together from the smaller pieces, but do so in a way that hides that fact - or at the very least, styles it out so it doesn't look like a patchwork bodge.

I'm using a borrowed canvas apron as a rough template, but will adapt where necessary to suit me.

The largest suitable piece I have is this, which covers most of the area, but the template comes in a bit short at the edges.








A second piece, although a different colour can attach to the bottom, extending it to a more suitable length. This covers the size of the canvas example apron.






I also created edge pieces for the vertical sides of the apron, to tidy it up.
When I've used aprons in the past, I've always found an annoyance of them is how the side bits often 'flap about'. To try and combat this in this design, I've enclosed a length of steel wire in there, which should strike a balance of being flexible enough yet maintaining some sense of shape.

There's still the scuffed portion at the top to deal with. This will be where I affix the straps, so have cut a couple smaller pieces of thicker leather here so which cover the problematic patch, and provide the mounting point for the strap. I did the same on both sides to maintain the symmetry.

There was also enough left over to add a central pocket, which I planned to divide into two.


 I wanted all the pieces to be a consistent colour, but not too dark, so I opted for a shade of brown just slightly darker than the pieces were currently.

After dyeing, I fixed the bottom and side sections in place with contact adhesive. This would serve as a placeholder while I stitched them, and add to the overall strength.



In the box of leather that I inherited, there were what appear to be, a number of several unfinished belts. These were all consistent in the type of leather, so were perfect to repurpose as straps for the apron. All I needed do is dye them to match the colour.


For the shoulder straps I used a single rivet, as this would also act like a pivot and allow flexibility. This was covered over by the top pieces I mentioned earlier.

I joined these in the middle of the back using a small piece cut from thick leather, from which another piece moves downward to join the belt portion, like a 'Y' shape.



Another 'junction' piece joins that to the belt in an 'upside-down T' shape.

The belt itself is simply riveted to the sides of the apron. I made the right-hand side particularly for the buckle, as I reasoned it would be easier to fasten/unfasten from the side of the body than trying to reach behind my back.

Finishing touches

I soon realised that the front pocket would just end up filling with dust, so I made a cover flap for that.

Also used some remaining scraps to add some padding to the straps near the shoulder.

Saturday 8 August 2020

Tattoo Machine for Leatherwork

This is the fifth of my 'Lockdown Projects' - Projects made during the Coronavirus lockdown, which I limited to one week, and only using materials I had to hand.
Before I start this write up I just want to emphasize this tattoo gun is not intended for use on anything other than leather. Using it for anything else risks a number of heath issues.
With that out of the way, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of using tattooing as a way of patterning leather. A quick search shows that it’s not an uncommon practice – particularly it would seem, for leather boots.
The theory goes that given that leather is essentially just skin, it would tattoo in the similar way to a person.
After seeing a home-made tattoo gun in an episode of Orange is the New Black years ago, I’ve had the idea in the back of my head to build one and try it.
During lockdown, it seemed like a thematic fit to finally hack one together.
The body of the machine is from a mechanical pencil. 
The main needle mechanism is a sewing needle, with an empty metal pen refill, and a hook made of a bent paperclip. These bits are epoxied together for sturdiness.
The motor was taken from a handheld fan. A button provided the connection between the needle mechanism and the motor.
The bracket was a small bit of metal from the junk bin - that was probably once part of a printer or something similar I’d previously dismantled.
The motor and bracket were fixed together with cable ties and a final cable tie tensions the mechanism so that there’s less rattle and wobble in the needle.
Initially I used 2xAA batteries for a power supply, but after a bit of testing, it needed more power, so I replaced that with a USB connector.
Obviously I didn’t have any tattoo ink to hand, so I just used leather dye to test.

Thursday 31 October 2019

Drinks display stand

This is another small part of a larger modular project.

The aim is to create a display for drinks bottles and miniatures, which will present them nicely, while at the same time securing them to protect against small amounts of movement. i.e. I'm not expecting them to be secured if the whole stand is tipped over, but they must be able to tolerate the stand being wobbled side-to-side without the bottles clinking or falling over.

There is also the need to balance the trade-off between the display aspect of the unit, and the amount of storage it provides.

After iterating over a number of designs I settled on the idea of having a central area which would display a number of larger bottles, with a frame/shelf element around the back and side edges to hold miniatures (the front would need to be left open to allow access to the bottles).

The base

The base is simple plywood, with foam to support the larger bottles. The foam is spray-glued to the plywood, with cut-outs to place the bottles, and is wrapped in fabric - also spray-glued and stapled.

The frame

The frame is oak, attached through the bottom of the plywood, and supported by the miniatures shelves and the top frame, which is mitred, and screwed to the uprights with dowels to cover the screw holes. The sides are left open, but the back is enclosed with iroko (there is a logic to this that will become apparent later). The mixture of woods creates a nice colour contrast and adds additional support. 

The miniatures shelves

The basic idea behind the miniature shelf is to use a forstner bit to cut out grooves for the bottles to stand in. But this alone raises a couple of problems
  • If they're just sat in holes, it won't be possible to see the labels and know easily what they are.
  • There's no definitive standard size/shape of the bottles.
The latter question has an easy answer, just pick the smallest forstner bit that covers the most bottles that I have to hand - this turned out to be 41mm.

The solution to the first point is to cut the groove off centre, so that it has an open front, allowing the label to be seen, but again, this raises the next question - if the groove is open-fronted, then what's to stop the bottle just falling out?

I'd already planned to line the bottle slots with leather to prevent rattling. By over-sizing the corners of the leather (see below illustration), the leather also acts like a clip to hold the bottles in place, with a sturdy leather disc glued in the bottom to provide extra support.

The finished display

Thursday 11 October 2018

Leatherworking Punch Press

Following on from the stitching pony I built a while back, this is another leather-working tool build.

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Living in a flat I am a bit limited on what I can do DIY-wise due to noise, particularly in the evening. Even simply using a mallet with stitching chisels to punch holes in the leather can be a bit too much.

The aim of this project is to create a press-like tool that is sturdy enough for me to just push the chisels through the material, allowing me to work more quietly.

I opted for some hardwoods for this project as although the original plan for a very utilitarian tool, testing found a lot of flex and give in the cheaper pallet wood I'd originally planned to use.

The base and back are iroko, with oak providing the corner piece and the uprights that connect the lever, which is maple.

All the pieces are simply screwed together, with a bolt passing through the oak and maple to create the pivot.

The levers handle was rounded with a notch cut into it's underside to support the chisels, and a cheap cutting board was used to create a working surface.

Finally, a small scrap of leather was attached to the back with upholstery nails, which creates 4 loops, to store the chisels.

In time I intend to give the handle a leather wrap, but that can wait until I've got a suitably sized scrap to spare.

It works great, not only in reducing the noise, but is actually a lot faster to use than the mallet, so I'm a lot more productive as well.

Sunday 1 April 2018


If you arrived here after a Google search for the title, you may be disappointed... maybe.

Recently I had a health checkup. Usual stuff - eat better, exercise more, yada, yada, yada.

One suggestion that came out of it would be... well... it's probably just easier to show you.. Ladies & Gentlemen, I present you... my nutsack!

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See what I did there? Took some sensible healthy eating advice and turned it into a really immature innuendo. You're welcome, world.

The sack is constructed from a 'lemon' shape of approximately 7 inches by 6 inches. The measurements were not that precise as I judged it based on simply wrapping the leather around the plastic tub it was replacing to get a roughly equal volume.

The holes for the drawstring are spaced evenly around the edge (20 in total, 10 each side).The measurements can be quite forgiving - it's more important to keep the holes the same distance from the edge, than it is to keep them equidistant from each other.

The drawstring its some leather lace I had left over from the leather notebook project I did a while back. Other guides I've seen suggest using two drawstrings originating from alternate sides of the 'lemon', but given the thickness of the lace I was using compared to the overall size of the bag, to do so in my case seemed a bit over the top.

Simply thread the lace from one end, through each hole, until it arrives back at the start, then pull the lace together to draw the bag closed.

The lettering on the outside was hand embossed, using a pyrography tool (which is essentially a lower temperature soldering iron). Be warned that leather is rather temperature sensitive, there's a thin line between embossing and burning.
That's why on the finished bag one of the lemon 'tab' bits is missing - I speak from experience.

Anyway, there you have it. A quick, simple project that can go from initial idea to complete in only a couple of hours while sat in front of the TV, yet provides endless opportunity for puerile comments.
Happy April Fools day!

Sunday 12 March 2017

Farcry-inspired Leather Notebook part 2

In my last post, I started making a leather notebook inspired by Farcry. For the first part of this build, click here.

I opted to use a mix of papers in the notebook, so it could be useful in multiple situations - I included lined, plain, squared, and sketch (plain, thicker stock paper).

Pen Loop
I wanted to get some practice using hardware with the leather, so I used a scrap of leather of approx 1 inch width, wrapped it around a pen for size, and trimmed it to create a pen loop, which I fixed to the left of the notebooks cover flap, so it would sit in the fold opposite the spine, which will help balance out the overall thickness of the notebook (to help achieve the stated aim of keeping it pocket-size).

The Cover

I shaped the cover with a curve, and added an eyelet hole. This is to thread a leather lace to act as a closure for the book.

The lace itself, was literally a leather shoe lace - I had to cut it short, and slice it lengthways to fit the eyelet.

The Farcry journal had a small metal charm-type item on the end of the lace, which serves as kind of latch mechanism, as well as having it's aesthetic appeal.

I didn't have anything particularly symbolic or meaningful, but I did have a small hollow metal die that came from a Christmas cracker, and a metal hook. I filled the hollow die with contact cement and screwed in the hook, giving it time to set, then tied that into the other end of the lace.

The finished notebook

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Despite the caption, I think this project will be one I never really consider 'finished'. There are plenty of things I would change if I re-did the project, but given that this is my first attempt at making something with leather, I'm very pleased with how it's turned out. I'll definitely be keeping leather work in my repertoire.

I envision that as a project book, it will be modified and tinkered with as I learn new things and will be a bit of a 'test bed' - two things that immediately spring to mind is the finishing of the materials' edges, and embossing a logo or emblem into the cover.

Sunday 5 March 2017

Farcry-inspired Leather Notebook

This year I resolved to pick up a new skill.

A key game mechanic in Farcry 4 is the survival and "living-off-the-land" aspect of the fictional island of Kyrat. Part of this aspect is hunting, and using the pelts to craft useful items, such as backpacks, holsters etc.

That, coupled with seeing some leatherwork done by Jimmy DiResta in his videos, inspired me to have a go and teach myself some leathercraft.

For a first project, I decided to make a leather notebook, based of this faux-leather journal that came with the collectors edition of Farcry 4 (left).

I'm the kind of person whose idea of a notebook is usually a sheet of printer paper folded into four. I usually start using a notebook, only to find various flaws that stop it fitting into my workflow - like being too large to fit in a pocket, getting left behind, nowhere to add additional sheets, etc. So this seems like a good chance to make something exactly how I want it.


  • Refillable using cheap paper (ie, printer paper folded into four)
  • Fit in the back pocket of a pair of jeans.
Other nice-to-haves:
  • Mix of paper - it'd be handy to have lined, plain, squared/graph paper in one notebook.
  • Space for printouts/other paper - some kind of pocket.
  • Pen loop
The size was based around a sheet of A4 paper folded into quarters, with approximately 1 inch added for the spine.

Another layer of leather was added in the spine to strengthen it, and fixed with contact cement.
Four loops of thread, stretching from top to bottom of the spine were added, approx a quarter inch apart. This will be where the paper is mounted - either I can use it for four different types of paper, or treat it as four sections for different projects.

A second outer layer of leather was added to the back, the same height as the main section, but wider (total width approx 300mm. This excess piece would create the wrap-around cover for the book.)

I misjudged the behaviour of the main front and back cover - I thought that the double layer of leather would behave as though they were a single, thicker layer. However, I found when folding them, the inner layer would bulge out slightly, so I was concerned about using contact cement to join them.

Although this did create an opportunity - stitching each side and the base of each cover meant that I could leave the tops open and create pockets for printouts and other papers.

This finished off the main structure of the notebook, with the next steps being to refine it and add finishing details (and of course, paper), which I will cover in a later post (Update - Part 2 is here)