Craft Your Own Leather Travel Wallet With This Handy Tutorial
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Do you have a lot of cards, documents, and cash that need somewhere to be stored and carried around? Then why not create your own genuine leather wallet/passport holder?
If this sounds interesting to you, then follow this simple guide to creating your very own.
As you might have guessed, you are going to need some stuff before you attempt this project for yourself.
Tools and equipment needed
- Tracing stylus
- Leather glue
- Leather gauge
- Leatherworking tools
- Leather punches
- Leather polish/restorer
- Metal ruler
- Dremel rotary tool
Step 1: Design your wallet
The first step is to sketch out the basic design for your passport cover. You can do this using a simple pencil and a piece of paper. Consider how many compartments you want inside, and the overall size of them at this stage.
You will also want to think about the outside design and any other features you want to be included.
In this case, the inner parts of the wallet will have two card compartments, one inner passport holder, and one outer document compartment. The "back" of the piece will have a pocket for cash.
It will also feature a dual-tone design with dark trim on the inside face. The rest of the wallet will be the same tone with some other decorative features like stitching, grooves, and trademarks.
Next, stick your designs onto some card and then carefully cut them out. This will make them nice a rigid for transferring to the leather later.
Be sure to use a metal ruler to help you cut straight lines using your scalpel.
Step 2: Begin to work the leather
With the basic design sketched, and cut, out, it is now time to begin to prepare your leather. Take your cardboard molds, place them onto the leather, and begin to mark them out using your tracing stylus.
With this particular piece, differing tones of leather will be used — light brown and a darker reddish-brown. You can choose whichever tones of leather you want.
For the darker-toned parts of the leather, repeat the same process as before using your leather passport cover molds.
With that complete, we are now ready to move on to the next phase.
Step 3: Cut out the leather pieces
Next, grab your scalpel and begin to carefully cut out the shapes. As before, use metal rulers and squares to ensure that you are cutting straight lines.
Keep going until all the necessary pieces have been removed from the leather sheets.
Next, grab your leather punches and punch holes where required in the leather pieces to form rounded corners.
With all the pieces cut out, it is now time to begin to assemble the passport cover. Grab your leather polish, and apply a thin even layer over the areas needed.
Work it into the rear side of the leather as much as possible (you want it to be absorbed as much as possible).
Next, take your leather bevel and begin to bevel the edges of the leather. Like your scalpel, ensure it is as sharp as possible to ensure a nice, clean-cut.
With that complete, grab some sandpaper, wrap around a scrap piece of wood or cardboard, and begin to sand down the cut edges.
For any edges that will be exposed on the final passport cover, add a liberal amount of polish, and work into the edge. You want to match the decorative surface of the leather as much as possible.
Step 4: Add some decorative features to the leather and begin to assemble the main body
Next, grab your gauge and score a line along some of the edges of the leather to mark a seam.
Once complete, take your leather seam press, heat gently, and run along the seams, as needed.
Now we can begin to glue the pieces together. Where needed, mark out the shape of the leather piece to be stuck to the larger one. Roughen the area using your stylus and apply a layer of leather glue.
Then grab the piece to be affixed, align it and firmly press it into place.
Tap down the entire length of the piece using a rubber mallet to ensure a solid join. Next, mark out any notches to be cut from the leather pieces — like the cropped corner details on this leather passport holder.
Cut out using your scalpel or leather bevel.
Grab your Dremel and buff down any cut edges, as needed. Bevel off any edges around the leather pieces, as needed too.
Once complete, grab your gauge again and mark out a groove parallel to the shape of the leather piece, as shown.
Step 5: Punch the seams for sewing
With that complete, grab your leather forked punches. Then, begin to punch thread holes along the line you just created using your gauge.
With that complete, grip your leather piece in a soft vice of some kind. Then begin to sew a seam using your needle and thread of choice. You can do whatever sewing pattern you like here, but ensure you use the holes you just punched.
Thread two needles, and stitch the piece using a double stitch pattern.
Once complete, cut off the thread and burn off any loose ends. Next, add some more leather polish to any exposed cut edges, and work it in until it is the same luster as the rest of the leather.
You can then scour a new line around the outer edge of the darker leather to match the lower part of the same leather strip.
Once complete, return to the edges, sand down, and repolish once again.
Step 6: Make the inner compartments and begin the main assembly
With that complete, we can now move on to the inner compartments of the wallet/passport holder. Glue the pieces together and use your mallet again to ensure a well-adhered join.
As before, when sticking pieces directly onto one another along a single seam, scratch the area first, apply glue, and then glue the piece together. This will ensure a nice strong bond.
Hammer down the seams, as before.
As before, mark out any cut corners, and remove them using your bevel tool.
Next, scratch the perimeter of the inner part of the leather wallet along three edges, and apply glue to the inner surface of the outer jacket of the wallet. Glue the two parts together, and use your rubber mallet once again to ensure a nice tight joint.
The stitched detail you created earlier should be towards the "top" of the wallet for reference.
Leave a slight bulge or fold when you add this piece, as shown below. This will form a sort of hinge to help fold the wallet when in use.
With that complete, you can now add some more details, like rounded edges. Trace out the shape you want and then cut out gently using your scalpel or bevel tool.
Rinse and repeat for all corners you want to be rounded off. Grab your Dremel once again, and buff down all the cut edges and rounded corners, as needed.
Step 7: Add more decorative features to the wallet
With that complete, grab your gauge once again, and add another seam parallel with the outer edge of the wallet. Go around the entire perimeter of the wallet.
As with the darker leather strip, grab your forked punches and punch along the entire length of the seam you just created.
As before, rest the leather wallet in your soft vice, and begin to stitch the outer edge of the wallet, as needed.
This not only adds strength to the seam between the leather pieces but also gives the piece a nice finished aesthetic — we think you'll agree.
Form a continuous thread around the entire piece. This will mean you will re-sew parts of the outer darker leather strip. As before, once complete, trim off the tread and burn/melt the excess off to seal it.
Take your edge bevel tool in hand once again, and bevel off the sharp edges all the way around the perimeter of the wallet.
With that complete, take your leather groove tool, and add a groove around along the outer edge of the wallet to match the rest of the design, once again.
Step 8: Give the leather passport holder a final polish and buff
With that, the main assembly is basically complete. Now we just need to polish the piece up a bit.
Grab your sandpaper once again, and work the exposed edges of the leather wallet all the way around. Don't be shy and work it as much as you need to until the edges are nice and smooth.
Once complete, grab your leather polish/restorer and work it into the sanded edges.
Apply it using your finger and rub it in as much as you can. Then, grab an old rag and buff it as much as you are able and willing to do so.
Sand down once again, and then rinse and repeat the polishing step until the edges have the same luster as the rest of the wallet.
Step 9: Loosen up the compartments ready for use
Next, grab one of your leather molding tools, and run it gently through your inner compartments. You want to tease them open, but not be too rough that you rip open the seams.
Try to stretch the leather as much as you can so that the compartments can actually be used.
Next, place some dummy cards, or real cards, a passport, and other documents into the wallet to help stretch it some more.
With that, your DIY leather passport-come-wallet is now complete. Now all you need to do is actually use it!
Congratulations, this is one fine piece of craftsmanship, you should be very proud. If you liked this project, and since you now have the tools, why not make your own leather watch strap?
You can thank us later.