Moulded Leather Tool Storage Wallet

How to make a custom diy storage wallet for tools or other small items


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The Tandy Leather Craftool Deluxe Snap-All/Rivet Setter Set #8105-00 arrived packaged in a clear plastic vacuum-formed clamshell container, great for displaying the product but not particularly useful for long term storage.

It occurred to me that a custom leather tool pouch would give me the chance to practice my newly acquired leatherworking skills while at the same time solving the storage problem.

Being only my third leatherwork project this wallet is relatively easy to make, even for the beginning leathercrafter who should have little difficulty in creating a custom version tailored to their specific needs.

No pattern is required, just follow the simple steps below.

Being wet moulded, it will be necessary to use a vegetable tanned leather. Not wishing to experiment on expensive leather I used some 2mm (5oz) belly which worked out really well.

Also required is a scrap of softwood large enough to lay out the tools that are going to be included in the wallet leaving some extra space all around. The piece in the photo above is approximately 200mm x 120mm (8" x 5").

After placing the tools in the approximate final storage positions one can estimate the width of leather that will be needed to form the pockets; 120mm (4 ¾") in this case. If in any doubt cut the leather a little on the wide side rather than too narrow.

For the height, the pockets need to be deep enough to hold the tools securely without being so deep that it makes them difficult to remove. 70mm (2 ¾") seemed about right for this set of tools.

Adding a sewing and trimming allowance of 20mm (¾") to each of the sides as well as to the bottom edge resulted in a piece of leather of about 160mm x 90mm (6½" x 3½").

After cutting the leather to size, apply a finish to the grain (smooth) side as this would be very difficult to do so once the leather has been moulded into shape.
For a functional item such as this, I like the finish imparted by home-made dubbin which also serves to protect the leather.

The next step is to draw guidelines on the wood. A verticle line to indicate the centre line of the wallet, and three parallel horizontal lines; a baseline, a second line 20mm up from that for the trim allowance, and a third 70mm up from that to indicate the pocket height.

Next place the central tool in position. Normally this would be centred on the vertical guideline with its base on the second horizontal line.
Notice, however, that in this case the tool is offset from the centre line as an unequal number of tools will be placed on each side. Two to its left, and three to the right.

Next, soak the leather in tap water for 10 to 15 minutes.

While it is soaking, if you are worried about getting the tools wet, now would be a good time to wrap them in cling film for protection. I didn't think it necessary for this particular set of tools and they suffered no ill effect.

Once the leather is soaked through remove it from the water and let it dry for a minute or two - it should still be wet but not dripping.

Position the wet leather over the middle tool. The bottom edge of the leather is aligned to the bottom guideline, while the vertical guideline is used to centre it horizontally.

Use fingers to form the leather around the object, a smooth bone folder may be used to sharpen the corners. Be careful with this, as even fingernails can leave a permanent mark in the wet leather.

A few small tacks are used to hold the leather in place. Iron and steel reacts with damp veg tan leather leaving a black stain so it would be best to try and place the tacks where the resultant holes would eventually be covered by the stitching. I found some brass plated steel tacks at a local hardware store that minimised the staining.

Position the remaining tools on the wooden board. Use the fingers and bone folder to mould the leather around the tools, adding tacks as needed to hold the leather in place.

Once the leather is completely dry, carefully remove the tacks, the leather will come away holding its shape. Trim the side and bottom edges with a sharp knife to leave a border of about 8mm (5/16").

If you intend burnishing the edges of the finished wallet, now would be the time to burnish the top edges of the pockets as these will be difficult to do once it is assembled.

The press-stud or snap is installed next. I used a "line 20" snap centred on the width of the wallet rather than centred over the middle tool as this will look better once the wallet is closed.

Next, the piece of leather that will form the back of the pockets is required. This is cut to the same width as the pockets, 120mm in this case, and should be tall enough to comfortably accommodate the height of the tools, 140mm in this case.

After this backing piece is cut to size, the desired finish should be applied to the grain side before it is assembled. Once again I used my home-made dubbin. However, before applying this, as it will prevent the cement from adhering, I first used some masking tape (blue in the above photo) to blank off the areas that are going to receive glue.

Once the finish is applied, the masking tape is removed and the pockets are glued to the backing piece. At this stage add the two rows of stitching between the centre and the side pockets as indicated by the two red arrows in the photograph of the finished wallet above.

Without some form of stiffening the wallet would be far too floppy. A variety of materials may be used as a stiffener, even thin cardboard may suffice if the wallet is only intended to hold lightweight items.
However, for a heavy set of tools such as these, something more substantial is required. I used 1mm thick High Impact Polystyrene Sheet (HIPS) which worked very well in this application.

The stiffener is cut about 10mm smaller all round than the pocket backing piece so as to leave room for stitching. It is then glued to the backing piece as can be seen in the above photo. Cement doesn't adhere well to the HIPS, but it only needs to be held in place long enough to assemble the back.

The back of the wallet and the front flap are formed from one piece of leather. This is cut to the same width as the pocket backing piece, but also needs to be long enough to wrap over to form the front flap. Make sure that when the front flap is folded over that it is long enough to reach below the snap. For this particular wallet, a piece of leather 270mm long was found to be suitable.
For a more finished look, the front flap is tapered slightly and the corners are rounded as per the above photo.

Finish the grain side of this piece before glueing the pocket backing piece, complete with pockets and stiffener into place on the flesh side.

Next, the backing piece along with the pockets are stitched into place, taking care not to sew through the stiffener.

After the sewing is complete burnish the edges. After experimenting with various methods I am now a firm believer in using Tokonole burnishing gum. Click here for my burnishing procedure.

Now is the time to try the tools for size. Initially, the fit may be a bit snug, but the pockets should soon stretch out; wiggling the tools in their pockets will help.
With the tools in place fold the front flap down into the closed position, once centred, press down onto the snap to leave a mark. Use this mark to locate and punch a hole and to then fit the press-stud cap.

As a final touch, I added a pocket to store the instruction sheet as can be seen in the photograph above (unfortunately, the quality of my stitching still left a lot to be desired at that stage).
The pocket was made from a scrap of 1mm (2 - 3 oz) leather. Sized to accommodate the folded-in-half instruction sheet while also providing for a stitching allowance this was made 104 x 68mm. A saucer was used as a guide for the curved cut-out, and after applying a finish and then burnishing the edges, it was carefully positioned on the top flap before sewing into place.

All in all, despite some less than pristine stitching, I am very happy with how this tool pouch turned out.