Making a Minimalist Wallet

I try to live by the creed of learning and making something good every day.

The Minimalist Wallet

As we have been pondering the holiday season it seemed a good time to get a jump on some leatherworking projects I’ve had in mind the past few months.  This morning, before getting to work on other chores, I decided to take a little time and work out a slightly modified Minimalist Wallet.  If you have followed this blog for long, you may have seen a couple earlier wallet projects we shared HERE and HERE.  This isn’t a complicated project and might be a good one to start with if you trying your hand at leatherworking for the first time.

The All-Encompassing Symbol of the Age

Making the Pattern –

It would be pretty optimistic to just dive in and start cutting out a wallet without knowing what needs to fit.  I used a debit card for scale as there will inevitably be a couple of these in just about any modern traveler’s pocket.  I didn’t put a lot of time into the pattern as I have made a similar style before and knew the basics of what I wanted; essentially two pockets and very little sewing.

A Bit of Sloppy Origami to Test the Dimensions

To create two pockets, there needs to be three layers; two on the outside and one to divide.  To make the cards more accessible, the outer pocket will be a “reveal” and I chose to do this the simplest way possible, by a diagonal straight line.

Test Fitting and Trimming the Draft Pattern

I ended up tightening the width and lengthening the entirety just a bit from my original estimates for a better fit.  The difficult part is over.

The Draft is Transferred to Stiff Bristol Board for Multiple Uses

After the pattern is transferred to the card stock, it can be used many times without fuss.  It is a good idea to label your patterns before storage as they begin to look alike when you amass a large folder of them (was this a pocket, part of a shoe, some sort of handle cover?).

Getting Down to Business –

The next step is to cut out the pattern on appropriate leather.  I’m using Hermann Oak 1.5 mm tooling side that was leftover from an earlier project.  Neatness in cutting is very important as it will affect the look of the entire piece if the cuts are even a millimeter or two off or wavering in any way.  Since most people seem to prefer dark leathers for this sort of thing I chose to dye it Medium Brown with Fiebings Leather Dye.

Wet with Dye

After the dye sets you’re free to move on.  I started by marking and awling the stitching holes at about a 5 mm increment.  I will admit, this was not my straightest set of stitching lines ever.

Punching the Holes

I almost always use a double needle saddle stitch when sewing leather as it is the best and strongest choice in most cases.  I chose a contrasting thread to give it a fine finished look.

Finishing Up

And finally, the edges were dyed again and burnished to create a smooth, finished look.  Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the outcome.  This one will be the prototype to work from and I’ll be able to take a little more care now that I have learned from this one.  If I ever get around to making enough to sell, I’ll put them on my Etsy Store.

To view this project on Instructables, click the link here: Minimalist Wallet

I have a slightly more complex project laid out for later.  If I take the time to document it, I’ll post it up here.

Tanning Leather: Not a Lost Art

Many years ago, in Morocco, I was able to tour an ancient tannery and see some of the process of creating beautiful leather.  I use leather for many projects and although I do some brain tanning myself, I purchase all of my truly “tanned” leathers from others.

Click the image to visit the Moroccan National Tourist Office on Facebook

Click the image to visit the Moroccan National Tourist Office
on Facebook. If you are interested in a description of the tannery at Fez, have a look at Becca’s post about it over on AlwaysCarryOn.

One very important lesson about tanning I learned in Africa was that I never want to work in a African tannery when it’s 100 degrees in the shade.  The smell makes a feed lot in Texas almost seem habitable and hits one in the face like a dense fog.

Well anyway, Markus at the huarache blog has done it again… forced me to steal his excellent article and link to his great research in Mexico.  The post gets a very close inside look into the tanning process; a somewhat secretive business in my experience.

img_0237img_0646img_0160Great set-up for the beams.  Spacious, indoors with a cleanable floor.

img_0218I think anyone who has tanned hides will appreciate this solid set-up.

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img_0782This is just a picture preview.  For much more in-depth information, have a look at the article on the Huarache Blog by clicking here.

I appreciate this work so much for having done some myself.  Tanning hides is tough, back-breaking labor that goes unappreciated.  It’s good to know that there are still folks out there keeping these important skills alive.  More importantly, to know that there are alternatives to corporate factories producing little more than garbage and waste.  It must be tough on these small family businesses but I hope, for all our sakes, that they find a way to survive.

http://huaracheblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/taller-de-curtiduria-gonzalez-making-the-best-vegetable-tanned-huarache-leather/

Knife Sheath

I realize this isn’t the most exiting project of the year but a necessary one nonetheless.  My knife sheath for the “regular” camp knife was a sloppily done remake of the original.  The knife maker did an excellent job on the knife itself but the sheath wasn’t up to the standard of this fine tool.

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No surprisingly, I have quite a lot of leather around for small projects like this so after some searching I chose a very thick and solid, wax stuffed leather that was batch dyed a very dark brown.  For durability I decided to rivet this sheath with brass which makes for fairly quick work as well.  The only real issue is getting the fit just right; tight enough to hold upside down but loose enough to come out when called upon.DSC_0127 (12)

After construction, a bit of hot water was poured over the body to shrink it up a bit and the well-oiled knife left in it for form-fitting.  Now, we’re ready for the woods again.

Making a NATO-Style Watch Band

Taking a break from work to make something for myself…

I don’t wear a watch every day but when I do, I like it to be comfortable and not at all flashy.  I was never a fan of wearing a watch when I wasn’t working but having a crew who expect regular breaks and a lunch hour made sure I owned one most of my adult life.  Now we live in an era of cell phones with fancy clock features, timers, and alarms which makes the humble wrist watch an anachronism at barely 100 years old.

NATO Watch Strap

My inexpensive but excellently serviceable watch.

I don’t desire or need an expensive watch and have always considered them to be somewhat disposable.  I bang them up pretty badly so it is rare that I ever have one costing more than about $40.  If you’ve ever changed a modern band and don’t like to fidget around with the little pop-off axles that hold the strap on you should consider this simple and elegant design long-favored by the military.  A quick search on the internet will yield you plenty of cheap and interesting versions of this type and they can be changed in a matter of seconds.  It’s even fashionable to have several styles and interchange them regularly.  Imagine that… I’m a fashionista.

NATO style leather watch band

I made this one before dinner.

I considered making an extremely simple tutorial for this style but it is so incredibly simple, I think actual words would only confuse the matter.

NATO style leather watch band

Threaded onto the watch.

The real genius of this design is that it is a single belt that goes behind the watch, keeping the metal mostly off of the skin.  It should be clear from the photo above that there is really no trick to attaching it to the watch itself.  I have rather thick wrists, so I add about an inch and a half to my bands when I make them for a better fit.

NATO style leather watch band

Completed strap.

And finally (I know, you shouldn’t start a sentence with a conjunction but we all do it) you don’t have to even limit this design to leather.  You can make it from cotton or nylon flat webbing or could even branch out to making your own cloth band.  Just save back the buckles and keepers from any old watch and sew them to your own creation.

Time for me to get back to work.

 

Pack Basket

In a fit of energy I got around to putting proper and better shoulder straps on my pack basket made last summer.  The pack is willow and the leather work is approximately 10 oz. Hermann Oak harness leather.

Once the leather ages a bit they will be beautiful and rustic-looking.

The Crafting of Traditional Vegetable Tanned Huarache Footwear Leather

I have raved about the Huarache Blog before. Here’s a re-run of the excellent post about how real leather is still made by hand in Mexico.

Huarache Blog

Unlike most mainstream footwear, Mexican Huarache footwear leather is still vegetable tanned using tree bark. Fewer tanneries in the world still offer vegetable tanned leathers because of the slower tanning process and higher costs of the natural raw materials used.

The natural benefits of vegetable tanned leather are:

1. The organic tanning process is non toxic and has a much lesser impact on the environment and the health of the tanners (chrome tannery workers have a 20%-50% higher chance of cancer risk).

2. The leather maintains some of its natural qualities to stretch and adapt to your foot shape.

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A few months ago in a post titled “Taller De Curtiduria González – Vegetable Tanning the Best Huarache Leathers” I introduced Jesús and Antonio González the father and son tanners in Colima, Mexico who still practice this traditional and centuries old tanning method.

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The González tannery offers a variety…

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Make a Shop Apron

ApronsShop aprons are not as widely used as in the past.  I believe this is related to our modern view on clothing and how it has changed over the past century.  Not only are we training less in the trades, our clothes are ridiculously cheap in the modern world.  Low prices and availability keeps our incentive to protect them pretty low.  As I have reduced my quantity of clothing I have grown to appreciate the humble shop apron more than ever.  In the past, my only incentive was for protection when grinding metal or welding but now I begin to understand the real role a good apron can play in the shop.

A good shop apron can cost quite a bit of money ($40 – $100 or more) so I present the above catalog page as a starting point for construction.  Heavy canvas or leather are the obvious choices for material.  Although heavier, I prefer leather as is it is fireproof and offers some protection against cuts.  As for protection, here’s an image I found when looking for designs.  It’s from a Navy singlestick exercise.  Somehow the design seems familiar.

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Roman Loculus

Or what we might call a messenger bag.

I finally finished the commissioned bag from last month based on the beautifully proportioned Roman design.  As far as I know, this design dates back to at least the First Century C.E. and judging by it’s logic, probably much further.

Loculus1I think the true loculus (satchel) utilized an envelope design from a single small goat hide but as they survive only in art, we have to make a few guesses as to construction.  The one I made has a few more modern features including inner dividers and a cell phone pocket.

Loculus4The leather is an oiled cowhide with a slightly scotched (textured) surface.  This type of leather wears well, is weather-resistant, and comes back to life with a wipe down.

Loculus2A simple button closer secures the flap while the straps cover the seams and give it body.  The sewing is all double needle saddle stitch done by hand.

Loculus3The body is divided into three pockets with an added cell phone holder.

handleFinally, the handle.  Historic examples appear to have used this handle over the end of the staff with a cross piece through the loops, keeping it from sliding side-to-side as the one below.

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To remain unencumbered, Roman Legionaries carried this bag on the furca (travel staff).

I hope Gen, it’s new owner, loves it and finds it useful.

 

 

Project: Buckskin Bags

To aid in downsizing our worldly possessions (and tons of raw materials), I initiated the buckskin bag project.  The goal is to produce as many little beauties as possible while experimenting and learning new techniques.

This is the first run of bags, which still require embellishments, closures, and neck straps.  More to come…