My wife, Carina, asked me to use the make her a card holder. She wanted one that could hold up to 8 cards, be as small as possible, have a sciency theme and her name and address on it. I thus spend a few hours looking at YouTube tutorials on how to make leather wallets to get some ideas, techniques and inspiration. This is the most complex leather item I have made (I made some leather printed chess sets and one very simple bag – but have very little other experience working with leather). I learned a lot during this project but also made several mistakes. There is also probably a lot that I did wrong that I do not even know about…and the next one will be much better. I do however like the way it looks and more importantly, Carina is very happy with it.
Update – I had several requests and thus made quite a number of these (with various images). They are now for sale here.
Here are a few a photos of the finished product.
Update: Here are some of the others I made one week later (get them here):
The first step is, as always, to generate a rough idea of what is needed. I measured some cards and sketched a rough idea of how is should look (while consulting with the “client”). I heard that my wife would like to have chocolate with this card holder and found the appropriate molecule on the web. I also found a site that allows you to write stuff using the periodic table (http://www.lmntology.com/) and made the image for the back.
For this card holder I use 2 tools that are not usually used together. The one is a laser cutter and engraver while the other is a Singer cast iron 1910 leather sewing machine. These machines were made more than 100 years apart. Both weigh a ton. I took one of them apart to clean thoroughly and added a bit of oil after reassembly. It is of course not necessary to have these machines to make a leather card holder.
I used goat leather that is approximately 1.8 mm thick. A small piece (32 x 15 cm) was cut and loaded into the laser.
The next step was to transfer the idea from the sketch to the computer (I used CorelDraw).
I final test print was made and showed to the client.
Three different engraving/cutting commands were sent to the laser. First the stitch pattern, where I should stitch (I am not very good at stitching in straight lines and this helps a lot). This is made as vector lines by the laser at very very low power. The stitches cover these lines. For the next one, I will only print these lines on one side and not on both.
The second set of commands is engraving. Here the laser works like a printer by burning the images on the leather.
The printing is immediately followed by the vector cutting of the leather to form all the pieces.
For the inner pockets (i.e. the pockets that ensure each card does not disappear into the leather abyss) I wanted to use silk. Silk is ideal in that it is very thin and do not ad much bulk to the card holder. I also found that it can be cut very easily with the laser.
A nice bonus is that the edges are sealed when cutting silk with a laser. This means that there there are no frayed edges and I did not need to add any seams.
I used the ribbons of silk to make pockets for the cards that fit through the top 3 slots. I used contact glue to attach the silk to the leather. A strip was glued below the second slot.
Using a card I determined where the silk should be folded. The top part was glued the just below the third slot.
Again the silk was fold down to make the second pocket and the process repeated until all pockets was formed (for more details on how these pockets are made have a look a this video – this is how I got the idea).
To contain the pockets I glued a piece of silk (only on the edges) over the pockets. Note that this piece is 2.5 mm smaller than the leather on each side.
Then it was off to the sewing machine to stitch the silk to the leather on the one side (the other three sides were stitched to the outer leather piece later, see below).
The inner and outer parts were glues together and I briefly clamped them on the corners.
Everything was then stitched together.
Although the edges are quite nice when cut with a laser I wanted to seal the two stitched edges together. I made a burnishing tool from a piece of wood and used it to burnish the edges with a bit of leather wax.
The last step was to add some leather wax. I used a brush to do this and after a few minutes I wiped off the excess using a cloth and polished the leather a bit.
The whole process, took about 3 hours. This includes the hour of making and testing the designs in CorelDraw and getting the right settings for cutting silk in a laser.
I will make more of these in the future and probably take commissions for customized leather card holders – let me know if you are interested 😉
I will also try using dyes on the leather – but this will of course need to be very light to ensure engraved images are still visible.
Overall I am reasonably happy and so is Carina.