I Made a Custom Tooled Bifold Wallet

In this video I will show you how to make a beautiful hand tooled and carved bifold wallet. The wallet will get a Western floral pattern carved and tooled into it. Even with limited leather carving and tooling experience I’m pretty confident you can make a similar wallet too. Just get yourself some vegetable tanned leather, some good quality tools and give it a go. Quality tools and stamps make carving and tooling leather much easier and more fun. Without nice tools I wouldn’t have been able to make this leather bifold wallet. I got my tools from my sponsor Leather House. Leather House is a Danish leather and tools supplier that ships all their goods internationally.

Video transcript:

Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tony Needs Hobbies. My name is Tony and I’m really happy to announce that this video is sponsored by Leatherhouse.eu. Leather House is a leather, hides and tools business based in Denmark and they do ship internationally. For this video they have supplied me with some Japanese made stamps for tooling and carving leather. I am going to use those stamps for carving and tooling a western floral pattern into a wallet. Have fun watching!

Off course, before we can tool, I need to cut out the leather. For that I created this pattern which you can download for free from my website www.tonyneedshobbies.com. I will cut out the pattern first and then laminate it with some tape.

If you are going to use the pattern, be sure to print it out at 100% to make sure it fits regular sized bills and credit cards. The pattern makes a bifold wallet which has one bill compartment and six card slots. If you want, you can squeeze two credit cards into each slot, but that does stretch out the leather.

After cutting out the templates I laminate them with some regular packing tape on both sides, front and back. This is especially important for the largest rectangle with the floral pattern on it, since that one will touch the wet leather since it is used for transferring the floral pattern onto the leather. Laminating also allows me to better store these templates for when I want to make the same wallet again.

The next logical step is cutting the pieces out of leather. I got two brand new pieces of beautiful veg tan leather from the Tuscan tannery “La Bretagna”. One is 2 mm thick, I will use that for the exterior with the tooling. The other piece is 1.2 mm thick and I will use that for all the interior parts.

None of the parts that I am going to cut have curves to them, so I can easily transfer the shapes from the templates by marking the corners with an awl. I’ll start with all the interior parts. The leather is thin enough to be easily cut with a hobby knife.

This oddly shaped part is one of the inner pieces for the credit card slots. You’ll have to make four of these to get the six slots. The tapered end will be stitched to the main interior.

For the exterior I will use this thicker piece of leather and cut out an oversized rectangle. On the leathercraft forum on Reddit I found all kinds of methods to prevent cased leather from stretching during tooling. Cutting out the shape 20 mm larger in all directions is one of those precautions. It also make transferring the floral pattern easier. I’m going to show why a bit later in this video. Another way is to temporarily line the back with packing tape as I am doing here. Once it is all taped up I will glue it to a sheet of acrylic using rubber cement. This aids in moving the leather around while tooling, but it is also another way to prevent it from stretching. I use rubber cement because it can be easily removed from the acrylic glass once dry.

All the leather pieces have their initial shape now. For this interior part I need to skive off the bottom edge and then I am going to transfer the floral pattern into the exterior part of the wallet and carve that in using this swivel knife. Now, for cutting into leather all the tools need to be extremely sharp so I will quickly head over to the shed and strop these two tools.

After stropping I first skive off the bottom edge of the card holder interior parts. I find this very difficult but it worked out quite nicely as you can see. Then onto the main body of work: carving and tooling the floral pattern using the Japanese stamps from Leather House.

When the rubber cement has dried I will start this process by casing the leather. I don’t want it to be soaking wet, but wet enough for it to be easily carved into as well as to accept crisp impressions of the stamps that I use. To reach this state with the vegetable tanned leather, I will apply as many even coats of water as required, until it takes more than a few seconds for it to soak in. This doesn’t sound very scientifical and you are right, it isn’t. In my minor tooling experience I found it very hard to define a good process but I think how I have done it in this video worked very well. When it is wet enough, I coat it with saran wrap.

I will set this aside for half an hour to an hour so that the fibers in the leather can relax before carving and tooling. In the meanwhile I will evaluate the quality of these Japanese made stamps that I got from Leather House, or Skindhuset in Danish. I hope that I pronounce that well. I will evaluate the quality versus some cheap Chinese made stamps that I got from Amazon.

On the left I will stamp with the Chinese tools and on the right using the Japanese ones that Leather House provided me with free of charge. The stamps tested here are very common: I use a camouflage stamp, checkered bevellers, a veiner, a pear shader, a checkered backgrounder and a geometrical pattern stamp, in two different basketweave styles. What you can see right of the bat, is that for all stamps, except for maybe the checkered bevellers, the Japanese stamps have a much more crisp impression in the leather. This is a direct result of the build quality. The Chinese made stamps are very bulky and less well made, where the Japanese stamps are very well produced. One thing that I notice as a chemical engineer who has worked in the electroplating industry for some years, is that the chromium plating on the Japanese stamps is much brighter where the Chinese stamps seem to be yellow. This yellowish color could be the result of either very thin or low quality chromium plating resulting in the nickel plating underneath to tarnish. The Japanese stamps don’t suffer from this issue and look very bright and shiny, ready to be used for many years to come. Good tools make any job more fun, so if this inspires you to upgrade your set of stamps, be sure to check out Leather House at www.leatherhouse.eu, or visit their store in Kopenhagen, Denmark. I’ll put more information and a link to their websites in the description below.

Let’s move on to transferring the floral pattern into the cased leather. The leather will be trimmed after tooling, so I can just tape the laminated template onto it so that it doesn’t move around during the transfer which I do by tracing the black lines with a ballpoint. You can also use a stylus or basically anything that moves over the template freely without cutting into it. After a few minutes tracing the template, it can be removed and look at that: perfectly visible markings in the leather, ready for the next step: carving the traced lines with a freshly sharpened swivel knife.

A disclaimer: I am no expert doing this or anything that I do on this channel. The main goal is to show that if you have an idea and are willing to experiment and try your best, things that seem difficult or even impossible might just work out fine. That is definitely the case here too. This wallet is only my third carving project ever. It seems daunting at first, but if you stick around to the end you can see it turns out very nicely. If I can do it, I’m pretty sure you can do it too. It doesn’t have to be a leather project, but it can be anything you want. Don’t be scared if it looks difficult but just give it a go. As they say: try and fail, but don’t fail trying.

So much for the inspirational speech. Moving on to the next step in this project: giving it some depth by beveling and stamping. First, I mark the center of the flower and then bevel all the outer cuts to give the impression the flower sits on top of the wallet. Then, I will judge for each individual cut what side of the cut sits on top, keep the flat edge of the beveller to that side, and then bevel the other side. That’s pretty much it. I know my work isn’t perfect and there are some visible mistakes, but later on, after applying the antique the mistakes will even out somewhat and not look too bad at all. If I want to get better, I just have to practice more.

After beveling, I use the other stamps to give the pattern some more character. I use a veiner for the stems, a mulefoot where the stems meet, a seeder for the center of the flower, and a pear shader to give the petals more depth to them. Then I stamp the rest of the wallet with the tri-weave stamp and the border with the camouflager to finish it off. This whole process took me around two hours and the biggest learning for me was that the flower is too small for a beginner carver. The petals were very hard to carve, but overall I am pleased with the result.

When the leather has dried completely it can be peeled of the acrylic and the tape can be removed slowly, since there is no risk of stretching anymore.

First the good news: I am really happy with how this piece turned out and it didn’t stretch a bit so all the effort that I put in preventing it from stretching worked very well. Then the bad news: the backside of this piece of leather is still very sticky from the packing tape that I used to prevent it from stretching. I am going to counter that with some pigskin that I ordered for lining. The pigskin will arrive in about two days which gives me more than enough time to antique this surface which is the next step that I will be doing.

My antiquing process requires the following materials: neatsfoot oil, dark brown dye, resist, antique paste and resolene. There is a lot of different information out there on how to do it. The process that I describe is what works for me.

First off, I’m going to lightly oil the workpiece with neatsfoot oil to get some color in the leather and to condition it. I let this soak in for 30 minutes. Then I will use a very small paint brush to paint the backgrounds of the pattern dark brown. These are the areas that are black in the original design. By the way, I didn’t create that design. I found it somewhere online, but there were no design credentials to be found so I don’t know who to give credit to.

When all the backgrounds are dyed, I let it dry for 30 minutes again before applying one even coat of resist with a sponge. Resist makes sure that the leather doesn’t absorb the antique paste so it only remains in the impressions and gives a nice contrast. After letting the resist dry for 30 minutes as well, I apply a generous amount of antique paste and make sure there is some in all the areas of the pattern for the best result. Some people wipe it off immediately, some people let it dry for 30 minutes or longer. I decided to let it dry a bit for only 5 minutes before wiping the excess off using a piece of cloth. Then I let it dry overnight.

The final step in this process is protecting it with some kind of coating. I’ve used tan-kote previously but for this project I’m going to use resolene, an acrylic coating that is very flexible. Between each coat I let it dry for 15 minutes. I apply 3 coats in total because I found that gives me the best balance between durability of the coating whilst not being too glossy. After the third coat I let it dry overnight to fully cure. Then I trim off the excess and this part is finished.

The exterior part is finished and I’m kind of proud of how it turned out. The next step is finishing all the unreachable edges of the smaller interior parts before stitching those to the bigger interior part. Since my pigskin just arrived in the mail I can then line all the backsides with this pigskin before stitching the whole wallet together.

All the edges in this project will get a natural finish created with gum trag and a rag, followed by beeswax and a slicker, but first I will bevel the edges with a number 1 edge beveller. Then the gum tragacanth is applied with my finger until the edge feels smooth. Using a rag it is polished until shiny. Then I rub beeswax on it after which I burnish the edges with a wooden slicker. Also, for these parts I add some style by scribing a horizontal line just for decorative purposes. I use this exact process, except for the scribing, on all the edges of this wallet, so if I’m more brief in describing edge finishing later on in the video, please refer to this part for more detail.

When all the inner edges are finished, everything is lined up perfectly and I mark the stitching locations to stitch the interior parts together. With an awl I mark the line where I will then punch the holes for stitching. Then, one by one, I apply contact cement on both ends, let it dry until tacky, align the holes with two needles and glue it together before hand stitching both parts together using a saddle stitch and my homemade stitching pony. Since these stitch lines will be hidden and unnoticeable I used multi-color thread that I will probably never use for visible stitches, but since I got it with a kit, I might as well make use of it. Don’t worry, all visible stitches will be made using a better suiting colored thread. I have another video on stitching, which I will link in the top right corner. If you’ve never done any saddle stitching, it might be worth checking it out.

A summary of what I did here: for the right side, I stitched all the card holder pieces to the back and covered it with the top piece. On the back you can still see the stitches. Those will later be covered with the lining. For the left side I will repeat the same steps, punch holes for the visible stitch line and stitch that with brown waxed thread. You might wonder why I don’t stich the outer edge at the same time. Well, that’s because I use the border stitches to stich the whole wallet together after lining the insides.

By the way, the card holder parts are designed in such a way that 4 prong, 4 mm pricking irons are perfect for the job. It punches two holes on the flap, and two holes in between, so three stitches cover the whole flap. When the holes are punched, it is time to stitch again and after that I hammered down the stitches before lining the backside of both the fully constructed interior and the carved and tooled exterior part.

Lining a project gives it a more luxurious look and feel and it hides the stitches so the inside of the wallet is more smooth. I use a very thin, 0.4mm, shoe lining leather that was made in the Netherlands. Lining was done by covering the back of the pigskin and the back of the part to be lined with contact cement, letting it dry until tacky and then pushing both parts together. I could have applied the glue in a more efficient way, but this did the trick. I will stitch around these entire pieces so I’m pretty confident it will stay together for a long long time. Please note that the pig leather is oversized so I’m going to have to trim the excess off.

What is next is a whole bunch of stitching. I will make a stitching groove in the tooled part and punch the stitching holes in that groove. To make sure the lining is secured on all edges, I’m going to start with the row of stitches in the top of both the exterior and constructed interior part. After that I am going to finish those top edges because that is much easier at this point in the process, than later when both parts are combined. I finish these edges in the same manner as I explained earlier, with gum trag and beeswax because I like the natural look.

And with these edges finished it is now time for the two final steps in creating this wallet. Those steps are gluing and stitching the two parts together, and edge finishing the currently unfinished edges. So, let’s finish this wallet.

The lining is very smooth, so before gluing it has to be roughened with sandpaper so that the glue has something to adhere to. As you might have noticed, the interior part is a bit smaller than the exterior. This is done so that both parts nicely fit over each other and when you open the wallet, a pocket opens for the bills to go into. This means stitching will be done in two sections, so after sanding, the contact cement is applied on the first halves that will be stitched. When the contact cement has dried the holes are aligned using a few needles and the parts will be saddle stitched together. When the first half is done, this process will be repeated identically on the second half. For decoration reasons, I then stitch the loose part first, and then continue stitching the rest of the wallet. After two backstitches in the corner, the thread is cut off in between the leather and with a needle I tuck the thread away so that the ends are invisible.

Before finishing, I push down the stitches using the round end of a burnisher. I didn’t hammer them down because I was afraid of ruining the tooling.

The final step, edge finishing, is again done exactly the same as I did before. If the edges are not smooth, sand them first. Once smooth, use a number 1 edge beveller to bevel the edges. Then I applied gum trag, used a rag until it was glossy after which I applied beeswax to the edges. With a wooden burnisher the edges were then slicked for a natural looking finish. The interior will get a coat of neatsfoot oil for conditioning. Once that has soaked in I use a bone folder to open the pockets and this beautiful wallet is ready to be used.

I made this dark brown wallet with the same design a year ago, but as you can see it is not lined, has no carving and tooling done on it and the edge finishing is mediocre. Let’s move all the stuff over and immediately put the new wallet to some good use.

 I’m really proud of how this wallet turned out and I guess you can say it’s a beautiful upgrade over the wallet that I made about a year ago. That has all been made possible by Leatherhouse.eu. Leather House provided me with the tools to make this wallet as well as with the time to make this video for you to enjoy and I’m really grateful for that. Be sure to check them out at www.leatherhouse.eu. I would also like to thank you for watching. I hope you have enjoyed this video and if you did, then let me know by hitting that like button. Please also consider subscribing to the channel for more content like this in the future. That’s it for now. I’d like to thank you for watching. Bye, bye!

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