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I debated posting pictures of this one, because it was very clearly a learning experience.  The coworker for whom I’m making it understands that this is very much an experiment in techniques, and so will be a little… uneven.  He didn’t have any problem with that.

The exterior is the same burgundy oil-tanned leather I’ve been using for most of my projects:

This leather has a deep richness because it has been treated with oils, waxes and dyes in such a way that when the leather is pulled or stretched, the finish becomes lighter in the stretched areas. That gives an “Old World” effect or “Aged” look. The color returns when heat is applied or friction from rubbing a cloth or your hand in that area. This is considered a mark of high quality. This durable leather is perfect for chaps, purses, moccasins, saddle strings, tie straps, lining for tack and much more. 4 to 4.5 oz. weight.

The richness of the color really does not come out on cheap camera phone pics; I should take better shots with an actual camera.  Regardless, it’s quite pretty and had the characteristic most important to me for starting a new project at the time: it was already paid for.

This was the first project I started incorporating the black pigskin lining leather that I used in the Kindle wraparound cover late last month.  That was the first hitch.  I learned a little and it turned out okay, but on the next similar project, I will use a technique I’ve subsequently learned (from this excellent video by Ian Atkinson) which hides a) the stitching (not that black-on-black stands out that much) and b) the place where the lining and main leather meet.

(Let’s not even talk about that rogue stitch where I missed the guide hole completely.)

The second hitch was that wanted to go for a kind of primitive feel by using rivets instead of stitching wherever I could.  The main piece of leather wraps around the bottom and then is riveted to itself on the sides using the small antique nickel rapid rivets.  It looks… um.  It is definitely riveted, but they aren’t nearly so even as I would like.

I completely underestimated the frustration factor of doing the rivets this way–there was almost no way to get even my tiny anvil inside the pocket at the right angle so I could hammer the rivets down, and the result is somewhat skewed.  I will never do it like this for anything this small again.

(In marketing terms, I told Chad that he had an absolutely one-of-a-kind phone pouch using a brand new design that would never be duplicated.)

Hitch #3 was that I lined it, closed it up with the rivets, admired it, and then realized that I didn’t know a) how it was supposed to fasten or b) how it was supposed to sit on a belt.  For the closure, a snap would be lovely–but the metal base should go in under the lining that I had just finished gluing and sewing in place.  The same problem was going to come up for the belt clips.  I have some lovely black spring clips which could work, but there would be bare metal against the phone.

I will say that the customer/victim was no help at all.  “Eh, I don’t really care.  Whichever.”  He finally committed to Velcro for the closure (heathen), but the belt mounting method was up to me.

Finally, I decided that I was over-thinking this problem.  I created a loop about two snaps wide (with some change), hammered some snaps on it, and sewed it to the back plane of the pouch.

Clearly, I should have planned from the get-go to sew it down below the snaps; I originally just assumed that the bottom snap portion would float free, but it turned out to be just about impossible to unsnap that way. Thus, the center stitching and then the ugly things at the corners.

(I could have sewn it without snaps, but if I have my way, there will always be a way to remove the pouch without removing the belt to which it is mounted.)

There’s a little more sewing showing on the inside than I would like, and of course to really keep the edges of the lining from becoming an issue, I had to stitch around the edges (thus largely nullifying the purpose behind the rivets), but it doesn’t look too horrid, does it?  And it is pretty stout; it should last a long time, although I’m not certain whether that’s a good thing in the long run.  Learned a lot on this one, so I’m not entirely displeased even if it is a little more “primitive” than I originally intended.

One big takeaway for anyone working with oil-tanned leather is that you must cut the edges clean the first time or you will be trying in vain to clean it up forever afterward. I’ve seen several vague suggestions of things one can do to burnish the edges with oil-tanned but nothing I have tried works; whatever else, it’s not nearly so straightforward as with veg-tanned leather. Unfortunately, hardly anyone seems to be trying to do much outside the norm with oil-tanned leather–or at least, if they are, they aren’t writing about it.  Sharp implements and a will of iron may carry the day.  If you lack either of those things, cover the edges with your lining material or prepare to defend your “rustic aesthetic.”

If you want rivets (and who doesn’t?), plan out every single one you’re going to need in advance, and determine the impact this will have on your lining plans.  Also, don’t drink and hammer.

Afterword: In case it was not abundantly clear, I didn’t charge anything for this pouch, which is using re-purposed materials and entirely untested (by me) techniques.  I simply wanted to make something and not have it sit around my house when I was done, and Chad happened to need a cell phone pouch and wasn’t too picky on the finer points.  We have a history of dubious gifts: he gave me a box of .38 Special he had lying around which turned out to be the dirtiest ammo I’ve ever encountered anywhere; literal puffs of smoke would be belched from my poor Ruger at every shot, and the unjacketed ammo did a real number on the action.  So in return, he gets the Ugly Pouch.  You’re welcome, buddy.

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