Leather craft often involves the use of a range of tools. Learning how to make a leather tool holder will help give you a place to store them all.
A leather tool holder provides a place to store leather craft tools when not in use. They generally have storage locations of varying sizes, to accommodate and organize a range of leather working tools. They are usually made of plastic or wood, and available in a range of sizes.
Everyone has a different work space, favorite tools, and preferred way to organize them. Making your own leather tool holder will allow you to have just the type you want. I made one for my basic set of tools, let’s check out the steps.
How to Make a Leather Tool Holder
After making a burnishing bit (click here to read about that project), I wanted to make something that could hold all my tools. Making a leather tool holder is relatively easy. With some wood, a few basic tools, and a little bit of time, you can make a leather tool holder that looks great and keep all of your tools organized. The basic options to consider include the type of material (wood, plastic), the size, and how many tool locations will be included.
Also helpful to consider is the color or finish you’d prefer. This can be stained wood, where the grain shows through. It can also be painted a solid color, possibly to match a work bench, or a favorite color. It can also be a range of almost any creative design and finish you might like.
When I decided to make a leather tool holder, it was going to be a basic wooden one. I thought It would at least be functional, and I could learn from the experience to make others in the future if I needed.
OK! So let’s dive in and check out how to make one. The first thing we’ll consider are the materials.
Here is a very basic list of the materials I used to make a leather tool holder. If you’re making one, the list might vary based on personal preference for materials/finishes, though for a pretty useful, wood grain, stained holder, this is what I used:
- Wood (Basswood)
- Glue (Wood Glue)
- Drill Bits (Hole-saw and Forstner)
- Power Drill
- Small Saw (or power saw)
- Hobby Foam
- Wood Stain
The first thing I thought about was how big should I make the leather tool holder. I knew I only had a few basic tools at that point, though over time I would likely add more. I wanted it to be big enough that I wouldn’t have to make a new one in just a few months, but not so big that it takes up most of the work surface I had for leather craft.
I also wanted one that was more wide, than deep, so it sit towards the back of the desk and leave room for working. After considering the number of tools I might get, and reasonably, how many I might need access to at once (lesser used tools could be stored in a drawer nearby), I decided to make something about 18”-24” wide.
Ideally, it would have two levels to it, so tools could be easily reachable without having to fumble too closely in between them, or chance poking myself on a sharper tool while reaching for another. So with the vision in mind, it was time to figure out exactly what to make it with.
Choosing the Materials
I like natural materials, and though that a wooden leather tool holder would look nice and function well on a leather working desk. Wood can last years, so while plastic is an option as well, I decided to go with wood. Also, it’s be easy to cut the wood, and also possible to stain it a pleasant color.
The materials are relatively minimal, making this a pretty easy project to shop for. Since I knew the size of leather tool holder I wanted (18”-24”), I headed over to the local hardware store to see what they had in stock.
While cutting wood is easy with the right tools, I wanted to make this an efficient build, using pre-cut wood where possible. I looked in the section where they have the hobby woods (balsa wood, basswood, hard woods, plywoods). They’re usually pre-cut in different thicknesses and lengths.
Wood Sizes for a Leather Tool Holder
I wanted something sturdy, as many tools can get heavy, and decided on a 1/4” thick base, of basswood. For sizes, they had 24” lengths, so I got (2) pieces of 1/4” X 6” x 24” basswood, one for each level of tools.
For supports I got (1) 1/2” x 2 1/2” x 24” piece, and (1) 1/4” x 2-1/2” x 24” piece. For the top row I got (1) 1/8” x 2-1/2” x 24”, and for the front section cover (just for aesthetics, not support, (1) 1/16” x 2-1/2” x 24”. Realistically, the entire piece can be made with the same thickness of wood, likely 1/4”, just trimmed in the right places to account for thicknesses. I got an extra (1) 1/2” x 2-1/2” x 24” piece to cut into the interior supports, and was all set.
Also, I hadn’t planned early on, though had around the house and found it perfect for use, is 1/16” hobby foam. It’s a dense, flexible, soft foam that comes in 8.5 x 11 sheets at local craft stores. Available in a range of colors, I had black on hand.
I’d cut it later to fit into the bottom of each tool “shelf” so the blades of the tools rested on top of the soft foam, protecting the blades, and the bottom of the leather tool holder. It also add a soft tactile feel to putting the tools away.
Cutting the Supports
Since the entire holder would be constructed mainly from pre-cut pieces, the only real measuring I had to do was for the supports. These would be placed at the ends of the holder, and in a few places along the underside of each tool level to support the weight of each “shelf” and tools.
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I just cut these to fit the height of the shelf, which was set by the main reinforcing piece that measured 2-1/2” tall. I used about 6 of these, though you can add more if you prefer. Juts keep in mind that the more you add, the’l take up some tool space, which means you might have just a little bit less room for tools. It’s just a balance between sturdiness, and the number of tools that can be held.
If you’re using relatively thick wood for the “shelves” and supports, a lot of supports really shouldn’t be needed.
Gluing the Supports in Place
Next, I glued the supports in place using wood glue. The went onto one piece of the 1/4” X 6” x 24”, forming the base. I used a good amount of glue, as these supports will help hold most of the weight. These include the main horizontal support that runs the length of the base, and the smaller “wing” supports that extend towards the back.
Let them dry until they are sturdy and cab bear some weight, maybe 1/2 hour to 1 hour.
Adding the First Level
Place the second 1/4” X 6” x 24” piece of basswood on top, glued it place. I added a structural support of the front, to help distribute the force when pushing down to drill the holes later. I left it in, and just covered the front with another piece of wood later.
I also used a large piece of scrap wood on the back to ensure the base and second level are flush and aligned. This can be kept here while the glue dries.
Adding the Second Level
Adding the second level was easy. Just take the 1/4” x 2-1/2” x 24” piece and glue it vertically across the middle length of the leather tool holder. Add some supports to the ends and towards the middle. Then, place the 1/8” x 2-1/2” x 24” length of wood on top. Ensure everything is glued very well, and let it dry.
You might add some weights or clamps to help ensure the glued surfaces are tightly adjoined while they dry.
Adding the Front Plate
As that is drying, I added the thin 1/16” x 2-1/2” x 24” board to the front, gluing it on. This was only for aesthetics, so that both levels on the front have an even, wood finish without any openings. This might need to be clamped in place as well while it dries, to help ensure a tight bond.
Let the Glue Dry
With everything in place, let the glue dry. Since I stained and sealed it later, I wanted to be sure the glue was dry throughout. Dry time was at least 24 hours, and can be left for another day if you really want to be sure the glue is cured (in case there were any heavy, thick spots of glue). Though in general, 24 hours for standard wood glue should be plenty of time.
Measure and Mark the Tool Holes
Now we get into the fun part! Figuring out what holes will be (and what cool tool they might hold). I wanted to fit a good number of tools in the leather tool holder, while also accounting for tools of different sizes. For example, a maul is much larger than a small punch. An edger tool will generally be larger than a hobby knife.
I made a rough list of how many tools of each general types I might have at some point, then staggered the holes, offsetting them a bit so that each tool will be both visible and reachable, without having to reach awkwardly behind or over another.
The holes would be various sizes, so I arranged the smallest ones towards one area, and larger holes in other areas. Using a ruler, I marked the hole locations, knowing ultimately what circumference holes would be in which locations.
Drill Out the Tool Holes
With the holes marked, I got to drill them! Woodwork is always fun, as is drilling. To make the holes I used a power drill, and a few differently-sized bits. For the large holes, I used hole-saw drill bits (the ones used to drill out holes for door knobs. It required a lot of speed and slow push, so as to not crack the wood around it.
For the smaller holes, I used forester drill bits. They;re made to drill flat-bottom holes; while I was not drilling flat-bottom holes, they’re very efficient at moving wood shavings away as they drill, as well as make accurate holes with minimal pushing. Since I wanted to be careful about splitting wood around the holes while drilling, these bits proved very helpful and useful.
Take your time, and go slow. Drilling each hole can get tedious, though rushing and cracking the wood would be far less fun. Then once everything is drilled, they can be used for years! Patience is definitely a help here.
As an after-note, if you plan on making one and know how everything will come together, it’s certainly possible to drill the holes on the flat wood piece before gluing everything. In that case, you’d just be driving into a flat board, and that is much easier.
File the Tool Hole Edges
After all the holes are drilled, I filed with edges with a rough file just to make the cut lines smoother. This will help keep fingers from getting splinters later. Also, it will make it easier to insert and remove tools as you use them.
Sand the Tool Hole Edges
For an even finer and smoother edge on the inside of the holed, I sanded each with a singer grit sandpaper. It only took a little while and it came out feeling nice without any rough edges.
Choose and Prepare for Staining
I wanted a darker wood look than the lighter basswood naturally has. On-hand, I had some wood stain from a previous project, and decided the color would look nice for the leather tool holder.
When the weather was nice out one afternoon, I set up the tool holder outside on a patio table, and got it ready for staining. Wearing gloves helps keep hands clean, and a paintbrush is an easy tool to use to apply the stain. Some paper towels on hand to clean up any messes, and away we go.
Apply the Stain to the Leather Tool Holder
Using the pain brush, apply the stain to the leather tool holder. Put on even strokes, and apply a consistent layer across the wood. More layers can be added later for darker wood tones. Make sure to get all the nooks and crannies! I found as things dried, there were spots I missed.
I made sure to get them when I did additional coats. I think I put on 3 coats overall. After that was done, I let it air-dry overnight.
Apply a Protective Finish to the Leather Tool Holder
The raw, stained wood is a nice look. Adding a protective finish to the leather tool holder is purely preference. I wasn’t sure if I wanted one, though I had some clear, spray lacquer available from a previous project, and decided to give it a try.
After all, there would be a lot of use from tools being placed in, taken out, and general things around it. A protective coating could help. Also, I didn’t want the stain to rub off on any of the work surface or leather while I was working with it, so figured a protective finish would be worth trying.
I sprayed the leather tool holder all around with the clear lacquer finish. Again just like staining, make sure you get all the little spots. I put about 3 coats of this on, and then let it dry outside overnight.
Add in Soft Liner to the Bottoms
Awesome! It’s almost done! I tested it with a few tools and noticed they would make a hard “ding” noise as I placed them into the holes, and they hit the wood below them. Thinking this might not be great for bladed tools like punches and edgers to be hitting into wood all them time when placed back in, I was thinking about what might be useful to place there.
Maybe fabric…aha! I had some hobby foam left over from a previous project. It’s a 1/16”, soft, flexible material, and the color I had was black. Perfect. I cut pieces out that would fit into the bottoms of each tool holding section, and taped it in place (with double-sided tape) as a leather tool holder liner. It’s worked great! Each time a tool goes, it, it quietly sits into and rests on the hobby foam. This protects the tool’s edge, and the wood below them.
Put the Tools into It
It’s done! The leather tool holder is complete 🙂 Awesome, a little bit of creativity, making things, and we’ve got an organized place to store leather tools.
I put all the tools in (which definitely did not fill up all the holes), and was excited. Even as a basic set of leather working tools, they’re all organized, easy to see, and easy to reach. I immediately placed it on the leather working desk I used to get a feel for it.
The leather tool holder pushed up against the wall, and fit well in the overall space. The 24” width was a good size. I figured then I’d have to plan my next leather working project! 🙂 If you’re interested in learning about all of the leather tools that can go in it, click here to read my detailed guide.
So that’s how to make a leather tool holder! It’s a basic one, and definitely does the job. I liked how the stain turned out, the color looks nice around leather while it’s being worked. So far it’s been really handy, and definitely makes leather working easier. For a guide on the tools I like best to put in it, click here.
What is a good size for a leather tool holder?
A good size for a leather tool holder is mainly determined by how many tools one has, and how large they are. In general, one about 12”-24” wide with room for 20-40 tools should meet most needs. Those with many stamps/tools might prefer a larger one.
What is the best material for a leather tool holder?
The best material for a leather tool holder is often wood. It lasts long, is easily shaped, is relatively inexpensive, and looks great on a leather working table. While a great option, other materials might work well based on personal preference.
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