One of the most valuable tools in the outdoorsman’s kit is his compass, yet so many are left to jostle around inside a pack unprotected from other contents that could damage it. The following is a tutorial on how to make a leather belt pouch for a popular sized compass, the Suunto MC-2. This case will protect the compass from scratches, provide some impact resistance and keep your primary navigation tool in top shape.

Leather Treatment

The leather used in pouches must be light enough to take a good mold but strong enough to be rigid. Check both sides for imperfections and marks prior to tracing.

This leather belt pouch has a belt loop and a back of the case that also doubles as the flap lid and the front of the body. Create a leather square for the mold that is slightly larger than the mold. Use a utility knife to cut your pattern, making sure not to mar the finish. Place the leather that will be molded in warm water until it no longer releases small bubbles. Place it in a zip-seal bag until you’re ready to use it.

Shaping The Pouch

Create a wooden template as pictured. Bevel the edges round to prevent sharp corners. Lay the pouch leather over the cut out section. Make sure the leather isn’t wrinkled or wavy, then press the outer section over your template and staple it down. Clamp it together and then let sit until the leather sets (approximately 10 minutes). Cut the excess leather free after spacing out and marking from the sidewall of the pouch.

Stitch the top of your belt loop first. Glue your pouch together and let dry. Space your stitching holes approximately 0.25 inches apart. Punch your holes. Space your stitching close to the molded-out crease. Saddle stitch the pouch, working from one top corner to the other. Burn the ends.

Finishing Touches

Button snaps are affixed after stitching. Punch holes with a good backer. Use the most substantial snap setter. Additionally, your pouch can be left in its natural finish or it can be dyed to the color of your choice. If dying is the option, use an oil-based dye and apply it with a wool dauber. Once your leather dye has been applied, let it dry overnight before applying the leather finish. For a final finish, apply your shoe polish and buff the pouch with a cloth.

The method described here can be scaled up or down for other box-shaped objects. This includes pistol magazine pouches, pocket survival tins or cell phone cases. Special thanks to my good friend Marty Simon, without whom I would not have the leather-working skills I have today.

Project Essentials

5 to 6 ounces of leather

Utility knife


Contact cement

Marking pen

Particle board templates

Snap setter

Button snaps

1/8-inch leather punch

Rawhide mallet

Dremel tool with small-diameter bit

Stitch spacer

Artificial sinew

Stitching needles

Water spray bottle

Leather dye (oil based)

Leather shoe polish

Wool dauber

Staple gun

This article was originally published in the AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN™ Winter 2016 issue #205. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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