The finished compass pouch. Use the same method to make pouches for spare magazines, GPS units, cell phones or any boxy object.
Here are the leather compass pouch mold components.
Prior to pressing your leather in the mold, submerge it under warm water until the little bubbles stop rising to the surface.
Insert the leather into the mold cutout and position the filler piece firmly over the top. Make sure the finished side is facing down.
Use screw clamps and staples to maintain pressure on the leather mold. Make sure the molded leather is free of wrinkles (visible from the side) when clamped down.
Create your belt loop template and trace it on the leather. Make sure to leave it long enough to fold over once stitched down.
The leather pouch is stapled down once the clamps are removed.
Once the filler is removed, the shape of the pouch is visible.
Use a stitching spacer, a compass or even a fork to trace around the pouch. Leave enough room for stitching.
Cut the pouch free using a utility knife. Be careful not to deform the pouch by pressing down on it.
Dye the back of the pouch and the belt loop.
Stitch the belt loop to the back of the pouch.
Glue the front of the pouch to the back of the pouch. Once glued, space your stitching using a stitching spacer or fork tines. Drill out these holes with a Dremel tool.
Punch holes in the front of your leather pouch for button snaps. Use a leather backer to prevent punching through the back. Set snaps with a good snap-setting base.
When finished stitching the pouch and setting the button snaps, dye the front of the pouch. Finish with shoe polish and buff to a shine.
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.
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.
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.
• 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
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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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