Leather tool bag advice

So I’m going to be making a leather tool bag. I’m going for a very specific look, IE style. I have somewhat scoured for other builds or plans but have not been very successful in finding either. I also think I’m going to stich then place rivets every so often. Anyone have any pointers of what other items to stay away from? Ive been hem-hawing around about how I want to do the bottom.

This is kinda what I’m going for as a look



Warning - I know nothing about leather. But as a general construction comment about your bag - does it have a rigid bottom?

A note from the Saddleback Leather fan club – your “box” should be three pieces and not five.
If you stitch a bottom panel to four side panels, your stitching will eventually give out (likely holes tearing) somewhere, dropping tools when you need that ‘feature’ the least.

At some point you are going to have to consider “weight” vs. “strength”. Were it my toolbox, the panels above (connecting the box to the handle) would be one big U-shaped piece instead of what appears to be four pieces. It’ll weigh more (due to bottom of “the big U”), but it’ll hold up better.

Also, “hello everyone, I’m new here” thanks to the recent open house.


I was either going to go with leather or some sort of plastic. Preferably leather. I’m thinking I may do the bottom like one of the catch-all trays

Thank you for that tidbit Rob. Welcome to Makerspace.

This bag is intended on being light. I already have more heavy tool bags that I don’t like carrying. My Veto-Pack is anywhere from 70-90 lbs. My toolpak (backpack) can be damn near just as heavy if I load it up.


The bottom is problematic. Even for lightweight use it’s going to want to bow.

I would suggest making the entire bottom and 4 walls one piece. Then add a lining that includes a square piece of plywood for rigidity. It will give you the look you want while keeping it’s shape.

I did something similar for this bag I made.


I was just about to give the same advice Jorge.

I would double stitch anything that was to carry any weight as well as glue it, too. Rivets are useful for really heavily stressed areas, but they tend to tear if they carry all of the weight. There are other things you can use for the bottom besides plywood, like heavy plastic or carbon fiber, but you will want something that is rigid to keep your bag shaped like you desire.

Good luck with the project.

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Looking at Occidental Leather’s version of this bag it looks like they have a plastic sheet to reinforce the bottom of the bag:

Same bag on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Occidental-Leather-5585-Stronghold-Journeymans/dp/B001E40L5U/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1539288968&sr=8-1&keywords=5585+-+Stronghold®+Journeyman's+Tote

$308.00 Made in the US of A.

This is another pic of the second picture I posted. I personally don’t care for the design of the screw drivers on the outside, they tend to fall out while you are carrying them.


This guy has too much in his.

A guy I work with has a standard small leather tool belt which reminded me of my wants to make a smaller square bag. Less is more sometimes. I plan on carrying minimum tools in this bag & give my fluke bag a rest.

re: Bottom
Putting a thin piece of MDF/plywood with rounded undersides to the edges on the bottom of the bag would also help with both wear and bowing.

re: riveting
Copper rivets (copper pin with a washer - the pin end is peened over to trap the washer) are more durable, but require some special tooling to install. “Speedy” rivets (a pin with a hollow cap - the cap is hammered down onto the end of the pin which flares into the cap) are probably good enough for stress points. We have the tools for speedy rivets in CA. Pop rivets are also an option, albeit an ugly one.

re: Stitching
Diamond lacing chisels make nice holes easier than using an awl to poke a hole for each stitch. If you have CAD skills, you can also design/cut the parts on the laser and use 0.05" holes (or rhombuses maxing 0.05") to precut the stitching holes. I’ve used this to good effect making knife sheaths, and is a lot easier than holes-as-you-go, but takes planning for all the alignment to come out right. I (and several others) can show you how to saddle stitch the leather. This makes for a much more durable seam than using a sewing awl/speedystitcher which creates a chain stitch which can unravel more easily if damaged

re: leather selection
The example you show in the first couple of pics looks like saddle leather or harness leather (7-8oz, perhaps thicker). In modern parlance, a leather “ounce” is 1/64" thick so 8 oz leather would be about 8/64" (or 1/8") thick. You’ll probably want a “double shoulder” sized piece, or even a “side” if you want to cut a 1 or 3 piece pattern.

I’d recommend making a mockup of the main bag template (flat) and take it to Tandy so you can hold the pattern against the hide you might buy to insure a) it fits and b) it avoids any flaws possibly present in the specific hide. You can often buy a cheaper grade of hide and work around any holes present if you plan ahead.

The version @frank_lima referenced is 11Lx8.5Wx8.5 tall. A 1-piece pattern would end up about 27"x30" roughed out for the basic box, before pockets, dividers, etc.

I’d recommend vegtan leather with oil/wax added. Some cheap chrome-tanned leathers can be corrosive to metal tools if chromium salts are not completely neutralized. Brown/tan leathers are typically veg-tan based. Chrome-tanned leather is gray on the back but typically drum-dyed another color.

Buffalo is a nice strong leather with a pebbly texture which would look good on a bag like this.

Options (these are both “sides” with 10+ sq ft of leather - probably enough to make 2, possibly 3 bags):

Water Buffalo

Veg-tan saddle skirting

The water buffalo has been waterproofed with waxes and oils. The vegtan would need treatment to protect from water/spills, but can be tooled/stamped

Unless on sale, finding someone with an “elite” Tandy membership would save you some $$$.


Nice, very nice.

Note: the chome vs veg tanning on the leather may not be a big deal - mostly repeating what I’ve heard/read. This article says it’s NOT an issue (here, anyway).

I have 7-9oz double shoulder veg tan already. I was thinking of using it.


I have a knife roll, for my pocket knives I made years ago using Tandy’s Stoned Oil Leather. I’ve had knives stored in there for a couple of years now, and aside from some patina build up on the brass rivets I used, all my knives are unchanged. I’d be happy to bring it by for anyone to inspect.

I also have a veg tan sheath I made for my camp knife, and it did mar the blade due to keeping moisture in. So the opposite of what you’d expect.


I did a mock up out of poster board for the lower half, obviously no handle. So the seams are folded over each other. I’m thinking about using carbon fiber for the bottom.
What do you think about the stitching like this with 3 rivets on each seem?


Any ideas how thick, which weave, weight, or other methods of stiffening (wooden/cardboard/other stints, etc.)?
Not cheap, but should work great and be very light!

I like the overlap on the corner. That stitching plus rivets will make it strong. Unless you are using veg tan leather and wet form it first though, that corner is going to be rounded not a corner.

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I’ve skived corner folds before to get them to look sharper, but in general @Webdevel is right. You’ll get a more rounded look than a sharp corner look when you fold leather.

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No idea yet. I thought about just doing it in aluminum. But why not carbon fiber, other than cost.

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