How it's Made: Custom Bifold Wallet


 

This was an interesting twist on the traditional bifold wallet—the customer wanted one set of card sleeves rotated 180° so they would face the bottom.

In all other respects, the build would follow steps similar to my other bifolds.I discussed the possibility of the cards falling out, but they assured me it wouldn't be a problem, so I got ready to proceed. 

In this case, the customer and I wanted a nice, symmetrical flow to the reversed pocket sides, so like most projects, I brought the design into software to get a more accurate sense of how the dimensions would work together.

Once satisfied that it the concept and dimensions were sound, I cut the basic shapes out.

Like most of my bifolds interiors, I would use English Kip - a thin but strong calfskin that would be perfect for the card sleeves.

I ended up tweaking the pocket shapes a touch for practical use - a little less curve and a bit more depth would mean better card retention. The rear pockets have notches cut out so that they wouldn't stack on the edges and add extra bulk.

With the card sleeves cut, I sealed most of them with an acrylic resolene. This is usually an outer coating for waterproofing leather, but in this case, it was to allow the cards slide in the pockets more easily. For the rotated pockets, I only partially sealed the pocket, so that there would be a bit more suede to grip the cards just in case.

Once dry, my maker's mark goes on. The brass stamp is heated and pressed into the leather, compressing the surface fibres into the shape of my logo.

The bottom edges of the back sleeves are thinned, so they taper smoothly and don't push a contour into the front material.

Every finished surface that will be glued needs to be roughed up slightly so that the adhesive will have a bit of 'tooth' to hold on to. The back panels have a few parts that need this treatment.

Each back pocket is glued in place, hammered flat, and left to dry. It then receives an inch of stitching at the base before the front pocket is added. This means the cards will stagger nicely, and be easy to organize.

The assembled set of pockets, glued up, is hammered with a Fitter's hammer, to create a permanent seal.

To ensure a perfectly aligned set of edges, a tiny bit is trimmed using a rotary blade, cutting through all layers together.

The seam is then marked, holes are punched, and only the inside pocket edges are stitched. The other side of the pockets will be secured later.

The loose ends of the waxed, braided thread is burnt off with a heated cauterizing tool.

Once again, the fitter's hammer is used to flatten the seam and settle the stitching into place.

The inside edge is then given a light coat of beeswax and burnished.

The inside main pocket is then cut and prepped. This is Italian calfskin, slightly softer and thicker than what is used for the card sleeves.

Each set of pockets is affixed to this larger piece, and then stitched along the top edge. Again, the two remaining sets of sides are left until later.

The outer layer is cut and prepared. This particular wallet will be personalized with a single initial in the bottom right outside corner. The metal stamp is heated with a torch, set in place, and struck with a mallet to form an impression in the leather.

The edge of the leather is normally cut square, but over time as the fibres loosen, this will fuzz slightly, so the edge is bevelled and treated to address this. Subtle touches like this are often missed, but are important for long-lasting items.

Outer and inner sides are then prepped for assembly. They're not the same size, since the wallet will need to fold naturally, and that means attaching each side independently from the other.

The exposed raw edges are trimmed and corners are rounded before the stitching seam is marked and punched.

The piece is clamped in place to free up each hand to use a needle. The saddle stitch is a traditional stitch, very strong, and very resistant to unravelling, unlike a machine stitch.

The second half of the wallet is now ready for gluing. This is the trickiest part of the assembly, other than the planning. A mistake here can mean the entire process needs to be redone from the beginning.

 

After stitching, the finishing touches are made: edges are trimmed, sanded, and rounded. Beeswax and gum tragacanth (a natural tree sap extract) are used to seal the edges for long life, and then the edges and the threads are polished and brushed one last time to bring out their best character.

 


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