Over one summer, a lot of my friends started playing Magic: the Gathering. It’s a good way to pass a few hours, make some new friends, or piss off the friends you already have when you make them kill their own creatures or throw their whole deck into the graveyard.
On of my buddies spent hours putting decks together and started buying into the competitive play at the local bookstore on Friday nights. All the coolest nerds had custom play mats or fancy dice. I wasn’t that into MTG, but I was into making custom stuff, so I decided to make my friend a case that he could show off at Friday Night Magic.
When I was in middle school my parents were friends with a woman who had spent years doing custom leather work for a living. She was really generous with her time and supplies, meaning I still have a huge box in my closet that’s full of hides, hole-punches, stamps, etc.
I want the finished product to look clean but also very Medieval and ominous. The first thing I decide after a few quick sketches is that I will need some hardware. I go ahead and order a cool latch and some spikes.
Black is the obvious choice for the exterior, but the only good black hide I have is about 1mm thick, so I’ll need a stiffer layer underneath.
I’m not confident that the leather will hold a square enough shape that it wont end up warping the cards (some of which are sort of expensive), so instead of using really thick lining I use a moderate hide of about 1.5mm and cut the top flap off a typical plastic card case, which I’ll build around.
I make a simple paper pattern, leaving room for stitching. The pattern works for both layers so I cut the hides and start marking the where the holes will be for the spikes and lacing.
Leather supplies can get expensive, but working with it is very satisfying. The main commercial supplier I run across is Tandy Leather, which has high-quality tools/supplies and some great kits for simple projects like wallets. Really though, hides, and hardware can be ordered from Etsy, Ebay, or even found in local craft shops. Many of the tools are fairly simple and can be substituted with everyday tools or tools from other craft disciplines, like sewing or knitting. As with any kind of project, it’s just a matter of balancing the precision/quality with your budget.
Stitching leather pieces together is almost an art of it’s own. It works less like sewing and more like plastic-canvas stitching.
Needless to say, there are a lot of good tutorials on different methods, like my favorite, the loop stitch. I think on this project I’ll use a more basic cross stitch.
Holes are punched into the edges of the leather with special stitching chisels that can cut multiple holes at once, or actual hole punches. I want a lace that complimented the brass hardware so instead of traditional leather lace I use artificial sinew. I love this stuff for all kinds of projects. It looks very natural and rustic but it acts more like a waxy thread (think XL dental floss), making it very easy to work with. I’ve used it to weave really large, tight dreamcatchers, which requires a lot of tensile strength. It will work just fine as a stitching lace.
The latch will be held on by leather rivets, which are placed through clean holes made by a hole punch. The two halves are pounded together with a mallet. The spikes use small screws in the back and will also help hold both layers together, with the added bonus (aside from looking badass) of keeping the corners away from things that would wear down the seams.
I placed 5 rivets on the front flap in a star formation to mimic the front of the cards that show the 5 colors of manna/land. I very carefully free-hand the logos for each type onto the face of the rivets with model paints.
I had a small segment of leftover gold jewelry chain and some craft wire to hold a gold/black d20 I picked up at the local card shop for 75c, and it’s done.
I may not know how to build a well-balanced, blue-green, aggro-control deck, but I can sure build something awesome to put it in!