Nick Mankey had picked up a simple leather crafting kit from his local craft store about a year and a half ago. When he realized how satisfying it was to work with leather, and that he could make his own leather goods for a fraction of the cost of buying them (specifically, a glide strap for his camera), he began to get serious.
“I researched proper hand-tooling construction techniques, procured some tools, and set my sights on assembling my own glide strap. After the success of that initial project, I was hooked,” says Mankey. His most recent project, a dry bag/duffel bag mashup — for which he posted step-by-step instructions on Imgur — is the culmination of all the skills he gained since then, plus one new skill (machine sewing).
For the design, Mankey combined the closing system of a dry bag with the size and shape of the duffel bag. In his tutorial, he notes that the design of a dry bag has very few points in the design where failure could mean a hole or tear. “A top-down, triple-roll closure creates (theoretically) a rain proof, dust proof, mud proof, sand proof, zombie proof, etc. seal with very little chance of being compromised, thanks to the hardcore AustriAlpin buckle compression straps to keep it down,” he writes.
When designing Mankey typically creates a fast sketch while he’s still energized from inspiration, then he writes out a list of all the things he wants the design to achieve. Afterwards, he compares the list and the sketch and makes changes to the sketch wherever his design goals aren’t being met. For this project, he also created a 1:4 scale replica from paper.
Once he had his design, it was on to cutting. To ensure a perfectly straight cut (there was no room for mistakes), he used a laser level. Mankey dyed the pieces and then it was time for assembly. Though he normally completes his leather projects by hand-sewing them, Mankey decided to use an old school industrial strength sewing machine, a 1957 Morse Zag-Matic that he got on eBay. The sewing machine wasn’t necessary to the project, but it certainly saved him some time. According to Mankey, the machine shaved 30 hours off of the total construction time.
At $250 in materials and 80 hours to construct, this was not a cheap or fast item to make. Still, it’s several hundred dollars cheaper than what you’d spend if you were looking for something similar. Mankey estimates that if he were to sell this duffel he could reasonably ask for $1,000. Considering the craftsmanship, time, and clever design that went into this, that seems fair. Mankey hasn’t had much of a chance to travel since finishing, but with the holiday season coming up his bag is bound to see plenty of action as he travels to spend time with family and friends.