Leather craftsman Justin Jacques Kilcher was originally interested in pursuing woodworking as a hobby, but soon realized it was never meant to be practiced within the confines of a small bedroom, so he turned to leather. Now Kilcher makes a living off of his leather work, and he’s nearly perfected the process by which he creates his goods.
Kilcher’s leather moleskine case has stolen my chronic journaler’s heart. I’ve stuck with the classic composition notebook for over a decade. They cry out for customization (who wants a stack of identically black and white speckled notebooks? Not me.) and a protective leather case with a pen insert would do the trick nicely.
Kilcher starts out by making templates in Adobe Illustrator and printing them on cardstock. This paper prototyping phase allows him to see what works and what doesn’t. “Figuring out where to place the open slot for the pen took a few attempts,” he says.
Once the design has been tweaked sufficiently, he takes the file to his local makerspace and laser cuts a sturdier template from acrylic. The acrylic templates make it exceptionally easy to position, trace, and cut shapes from the leather. Next he paints the leather and glues the pieces together to hold them in place for sewing. After sewing comes sanding, and some finishing touches with paint.
The process, Kilcher says, is ever-evolving. He experiments with the thickness of the leather, the sewing machine’s tension, and where to begin the stitch line. When the thickness changes, the sewing machine’s settings also need to be reconfigured. “It’s a bit of a pain, but I want it to be done correctly!” says Kilcher. Words of wisdom that should be associated with any labor of love.