The last few weeks I have been continuing my experiments with natural dyes for my leather goods. . A few posts ago I wrote about my initial tests using the sun, walnut husks, and vinegar. I had great results with those elements creating a perfect variation in color tone. This week I have three new elements in the making – the first of which begins with “2 Buck Chuck” from Trader Joe’s.
It’s a cheap $2 wine from a local marketplace and is the perfect base for me to start my fourth experiment.
First I poured a little wine out of the bottle to make room for the next step, and allow myself a bit of late night respite.
Next I took a steel wool ball and stretched it out. Using steel wool that is not coated in oil (most are) is essential. The steel wool should react with the wine in a way which I am not completely sure of the exact result.
Stuff that steel wool in there.
Completely submerge it.
I corked the bottle and let it sit for a week or so. This seemed to work well for the steel wool and vinegar solution, making it quite stronger after a full week.
The next experiment involves blackberries. One package of them, heated up on the stove with a little bit of water, then mushed with a fork to release the juices.
One the blackberries are all mush, I then poured it through a strainer into a recycled jar.
To keep mold and other nastiness from forming, I decided to add a bit of rubbing alcohol to the jar.
I am letting this one sit for a bit too – though it should be ready instantly – for soft blues.
Henna is a traditional dye used in India for weddings, among many other things. People use it in the U.S. as a natural option for hair dyes.
I decided to try out two mixes made entirely from plants – natural and chestnut.
Pouring each powder bag into its respective container.
Then filling up each container to the top with tap water. This has me a bit skeptical about mold growth, but I need to see if the dye has any results first before fixing that problem.
The henna dyes will also sit for a week or so, in order to make sure they are as potent as possible. I was most excited about this specific experimental dye, until I realized that the henna powder doesn’t dissolve, it stays a clumpy mess inside the containers.
In a week I will have the results and color swatches. I am betting on the 2$ Chuck as a winner.
Introducing, The Every Man Simple Wallet for $Insert Your Price Here .
That’s right – you name the price. To help promote the start of the new leather section in the shop, I am making a limited run of these wallets and they will be for sale at the price that you enter. Plus you get free priority shipping in the U.S. 50 states! International delivery available at checkout. How much will you pay for Handmade? Check it out here in the Online Shop.
The Every Man Simple Wallet is minimalistic in design, and function. Only need a few cards and a wad of cash? Need something slim and rugged to slip into a pocket? That’s the essence of this wallet. Cut from a slim vegetable tanned top-grain leather, it is both lightweight and durable. The sides have been hand stitched with the saddle stitch method – thus locking in each pass of waxed thread. If, by chance, years from now one section gets cut, the other sections will lock it in place and retain the strength and structure.
Three colors are currently available, all of which are completely natural and vegetable based. The wallet shown here was stained with walnut husks, then conditioned with extra virgin olive oil and beeswax.
Every leather item I make is stamped with a consecutive maker number. This way you know at what point in the history of Mr. Lentz handmade goods your item was created.
The last couple of weeks I have been developing a few new leather goods for the shop. The one thing that kept bothering me about creating leather cases and bags…was that you basically were forced to use chemicals to dye the leather. I decided that there must be a better way and so I spent a lot of time experimenting with different vegetable matter.
It turns out that there are three basic elements that can give you a decent color variation in leather and they are all completely natural. The first – being the sun. So, I decided to let my leather sit outside and get a tan for a while…the whole day even. The result? Leather tans in much the same way as your skin. The leather turned from a pasty beige to a slightly reddish light brown. I was thrilled with the result and decided to take things a bit further.
Using the experience I had gained staining my wood and moss jewelry line – I decided to test out the tannin rich – walnut husk powder. After a light coat of my newly created all-natural dye, followed by an even rub of extra virgin olive oil…I was able to get a medium brown with distressed and aged accents.
To keep things going, I wanted to see if I could get a near-black color using the walnut husks and a vinegar solution I made with steel wool. To my surprise it worked very well, and I now have a complete line of three all-natural colors that stick well to the leather and don’t rub off (see second image below with all three colors). Future experiments will include beet juice and wild plum root… both with a lot of potential to expand the color range even further.
The wallet shown here was created with top-grain leather dyed with walnut husks and conditioned with extra virgin olive oil and beeswax. The entire case was created by hand from start to finish – with an extreme attention to detail. Each case will be made to order and will include a sequential number below the Maker’s mark to indicate the item’s place in the history of leather goods made by Mr. Lentz. Now available in the online shop.
I like fireworks. Who doesn’t? I also like saving unnecessary trips to the leather tool store and petty cash. And I like to make things. I put all of these thoughts together this evening when I suddenly had the urge to accent my leather goods with a tiny diamond shape. The diamond is part of my look after all. Considering the sun had already dipped below the horizon and heading out 15 miles east through the valley to get to the tool store was a bit too much to ask, I decided to get moving in my workshop. The first thing to do – find a piece of metal that I could carve down to the right shape. I searched through my leather sewing supplies and came up with the perfect option, a wide and very sharp stitching awl. I have never used this specific awl because it makes the holes a bit too wide. So – I sacrificed it for the cause.
Here’s the fire:
Securing the awl tip in my table vice, I then whipped out my dremel and put a grinding tip on it. After a few brushes against the metal, I realized I had created a miniature fireworks show right in the workshop…so as any good Maker would do – I grabbed my camera so we could all share this experience together.
Steadily, with one hand on the dremel at 8,000 RPM and the other on my camera trigger I went at it. Slowly, carefully, checking all sides for evenness. Taking the time to test the piece out for its shape.
I then wet a cutting of vegetable tanned leather and gave a few swift knocks, indenting the diamond shape.
The final result is exactly what I had hoped for. A simple, small diamond to accent my leather goods…and it was free, fun and easy to make. Currently I am working on a new series of foldable phone wallets, due to be completed with photos by next week – this diamond stamp should work perfectly for them.
Out in the super heated deserts of the Southwest – I traveled between cactus, scrub brush and rattlesnake. By sunset I had come upon the driest of dry plateaus and decided to plop myself down and take a look at the view. The desert that lay below me created the foundation of inspiration that would later become of the Leather Fugitive Series. For the newest phone wallet I have combined rustic cowboy country leather, with a designer’s eye for sleekness, minimalism and functionality.
The wallet is designed to hold your phone as well as credit cards and cash for your outing. It is extremely strong and has been double-stitched for durability.
Entirely handmade from high grade double milled, vegetable tanned leather. This wallet case is created in an antiqued and rustic style and is hand stitched, hand stained (with a natural eco-friendly and water-based dye), hand conditioned with Italian olive oil, hand rubbed with beeswax and formed to fit your phone like a glove.
Bring your phone back to the days of the Old West, when things were made right, tough and functional. On sale now in the Mr. Lentz Shop.
Getting back into leatherworking, I decided to heat up my beastly Consew 206 RB-5 leather sewing machine. This thing is ridiculous – you can sew a mile a minute on it if you turn the speed settings all the way up. I have mine at a minimum, because one thing is for certain when dealing with leather – don’t mess up. Unlike fabric, leather is not forgiving. If you sew off-center, holes will be punched into the leather and there they will stay. While I personally prefer hand-stitching leather, this machine will allow me to build more complex items at a faster rate.
When I first opened the instructions, I realized that the author was apparently Chinese and used a confusing mix of words that didn’t help much. Threading the machine at first was the hardest part for me, since I had never used a sewing machine before. I spent quite a while looking up photos and trying to find a good short video that would illustrate exactly how to do it… to no avail. So – that inspired me to make a short clip for you. An animated version of the thread passing through each section of the machine. This video is potentially relevant for many types of sewing machines, so if you are stuck, just hit play above.
Here is a close-up of the only tricky part, the thread tension wheels.
And your grandmother could build it. It takes 8 hours, it costs $111 and it needs a bare minimum of tools to complete. These are all things that ring quite nicely in my ears – and they are all reasons why I decided to build this workbench. Everything I do requires a vast amount of table space, some projects require a vice, others – a drill press. PlusI always have a need for shelving for bulky storage and plenty of room in the back for storing handy tools. This tutorial is all about the nuances in building such a workbench – I initially started it one late tuesday afternoon, only to realize I didn’t have all of the right hardware…another trip back to the store. The next day I realized I didn’t have all of the right pieces of wood…another trip back to the store. Then I realized some of the hardware I bought was not the right type…another trip back to the store. All in all I took over eight (damn) trips to the store to build this bench. God forbid you fall into the same trap - I intend to save you all of that frustration and make it simple, give you all of the details – up front. The checklist of things you will need…before you begin. First off, let’s be fair – give yourself a weekend to put this thing together. When you are building by hand, take it slow – measure things out, double check, take a step back and make sure you are in fact building a right side and a left side…and not two left sides.
Here is what the final outcome of the table will look like:
The wood and hardware needed are described below, along with a cut list and dimensional drawing.
2. The Wood Needed
To build the frame of the table get 8 pieces of 2×4 of kiln dried whitewood (pine) studs that measure 8 feet long, then get 2 pieces of 8 foot 4×4 ‘green’ douglas fir ( Image A shows these pieces, the 4x4s have already been cut). For the table top, it is up to you. It will depend on what you use the bench for, but most people wont need expensive hardwood like maple. I went with 3 pieces of 21/32 inch x 12 inches x 8 feet of pine (Image B). This is pine that has been glued together, then planed to a nice smooth and thin piece of wood. It works well for wide surfaces, is smooth, and is fairly cheap. For the bottom shelf get a sheet of thin plywood, something cheap – as you don’t need it to look great, just hold things. An 8 foot long piece that is around 20″ wide will do. As an extra item – I got an 8′ x 4′ piece of pegboard to install behind the table to hold tools and everything else (Image C).
3. The Hardware Needed
There is very little hardware you will need for the workbench – just box of 3 inch deck screws, 18 “L” brackets to fasten on the table top planks (get another 18 screws that are half the size as the ones that come in the L bracket package), and up to four adjustable feet to level out the legs of the table (I used just one).
Just make sure not to get any screw called a “Composite Deck Screw” with a square head as seen in the above image. You will have an aneurism trying to get these crappy things into the wood without stripping half of them, unscrewing them, re-screwing them, unscrewing them and finally throwing them out.
Above is the aftermath of what I went through for the first 3 hours of the build. Bad choice. The best choice is to use regular Phillips head wood screws and pre-drill your holes with a 7/64 drill bit that is long enough to make a 3 inch hole.
3. The Tools Used
While it is handy to have a few powertools at your disposal (table saw, chop saw, belt sander) it is entirely possible and actually quite easy to build this workbench with hand tools only…with the exception of a drill.
The above tools are all it takes. A square to draw perpendicular cut lines on your wood, tape measure, saw, screwdriver, sand paper, and a drill.
This list shows what pieces of wood to cut at what lengths, and how many pieces. This is the entire cut list for this project. One note on the cut list that I screwed up royally…make sure to wait on cutting the upper and lower shelf crossmembers only after you have assembled the table up to that point. This is simply because the width of the table will undoubtedly change by the time it is all screwed together. I accidentally pre-cut them and they ended up too short, so I had to cut into a new piece of wood and use the rest as scrap for another project.
This diagram shows the breakdown of the table and how it fits together. Notice the simple detail that the side rails on the top extend beyond the front of the table legs so they can join the front rail. The top side rails go a bit further beyond the back legs to give you room for an option to attach a pegboard to the bench to hold your tools. I opted to cover the entire space with table top and put my pegboard on the wall behind the table.
Lay the legs down and place the top and bottom side rails as shown. For the top side rail leave an overhang on the right side just large enough for you to attach it to the top front rail, or about 2 inches. Do the same for the bottom side rail, but leave the overhang on the left side only. Use a square to make sure the rails are intersecting the legs at perpendicular angles. The height of the bottom rail is up to you, mine is around 1.25 feet up, this will allow me to store things under the bottom shelf as well.
Pre-drill your holes to prevent the wood from splitting close to the edge and screw two screws into each rail where it intersects a leg. Keep using the square to make sure everything is lining up. Go slow, small mistakes here make big ones later, as in – wobbly table. Once the left side is complete, build the right side…not identically – but mirrored. This way you don’t end up with two lefts.
Once each side is built, lay each side down with legs in the air. The side rails should be on the outside. Place the front and back top rails into place.
Pre-drill and screw in the front and back rails into the legs taking care that the top of the legs align with the top of the rails (Image A). Then pre-drill and screw the side rails to the front and back rails (Image B, two screws on left side)
Flip the table so the front side is on the floor. Place the lower shelf back rail in position.
At this point you may realize that the lower shelf back rail might not be cut to the right length. Somewhere in the midst of measuring, cutting, drilling, screwing and cursing, your piece doesn’t match up. Take a breath. This is quite normal in the world of handmade. The key is not to let it frustrate you – look at it as another challenge that you need to overcome. In this case my piece was short – which is worse than being long – so I cut another small piece of wood to fit the gap, wedged it in there, and went on my way. Continue to pre-drill, and screw the rail into the legs and the side rails.
Flip the table right side up and check for wobble. If there is a wobble, it means everything is going perfectly. Locate the leg that is shorter, then flip the table upside down. Draw a line from corner to corner on the short leg and drill a hole to install your adjustable leg. There are a lot of different versions of these out there, so yours may actually screw into the side of the leg instead.
Flip the table right side up and place the bottom shelf front rail into position about a hair under 15 inches from the back rail. In the photo above you can see I used a tool box and scrap wood to help hold the rail at the right height. Do what you can to make life easy. Then pre-drill and screw the bottom front rail into the side rails.
Next, on the top of the table measure out the first top crossmember a hair longer than will fit between the front and back rail, cut the first one. Place the first crossmember into position according to the diagram, you may need a mallet or your fist to lightly pound it into place. Repeat that step for each top crossmember, carefully cutting each to the correct size so it can wedge right into place. Exact placement of these is not crucial, they are just there to support your table top.
Next, slap on your cowboy hat, protective eyewear, and pearl button shirt and start pre-drilling the holes to screw into the top crossmembers.
Once finished with the top, repeat the same steps for the bottom crossmembers.
Hopefully the workbench looks something like the above image. If not, it will probably still work, and in the worst case you can always use it for a massive desert bonfire with your friends.
At this point I took a break and decided to install a power strip onto the side of the table, even though it wasn’t quite finished yet. The power strip will be very handy for my drill, soldering iron, boombox, dremel and any other small hand held power tool.
Lay your table top planks on top of the table and decide if you need to cut the length down. I decided not to – leaving them at 8 feet since I needed a little extra room at one end to hold a drill press.
When you lay the boards down, make sure to leave a few millimeters of space between each plank. Wood will expand and contract depending on the humidity level and, indirectly, the air temperature. Thus you will want to give it some space between planks so that it wont push up against itself and warp the wood, or even tear itself out of the fasteners you are about to install. If you build this workbench during a cold dry winter day and don’t leave adequate space, you may find that during your hot and humid summer – the top will have developed large bends. I am estimating a few millimeters in my case, but I guess I will see what happens. Certain types of wood have been known to expand up to several inches in the right conditions.
Using the L brackets shown above I placed two on each end of the plank under the table and two more to hold down the middle of the plank. In the left image you can see two sizes of screws. I bought smaller ones to attach into the plank itself so they wouldn’t go through the top of the table. The longer screws will go into the side rails.
Now we’re on the home stretch. The tools shown above are optional, but if you have them – things will go more quickly. Image A shows two planers. I use the mini one on the left to help shave off wood on the edge of the table to give it a nice round curve. The planer on the right is to help even out the height of edges where planks meet. You can just as easily hand sand those areas as well. Image B shows a belt sander that makes sanding everything smooth a lot quicker. I used it on all of the front edges that I might bump into – but again – you can just as easily hand sand it all.
The workbench should look like this, and hopefully the backdrop of your workshop looks a bit different. Fortunately none of that stuff in the background is mine – and I can easily cover it up with my pegboard.
The last step is to cut the lower shelf from your plywood sheet. I had an 8 foot x 4 foot sheet handy, so I used a tablesaw to cut it down to the right width – however, if you buy yours at any big hardware store, they will happily cut it to any size you need. Once you get the width right by measuring the lower shelf rails – measure out the space where the board will fit against the legs and cut them out. Slap that sucker on the lower shelf, pre-drill it, screw it, and call it a day. Your workbench is done.
This table provides a nice solid wide area for projects. It makes it so much easier to work on things when you can spread out. As an extra step and to make finding tools even easier I installed the pegboard to the wall behind my workbench. I hope this tutorial helped you out and inspires you to create space of your own to be creative. This tutorial was inspired by one found here, but it has been altered a bit and presented a bit more clearly.
If you have any questions on the build I can answer them in the comments section. Good luck!
Mr. Lentz works hard to connect inspired people to creative influence. Everyday he's out there wranglin' ideas, musterin' up projects and corralling a community of people who love to create by hand. Read More...