First Commissioned Piece

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If you want one of these you can place an order through Etsy.

Last week I built and sold my first commissioned piece ever! It was a really good feeling to know that someone liked the thing that I made so much they wanted to pay me to make one for them. I met a guy named Garrett at the Eugene Mini Makerfaire and he saw my phone and wallet holster. He was impressed and immediately wanted one. I got his contact information and about two weeks later I had the time to work on it.

Luckily he had tried mine on and it fit him just right, so I didn’t have to worry about sizing it for him. The biggest challenge was to redesign the phone pocket to fit his phone. In this case, that was an iPhone 6s Plus, which is huge compared to my 2013 Moto X. I didn’t even have one to work with, but luckily I was able to find all of the dimensions online easily. Garrett also had a different wallet, but luckily he was able to link me to the product page online which included product dimensions. I knew his wallet would fit into the iphone pocket, but there would be room to spare. I then had to choose between building two different sized pockets or come up with another solution. I opted to keep the pockets identical in size for a few reasons. First, I think it would look better that way. Second, I think it would be more comfortable. Third it makes things much easier because I don’t have to design two pockets and both straps will be identical to each other.

I started by designing the pockets in Sketchup. I knew that the pockets I made for my own phone were as small as they could possibly be and still fit the phone. I had even designed in what I thought would be some wiggle room. That told me that I needed to add even more wiggle room to ensure his phone would fit properly. The last thing I wanted to do was build the whole thing only to discover the phone didn’t fit and I had to rebuild it. I started with my old Moto X pocket design and just expanded everything out. Then I changed the intials from RCO to Garrett’s initials. Finally I added some diamond shaped holes.

I converted the file to DXF and then took it down to EMS to cut out on the laser. The laser’s bed is only 16″ wide and this design is just longer than that. This meant that I had to cut it out at an angle in order to squeeze an extra inch of space. It was annoying to line everything up this way, but it worked! The laser etched in the initials, cut out the holes and then cut the entire piece out. Having all of this work done for me saves me so much aggravation, especially the holes. It’s so annoying to try and punch all the holes and ensure they line up properly. Designing the parts on a computer means everything will match up exactly.

Next I took the parts home and sanded the charred black edges until they were back to their natural color. Then I used the stitching groover to make the outlines around the edge of each piece. I also cut the straps down to size using a template I made in sketchup. The template also tells me exactly where to put the holes. I punched all the holes and then it was time for dying and finishing.

Garrett wanted a darker color brown for his holster. In a previous project I used some Eco-Flo dye, but honestly I don’t like it. It looks very good but if it gets wet it bleeds like crazy and the color changes. I don’t use this stuff any more. I ended up finding the Fiebing’s Dark Brown Pro Oil Dye and this stuff seems great. It was the exact color I was looking for and it seems to hold well. I used a small dauber to apply two coats to everything. The second coat was necessary because just one coat looked kind of splotchy. This also made the color a bit darker.

Once everything was dry it was time to apply a finish. The helpful people down at Tandy recommended Dr. Jackson’s Waterproof Wax. I was previously using the Fiebing’s spray-on leather sheen but it didn’t really seem to waterproof the leather. I decided to give the wax a try. Holy crap this stuff is awesome. I tried it on a test piece first. It did make the leather even darker but I actually liked the look of it. I held the test piece under a dripping faucet and the water just rolled right off. It was amazing. The spray-on stuff would never have done that. I ended up putting two coats of wax on the front and a single coat on the back of every piece. That should build up a decent resistance to water to start.

The next step was to rivet the small straps onto the phone pocket pieces. Then I had to stitch the phone pockets together. I just used some basic white waxed thread for this. The final step was to put everything together. Garrett wanted brass hardware and I couldn’t find what I needed locally. I ended up having to order from The parts showed up from Boston, MA in less than a week and looked great. I put the whole thing together and tried it on to make sure it fit. It did!

The last thing I had to deal with was the wallet size. I knew it was going to fall deep into the pocket and be too difficult to remove. I came up with a simple solution. I used some very thick leather to build an insert that fits into the back of the pocket. The front is curved and creates a barrier that will prevent the wallet from being pushed any deeper into the pocket. I was sure to dye and finish the insert so it would match all of the other pieces.

I immediately emailed Garrett and made plans to deliver it on July 1. We tested the pockets and they fit great. The insert worked perfectly too. He seemed to really like it. I really like it too. I love the dark brown with brass hardware. I kind of want to make one for myself now…



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