Making a Smart Phone Case (with Pig Skin liner and Snake Skin cover)

Snakeskin covered smart phone case with hidden magnetic case latch -- open

Snakeskin covered smart phone case with hidden magnetic case latch — open

I am journalling how I make a smart phone case. Anyone is welcome to use this as a starting point for free, with the full understanding and agreement that all use is strictly AT YOUR OWN RISK.  If you appreciate the information in this work, please feel free to leave a donation using my PayPal button on the side bar.

In this blog entry I will start with a pattern I have purchased from Tandy Leather Factory, which neither approves nor disapproves our crafting. We have no relationship with Tandy other than that we purchase many of our tools and supplies from them, and they have been a good, reliable supplier with many valuable training videos in their Leathercraft Library.

I recommend that you start with the Tandy Leather Factory kit 44263-00 Smart Phone Case. This is a nice kit and if you make everything according to the included instructions I feel you will surely be quite pleased with the result. The reason that I am journalling this process is to show how to go beyond what this kit does by adding pig skin leather lining and optionally a snake skin covering.

I used the following supplies:

I also use these tools:

Use the leather in the kit to trace the pattern onto the hide. Don’t bother with marking the holes at this time, except you probably do want to mark the oval which will be on the bottom of the case. This oval makes it easier to remove the phone from the case. Cut the project off the cowhide so you can take it back to your workbench and sit down to cut it the rest of the way carefully on your cutting board.

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Cut the project out of the hide carefully at your workbench. Remember, to cut corners, it can be easier to make several small diagonal cuts than it is to try to perfectly trace the arc of the corner. Keep the larger trimmings as they may be useful later.

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IF you are going to cover the outside of your project with snakeskin, then DO NOT bevel the edges, as you want the cowhide to fit tightly with the snakeskin right up to the edge and you will bevel it later, after the snake skin is attached. IF you are not going to cover the project in snakeskin then you should bevel the outside edge now. I use a #4 Craftool Edge Beveler I bought from Tandy. Do your edge beveling BEFORE you dye the leather — you want the leather as hard and dry as possible to cut the bevel or you’ll have the tool snagging and fighting all the way. If you beveled the edge then wet it and smooth it.

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If you are not using snakeskin on the outside, then dye your project. If you are, then do not dye it. There is no need to dye the inside in either case because you will cover that with rubber cement and apply the pigskin liner. After the dye is dry, or if you are not dying your project, it is time to add the pigskin liner. We begin at the top and place the pigskin good side DOWN facing the outside of the project. We will flip the pigskin over after we stitch it, making a nice pigskin covered ledge on the edge of the phone case, and then glue the bad side to the inside of the project. For this to work we must glue the edge of the pigskin good side down to the edge of the phone case.

Now comes the awkward part — attaching the magnetic case latch. You do not want the latch to rub the phone or it might result in scratching, and you want your project to look professional without a lot of excessive fix-em-up work to cover prongs and ruff edges, so you must be a bit clever about what you install when. Of course if you are using a press fit snap, there are similar concerns. For this part you will need to see how I did things and then use your own smarts for your own project.

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Install the bottom piece — the stud if you are using a snap — after you have attached the pigskin to the top edge, but before you cement it to the inside. In this way the metal edge of the snap or magnetic case latch will be under the pigskin and not touch the phone. The cap of the snap is pretty straightforward: you attach it to the flap so it properly snaps into the stud after the pigskin and snakeskin are attached and the case has been stitched. The top piece of the magnetic case latch is a bit more clever as it must be on the outside of the pigskin to catch the bottom latch, but under the snakeskin on the outside of the flap. If you are not covering the case with snakeskin there is also a trick to get the latch attached without having two ugly metal prongs sticking out the top of your nice case, but you must do it before you cement the pigskin to the inside.

Measure down from the edge of the bottom flap about 1 1/8 inches. Measure in from the edges so the hole is centered. Punch a small round hole there. Use the metal plate that comes with the magnetic latch as a template to cut out the area where the two prongs must pass through the leather to the inside. Slide the bottom part of the latch into the slits, put the metal plate over the metal prongs on the back of the leather and flatten the prongs outward to hold the latch.

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Now attach the belt loop. The part of the loop nearest the oval cutout is the bottom of the loop. Begin by marking the where the holes belong using the punch awe. You need not punch a hole, simply indent the leather enough that you can find the spots. I mark the corner holes and one hole in the middle of each line so I can see where to punch with the stitching chisel later. Place the belt loop piece UPSIDE DOWN over the top rivet holes. Notice that the rivet holes are in the TOP corners of the phone case back, and in the SECOND row of the belt loop. This is so they line up properly with the belt loop piece upside down. Rivet the top end of the belt loop in place, then use the stitching chisel to punch appropriate holes for stitching in two rows between the rivets.

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Stitch away. I prefer a saddle stitch. You will need about 4 times the length of the two rows of holes in thread. Tie the square knot on the back side of the leather where it will be covered by the rubber cement and pigskin liner.

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Now do likewise for the bottom end of the belt loop. First, so the loop will bend easily, wet a sponge and use it to dampen the belt loop piece immediately above where you have just stitched it to the back of the phone case. The water will relax the leather and it will become much easier to bend in a few moments. Bend the belt loop piece down so it lines up with the bottom holes, punch the rivet holes in the back of the phone case and in the belt loop, set the rivets, punch the stitching holes between the rivets using the stitching chisel, stitch it up solid.

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Now clean off the pigskin leather by wiping any detritus off. Lay it flat on the table top and coat the smart phone case inside back leather with the rubber cement. Start in the middle and quickly work the cement out to the edges to cover. It will dry very quickly so move fast. You may need to add a bit more cement near the edges if it dries too quickly — you want the pigskin to stick very well especially at the edges. Avoid getting excess cement on the pigskin’s good side.

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Smooth the pigskin out across the inside of the case. Rub out all wrinkles. Place it under a weight until tomorrow so the cement can set up.

Tomorrow we will see how to finish the smart phone case, and if snakeskin is to cover the outside of the case how to handle that.

In the pursuit of excellence

Throughout the years I have engaged in many forms of crafting. The mark of the craftsman is his or her personal drive for excellence. In the pursuit of excellence we often develop new, artistic, or innovative output, often using unconventional materials.

When I created wainscot for my kitchen, I found it better to use the cheapest, #3 pine lumber because it was full of beautiful, large, knots and knot holes. Clear lumber would have been perfect in and of itself, but average at best in my kitchen. To get a truly beautiful wall I used the least desired lumber.

When I create leather goods, I have found the best leather is very nice to work: mostly clean, no cuts, no bug bites, no holes. And many people just want a plain belt with nothing unusual, which is fine: for them I will simply cut a quick belt from a perfect hide, punch it, dye it, and ship it to them. But when I make my best items, I make them from leather which has been tried: it has wrinkles and cuts and sometimes holes. The thickness may vary. The dye soaks in in mysterious patterns of light and dark. I look at it carefully; I see how to cut my pattern around the blemishes, or sometimes to highlight them; I massage the dye into the leather, teasing the patterns and blemishes so that they reveal their secrets and merge into a unique and beautiful work.

In short, the leather goods that I get from a less perfect hide are by far more wonderful than anything made from a premier hide. I call these traits, these unique differences in each piece of material, the material’s Character.

People also have blemishes. They have scars and maybe some wounds that never quite healed. They have secrets that they do not want to remember. They have lived and suffered and are forever different from every other person because of it. And this is part of what makes their character: it is what makes each one of us unique.

Like materials, people with blemishes are thrown away, de-valued, and marginalized by society. They are excluded from mainstream communion: thrown into the discount bin: a broken and unwanted object. And in the hands of the Supreme Craftsman they are crafted into a work of art far more wondrous and beautiful than anything average made from people who have never errored, never suffered, never hurt.

The mark of a Craftsman is not what he or she can do with the perfect: it is what he or she can do with the distressed. God never wastes a hurt: the experience will come in handy later.

Have a great day. May God Bless.

UPC Code Discussion

If you follow this blog then you know we are shut out of because we cannot possibly pay $3,200 to buy a company UPC number. We objected to this, responded to an email from GS1 US, the company which sells UPC company numbers. They have told me that they are a not for profit, however I have not found them in the legal IRS database at Also the cost of $3,200 to issue one UPC company number seems a bit more than a break even price. I am really not sure how their prices are fulfilling their stated purpose of “Making it possible for industries and companies to move their business forward”: rather it seems to me their prices are a roadblock to free market competition by erecting an extreme barrier to entry. I understand what she is saying about UPC resellers and why it is unwise to buy codes from them. I also ponder how there could be UPC resellers if GS1 US was selling at the cost (acting as a not for profit) there would be no profit opportunity for these UPC resellers to exist.

GS1 US’s email back to me and my response follow.


On 05/06/2013 12:51 PM, Smith, Rebecca wrote:

Good Afternoon John,

GS1 US is a not-for-profit organization.

I would make sure that your Trading Partner will accept those types of barcodes.

The barcodes that you will receive from a reseller will never recognize your company and most Trading Partner will not accept based on that. The barcodes will always go back to the original owner of the barcodes.

You don’t know if they have made up the barcodes or that they have already sold the barcodes to other companies.

We have had companies in the past buy from reseller barcoded their products and then their Trading Partner would not accept them. Then they had to come through us to get their barcodes and re-barcode all of their products.

Just don’t want you to get something your Trading Partner may not accept and it cost you more money.

Have A Wonderful Day,

Rebecca Smith | Customer Operations | GS1 US
7887 Washington Village Dr, Ste.300, Dayton, OH 45459
T +1 937.435.3870 | F +1 937.435.7317 | E |
The Global Language of Business | Making it possible for industries and companies to move their business forward

Good afternoon Ms. Smith,

Thank-you for your kind reply.

I understand that buying from these UPC “resellers” does not provide a proper code for small businesses and I have no intention of buying from them. I really do not see, if you are acting as a not for profit and selling these company UPC numbers at cost, how these UPC resellers can exist — it should be impossible for them to sell at less than your price, thus removing any profit incentive. ICANN, which assigns all the domain names on the Internet, charges twenty cents. ICANN warehouses at least as much data as GS1 US and should have similar or higher costs.

This is why I must refuse to buy any UPC from anyone: not only can my small business not afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy one company UPC number but also I feel that a charge of $3,200 to be assigned one number is unreasonable. If my small business brought in $32,000 due to UPC labeling I would probably not have a problem with paying out $3,200 to support you: but it does not as of yet, and it is not going to until it has UPC codes which, of course, I cannot buy. The problem is compounded by the need for many product codes since every possible combination of my product must have its own, unique code, whether I ever sell even one so specifically configured or not. In example, each belt that I craft can come in five widths, seven colors, with or without embossing, and in 26 lengths (from 12 inches to 58 inches, counting only the even numbers). This is some 1,800 codes (excluding any codes I need for other product lines) of which 10 might actually be ordered.

Yes, Amazon is forcing all small business to buy UPC company numbers as a condition of being allowed to trade any at all on There has been some public outcry about that, which is apparently a move to improve search price comparisons by matching UPC codes instead of product names. But those of us who own small businesses, and account for 80% of the commerce in the US, also can choose not to use Amazon and we can tell them why: small businesses cannot afford to pay $3,200 for a UPC Company number.

I am providing honest customer feedback, which is very hard to get. I hope this helps rather than offends you. I feel that a $20 membership fee is sensible: a $3,200 membership fee is not. I feel that if a business does in fact have sales over $250,000 they should not object to donating more than grass roots businesses that have very little income yet.

The beauty of a free market system is that small businesses do have a choice. We could simply establish our own Open Source Product Code system (OSPCS) and operate it on the same basis as ICANN as a member benefit organization exempt from taxes under IRC section 501(c)(3). Membership fee could be $1. Retailers who chose to use OSPCS would gain grass roots loyalties to boost their sales in a down economy. This has worked well for dozens if not hundreds of distros of Linux and many other open source projects. We probably could also crowd source funding to get started. OSPCS network number assignments could be franchised to OSPCS Registrars who could compete in the OSPCS marketplace and sell the OSPCS numbers much as the global DNS system already works, reducing costs and drastically improving network performance through the availability of OSPCS lookup servers, while offering a profit opportunity to thousands of registrars. With the right agreement, sales of all products having OSPCS numbers could be accumulated providing another massive revenue source in the sale of reports.

Most sincerely,

John D. Nash, CEO
American Programmers Independent, LLC.
API Leather Crafting

P.S. It is understood that your company, GS1 US, is a not for profit, but did you realize that name is not in the official IRS database of all not for profits at I’m not saying you are not a not for profit, I am simply letting you know that the official IRS database used to validate not for profit status of all organizations in the US does not have GS1 US in it, at least not by that name.

Snake Skin Smart Phone Case

Preparing a smartphone case with bright red snake skin cover. First one I’ve made so it is all experimental. The pig skin lining I have down pat now, and the cases are pretty nice. Finally found a use for my old engineering texts: they work nicely as a weight to hold the smartphone case flat until the contact cement has cured tomorrow.

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