The simplest can be the hardest

I finally got back into my leather shop this long weekend. Travel has been very heavy, and I’m also trying to learn guitar, so the shop has patiently waited for me to remember to visit…

My old (thin) bifold, used for about a year. Kangaroo leather dyed red.

I needed to touch my tools and leather for a mental reset. It truly is therapeutic to make things by hand. However, another motivation was to rework my bifold wallet design. I always strive for simplicity, quality, and functionality in my leather work. I spend a lot of time thinking about functionality, and I use pretty much everything that I make in the early stages of design refinement.

I’ve always enjoyed making wallets, and based on the number that I’ve made, other people have enjoyed using them. Wallets are uncomfortable if you carry them in a rear pocket. Therefore, my primary design goal has been to keep them thin. I almost always use kangaroo leather, which is very thin, soft, and tough. It also ages extremely well and gets more and more beautiful with time. The tough part is getting a place for cards that doesn’t add much thickness. I have always hated the cheap fabric that many commercial wallets use inside the card slots, because it tears.

Front of new bifold wallet design. All kangaroo (body and lace).


Until now, I’ve compromised by having a single piece of leather for all the cards, and this is very thin and works. However, it can be a pain with several cards, and over time the cards don’t stay up and are hard to grab. Therefore, I tried a modification with different thin layers sewn separately to hold 4 cards on each side. This works (and is widely used on wallets), but it does add bulk compared to my thin version.

Since I hadn’t been in the shop for a long time, I also had a hankering for braiding, so I decided to do what I had avoided for years: edge braiding! I loved to make wallets as a kid at summer camp using this technique, and since then I can only think of summer crafts at camp when I see one. That is a nice memory, but maybe still a bit clunky for a nice wallet…

The front 5 thong applique braid adds a bit of bulk, and I probably should have avoided that, but it was fun to do. I’m reasonably happy with the whole thing, but it is thicker than my last design. The cards seem to work much better, though. It is a bit “crafty”, but it also evokes a simpler time. And it was fun to make! Stay tuned for the next iteration when I use it for a while and get some more shop time.

Author: edisonleatherworks

I'm a biochemistry professor and leatherworker who likes bicycles, travel, art, education, and music. Walking is my favorite form of transportation, and I regularly practice Tai Chi.

4 thoughts

  1. Art, I’ve really enjoyed my Edison wallet over these past few years. Living in Mexico, I have a cold-sweat panic sometimes reaching for my credit cards…did one or more fall out? The answer is, no! I have NEVER had any of my cards fall-out, thanks to your great design. All the best, James.

  2. Hi Edison
    I was just browsing the internet and saw your beautiful labtob bag. I just started a hobby making hand leather projects. But i need patterns to work from. Do you have patterns that i can buy from you.
    Ingrid South Africa

    1. Dear Ingrid, thanks for your nice words. Every bag that I make is slightly different. I have some starting point rough patterns, but they almost always are modified for each job. I’m happy to send you photos by email of what I’ve used. If that would help, please let me know the best contact. Art

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