Making a Leather Snooker Case
When I first thought about making a leather snooker case I should have stopped there!
Well, some time back I thought about how the best leather case makers went about making their cases. In my naivety I thought there surely cannot be that much too it?
Chuck a wooden box together, sew a bit of leather and stick it to the box, put a piece of foam inside and ‘Hey Presto” off you go to the snooker club with your new leather snooker case.
What a fool!
So, I’ve put a few pictures together of my learning journey and how some of these leather snooker cases are actually very cheap considering the amount of labour that goes into them.
A patchwork leather snooker case first caught my eye from Crispian Jones, a cue and case maker from North Wales. The cases actually looked like they certainly had a lot of work put into them and I wondered how difficult it would be to make a similar one. I purchased one of Crispian’s cases so I could take a closer look and immediately saw that this wasn’t going to be one of those quick builds.
I thought about just putting together an outer leather section with just 5 pieces of leather and something similar on the inside using suede. If you take a look across the types of leather cases there are many types, some obviously easier than others. I figured that if I could make a complicated pattern inside and out then any cases after this would have to be easier.
So, with that in mind I decided to go with a patchwork leather snooker case with a series of black and red chessboard type rectangles to compliment the outside.
I can tell you now that even when you have decided what you are going to do, knowing what you need, where to get it, how to make it and assemble it is one big puzzle. Just learning about the leather types, what’s best and cost effective and even where to view it and obtain it is a nightmare. If you are going to throw money at it, things are a little easier but you still have to find the right type of leather and decide if it is suitable for your machine.
Buying the Right Machine
Oh, I just mentioned machine. I guarantee that most case makers have purchased a machine and then decided that they have made a mistake and should have either spent more money or researched and tried more machines before making a purchase. I spent a fair few bob on a machine after taking much advice from the expert machinists and then found that the machine was definitely not suitable to stitch the case handle, aaaaaaahhhhhhhh!
Simple things around the machine will catch you out as you take certain things for granted that you shouldn’t. I discussed sewing reasonably thin leather together and was told the machine would handle this no problem, hmm. It really depends what sort of leather you are sewing and how that leather is constructed. There are far too many types of leather to even open that subject here!
Is Case Making Easy?
Making a leather snooker case is certainly similar to that of making a snooker cue. You will find every step of the way from finding the right materials to assembling a product worth buying a nightmare. At the end of your nightmare and hopefully producing a great product, people will compare it to a lesser product from somewhere else and say yours isn’t worth the money.
If you want cheap, buy cheap. If you want pure quality, you will have to pay for it as has always been the way.
I have compiled a few pictures so you can see some of the steps involved so you can understand what goes into making a leather snooker case.
Am I going to do a step by step how to make a leather snooker case? Nah, you’ll have to get in the trenches and experience the pain involved like the rest of us.
Hopefully you will enjoy the article.
Decide on a Carcass
Making a Leather Snooker Case – To start with you need to decide what type of cue and equipment you are going to make the case around. 3/4 or one piece cue, types of extensions and mini butt, keys, glasses, chalk and phone sections and many others.
What height will your foam, lining, suede be? What do you need to do to the carcass to make the handle fit and will you need any dividers for the equipment or a box at the end?
When you feel you have decided on what needs to go in the case you will then need to decide what you are going to make it from and will it be strong enough. Now you can just knock a box up using any type of wood but you also have to consider the overall weight as you’ve still got to carry it!
Here is one of the carcasses I finished. Would I use this type in the future? Sometimes is the answer. I found it incredibly difficult to find suitable, straight wood at the correct size and this is an understatement. I would say that when looking for the thinner woods, virtually every place I went to (around 20 in all), it was all stored and transported incorrectly and actually sat there bowed in the rack; just soul destroying!
Even after all the issues I had with sourcing the right material and getting the right weight balance, this part of making a leather snooker case was by far the easiest.
Sewing – Find Your Way
What thickness and type of leather to buy, suede, material, cotton or polyester thread, type of needles and so on. I’ve got to say, making a leather snooker case gave me a headache at every turn, a very steep learning curve indeed.
Like anything, to get good at it, research it, practice, practice and more practice with the various materials and thread types.
Choosing an Internal Pattern
There are obviously many patterns you can go with for the inside pattern when making a leather snooker case. I went with this chess board effect as I knew there would be a lot of cutting, measuring and sewing. Now this may seem mad but I wanted it to be a pain so I would have to concentrate and learn quickly.
Did I make mistakes along the way? Of course I did and I learned very quickly not to do them again and how to avoid wasting time.
Sewing thin high quality suede isn’t easy so I added another material to help me keep the sewing straight and neat.
The Effect of Patterns
Although this looks like I have just cut, stuck and sewed a few pieces of suede here I can assure you a great deal of thought has to go into every part of putting this together.
The finished base has to not only look good but be strong and be able to be stuck to your supporting foam substance.
Lots of questions pop out like:
Do I cut the base flat against foam or do I wrap it round. If I wrap it round, how do I keep it square and will the glue squash the foam!
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Leather is not cheap so even when you have a pattern in your head, you have to decide how to cut it to avoid wastage. Mistakes when sewing are not cheap so you have to be confident you have the right matches of leather and thread type.
The worrying part is that even if it looks good at this stage, you still have to make it stretch and fit to your carcass.
The Case Handle
After taking advise from a so called machinist expert I decided on the right machine to make the case and sew the leather work.
Hmm. When I got to the case handle, the finished article would not even fit under the machine foot, let alone be sewed!
Although I got over the issue by finding another method to get it to an acceptable standard, I still went out and purchased a more suitable machine. Guess what? The more suited machine was cheaper…….go figure.
Fitting the Handle
I think a leather case should have a leather handle and is should be usable and not just decorative.
I stuck mine here with a suitable adhesive and then fitted a special screw arrangement to secure it.
In the future I would just go with an adhesive as I think that’s enough as long as you get the proportions of leather sticking to the carcass correct.
You have to be really careful when gluing leather to anything, as if you clamp it too tight, or don’t put something in between, the leather will be badly damaged.
Stretching the Leather
You can tell a good leather case maker as their corners will be neat. Stretching the leather is a nightmare and it’s very easy to end up with a load of leather puckered up in the corner.
This is a skill that few seem to have mastered at the highest level. I feel I have done a reasonable job here as a first attempt and I already think that I know how to make the corners really neat if I complete a second case.
I won’t say this had me staying up nights but I really did consider the potential solutions to this problem.
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Removing Excess Leather
Even after removing the leather I didn’t like the glue left at the bottom so became a bit anal about getting that off before sticking something else to the carcass….sad muppet!
Choosing a Case Insert
I actually fitted a type of memory foam and when I tried it I wasn’t as happy as I could have been. I tried many types of foam from completely rigid to some types that were too soft.
I tried types that clamped the cue and equipment very easily but let them move and others that were so rigid I couldn’t get the case closed!
Eventually I settled for a type of foam that was rigid enough that a little amount of tension was evident when the case lid had to be closed but it kept the equipment in place.
Trimming and Gluing
Now this doesn’t look like a real issue but what you cannot see is the glue. I went through many types of glue that would glue the top layer to the foam and the foam to the carcass.
Do you paint the glue on? Do you use a decent spray glue? They both have different properties and have pro’s and con’s. If you over glue, it soaks into the foam and holds it down too much and if you under glue the whole thing becomes unstable.
Cutting was also a little stressful. You need to choose the right tools to cut the foam accurately and wrapping something soft and flexible (foam) with something reasonably stiff (top layer) created a few issues when gluing.
The corners of the suede certainly made me think as you are trying to wrap a hard substance around a substance that gives way. It took a while to find a solution to this but that’s [part of the fun (or puzzle).
I had a lot of difficulty in getting the inside even and if doing this again, I have already thought of better ways but that’s the game.
It’s worth mentioning that to complete some of the steps, you really have to jump in and experience things or you will never get going. You may well end up discovering lots of ways not to build a case but that’s part of the process.
The Finished Case
I’ve got to say that although doing a patchwork case first seems madness, it was a steep learning curve and it’s good to get to the end.
I learnt a lot in a short space of time and probably the biggest thing was that there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into making a leather snooker case.
I think it’s the sort of thing you do because you love doing it, there are far easier ways to make money. It’s fair to say that the most expensive patchwork cases made by well known case makers were going for around £500 at their peak, that probably works out at around £10/hour.
Here are a few more pictures of the first case I have made, I will have to give it a great deal of thought if there will be others!
Well I hope this has given you some thoughts around making a leather snooker case and how much work really goes into one.
A good point to remember here is that I didn’t buy cheap materials and I spent in the region of £135 to £150 just on the materials used. Now that is staggering to think you can buy leather cases a lot cheaper than this. Even when you factor in the discounts you get when buying bulk materials, this just shows that most are made abroad.
There are very few case makers in this country for this reason but if you can find a good one then I would snap it up!
I hope you enjoyed the article.