The DIY Wallet Pocket Knife
Welcome to the world of a devoted Minimalist Urbanite Survivalist Technologist Yuppie (MUSTY). And what the heck is a MUSTY?
Well, let's just say that I've spent the better part of a decade in search of the ultimate light-weight urban survival man-purse.
I've spent most of that time searching for an off-the-shelf product that would hold my cards, cash, keys and set of personalized mini-tools. Finally, I decided it did not exist. Inspired by other MUSTYs — see this guy and this guy — I began to design and construct my ultimate Pocket Knife Wallet.
It turned out to be quite easy, inexpensive, and the result was very satisfying.
Create a slim and light-weight wallet that would hold everything I needed to carry on an everyday basis — my keys, credit cards and cash, as well as seven essential pocket-knife tools, the latter being a clear compromise when compared to my weightier carry.
The project ended up breaking down into three phases: design, production, and sawing off my keys to make them fit in the wallet.
The first part took some time — I originally designed the wallet with a horizontal orientation and extra pockets for credit cards. But this proved problematic on two counts — the knife was too long to fit, and the extra pockets added too much bulk. Round Two was much more successful. I put together some templates on paper, assembled and tweaked them until it was just right, and then cut the leather in shapes to match. You can download my templates here if you want to use them.
I didn't have much experience sewing leather but, lucky for me, I had a close relative who did (thanks Mom!). Once the three smaller leather pieces were in place, we clipped them together using document clips and used a sewing machine with leather needle and heavy-duty thread to sew the tool pockets.
Once the back piece was attached, the wallet was too thick for the machine. That was fine with me, though, since I wanted a hand-stitched look around the outside. I used a leather punch to make small holes for the stitching, and sewed it up. Piece of cake! See this link for a primer on sewing leather.
Sawing my keys down turned out to be pretty easy as well. The trick was to saw off enough so that they would be slim and light-weight, but not so much as to make them unusable. I experimented a bit, ruined a key or two, and eventually decided that if the head of the key was at least 0.6" square, it'd work fine.
I mounted the keys in my vise, and used my hacksaw to slice away. The metal in my keys turned out to be pretty soft — it took just two or three minutes to shave off each one. You'll probably want to file the edges when done sawing — you won't want the sharp edges to catch on the wallet or cut your fingers.
The wallet/pocket-knife has eight narrow pockets for keys and tools, and one main pocket for cards and cash. In the tool pockets, I carry three keys, a knife, a USB drive, a file/screwdriver, a scissors, toothpick, pen and tweezers. In the large pocket, I carry three credit cards, a drivers license, medical insurance card, and some cash. No coins, obviously!
Specifications, Cost, Time
The wallet weighs just 3.5 ounces when fully loaded. It measures 4" long, 3" wide, and about 0.65" deep. I can easily fit my cellphone in the same pocket without feeling weighed down. Or, I can put the phone in my other front pocket for that barely-there experience.
Once I had the final design down, it didn't take long to make the wallet at all. Maybe about two hours for the assembly and another half hour for the keys.
The cost is quite variable, depending on what you've already got. I needed to purchase the leather, heavy-duty thread, and a leather sewing machine needle. Couple that with making copies of my keys and the total cost was about $20. If you need to buy a SwissCard or some other multi-tool from which to get your mini-tools, figure on another $20. My USB stick is from Kingmax — they make the slimmest USB drives around. It runs about $10 for a 2GB version. If you need a hacksaw and/or a file, those can be had for $5 each or so.
It's not exactly James Bond-esque, I know, but it works great for my needs. Maybe in the next revision, I'll throw in a rocket launcher or something.
Do let me know if you try to make it, I'd love to know how it turned out. And if you make any improvements to it, tell me that too. I'm sure I'll be tempted to make another revision at some point.