Cases and Penners

Cuir Bouilli Case for cell phone

I have been asked a few times if I could video tape how I make some of my art. I decided to video tape how to make a specific kind of construction for cuir bouilli cases that are found extensively throughout Europe during the Late Middles Ages into the Renaissance.

The cases I speak of are made up primarily of 4 layers of thin leather (1-3oz). Within this construction, you can see that the inner most layer for the body and the inner most layer for the lid are sewn, normally with the grain side facing inward. The next layer is glued to the previously sewn layer so as to no have any seams showing. You will see this on the inner lip layer of the body section and the outermost layer that is normally highly decorated, both of of these have the grain side facing outward. The artisans would skive (shave down the edges) of the leather so when gluing the layer down, it would disappear into the tooled design, hiding itself from the viewer/owner.

Sometimes these cases were painted or gilded, and sometimes they were left with just the darkening of the leather by using oil, which would also seal and condition the leather.

Here is a link to the first video of the series. To view all of them, please go to my channel and there you will find a list of the other videos.

Making a Cuir Bouilli Phone Case

The following are a few photos of the final piece, along with a few images from extant pieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Arts online Collection.

The following are some of the cases I found from the online collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Also a few links to items displayed on the online collection for the Victoria and Albert Museum. The images are under copyright so I am unable to show them directly on this site. My apologies in advance.

Pen Case


Pen Case

Also, I am writing a paper that will also talk about how the cases were built. I will be posting it here soon. With that said, the videos are much more informative and go into detail about how and why I made the case the way I did.

Needle Cases

Lately I have been working on some small leather cases for needles. I wanted to give them the classic highly decorated design of the middles ages and renaissance using vegetable tanned leather and a technique called cuir bouilli . Most of the cases are dyed with a recipe called Vinegaroon. It has been used for a very long time. It turns the leather black. It is still used today for holster makers. I also used animal hide glue to harden the leather. At some point I will go into this in more detail when I have time to post.

Penner Case and Ink Bottle

This case is using a combination of stitching and gluing with animal hide glue. The ink bottle is a leather encase glass bottle.

Penner Case

The following is a penner case. It’s made from 2oz leather, first dyed and then hardened with animal hide glue.

Book Case

The following is a case I made for a book (that I also made). I unfortunately no longer have the book. But I did dye the leather for the book using iron.

I wrapped a wooden board (the same size of the book) with leather and sewed a leather top and bottom to it so the board was completely encase. I then added a strap of leather that would be used to keep the lid in place. I used animal hide glue on the bottom half of the strip and then attached another piece of leather that I then stitched, making sure I didn’t stitch across the area where I would be cutting the leather. I then glued down thin leather pieces that had been cut and skived over the top and bottom of the case. I had tooled another thin piece of leather with the designs that would show on the outside of the case. I skived all the edges and carefully wrapped the tooled leather over the surface of the leather form, gluing it down with animal hide glue. I also cut slits in the narrow sides of the case to allow for thick leather strips to fit under. This is where the cording would go through. Some would be done on the lid and some on the bottom. I used a recipe  for medieval gesso and practice on strips of leather to learn how to apply it. I also used bole for the base for the gilding. I applied the gesso to the areas that would be painted and or gilded. I also applied the bole for the gilding. I then used recipes for medieval paints using eggs and ground pigments. I then proceeded to paint the images and gilt the surfaces that were intended. I made a display for the book, case and materials so it could be presented at SCA events. I’ve been meaning to try out making another case like this one, but a bit differently. I think I  could have used thinner leather for parts of the book case