Making a Leather Book Cover with Your Name on It at TechShop, a High-Tech DIY Workshop

[Fujitsu Journal Team Experience Report]

TechShop Tokyo, a membership-based, open-access DIY (Do It Yourself) workshop, opened in Akasaka, Tokyo in April 2016. For this report, three Fujitsu Journal team members participated in a workshop on making book covers to experience the fun of manufacturing. How are new things made at this workshop? The Fujitsu Journal team reports on their manufacturing experience.

TechShop Tokyo, Equipped with Nearly 50 Different Types of Work Equipment, Such as Laser Cutters and 3D Printers

TechShop is a membership-based, open-access DIY workshop that started in San Francisco, USA. The workshop is equipped with nearly 50 different types of work equipment, including state-of-the-art tools such as laser cutters and 3D printers as well as a 3D turning machine (CNC woodworking turning machine), the only such machine on Japan's main island, Honshu.
After completing the required training, TechShop members can freely use these work tools and equipment.
Active communication among members is also one of TechShop's attractions. A large workspace room without partitions offers good visibility so that members can see what others are making. The open space fosters natural conversations among members. Also, on the day of our visit, many members were manufacturing using the cutters and sewing machines in the workshop.
You can read more about TechShop Tokyo here: Grand Opening of TechShop Tokyo in the Ark Mori Building on April 1.

Making a Unique Original Book Cover at the Workshop

TechShop frequently holds one-off workshops where non-members can also experience manufacturing.
This time, TechShop held a workshop on making a leather book cover especially for the Fujitsu Journal team.
Ms. Izawa, a Dream Consultant, kindly explained to us how to use the work machines and tools as well as how to treat the leather. She has extensive knowledge about how to use leather to make small items.

Ms. Izawa, Dream Consultant

We eagerly began our trial manufacturing experience.

The procedure consisted of the following steps:
1) Selecting a piece of leather
2) Cutting the leather with a laser cutter
3) Sewing the leather
4) Adding a name

1) Selecting our favorite pieces of leather that felt good in our hands

First, we selected our favorite colors of leather.

There are various types of leather - some offer a soft texture, while others give the impression of a nicer texture during extended use. We touched each piece of leather and selected our favorites. We were very interested in the many types of unprocessed leather materials, which we have not seen before.
"Thin leather is the most appropriate for a book cover, though it may be a bit difficult to sew. By contrast, I can recommend thick leather for beginners because it is easier to sew," Ms. Izawa advised.
"I'm all thumbs, so I will use thick leather." "Absolutely, soft leather seems to be a better fit for books." In this manner, our conversation became quite lively.

After selecting our pieces of leather, we selected sewing threads. Here again, we exchanged ideas with each other. "This orange thread looks best on black leather." "Pink thread looks good on this blue piece of leather, doesn't it?" At last we decided on our combinations of leather and thread.

2) Cutting leather down to pocketbook size in only 60 seconds with a laser cutter

With all our materials prepared, we were ready to use a work tool. In this workshop, we used the most popular tool, a laser cutter, which is a wonderful tool for cutting and engraving wood or acrylic board accurately and precisely based on digital data.

Laser cutter

"What is good about this laser cutter is that it enables beginners to cut materials exactly to identical size quickly and accurately." (Ms. Izawa)
As the name suggests, a laser cutter cuts materials by applying a high-temperature laser. Before setting a piece of leather on the laser cutter, you must protect the part where the laser beam will be applied with tape so that the part does not get burned.

Protecting the part where the laser will be directly applied with tape

Using this work tool, we cut the leather into a book cover shape and imprinted pinholes for sewing. During workshops, the lecturer or a staff member operates the laser cutter. (If you take a two-hour lecture on how to use the laser cutter, you can do it yourself.)

Then, the size data is loaded onto the computer in order to cut the leather to the desired size. In this workshop, you can also use design data that has already been prepared, so there is no need to worry even if you do not know how to use illustration software.

Design data: Using a laser cutter, even unskilled users can accurately cut the material based on digital data.

After setting a piece of leather in place and starting the laser cutter, it took only 60 seconds to cut the leather based on the data. The cut leather had a faint burnt smell. "Has it really cut based on the data so quickly?" We were somewhat doubtful at first, but when we picked up the finished leather, it had been cut to the specified shape, including small pinholes at regular intervals.
We thought it would be difficult for non-professionals to cut leather, so we were surprised to learn that even beginners like us could use a laser cutter to cut leather beautifully like ready-made goods. We did not even have to do edge polishing to smooth the cut edges.
Our pieces of leather were coming closer to resembling book covers!

Even small holes can be accurately cut at regular intervals.

Laser cutters provide a smooth finish to the cross-sections of cut edges, so no edge polishing is necessary.