by Yun-Han Lin
We have always wanted to try leather work, yet it is time-consuming to learn the traditional method for leather working from the beginning, so we might as well try something new. Last year, we used the leftover materials from a friend to make bags using laser-cutting with conventional sewing method. After using the bag for a year, the sewing started to wear out and became loose. We used snap-fit to put together the pieces, and we happened to see the same idea on one of our favorite YouTube channels!
First Trial: Cup Sleeve
We started off with cup sleeves, because the structure and shape are simple, which can be used to test our new assembly method! After roughly measuring the circumference of the drink cup, we drew the plane in Adobe Illustrator. As for the design of the snap-fit, we learned from the video by Jimmy that the male end of the interlocking component should be left pointy, or longer in other words, so that it is easier for assembly because there more space for gripping. After several revisions, we had the perfect size for both the male and female ends of the snap-fit, and voila! We had the first project done.
Second Trial: Small Purse
A complete layout of the bag was easily drawn, but to meet the size of the leather we had at hand, we cut the layout into smaller pieces and added a bit innovation by cutting the piece in a curve. The problem was that it was very time-consuming and labor-intensive to adjust the position and angle of each snap-fit component, given the curve of the design. Fortunately, I found that Illustrator allows users to create custom strokes, and each step is detailed below.
Drawing Snap-fit with a Curve
- We first drew paths for male and female ends of the interlocking components, but the objects were not symmetrically lined on the layout, so there needed to be an outline for positioning.
- We selected the group of components and dragged it directly to the Swatches Panel, where users could see the patterns in the stroke panel.
- Select the path intended for the components and modify the strokes to the patterns designed in the previous step.
- Choose Outline Stroke for the paths turned into the component pattern (from the Object menu, choose Path>Outline Stroke) to delete the outline for positioning and match the male ends with the corresponding female ends.
The layout of the bag featured a square bag, the most basic design. We had to first draw the layout plane and snap-fit components. Then, we randomly created 3 curves to cut the components into small pieces, before the plane was divided for different components. The snap-fit components were then illustrated via applying the above steps to the curves for interlocking.
We used the leftovers for leather couch, whose thickness was about 1 ~ 2 cm. The pieces came in different softness in different parts. During the process, we found that thicker and harder leather was more suitable for our work, which made it easier for manual assembly. The components could interlock better, yet the bearing capacity could only support small bags and holsters. There needed to be more experiments to find out how much weight the structure can carry. In addition, there were tons of dust and burnt smell from laser engraving. The cutting path was rough due to the outline of the snap-fits, which made it difficult to clean up the dust. Because of this, hands may get dirty during assembly, and the dust could be passed onto the inside of the bag as our hands move all over the place. This is one of the most problematic issues, when it comes to using this technology to build works.