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J.P. Marcellino custom briefcase - construction progress (review in a bit)

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello -- long time lurker, first time poster here. I recently ordered a custom briefcase from J.P. Marcellino, and figured others might be interested in the progress pics and finished product.


I started designing this briefcase about a year ago by starting with a traditional black academic bookbag, and then adding some features I've found useful while travelling. Customizations were adding d-rings in the lower corners for backpack conversion (from Herz), an umbrella holder in the lid (from Atona), and a newspaper pocket for itineraries/tickets/etc. Oh, and a 3-position latch so the overall visual impression comes out right.


That latch turned out to be a doozy. I couldn't find it at any locksmith website or spare parts catalog, Joe didn't know anyone who sold it, and his English lock vendor wanted $10k to make a custom metal press. So I installed a CAD tool, sent the plans to a CNC miller, and assembled it myself. Tada, one latch aquired.



(external is half-polished)



Joe's currently crafting the briefcase itself. Since this hardware is obviously uncharted territory we're running into some minor issues, but he's been super-patient and progress is looking good. The briefcase will arrive with removable screws so I can adjust or replace hardware components if it doesn't feel right with the final build.



we're gonna need a bigger boat (lol)


The bag I cloned the latch from had much thinner material than Joe's briefcases, so the hasp was not nearly long enough. He was able to find another hasp that fits.

post #2 of 10

Here's is a progress update on this briefcase. 


I've done many custom briefcases throughout the years as most serious members of this forum know.  I have done many interesting additions like putting metal handles on cases, i even had a customer that wanted to incorporate a rare wakizashi blade into the handle structure.  Clients have come to me with many different types of locking mechanisms but this is a first where the lock was custom made.  I appreciate the passion and need to have something unique and why i still love to work on these types of projects instead of sitting on 5 styles and mass producing them. 


On the original hasp - it fit the leather but once i added the lining that loop would not catch.  I just got these new hasp types made for my Hampton combination locks as seen below, They completely cover the flap making it very secure and it puts the loop underneath making the close much easier.


i had to shave that loop down a bit to fit your lock but it is not really noticeable and its from the inside.  If you do change the hasp just make sure there is another plate underneath



i think the 2 parts match fine (sorry about the bad photos i just don't have time to set them up but I'll include great final shots)


here is the inside of the main plate lined in black veg tan calf leather with the umbrella straps under the flap.  I know we initially said to put them into the permanent screw posts but i felt under the bar was much better, they are removable although tight and on the posts would have been a pull on the leather that would stretch.


the inside compartments have the a lighter saddle tan



you can see the top main plate with the corner back pack rings.  i know you said you only wanted the shoulder strap and i guess you were going to do something with the back pack rings at another time, but i am also building and will include back pack straps at no charge.


here is the front plate with the lock and the bottom straps



my only caution is that you said you may want to take the bottom lock off for whatever reason, you will find it very difficult to put it back on so only do it if its absolutely necessary. It is going to be hard to get a screw driver into the formed 2" compartment and also the leather barrier is fiber and i make the holes just big enough for the screws to actually need to be screwed into the leather that way it is very tight and the lock will not move when the bag softens up.  This is not wood or metal where the holes stay at the size they are cut.  As you can see I'm installing the lock on a flat surface when the bag is formed its a different ball game.



the reason why it will be difficult is because - most screw in locks don't install like this. The old ones are riveted from the outside.  Many of the modern ones have prongs.  The ones you do screw in have protruding posts that go into the leather holes making them very easy to screw.  With your lock, the post is the screw.



BTW, if you can visualize it, trying to set this lock in the right position on the leather was very difficult.  If it had those posts, like most locks, i'd be able to set the lock, press the posts into the leather to mark where i need to punch the holes.  This way took very precise measurements and luck.


more to come......

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

That photo of the full lid looks amazing! You're right, the new hasp matches well.


Sorry to hear the lock is giving you trouble! I could only find photos of rivet- and prong-style locks online, so I had to make a wild-ass guess about how screw-style locks are attached. I never even consider having extended screw posts.

post #4 of 10

wait until i polish it up and get better photos or even better when you see and smell it in real life, it's looking insane.


as this is your first time making a briefcase lock, which is not easy, my hat is off to you on designing the lock, modeling it, having the individual parts made and you assembling them.

post #5 of 10

all zipped up and ready for the edges and finishing touches




hand stitched shoulder strap with saddle tan calf lining.



the shoulder strap and back pack straps. 




An update on making more of these locks as I told you i would - i did some tweaks to the design, mainly the back of the lock so it can set into leather easier and maybe the internal parts but I'm still working it out with my guy.  The hasp will be the same design as whats on this briefcase..  I'm going to have them made in solid brass coated with palladium, visually they will look the same for anyone interested in this new design. 


I'll update this thread with finished photos soon

post #6 of 10

OK, all finished and ready to fly. 


This is a very unique briefcase with some awesome qualities


We started with a standard size 16' x 12" with double nice ridged 2" compartments that hold their shape and make getting things in and out really easy.  They are also great for keeping the case upright when you set it down.  


The shoulder strap is lined in vegetable tanned calf with a saddle tan color that matches the interior compartments.  The shoulder strap is also hand stitched.




one of the interesting features of this briefcase is the ability to also make it a back pack.  It still has a very professional image and once the straps are off no one will ever really know it is a backpack when you walk into a meeting.  Those rings on the back are set flat, clean and simple. 


I know the "minimalist" buzzword is going around and I really don't like describing my artwork with trendy saying but my approach has always been simple and classic.  This briefcase still maintains a simple image with complex styles.  When my cases are presented to colleagues (like you present a sculpture or painting hanging in your office) it is not just the design they are interested in, it is also the story of the art piece.  How was the leather made? Who designed it? who made it? and in the case of this bag how did this lock come about? This is the nature of this art and what gives it its real meaning, not slapping a buzzword on a mass produced bag. 





You can see the removable leather buckle straps for a Small umbrella here.  It is a cool addition.  be aware those straps are removable but will be difficult to put them back.  It's just that the metal bar they go under is set tight with permanent screw posts so that handle is nice and firm.




The inside calf is a mix of saddle tan and black with wrapped leather edges











post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

My new briefcase arrived a few days ago, and I couldn't be happier. This thing is built like a tank, the various customizations work just as expected, and it looks perfect.




When I first took it out of the box, I was certain Joe had added a few extra inches somewhere. It has a certain massive presence that doesn't really come across in photos. As a size reference, here it is next to a 13-inch laptop:








The interior is lined with saddle-tan calf leather, which provides a nice contrast to the plain black exterior and will be much easier to clean than suede.


The two loops attached to the lid are an umbrella holder. Joe's central dividers have a small dip in the middle, which gives enough spare room for a compact travel umbrella. They can also be used for holding hard document cases, cable bags, and so on.






Something I noticed about this briefcase is how everything is so nicely finished. The leather is polished smooth, every edge is sealed and painted, the stitches are tidy. It's obvious that a lot of care went into getting the details right.






In addition to backpack/messenger mode, the placement of the D-rings also let the briefcase be attached to a suitcase handle using regular luggage straps. The side rings are below the newspaper pocket, so tickets and itineraries can be accessed without having to open the lid or unstrap anything.


post #8 of 10
great episode of Billion Dollar Buyer right now @JP Marcellino congrats!!!
post #9 of 10

thanks.  i did a styleforum drop but it didn't make the final cut.  It's on youtube if anyone wants to check it out


post #10 of 10
Originally Posted by JP Marcellino View Post

thanks.  i did a styleforum drop but it didn't make the final cut.  It's on youtube if anyone wants to check it out
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

Thats really great. Congrats to you. He seems like a good guy and I hope you have a long and successful relationship with him!
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