How to Make a Knock-Off DIY Wooden Backpack
Two words that you never think of going together: wood and backpack. But it's possible! I wanted to create some wearable wood and the first thought that came to mind was a wood backpack. Online, wood backpacks can cost upwards of $170 or more. But for about $35, I was able to create an affordable knock-off with custom touches that make the wooden backpack unique to my own style.
STEP 1: Cut two pieces of 1/4" birch plywood to construct the front and back of the wooden backpack using a circular saw or jigsaw. If you have a table saw, even better. But it's not necessary to have the big tools. You can make the size whatever you'd like, but mine is 12" wide and 11" tall.
STEP 2: Choose an exotic wood for amazing sides! I chose Bocote wood because it stood out to me at the woodworking store! It's gorgeous, right?? It came in a 24" length so I cut the board in half, with each side measuring 11 15/16" tall. Keep in mind that exotic woods are expensive! This 24" board was $25! YIKES! No room for errors here.... LOL
STEP 3: Using a jigsaw or a router (I used a jigsaw), measure and cut (or route) 1/4" off each side of the Bocote wood. This will allow the 1/4" plywood to sit flush to the Bocote. You'll be left with a fat "T" shape. Leave 15/16" at the top.
STEP 4: When you have no compass, you use your kids' cup lids to draw an arc. :) You'll want the top rounded off, so use whatever you have to create an even arc.
STEP 5: Cut and sand the arcs. I used my jigsaw to cut out the shapes. They needed some smoothing out. I found that the bench sander worked best. Just be careful not to over-sand and ruin the shape.
STEP 6: Measure and cut the front piece of plywood. You'll want to have enough space for your hand to reach in and grab your notebook, phone, keys, etc. I measured in 2", and down 2", then cut it out with the jigsaw.
STEP 7: You should be left with a piece that looks like this, which I held together with clamps. At this point, you should probably cut out your bottom piece. I don't have exact measurements for it because my sides were a little wonky and uneven. So I simply traced out a bottom insert with 1/2" plywood.
NOTE: You won't be gluing just yet! The clamps are just to hold it in place for planning and dry-fitting.
STEP 8: Pick a fabric! This is the fun part! You can get really creative here. I'm a vegetarian, and plus I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg. So I chose faux leather, which was a really thick vinyl. It was on sale at the fabric store for about $8 for 1 yard. I bought 1/2 yard. Find a great lining fabric, too! Something that will surprise people when you pull back the faux leather flap. ;)
STEP 9: Measure from the back of the backpack (about 1" down from the top), wrapping a tape measure over the side, down to where you want your fabric to rest. Be sure to add seam allowances of 5/8" to the back and front!
Your cut fabric should also be cut as wide as your wooden backpack (12") but be sure to include 5/8" seam allowances to the width on both sides. Therefore, your width will be 13 and 1/4", but add in another 1/4 just in case you need it. It's always easier to TRIM away fabric than it is to ADD fabric! Your cut piece will be 13 1/2" wide. Cut a piece of lining fabric the same width at the faux leather.
Be sure to cut out TWO straps, as well. Cut them as long as you'd like, but cut them 3" wide to allow for folding over. The finished size of the straps should be 1".
STEP 10: Sew your straps. To sew straps, fold the seam allowances in about 1/2" and then fold over on itself. Topstitch using a sewing machine. To keep the stitching straight, I used a special foot that helps keep the strap feeding straight and even through my sewing machine.
STEP 11: With right sides together, sew your faux leather and lining fabric together, leaving the bottom of the fabric open so that you can turn the fabric right-side out and attach the magnetic snap.
STEP 12: Add the magnet snaps. To figure out where to place them, lay your sewn faux leather over the wood backpack and figure out where they'll need to be placed.
STEP 13: Attach three 1/4 rivets in order to join the sewn faux leather flap to the back of the wood backpack. First, use scissors to create small holes in the fabric, and insert the rivets.
The rivets should be placed at 3", 6", and 9" across the back. To attached the fabric to the wood, drill a hole first that is appropriate to the diameter of the rivet you're using. Then insert the rivet into the fabric, and into the wood. Be sure to use rivet washers on the back of the rivet for extra strength. Use a riveter to squeeze and snip off the mandrel (the long, skinny part). Riveters can be bought for about $20 at The Home Depot. Warning: Riveters are HARD to squeeze! Use help if you've got a small or weak grasp.
STEP 14: Test-fit the hardware which will hold the straps. I'm using D-ring tie downs, which can be ordered from TheHomeDepot.com. They are attached using rivets, as well (1/4" rivets).
Drill the holes for the D-ring tie downs. Again, be sure to use the right drill bit depending on the size rivets used. I used 1/4" rivets with 3/16" diameters to attach the tie down hardware.
STEP 15: Glue everything together. This step doesn't happen until the end since there are so many pieces of hardware and attachments that need to be attached first. It's easier to do that without it being constructed. Clamp it while it dries.
STEP 16: Add screws to the left and right, along with straps. Because I only could use 3 rivets, I needed a way to secure the ends of the flap to the edges. I used small screws, drilled small pilot holes (so I didn't split the Bocote wood), and screwed the fabric. I love the hardware look against the fabric! Add the straps. Be sure to have an adjustable strap thing so that you can make adjustments. Look on YouTube for the tutorial on how to make straps adjustable.
STEP 17: Apply a finish. I used Danish oil on the Bocote, letting it soak in for 30 minutes, and then wiping off, reapplying, and letting it soak for an additional 15 minutes. It made the wood look great! I haven't added a finish to the plywood yet because I don't want to add something that's going to yellow the wood. But whatever I use, it will be a clear finish. I love the contrast between light and dark wood.
It looks absolutely fantastic! And to think I made this for about $35 versus paying $170 for it from a company online. :)
I hope you enjoyed this project! If so, be sure to come back to my blog, ThriftDiving.com, and subscribe. I'll send you more projects just like this! :)
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adjustable straps hardware
riveter and various rivets
d-ring tie downs
rivets (1/8" and 1/4")
bocote exotic wood
1/4" birch plywood