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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.

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  1. Project Steps

    1. Step: 1

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      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.

    2. Step: 2

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      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

    3. Step: 3

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      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.

    4. Step: 4

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      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.

    5. Step: 5

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      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.

    6. Step: 6

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      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.

    7. Step: 7

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      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.

    8. Step: 8

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      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. ;)

    9. Step: 9

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      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!

    10. Step: 10

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      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.

    11. Step: 11

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      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".

    12. Step: 12

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      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.

    13. Step: 13

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      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.

    14. Step: 14

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      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.

    15. Step: 15

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      Once the snaps are in place, sew the opening closed with a clean topstitch.

    16. Step: 16

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      You should also have nice, clean straps (2 each).

    17. Step: 17

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      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.

    18. Step: 18

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      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.

    19. Step: 19

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      On the inside part of the wooden backpack, the rivets should look clean.

    20. Step: 20

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      STEP 14: Test-fit the hardware which will hold the straps. I'm using D-ring tie downs, which can be ordered from They are attached using rivets, as well (1/4" rivets).

    21. Step: 21

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      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.

    22. Step: 22

      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.

    23. Step: 23

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      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.

    24. Step: 24

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      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.

    25. Step: 25

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      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,, and subscribe. I'll send you more projects just like this! :)

Comments (49)

  • i love your work such great ideas coming from ya i love the backpack you could sell these id buy one id like to win a drill

    By carol clark
    • Thanks, Carol!! What would be even cooler is to cut all the materials and sell the *kit* so that people could assemble it themselves! That would be awesome, right?? Godo luck on winning!

      By Thriftdiving

  • That is the coolest backpack EVER! I need a new jigsaw. (Mine belonged to my husband's grandfather... it's seen better days.) I hear the plunge tool is cool. Maybe a scroll saw? I can come up with lots of things I "need"!

    By mandyjcasey
    • I've got a scroll saw! I haven't unpacked it yet because I'm in the midst of getting the other side of my garage together. But I've heard they're just like using a sewing machine, only with a blade! :)

      By Thriftdiving

  • Great backpack. I'm going to try and make one. A router would make my projects a lot easier for me to do. I have a hand saw, drill, and my drill also works as a screw drive. Love all of your projects, look forward to them. I will admit I sometimes do them a little different than you. kickingback now. Judy King-B

    By kickingback now
    • Hey there, Judy! Glad to hear you're pulling together your collection of tools! A router is such a cool tool to own. I had no idea there were so many router bits to do everything imaginable! I'm building my collection of those. And that's good that you do things differently than me! The key is actually DOING something! So I'm happy to hear this! :)

      By Thriftdiving

  • Such a cute bag and great tutorial! I just purchased my first house and would absolutely looooooove to have a compound miter saw and a pressure washer for the projects on my list. :)

    By NickiJo
    • Hey there, NickiJo! Congrats on buying your first house. The miter saw will come in handy, especially if you decide to hang your own crown molding! Unfortunately, the $300 in tools is only for the power tools. The outdoor tools are a separate department not included in this giveaway. BUT....this spring, I may be doing a giveaway and makeover challenge with them, too, so there's still hope to win that pressure washer at that time! :)

      By Thriftdiving

  • I agree; that's the perfect size. The only thing that might make it even cooler is if we could change the fabric out for a different color. ☺ Thanks for pointing out we can substitute a router for a jig saw. I love all my Ryobis- Luckily the 18 v one can use the lithium batteries. I didn't realize they made a pressure washer; that would be great to win. Thank you!

    By Gardenerz
    • Oooh, that would be really cool! In that case, the next one I make will have a piece of fabric riveted, but that piece of fabric will be a small row of fabric with SNAPS attached, and then you can change it out! Thanks for the idea! I have another one cut and will attempt to do that! I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

      By Thriftdiving

  • I love this project. I think this is your best DIY project ever. How heavy is this? It looks like it weighs a good bit...but the cool factor makes it worth it.

    By Kathyhills
    • You know what? It LOOKS heavier than it is. I was worried at first how heavy it would be because the bocote wood is dense. But when putting it on, it's actually not that heavy! I guess the back is very strong. ;)

      By Thriftdiving

  • Love your blog, you are my idol. I always want it to do my own repairs and dyi around the house. After reading your blog I registered for a women woodworking classes. Now I learning how to use power tools and I love it. I made two stepstool ( i will send you pictures) now everybody i know wants one and I want to make a table but I newd some powers tools. It will be awesome to have my own and I can do my work at home instead of the community place. Love, the backpack great idea and a fun project. Gladys

    By Gladysew61
    • Gladys, your comment leaves a smile on my face! You're the reason I love blogging and inspiring women so much, because you were inspired and then DID something about it! So happy to hear you're learning how to use tools! We have a woodworking class near me and I would have taken it if they classes weren't on the weekends. Hubby works weekends so there's no one to watch the kids for 2 solid days while I take classes. They also have classes on Finishing 101, and I want to check it out and learn some new tips! :) Thanks!

      By Thriftdiving

  • Cool bag and great directions. I have only hand tools, so any power tool would be a major step up. I could really use the One + Ultimate 6 piece kit.

    By Joni CS

  • Love this! Since I prefer things that are a bit different and like backpacks because they leave my hands free, this is a win-win. Since I own very few power tools, I would be like a kid in a candy store if I won! Maybe some kind is saw, maybe a router, maybe maybe maybe.....

    By nita
    • LOL, so many to choose from! I just got a band saw last week, but I haven't unboxed it yet because I have nowhere to set it up yet. Still getting the garage set up. But I hear amazing things about it and how much more control you have when cutting things with shapes and curves!

      By Thriftdiving

  • Very neat idea! I'd definitely use it! I love your blog and your inspirational diy projects! I would be so excited to win a miter saw :)

    By Sashan
    • Good luck, Sashan! Thank you for the compliment!

      By Thriftdiving

  • YES!! Another great video. Love the way you thought outside the box and created something useful. Using that riveter tool looks hard and fun at the same time. Question: you glued, could you have also used the nail gun? The Ryobi cordless nailer would make me a very happy women. Great video!!

    By user_vauss_172581
    • OMG, the riveter....amazing and difficult at the same time! They're really hard to squeeze together, so at times I have to use the workbench as leverage and push it down that way. I finally had to call in hubby and his huge hands to help! So if you have a man around with big strong hands, have him squeeze it for you! To answer your question, yes, I could have used a nailer, but I didn't want to leave any nail holes. If I were painting it, the nail holes could have easily been filled and painted over and you'd never know. But with stain or leaving it stainless, the nail holes would have been so obvious. Wood glue is stronger than wood, so if left to dry properly, and clamped securely, it will provide a very tough seam.

      By Thriftdiving

  • This is great! You are so creative! I could use all sorts of tools. I would like a jigsaw and a small sander. My husband has many tools, but most of them are too big and heavy for me and the projects I do. Thanks so much for sharing your project and for the giveaway!

    By pamijoy
    • Hey there, Pam! Yes, the jigsaw is great! It's one of my favorite, quick, go-to tools when I need to cut something quick or with angles! Good luck in winning!

      By Thriftdiving

  • Omg! This bag is so cute! Might try making one even though I'm still learning ! I love your blog and follow on Instagram! I would love a jig saw , sander , more batteries and the big charger. I love ryobi tools! I would also love the stand for my miter saw !

    By sagirl76
    • Hey there! So glad you like the back! You could totally make this!

      By Thriftdiving

  • LOVE THIS! It's so easy to put one's own individual spin on it too, from changing sizes, material colors, closures, etc. Brilliant!

    By ed1claudia
    • Yes, you are correct! And for anyone concerned about the weight (which it doesn't weight much at all), you could use 1/2" plywood on the sides instead of the 3/4". Plus, the wood I used is exotic wood (bocote) which is denser. But plywood doesn't weigh as much. And you can paint the sides bright colors! :) So many possibilities! :)

      By Thriftdiving

  • I'd love to get my DIY on and actually make this. I need lots of cool new power tools. Nothing would disappoint me ... It'd be a hard decisiot!

    By Dannie17
    • Good luck, Dannie! I would love for you to make it, too. It's a fun project. One of the most fun I've done this year so far! :)

      By Thriftdiving

  • Good looking bag! Very glad to have found your site. We have a Ryobi circular saw and would love an orbital sander too :o)

    By brwndot
    • Glad you found me, too! :) You will enjoy the sander. Lots of refinishing you can do with it!

      By Thriftdiving

  • Your design is very creative. I can't wait to pin it on Pinterest. BTW I want all the Ryobi tools!

    By sethpinckney

  • What a fascinating project and a fantastic result! I'm sure you'll get many compliments. But I definitely need some tools: I don't have any saw, could use a sander, maybe a nail gun, and a while back you showed a smallish work station that would be perfect. Not sure of the prices, but any of these tools within the contest limit would get me super excited and help me get a workshop area set up in my garage. Thanks for sharing and giving us an opportunity to win.

    By Teckla

  • very cute! I could see me carrying around a tote version. If I won I'd probably get a planer or a jigsaw.

    By bbbmonce

  • I have never heard of a wood backpack. What a wonderful project. I enjoy reading your blog. Not sure which tool if I won but I love Ryobi. Maybe an orbital sander or shoot this is hard. Must give more thought. LOL

    By Cris P

  • That's an awesome backpack Serena. Looks like we have a winner here. It's absolutely beautiful. It's so different from all of the other backpacks. This one is by far the most original backpack that I've ever seen. Those Ryobi tools get the job done every time. My dad was a carpenter by trade just like Saint Joseph in the Bible. Yes, his name was also Joseph. He loved building things. I bet you that he would have loved to have these Ryobi tools to work with. It would have made life a little easier on him. I love the miter saw but it's probably over my budget. The jig saw looks like it would do the trick. I read where you can cut wood surfaces, thin sheet metal, plastics and laminates. That's my kind of tool.

    By SisterSister

  • Serena, the backpack turned out so nice and I would have never thought of making one out of wood. My current project is cleaning the countless blobs of glue off of my now exposed pine wood ceiling. Found a cheap oscillating corded tool with a blade to see if it will do the trick and it works! However, it would be nice to have the cordless one Ryobi makes (didn't realize they made one until today) so it would be much easier to be on scaffolding or a ladder with your hands above your head and not end up getting tangled up in the cord. Thank you for sharing your projects and encouraging others to challenge themselves to try things they thought they were not capable of doing!

    By tgail

  • Awesome backpack!! I badly want a Ryobi brad nailer and a miter saw

    By monarch64

  • Whew! What a project! I think yours is worth about $185! It was a clever idea, which would be very useful for someone with a laptop or some fancy electronic thingie... talk about protection! There you go, I'd like to win a laptop. No, just kidding... I just realized that I need a serious stapler or nail gun, since I keep doing upholstery stuff, even though I had sworn it off... Great project, Serena!

    By LindaLW666

  • My experience with ryobi tools has been really good, would love to add some more of them for "making cool stuff". Serena from Thrift Diving has a great blog and is the reason I came to the Ryobi website . (I don't know her and she didn't pay me to say that- but I wouldn't turn down any contributions. lol).

    By ed1claudia

  • I'm not a back pack person, especially not a wooden one. LOL But this video is inspirational! Now, I want to make a project tote for my take along embroidery projects! I need some saws to get started, though.

    By Nanette

  • Way to think out of the box for this one! I'm enjoying your blog so far and it's great to have access to cool ideas and stuff like Ryobi nation!' My husband and I just moved into our first home and we are so excited to start doing more major DIY projects. I'm excited to get some finish nail guns and a jig saw to make both a headboard for our new bed and to install board and batten style wainscoting in our dining room!

    By Kayschwab8

  • Such a cool project! You always have interesting ideas and projects. Keep up the great work.

    By marys96596_42687

  • Absolutely amazing. I wish I could make one, but I'd probably end up with a chopped finger, or two. I'm scared of power tools, haha.

    By mar99

  • I just love your projects and I love this backpack I would love to win a new jigsaw. Currently making the window covering with the frame in the material for my master bedroom now I need to try to make this thanks for all that you do

    By LbuersLodi

  • This is one of the nicest things I've seen! I'll try it!! Thanks Serena for all you do!!

    By mtaylor729

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