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Biltwell: DIY Tutorial

July 12, 2012

So, Greaser Mike needed a new seat for The Pedestrian Killer, Biltwell sells a great uncovered solo seat kit, and as much as I love and appreciate the business, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to share a simple, DIY leather seat tutorial with ya’ll.

Hope it’s helpful!

The Pedestrian Killer as seen in the great hot rod/chopper race of 2012…I’m still not sure who won.

(photo courtesy of Greaser Mike)


Biltwell Slimline Solo Seat, raw pan with foam

4-5oz Vegetable tanned leather: leather is pricey and sold by the hide. You can also check a local shop for smaller scrap pieces

Spray Adhesive (I use an upholstery adhesive,  but any quick tack spray will work)

1/2 yard Muslin: inexpensive cotton used for patterning, available at any fabric store (any scrap fabric on hand will work).


Tailors chalk (or a marker)

leather blade (or an exacto knife)

leather punch (or an awl)

Sharp scissors

Rivet Gun

Rivets: Aluminum, size 1/8 medium

Flat Washers: SAE zinc #8


Dye Sponge (these are denser than household sponges)

Leather Dye (water based)

Leather Finish (matte)


Dish (for water based dye, anything will work)

Garbage Bag

Clean Rag

Ok, now let’s get started!

1. Attach foam to seat pan using a light coat of spray adhesive.

2. Cover seat with muslin. Stretch tightly over seat.

3. Using tailor’s chalk, trace the edge where the seat pan meets the foam.

4. Lay muslin flat. Make a second line on muslin pattern, 1.5” out from your seat edge line, to allow enough leather to wrap over the seat to the back. THIS is your pattern cut line.

5. This will give you enough material to wrap around the seat to secure it using rivets.

6. Transfer muslin pattern to a clean, unblemished piece of leather. Cut leather. Remember, leather is expensive, measure twice, cut once!

7. Soak the cut leather in the sink until it is soft and pliable (a minute or two). Blot dry with a towel. You want it damp, not dripping.

8. The leather will now be completely maleable to the seat pan form. Spray a light coat of adhesive on the seat foam, and stretch the leather over the foam. Make sure you have an even amount of excess leather on all sides.

9. Turn seat upside down (from this point on, place a clean towel under the seat to avoid stains). Mark (on the backside of the leather) the center rivet hole at the back end of the seat. Using a leather punch, make a hole the same size as the hole in the seat pan.

10. Place a flat washer on the outside of the leather. Line up the washer, leather and seat pan hole and secure with a rivet.

11. Flat washers are used to prevent the leather from tearing as the leather dries and shrinks.

12. Once the back center rivet is in place, stretch leather across the seat foam, and secure a flat washer and rivet the front of the seat.

13. Continue on, stretching (don’t strong arm it, but rather smooth it from side to side) securing rivets around the seat in a criss cross pattern (top to bottom, left to right, etc).

14. Wheh. Leather attached!

15. Spay a small amount of adhesive between each rivet

16. Using the rubber mallet, tap the leather flat all the way around the seat pan. As the seat dries, it will retain the shape you are molding now.

17. Smooth the leather flat at the seat front. Fold the leather over from each side towards the rivet and tap as flat as possible.

18. Since the leather will distort slightly from the shaping, use a pencil to mark a even line all around the edge of the leather, using the shape of the pan as a guide.

19. Cut along the pencil line using a sharp blade. Make light cuts and go over them several times, so as not to scratch the seat pan.

20. Ok. You’re 90% done. The seat is covered!

21. I mark all of my seats with my awesome custom Via Meccanica company logo (thanks Greaser Mike!). Even though you would tool leather first, while it’s flat, and then stretch it over the seat pan, this tiny 1” stamp is easy enough to tap into the seat pan once I am completely sure of where I want it to hit. Custom stamps can be purchased online. I got mine from the nice people at Steel Stamps.

22. Time to dye!

Cut a piece of scrap leather.  Put on gloves (this dye is meant to stain leather, dig) and cover your work area with the garbage bag.

23. Using a sponge, dampen the leather evenly with water. Apply the water based dye in a quick circular motion. Water based dyes are meant to soak into the leather, not wiped away immediately. Continue in a circular motion until the entire seat is covered evenly.

Let your test piece dry. Buff the leather with a soft, clean rag. Apply an even coat of leather finish, also in a circular motion and let dry. Buff again.

Let the piece dry entirely.

 for more on leather dye technique

Don’t rush the test dye stage. You spent a lot of time and effort covering that seat.

24. Using the same technique that you mastered on your test scraps, apply dye to the seat.

Time to get put on The Pedestrian Killer…Watch out pedestrians!

Corinna Mantlo

Custom Bike & Hot Rod upholstery at Via Meccanica


P.S – if you did find this post  helpful, feel free to support DIY  tutorials and small business by picking up your very own Via Meccanica  T-Shirt HERE

7 Comments leave one →
  1. D. Owen permalink
    August 31, 2013 1:13 am

    You have officially inspired me to do this myself!!!!! Great tutorial!!!!

  2. Frank permalink
    March 29, 2014 10:44 pm

    Just did mine using your advices… It looks awesome!

    I’m very happy with the result,

    Thank you very much!!

  3. July 14, 2014 7:12 pm

    after searching the interwebs for what seems like forever for a seat I like I’m just gonna make my own…I’ll be using this tutorial to do so. I can’t believe what seats are going for and this momma is on a nonexistent budget. No way am I dumping nearly half of what I paid for my bike on a seat lol. Not sure why I didnt think of this before….but instead of a tattooed leather seat…I’m just going to whip out my wood burning iron and “tattoo” it myself. did that to a leather handbag once and it turned out epic! Thanks for posting this tutorial….cant WAIT to get started!!!!


  1. DIY | Via Meccanica

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