Making a Cartridge Box

By Compatriot Bradley Jarard

This blog details the steps to produce a revolutionary war cartridge box built similar to extant examples from the early war(shown in the first picture).  These were of simple construction using cut tacks and minimal sewing.

Most commercially bought cartridge boxes w/straps will run you $100 plus, so this is an economical alternative, plus there may be rules from National coming down that anyone participating in musket salutes must have a pouch or box to hold cartridges for safety reasons.  This was true of the CCSSARs recent trip to Saratoga.


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image004The first step we’re going to do some summarization. You have to create a wood block with holes for the paper charges.  This can be done with a  solid block of wood or as I have, glued two 2x4s together and then trimmed the block all the way around with a table and miter saw.  I then used a ½ forstner bit to drill offset holes with a drill press.  You can do this with a hand drill but your holes will probably not be straight.


image007Items needed:

  • Wood block with holes (corresponding cartridge dowel what is slightly smaller than the hole, for cartridge rolling)
  • Leather:  I used 3oz black leather that I cut a 2×5 rectangle out of.  This was $30 on ebay.
  • Contact Cement
  • Leather sewing kit
  • Chalk or other manner to mark on the leather
  • Masking tape
  • Cut or Upholstry nails (cheap from Lowes)
  • Linen or leather strap (don’t use cotton, you do all the work at least use a period correct strap)

image008I’ve cut the leather to right angles.  Then I’ve laid out the pattern with tap so you can drape the leather up the sides, don’t worry about being exact…you’ll trim later.  Measure the sides/back/front and use the tape to layout the cuts.  You’re basically just draping the leather around all sides.
DON’T attach the leather at this point though.


image009Mark the rear section and then create strip of leather for the strap holder.  Use contact cement to tack and then sew in place along the sides and middle.


image010Mark the center of the bottom apply contact cement and then sew on a long strip of leather. This will become part of the closure mechanism.  You’ll trim later so make it long.


image011Time to start applying contact cement to one side and along the bottom of the wood block


image012Now apply the contact cement to the leather along one side and the bottom.


image013Once the cement is tacky, place the block on the area you have marked for the bottom and then wrap one side and fold the extra over the front and back.


image014Now coat the other block side and leather in contact cement.


image015Now coat the other block side and leather in contact cement.


image016Next, coat the front side in contact cement along the block leather and the remaining front flap.


image017Once the cement is tacky, fold up the front flap and smooth.


image001Now, trim the boxes cover/overflap (whatever you call it).  Notice I’ve trimmed the outer edge about a ½ inch wider than the box.  Going out a full inch would have also have been doable.


image002Now coat the rear side’s leather in contact cement as well as the leather that will face it.


image003Once tacky, place the rear leather against the back and smooth.


image005This part is optional in its final state.  Based on the thickness of the leather you are using, you can trim the overflap so it comes down about an inch below the box.  In this case, I’ve used 3oz leather…which is somewhat thin.  I’ve applied contact cement and doubled-over the leather(after trimming to the correct length) so I get this same size cover flag, but with double the leather thickness.

You can also trim the end of the leather into a scallop design…or leave straight across.  Both were period correct.


image006Now it’s time to tack the leather down to the wood block.  I’ve shown two types of tack, a cut nail type and a coned tack.  I’ve opted for the cut nail type as it is more historically correct and looks better(more rustic).  Either are extremely cheap at Lowes.


image007Hammer the tacks around the box on all sides.

IMPORTANT:  Make sure the area you are nailing into has wood!  Don’t nail into an area that has a hole drilled…you’ll end up with a nail sticking into the hole!  Also, be careful when nailing so you don’t split the wood, which may be weak due to all of the drilling.


image008Now it’s time to create the closure system.  Either purchase or create a small wood dowel long button.  Here I’ve drilled a small hole through a dowel and then cut it to about an inch in length.

Cut a long, ½ width piece of leather with a slit at one end, pass it through the hold back on itself to fix it to the dowel.  You’ll trim the length soon.


image009Hold the box up and position the closure button on the inside and mark the desired length to close with the flap on the bottom.

Trim the leather strip and place contact cement on the boxes main flap(inside) and the end of the button’s leather.


image010Once the cement is tacky, sew the button’s strip down.


image011If you haven’t already done so, cut a small slit in the bottom closure strip to accept the wood dowel button.


image012This step is optional, based-on if you doubled your leather over to make the main flap.  Punch holes for stitching all the way around with a leather awe.


image013Optional:  Stitch the main flap


image014Now get your linen or leather strap.  Najecki.com has the cheapest hemp linen strapping.  Anywhere around 1 ¼ to 2” is the best.


image015Now sewn your straps around the strap holders on the back. I’ve applied a could tacks to each side to help keep in place.  This is but one method to attach straps and you have some creative leeway here.


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The final product, ready to hold cartridges.  Remember, you must have a wood dowel that is slightly smaller in diameter than your box holes.  This is a fun project that produces a nice, period looking box.

You can also do what many early-war minutemen and militia did.  Take an existing leather pouch and place a drilled block of wood in.  Then nail the sides all the way around.


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If you need a drilled-block created for your existing leather bag or pouch, please reach out to compatriot Brad Jarard


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