The first paper wallets I made were folded using Japanese Chiyogami, or Yuzen paper, which is a thin but strong material made of fine pulp, then silk-screened with decorative woodblock-style patterns using a wax-resist printing method.Â Yuzen paper is soft to fold,Â and does not become brittle and tear at the crease, but since the back of the paper is not coated with wax, it starts to peel off after a month’s use, and after replacing a few of these, I turned my attention to another lightweight, thin material I had on hand, called Tyvek!
Tyvek is a completely waterproof and tear-free material (really?) commonly used as snailmail envelopes.Â (I got mine for a smile at Kinko’s.)Â It is soft and smooth on both sides, which makes it easy to fold, and unfold.Â But without the laminate, I found the material easily wrinkled and became discolored from use faster than Yuzen paper, which has layers of wax coating its printed surface.Â This Tyvek envelope’s smooth surface may be tough on spills and cuts, but it’s no match for my purposes.Â Nary a month has passed when, chafed from use, the non-woven fibers get pulled up and fuzz themselves into dust magnets.
(oh, I’m sure it would have weathered into a fine leather-like composite!)
Uh… it’s a paper wallet.Â It’s not supposed to last — ya know???
The wear and tear on these first wallets did not really bother me because I can easily make another one from scratch, so I at first, did not understand why someone would like a disposable paper wallet to have better mileage.Â Â But perhaps, they were hinting at how uncool it was to know someone who fished out a dirty-looking wallet when paying for their stuff???Â Â Huh? But I made it myself, you ignorant capitalist!
A fellow bookbinder pulled me aside and suggested: “Why not try book cloth instead?Â It will last longer.”Â I looked at him and thought to myself, what a geek! You can’t origami book cloth! But I didn’t want him to steal my idea, so I just shrugged my shoulders, surreptitiously grabbed a piece of scrap book cloth leftover from a previous project, and folded one just to see how it compares.
Well, it didn’t look much, (the scrap was too scrappy) but it wore better because it actually felt like fabric!Â Book cloth is a thin, tightly-woven, fine fabric/animal skin backed with paper, and primarily used in binding books, boxes and slipcases.Â It can be made from any combination of linen, rayon, cotton, polyester, silk, leather, and imitation leather.Â It is expensive and can be hard-to-find, so I abandoned the bookcloth idea for an old Cavallini calendar and a pack of laminates.Â Here are photos of a laminated cavallini wallet after two months of use:
As you can see, the laminate really made a world of difference, but the wear and tear on the middle fold of the wallet got me thinking:Â What Would A Book Binder Do? and sure enough, book cloth was the answer!
Paper wallets have a life expectancy of one to two months, with the cavallinis, and other printmaking papers, almost always exceeding expectations.Â Book cloth wallets last longer than their paper counterparts, and will rival the laminated Tyvek and Japanese paper wallets in durability.
I have walked, ran, skated, and biked with these wallets on me.Â I have never lost any cash or cards, and surprisingly enough, they did not self-destruct on those sweltering hot days when you just can’t not be sweating buckets.Â And yes, the book cloth wallets will have patches of sweat on them when you first pull them out of your pockets, but they will dry clear without a stain.Â Here are photos of a not-so scrappy, non-laminated tri-color book cloth wallet I have been using since July.