As I build up the touring bike, I realize there's more experiments I can mess with. Here's a fine DIY when you want to tinker on your bike instead of answering all those unopened emails in your inbox. You don't really need leather wrapped brake levers, but you probably want them, right?
This one is pretty straight-forward and fast... once the shape has been worked out. If you've got Shimano levers, you are in luck. If you've got something else, you'll want to modify the template, but it might get you close at least.
Leather on the levers has a great feel when riding and adds some comfort too, since it's gives you a greater surface area of cushion for your hands. But really, we know it's about tinkering and not for complete usefulness!
Get some thinner leather... I'm using the same 3oz Horween Chromexcel that we use in our wallets. It's got some nice stretch for wrapping corners, but an excellent finish. A small amount will do, you can print out this template and trace it or cut directly on the leather. The profile notches at the end of your lever.
After cutting out the shapes, you'll need to punch holes for the stitching. I've marked it on the PDF, so you can use and awl to mark them. After marking, I used a hand-sewing punch to create right sized holes.
Cut about 27" of waxed cord and begin sewing a loop into the top of the leather piece. Slip that over the brake lever and pull snugly to hold in place. I stitched the first hole twice through to add some strength. The stitch is similar to what's used on a baseball, but I'm employing two needles so I can keep tension as I work down the sleeve. Make three or so loose passes and then pull the cord tight before proceeding. The wax on the cord helps keep tension as you go.
Once you finish to the end, double pass on the last holes and tie up a square knot on the inside of the sleeve. Leave some length on your end threads and tuck them up into the sleeve. Then take a ride and test those babes out!