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This is a discussion on Home Brew Leather Projects within the Projects forums, part of the Firearm Forum category; Hi All, While I enjoy a new firearm as much as most of ya'll, I also like to stretch that pleasure by adding to my ...


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Old March 6th, 2012, 07:59 PM   #1
 
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Home Brew Leather Projects

Hi All,

While I enjoy a new firearm as much as most of ya'll, I also like to stretch that pleasure by adding to my new purchases' value with some new leather items. Since quality leather products can run into some serious money and being a cheap old goat, I enjoy making my own. With the advent of Tandy Leather Stores being all across the country, purchasing the materials and tools is not that difficult and they also have a growing web presence that is getting bigger with the addition of video presentations, patterns and other goodies. While being the most common, there are also other outfits that sell tools and the basic material, leather all around the country so don't just fall into making that your one stop to look. I regularly purchase leather from a couple of other places when I have the funds in hand as they are a bit less expensive for entire hides.

With the addition of my new to me Ruger P-90 some new leather was definitely on my list of things to do. I like pancake style holsters for general carry as they distribute the weight on the belt nicely and ride high enough so that you can sit in your vehicle without it digging into the seat or you. I also like the minimalist approach at times as a method of going low key for other reasons. So those are usually the first things that I will whip up for my new purchases.





Along with the holster to carry the piece, something to carry the spare magazine is always a good bet. I did get one extra magazine when I purchased the pistol so I whipped up a pattern using the magazine as a model on some 100 pound card stock. That lets me keep them around to make others should I ever have a need. Basically I just make a back piece that will generally include a belt loop and the front section that can be folded and sewed up to finish the project.



Once the pattern is made up and cut out you can use it to trace on a piece of leather to make the actual pieces. The front part is made up from some 4 to 5 ounce weight leather since it has to be folded a few times to make the shape that you need. Since the back only requires being folded once to make the belt loop, I generally go with a thicker leather like 8 to 9 ounce weight leather to help keep things in shape. After cutting the parts out you can go ahead and edge them with a skiving or beveling tool which angles the outside edges and makes them smoother than a sharper 90 degree angle as cut. Once the edges are beveled you can then lay in the sewing channels with an adjustable gouge made for that purpose. This serves to drop the top of the thread to about leather height all over so nothing is likely to get nicked in use. It also makes it easier to run a pounce wheel through the channels to make the indentations where you will need to punch the holes for the thread with an awl. Where I have to fold leather up to make sharp edges I generally will cut a channel with an adjustable gouge to help so the leather doesn't bunch up. This is especially important on small projects like magazine pouches where you are working with dimensions like a 1/2 inch or so over the length of the parts.

Once all that work is done you need to dye the leather to what ever color you chose. After the dye is set and dry you need to add whatever finish product you care to use. In this day and age you can choose between Acrylic products or the older types that usually have a bit of a whang to them when drying. Either one works well once they have dried, but if you are working at home I would suggest the Acrylics as they are less objectionable to the ladies of the house. It is important to do all this before you try to assemble your projects as once put together you may find places where it is neigh impossible to reach.

For my first magazine pouch to carry just the single extra magazine I already finished it and this is what I came up with.





When you consider that a commercial product would run anywhere from $20 to $30 out the door and the materials may or may not be what you want, I like my home brew projects considerably more. They are glued and then sewn together using the old saddle makers lock stitch all the way around and I know what is going on there. Custom made to fit a particular piece is also preferable to machine made to fit more than one product.

Since I purchased another magazine to go with my pistol, I now have to make up a double pouch to carry both. Breaking out my patterns it was an easy matter to make a double back and two front pieces. Since this is considerably wider than the single pouch I am choosing to make two belt slides on either side of the backing piece. These will also make the pair of magazines ride just a little higher on my belt and they also offset the weight of the pistol on the opposite side a little.



I will be working on getting these pieces ready for finishing over this weekend (my weekends are Wednesday and Thursday due to job functions).



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Old March 6th, 2012, 09:12 PM   #2
 
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Nice holsters!

I wanted to make one for a full size revolver but I couldn't get a big enough piece of leather from the local Tandy w/o buying a half-hide ($90!).

But I might get a shoulder or quarter piece and make a holster for the SR9c. Did you wet form the leather to the gun? Any tips?
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Old March 7th, 2012, 06:59 AM   #3
 
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Hi fishfree,

Yeah, sometimes if the project is on the large size obtaining enough material to do it can be spendy. But when you consider the alternative of purchasing a ready made professional model it puts that cost into perspective. Since a fully lined holster, one that has finished leather inside and out, is a good idea for something custom, have you considered using lighter weight material like 4 to 5 ounce leather then doubling it up with an inner and reversed image outer piece? This is usually a less expensive alternative to using 8 to 9 ounce leather over all.

I am currently making a two gun western movie era rig that is 8 to 9 ounce leather lined with pigskin. Purchasing a custom rig for specific firearms like that from any of a number of professional makers would run into the 4 to 5 hundred dollar range. I managed to get away with a double shoulder for $80 on sale and section of pigskin for right at $15. While my efforts might not be on a par with what the real pros do, taking my time and working on it when I can to make something like this will get me where I want to go for a whole lot less than that $400 to $500. Trading time and effort for dollars is mostly the reason that I do this sort of thing.





And yes, wet forming a holster to a firearm is one of the things that make it work. While the old, "stick the newly made holster in the horse trough and then shove the gun in it" has been replaced with a plastic sheet wrapped firearm and hot water out of the tap, it accomplishes the same thing. Molding the wet leather to the firearms' shape with a bone folder or other hard object makes for a very good fit. Both of my Ruger pistol holsters were wet formed to the specific firearms. They also have a reinforcing strip at the top of the holster opening to stiffen that area and keep it open when the weapon is removed so you can get it back in without having to fight things to do so.

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Old March 7th, 2012, 08:55 AM   #4
 
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Nice stuff!
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Old March 7th, 2012, 06:01 PM   #5
 
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Thanks yzingerr,

Spending some time on my project after getting my chores done today, I have progressed right along. The first thing that I did was to set out the lines where all the sewing needed to go with a ruler and pencil. After that I used the adjustable gouge to trace over those lines to create channels for the stitching to lie in. The gouge is the tool with the little "L" shaped doodad running through the end of the chrome shaft. There is a set screw in the end of it that lets you adjust the gouge end to a desired width from the edge and keep it there. Just run it down the cut edge with the chrome shaft resting on there and you create a nice little recessed line. Repeated tracing deepens it to what ever depth you prefer.

Next comes the pounce wheel, the tool with the little pointed star shaped wheel. These come in different sized wheels so that you can select the spacing on your stitches. Running the wheel down the groove creates a line of marks that you can punch with a sharp awl to sew up your projects. I prefer six to an inch for most of my stitching.

The last tool with the wooden handle is the beveling tool that shaves the sharp corners off of the various pieces to make them angled. This gives things a more finished appearance on your projects. The chromed looking box shape is another grooving tool. It cuts a wider trough in leather and is also adjustable for depth. I used it to cut the grooves on the inside of the holster pouches where these parts need to be folded up. The first picture shows everything all marked and laid out with the tools on the top. Other than some needles and a sharp awl along with contact cement and waxed poly thread that is all I use to assemble my projects.



This shot shows the back side of the pouch with the deeper and larger grooves laid in for folding. The bottom of each pouch is the first thing that gets sewn up with the outside pieces. The two small tabs get folded under and glue is applied to the tops of each and a spot on the longer bottom section with the two grooves. There will be stitching through both grooves to lock the bottom up and start the shaping process for these pieces.



Before anything gets assembled, I dye all the pieces inside and out. It gives a more professional and finished appearance to your projects. I used Tandys' Eco-Flo Acrylic Leather dye in Bison Brown, the same as I used on the belt slide and the other single magazine pouch. It only takes a little while and the parts are dry and can be handled.



The first sewing that I did was to attach the two belt loops to the back side of the backing piece. These are first glued with contact cement applied to both pieces, allowed to tack over and then they are joined and clamped and let sit for a while longer. Once things are secure and with the clamp still in place but adjusted to give me clearance to one line of stitching marks, I used my awl to punch the holes. Sewing up the one line secures that part so I can remove the clamp and then punch the second row of holes and sew that up. After doing one side of each loop I used a piece of scrap leather that is the thickness of the belt that I will be carrying the pouch on to figure out where the other side needs to get glued down and sewn to. A repeat of the same procedure of sewing one line then the other makes for a very secure mounting with ample space for the belt. By having two loops I can run my belt through one then a belt loop on my britches and then the second. This serves to secure the pouch in place so that it doesn't move around on my belt in use. I have also started to fold up the outer pieces using a wide jaw set of pliers to start forming these parts. When I start sewing up the bottoms this makes it easier. Just like the belt loops the outer parts will be sewn on, one side at a time after gluing and clamping.

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Old March 7th, 2012, 07:10 PM   #6
 
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Well Sir, you might not consider yourself a pro but your work is excellent! Working with leather can be a lot of fun but I was never much good at the tooling or carving. I still have all my tools and tinker with them on occasion. Very nice work.
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Old March 8th, 2012, 12:16 PM   #7
 
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Thanks 41RED,

I had much the same problem when I first started out. Most of my stuff looked like something a kid would turn out at first. As time went on and I just kept plugging away at it, I gradually got a little better. The only way to get good at things like carving and tooling designs is to practice, practice, practice. I sign up every year at my local Tandy Store for their Gold Package which gives you a small discount on most everything in the inventory and some special prices on certain items through the year. I usually wind up saving more than the $40 a year it costs and it is a good way to encourage myself to get more practice with things like wallets, check book covers, small purse kits and such things. These make excellent gifts throughout the year and are guaranteed to make you popular with all your lady relatives and friends.

The stuff like their "Minimalist Holsters" which are nothing more than belt slides for various pistols and revolvers are pretty generic and I can figure out how to work out a better fit to them on my own. I have purchased most of their pattern packs on holsters and gun belts already and those furnish you with lots of holster types in addition to what is in the big book they have on Holsters. Just about every one of those patterns have more than a couple of designs of tooling patterns that with a little work can be adapted to just about anything you care to make. When you buy their little build it your self kits these also come with more than one or two layouts so you can cut your own leather and try out the different tooling patterns.

In addition to the patterns that you get with the packs and kits they have a monthly circular that comes in the mail every other month and one that comes to you by Email on the odd months. They also contain tooling patterns and animal figures that you can work with. The same thing with their alphabet patterns. Using a scanner and percentage program in your printer folder on the computer you can blow them up or shrink them down to whatever sizes you may require.

With a little imagination you go from plain vanilla holsters with just dyes and highlight colors for decorations like this.



To something with a basic stamp pattern around the edges like so.



And on to full on tooled designs like this one.



Or my favorite older style Slim Jim designs for early percussion revolvers like my 1851 Colt Navy.



Okay, time to go back to work on my magazine pouches now.

Last edited by treadhead1952; March 8th, 2012 at 12:18 PM.
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Old March 8th, 2012, 07:19 PM   #8
 
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Hi All,

After watching a few shows on Amazon this evening and working away at my current project, I got it finished. Gluing and sewing the bottoms of each pouch up first I then glued the outer edge and bottom flaps first and clamped them for a while to let them get a grip on each side. The inside edges got glued and let tack over then I put them in place with a long clamp from the top edge. I sewed up the bottom flap on each side first, punching the holes and then running the stitches. The outer edges got done next in the same manner. Finally I stitched up the inner edges and the assembly work was done. I did have to do a little trimming on the outer edges to make things flush but that is to be expected. Touching up the dye on the edges came next. I applied the Tan Kote Finish from Tandy last in two coats overall. This makes things waterproof and the shine will fade to a nice even look after a little wearing time.



The two magazines are quite securely held in place by friction fit and don't move in either side whether or not one is in place or both due to the way this is made. I can purchase another magazine and still use my single pouch for it. Now I can turn back to stitching up my Movie Style Gun Belt Project and get it finished next.
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Old March 9th, 2012, 03:07 AM   #9
 
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Very nice work!
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Old March 12th, 2012, 05:15 PM   #10
 
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Thanks 78CJ5,

I do enjoy tinkering with leather to add to the use and value that I get from my firearms. Thinking about the next project though has taken me into a bit of a side trip from firearms. One of the things that goes along with making holsters, belts, gun belts, slings, cartridge boxes and other firearm related leather goods is as 41Red pointed out in his post, tooling or adding designs to the leather. These can range from simple to elaborate and as with most things, you get what you pay for, the more tooling, the more it is going to cost you. Or as in my case and others who do this sort of thing for fun, add value to your projects.

Tandy sells a rather large paperback book that is pretty much an excellent primer to get one started on the path of making holsters. Aptly titled "How to Make Holsters" by Al Stohlman. Unfortunately for everyone, old Al passed on to his rewards in 1998, but not before authoring a ton of material that is still currently available through Tandy. While Tandy does sell holster Kits that contain most everything you would need to make a single holster for one gun along with the instructions on how to, the book shows you a wealth of information that will allow you to make patterns from any pistol or revolver so you can come up with your own. All that is required is leather, thread, lace, glue, and a few basic tools as well as a whole lot of gumption. There are a number of patterns for various firearms included as well as tooling designs in the book. Admittedly, some of the firearms are a little dated, but the patterns can be adapted easily to fit other firearms that are more modern. Normally it sells for $17.99, at the moment Tandy is having a sale (as they often do) and this particular book is available for $11.99. You can even download an E Version of it from their website.

Tandy Leather Factory - How To Make Holsters Book

As soon as I get done working on my two gun Western Movie Style Rig, I will continue on with this thread with another project from the start so you can all see just how easy it is to make up your own leather projects.
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Old March 12th, 2012, 07:08 PM   #11
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Reading this thread has helped me to decide to get the knife sheath kit from Tandy. Now I'll probably buy the How to Make Holsters book and attempt to make a holster for my Alaskan.

Steve
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Old March 13th, 2012, 04:42 AM   #12
 
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Hi Steve,

The "How To Make Holsters" book will show you all you need to go from a paper pattern to completing a holster for that Alaskan of yours.

The last knife sheath that I made was for a favorite knife of mine, one of my Bowie styles, albeit a modern one.



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Old March 13th, 2012, 12:16 PM   #13
 
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Nice job! I know it's a lot of work to make sheaths and holsters. I made this knife and sheath. It has a big brother with a sheath too! They are working in Afghanistan right now.
Tony
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Old March 13th, 2012, 03:34 PM   #14
 
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Hi computerdynamics,

Interesting looking little knife and I am a bit curious about how that sheath attaches to keep it in place. Is there a loop on the back or is it clipped in place with the snap hook?

While it can't be seen in either of the photos, that sheath of mine has a full length welt or extra piece of leather between the top and bottom pieces to keep the blade from slicing into the thread that sews the parts together. The welt is glued in place before being pierced with an awl and stitched together. One of many of the tricks of making up things like this.

As well as making up holsters and sheaths, another thing that I enjoy working on are belts. Most store bought belts are lacking in material thickness and strength to really stand up to day to day use carrying things like holsters and a pistol or revolver or even a knife if it is a sizable one. The old "Ranger" style is one of my favorite styles and made with 9 to 10 ounce weight leather in 1 and 3/4 inch width makes for one that is capable of handling carry duties day in and day out with out sagging or stretching on you.





Tandy has a great selection of buckles and related gear to make up these things. I could stay busy just making belts for my motorcycle riding buddies if I really wanted to, not to mention the other leather accessories that they are forever pestering me to make up. I usually reserve special projects for them on birthdays and holidays that require them.
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Old March 13th, 2012, 04:14 PM   #15
 
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It's actually a neck knife that has a bead chain that goes through the brass grommet in the bottom. The "dangler" was just an option that I gave him for all means of carry. It's big brother is heavy leather with a belt loop and upright loops for MOLLE carry. They are handled in Texalium, a carbon fiber hybrid, attached with 24Kt. gold Torx screws. The holes in the blade are for attaching it to a pole or whatever for spear use. the mini blades at the base of each knife are for Det. cord or parachute cord. So far the knives aren't lost and neither is his life. He's a Ranger Marksman and that's all I know? I guess it means "Reach out and touch someone"?
I'm not a sheath maker, but a knife maker who likes to do it all from scratch. ; )
Take care,
Tony


Last edited by computerdynamics; March 13th, 2012 at 04:20 PM.
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