Want to get started on making a holster

Leather to kydex, factory or custom.
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dfunk
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Re: Want to get started on making a holster

Post by dfunk » March 29th, 2012, 9:39 am

I look forward to seeing it!
If it's 9oz, it shouldn't be 'crazy' thick and make you feel like it will be a bear to work. If it's really that thick and heavy, then it's probably thicker than 9oz, which would be overkill.

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Re: Want to get started on making a holster

Post by BorisThespider » March 29th, 2012, 10:18 pm

dfunk wrote:I look forward to seeing it!
If it's 9oz, it shouldn't be 'crazy' thick and make you feel like it will be a bear to work. If it's really that thick and heavy, then it's probably thicker than 9oz, which would be overkill.
The guy assured me it was 9oz, and I'm pretty sure he even measured it right in front of me (I looked at a lot). I stopped at a local leather shop not too far from my home, and the guy was friendly enough. He let me snoop through all his stuff looking for a "good" piece (of course, I don't know what to look for anyhow). I tell ya, either way, I will probably go with a lighter leather next time. Maybe even two layers of 4oz. I think I like the look of that better anyhow.

I cut off a piece of the stuff I got, mostly to see how tough it would be to cut. It cut easily enough with a sharp knife. I tried to form it (the piece was really about an inch by three) a little to see how bad it would be, using soapy water to moisten it. It was tough, but I think it was mostly because it was such a small piece. On that note, is there an easier way to form than "moisten with soapy water, then push hard"? On the other one, with much lighter leather, I used the end of a sharpy marker and it worked well, even though that form is all but gone now. I guess I've worn it for about a year; and I did put it back on the outside of the waistband, for anyone interested. I was worried about retention, but it was all in my head.

One final thing about the leather I got. I didn't really think of it at the time, but it is dark. Like, black. Is that a product of the tanning process used, or does than mean it has been dyed already? Is there something I need to worry about with that?

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Re: Want to get started on making a holster

Post by dfunk » March 30th, 2012, 11:31 am

A photo would be most helpful, but I'll offer this based on your observations:

First, I don't use soapy water to mold my holsters. I use straight hot water from the tap, unless it's a heavily dyed piece, then I use the same hot water with 1 single drop of Dawn per gallon of water. This just breaks the surface tension, and is usually unnecessary. Then, after the leather is properly cased, yes, push real hard. A press setup is ideal, but before I got my press, I used my hands. Push the lines in tight with anything smooth you can find. A Sharpie is great, as are handles from old screwdrivers, crochet needles, etc. Get creative and experiment to find the right tools for the look you're after. I will say this - dyed leather (especially black) is usually more difficult to mold, so unless you're using white or some other lighter colored thread, you could dye the holster after molding.

If it's already black, then it could be drum dyed from the tannery, which is fine. This not only provides an even color, but it allows you to skip a step, too. If it's not been dyed, it could be mold/mildew which would be bad. Did he say it was straight-up veg tan leather? Depending on who you got it from, you could have been sold english bridle, latigo, or some other oily leather. These leathers are not suitable for holsters, but are ideal for tack.

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Re: Want to get started on making a holster

Post by BorisThespider » March 30th, 2012, 4:52 pm

dfunk wrote:A photo would be most helpful, but I'll offer this based on your observations:

First, I don't use soapy water to mold my holsters. I use straight hot water from the tap, unless it's a heavily dyed piece, then I use the same hot water with 1 single drop of Dawn per gallon of water. This just breaks the surface tension, and is usually unnecessary. Then, after the leather is properly cased, yes, push real hard. A press setup is ideal, but before I got my press, I used my hands. Push the lines in tight with anything smooth you can find. A Sharpie is great, as are handles from old screwdrivers, crochet needles, etc. Get creative and experiment to find the right tools for the look you're after. I will say this - dyed leather (especially black) is usually more difficult to mold, so unless you're using white or some other lighter colored thread, you could dye the holster after molding.

If it's already black, then it could be drum dyed from the tannery, which is fine. This not only provides an even color, but it allows you to skip a step, too. If it's not been dyed, it could be mold/mildew which would be bad. Did he say it was straight-up veg tan leather? Depending on who you got it from, you could have been sold english bridle, latigo, or some other oily leather. These leathers are not suitable for holsters, but are ideal for tack.
OK, so now I feel really confused. This is what I got (picked it up for less locally of course): http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tanned-Top-Grai ... 231b5a7d49

Not that exact piece obviously, but very similar, and from their local store instead. But the owner definitely said it was 9oz. Maybe they sold all the 9oz pieces already and now it's just these thinner ones they have on eBay...I guess? Just measured it - it's just over 1/8 inch by my fallible measurement, which would be classified as 8-9 oz, right? I know it's about twice as thick as the 4oz. stuff he also had, which I definitely saw him gauge right in front of me. But I've come to the conclusion that it's dyed, and very evenly, judging from what I can see in the portion I cut. I see now why he mentioned a few times that they don't normally have that grade, though - he didn't really explain that they had bought out another tannery. Also, I'm noticing that his eBay prices are higher than his in-store prices. Works for me.

Anyhow, I'm going to proceed as planned. And I guess "soapy water" was kinda vague. It was indeed some hot water with just a drop of dish soap in it. I didn't really let it stay in there long - just a few seconds. Is there a good way to judge how wet it should be for forming? Also, is there a preferred thread? I've seen a lot of people use a lot of different things, from sinew to...well, just about anything. I assume I want something that won't shrink in the weather, or wear too easily and break. But I don't really know what fits the bill there.

Also, because I haven't said it for the whole year - thanks so much for all the help with this. I'm getting to a place now (physical location and point in life) where I can start doing this more, and I really hope to do exactly that. I may not become a "pro" but I can at least do some nice work for myself and my friends.

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Re: Want to get started on making a holster

Post by dfunk » March 30th, 2012, 10:00 pm

What you have there is a pre-dyed belly, and I'm sorry to say, is the least desirable part for making holsters or belts. Bellies are what they say they are, the belly of the cow. They are riddled with fat rolls and tend to be spongy in some areas and hard in others (read inconsistent). Often they have scars, too, because of how low to ground they are on the animal. This will work for practice, but not for the long haul, and definitely not for someone else's use.

I'll also tell you this...
There is no universal or even country-specific grading system for leather. Grading is all done by the seller, but is usually originated by the tannery. One tannery might say their best leather is a 1-grade, while another might list it as AA, and another calls it 'Standard'. See what I mean? Anyone worth their weight in salt selling leather will tell you what cut you have, be it a belly, shoulder, back, bend, etc., and if you ask, will tell you what tannery it came from. There are very few US tanneries still in large-scale operation today. In fact, the 2 most reputable are Hermann Oak and Wickett and Craig. They use US-grown leather and tan it here in the US. The title of the ebay link you posted is not some crazy type of leather - it's a crapload of keywords to get search results. It's just cowhide. If your piece is dimensionally the same size as the listing, 60"x10", then you have roughly 4 sq ft. Expect to pay about $5-$5.50 per sq ft for nice (certainly not top) US leather.

You want waxed thread for stitching your holsters. When I hand stitch something, I use 4 cord .040” waxed thread from Maine Thread (http://www.mainethread.com/product158.html). I like poly cord because it's less susceptive to the elements than linen, although there are a lot of people who prefer linen thread and like to wax it themselves. On the machine, I run bonded nylon for the same reasons - high tensile strength, durability, and smoothness. Before I bought thread from Maine Thread, I used the little spools of waxed thread from Tandy. It's thinner, but it got the job done and I could pick it up from a Hobby Lobby or Michael's craft joint if I needed it in a pinch. Hell, I'm sure I have some still - PM me your address and if I run across it, it's yours.

If I'm molding a holster that has been dyed already, I dunk it in the water for maybe 4 Mississippi's. I then let it sit aside and let the water really soak in. If it's pliable, warm, and easy to open the pocket, I'll stuff the gun in and start working it's fit. If not, I might go for another dip for 1 or 2 (max) seconds. I don't wrap real guns in anything like plastic wrap - field strip and oil them after molding and you're good to go. I've never had an issue. Go slow, and remember that with molding, the inside is what really counts. You want to have the leather pushed into all the nooks and crannies, especially the front of the triggerguard. Boning detail lines isn't all cosmetic, because the extra pressure does help push the leather into smaller areas, but go easy on this - less is usually more. If you try to squeeze too much detail out of it, the leather usually looks overworked and can wrinkle or even crack on the grain. Again, interior molding is the most important, with exterior lines helping round off the proper fit.

You're welcome for the help. I had lots of people help me when I first started, so I'm happy to pay it forward. You never stop learning, though, so always try something new and don't be afraid to experiment and ask questions. I still seek guidance and advice from other holstermakers, and am fortunate enough to be able to send Matt Del Fatti a critique piece (if you read this, I'm working on it Matt!) and to speak with Andy Arratoonian from Horseshoe Leather on the phone from merry old England (thanks, Andy!).

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Re: Want to get started on making a holster

Post by BorisThespider » March 31st, 2012, 12:09 am

I feel like I should be hearing that classic TV trombone, "Wah, wah." Oh well, the stuff I have is thick, stiff, and paid-for. It'll do just fine. Though I do now doubt the local leather source now. I know there is a local holster-maker who buys from him, but he buys the thinner stuff, 4oz, IIRC. There's a fair chance that stuff may be better because that leatherworker's gear is pretty well known and liked (around these parts anyhow).

I'm still excited to see how I can do with this stuff even if it is, to be polite, "sub-optimal."

I'm starting to feel like I should take this to PM, but I think more people could certainly benefit from the Q&A. Is that price you mentioned the price before shipping cost? Is there any place (you know of) to get just a small amount, like 10 feet or less?

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Re: Want to get started on making a holster

Post by dfunk » March 31st, 2012, 8:04 am

Yes, those prices are before shipping.
Kevin at Springfield Leather should be able to help you out. I believe they cut leather.

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Re: Want to get started on making a holster

Post by BorisThespider » April 1st, 2012, 2:20 am

Oh, I knew I had another question. I only just remembered it. My new gun is a Beretta clone. That means it has an open slide. I know to tape a dowel rod to make the sight channel, but do I need to also use cardboard or something to simulate the slide when forming? If I don't, I assume I'll have some real issues with drawing. Is that right?

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Re: Want to get started on making a holster

Post by dfunk » April 2nd, 2012, 9:57 am

Not an issue. Just use the dowel for a sight channel and you should be fine.

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