Lobo

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About Lobo

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    Leatherworker

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    Colorado

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  • Leatherwork Specialty
    Retired holster maker.
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  1. Most folks aren't aware that snaps are offered in several holding strengths (light, regular, heavy). In addition there are directional snaps that can offer more security. Pull-The-Dot type fasteners are not very common and seldom used in holster work. If you are buying your snaps in small lots from suppliers you are probably getting whatever they can get for the lowest possible wholesale prices, and with no way to determine quality or serviceability in advance. You would do well to research snap manufacturers and order direct, which usually requires minimum orders of 100, 500, 1000, etc. Per unit prices will usually be less than what retailers charge for small lots, but will require an up front investment for quality on hand for the future without worries.
  2. I suggest that far too many folks are making what they think should be in demand, rather than listening to the paying customers telling us what they want. Prior to my retirement (2015) I kept careful records of all holster orders, by holster type and by handgun type. Despite all the hoopla over plastic fantastic load 'em on Sunday and shoot all week semiautomatic pistols, my orders ran 62% for revolvers (including 30% for Smith & Wesson J-frame revolvers). Similarly, my gun safe always contained dozens of vintage handguns (most out of production for several decades) representing millions of handguns remaining in the hands of people wanting holsters to carry them but frustrated because of the lack of offerings by any mainstream manufacturers in recent years. Short version: A small production shop must identify a market niche that is not being adequately served in the marketplace. That can be accomplished with unique designs, unique decorative effects, or simply by making products that remain in demand but not sufficiently for the big name companies to commit production resources.
  3. Thanks to all for the kind thoughts. Retirement is good, except for the getting old part. Third great-grandchild is due in a week or so. Life is good. Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.
  4. OK, I will show off a little bit. I will do it without photos or other accompaniment. Started doing leather work in 1972 as a young police officer with two hungry kids to feed and a mortgage payment to make. If I wanted something for myself I had to learn how to make it because I certainly couldn't afford to buy anything. Pretty soon the folks I worked with noticed and started asking me to do work for them, and I launched a moderately productive part-time hobby business that spanned more than 30 years. Fast forward to the early 21st Century; as the economy circled the toilet bowl and my other business interests were drying up I decided to offer some of my holsters and accessories via on-line sales. Within a few months I had more orders than I could keep up with. Within a year or so I was renting production space and hiring trainees, then renting larger spaces and hiring more help. For about 8-1/2 years the business consumed every minute of my life, no days off, no weekends, no holidays, no vacations. I shipped orders to all 50 US states and 33 other countries. Two years ago I retired. Sold the business to a good family who continue to produce my designs and products on the original business model, and they are doing very well. Now I am retired. No mortgage. No debt. No stress. Seven figures in the bank. I did not plan it this way, but it worked out better than I could have planned. Now I can get up every morning and say NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH to anyone who expects me to do anything. The ultimate "show off" post. Top this if you can!
  5. That is exceptionally nice work. Also a very practical product for professional chefs. Every chef I ever knew had a fortune tied up in his knives and took very good care of them; they went to work when he went to work and they went home with him/her at the end of every day. Anyone working in a commercial kitchen quickly learns that just touching the chef's knives can result in having your heart and entrails deposited on the kitchen floor. Seriously, we are looking at a real business opportunity here. When a chef invests several hundred, or a few thousand, dollars in his professional tools, that chef will not resist spending a reasonable amount of money to provide a safe and secure method of transporting his tools to and from work every day.
  6. Oil or not?

    There will always be strong opinions about oiling holsters and other leather products. I will put in my $0.02 worth here. Vegetable tanning of hides removes just about all of the natural moisture in the leather. The wet-forming and molding process further reduces moisture content while also stressing the leather fibers considerably in the forming work. All leather holsters will need to flex to some degree in use, and areas of significant stress may respond to that flexing by cracking (either on the surface or within the fibrous structure). A modest application of neatsfoot oil after wet-forming and drying can replenish the natural moisture within the leather fibers, thus allowing the leather to flex in use with less chance of cracking or crazing. Note that I have suggested: 1. a modest application. Too much oil can overly soften the leather, making it limp and useless for the intended purpose. A modest application means, to me, a light amount of the oil applied over the top grain side of the leather only (never on the flesh side because of the tendency to absorb far too quickly and place too much oil into the leather). Such a modest application will be fully absorbed into the leather quickly, typically within 30 minutes or so. 2. neatsfoot oil. Neatsfoot oil is produced by rendering the feet and lower legs of cattle, collecting the natural oils that protect against dehydration and freezing. It is essentially "cow oil". Neatsfoot oil compound consists of a preponderance of mineral oil mixed with some neatsfoot oil, and there is a difference in use and serviceability. Neatsfoot oil means just that, nothing else. Other factors to keep in mind: A. Neatsfoot oil does not "dry"; rather it is absorbed into the leather fibers, spreading itself evenly and achieving its level within the leather, and it remains there pretty much as long as the finished product remains intact. Adding oil later results in a rise in the level of oil within the leather, and such additions over time will certainly result in over-softening of the holster and defeat all of the maker's efforts. B. Oiling should be done after any dyes have been applied and fully cured. Oiling will inhibit dye absorption, frustrating any efforts to achieve a desired result. Also, oiling will affect the finished coloration of dyed leather, usually with results several shades darker than might be produced without oiling. It is essential that you practice on scraps to learn the effects of those combinations of dyes and oil that you intend to use for your products. Now I will turn this discussion over to others, probably including those who will argue against any use of neatsfoot oil in holster making. After reading all responses you will have to decide how you wish to proceed in the future. Best regards.
  7. The holster shown in the photo is commonly referred to as a snap-loop pancake style, an OWB design popular with those appreciating the ability to put the holster on or take it off without unfastening the belt. Belt loops can be either integral to the holster body or separate, as shown in the photo. Using separate loops allows for easy replacement of the belt loops as they become worn in use, thus maximizing the useful life of the holster. Probably the easiest way of attaching the belt loops is by using T-nuts and machine screws. I found that #6-32 machine screws of 3/8" length worked very well. The T-nut is installed to the "wings" of the holster body. The machine screw can be inserted through the mounting hole of the snap stud, then screwed down to the T-nut and completing the installation. A good resource for T-nuts and machine screws is Bolt Depot (boltdepot.com). These products are sold in boxes of 100 each at pretty reasonable cost. Otherwise you can go to a well-stocked hardware store and purchase these products individually, but expect to pay considerably more for the convenience. One lesson learned during my years in the holster business (1972 to 2015) was that hardware failures were, by far, the most common causes of warranty returns. Snaps break, screws become lost or stripped out by repeated tightening, belt clips become irretrievably damaged, etc. Keeping a ready supply of those hardware items regularly used can make your life much simpler and easier in the long run. Best regards.
  8. As a combat infantryman in Vietnam I carried a M-16 rifle with 5 or 6 twenty-round magazines, usually with a M1911A1 .45 pistol with 3 seven-round magazines, plenty of water, couple of frag grenades, maybe a WP or two. Everybody in the squad also carried a couple hundred rounds of ammo for our M60 machine gunner. As a police officer during the 1970's I carried a .357 revolver with a total of 18 rounds of ammo while working uniformed patrol. While working in plain clothes I carried a .38 or .357 revolver and 12 rounds. Later, as an investigator working serious crimes I carried either a Browning Hi Power or a Colt .45 Automatic, with one spare magazine. Fast forward a few decades and I found myself as a retired cop and holster maker dealing with too many air head kids, many of whom wanted to carry their full Sam Browne belt equipment while off-duty, or even going to the rest room. I was frequently assaulted by all of the most recent graduates of "Holster Genius School", each of whom had the idea for the "perfect holster" or "perfect carry rig" and looking for someone to turn their idle dreams into functional reality. Think "TACTI-COOL" and you will have a feel for these limited mentalities. My best prediction is this: No matter what you produce for this kid with big dreams it will not perform to his unreasonable expectations. Why bother with bozos like this when there are so many people out there who have legitimate needs and reasonable expectations? By the way, still carrying the .45 automatic with one spare magazine just about anytime I go out of the house. If that doesn't get the job done you can expect to hear no more from this old man.
  9. For the type of holster described a pattern based upon the S&W L-frame or Colt Python will serve quite nicely. That will get you going, but you will still need the GP100 or a dummy gun to properly form the holster.
  10. When I sold the business I completely retired, gave the new owners a "non compete" agreement along with all of my tools, equipment, patterns, etc. All I do now is eat, sleep, play poker and drink beer (great work if you can get it).
  11. Success in the holster business requires identifying your market niche. Some makers serve local markets while others serve national or international customers. Some makers offer holsters for the newest developments in handguns while others provide products for vintage handguns. Some makers specialize in the competition shooting sports while others focus on the western-style market (authentic or reenactor/SASS type). If you are going to do what many others are doing (most popular holster design, most popular handgun models) you will either have to be much better than anyone else in that market niche, or you are going to have to win sales with price competition. I suggest that you may want to look at other segments of the market that are less well-served by your competition. I made my first holster for sale in 1972, and had a pleasant enough little sideline business for the next quarter-century, serving cops I worked with and those referred to me by my coworkers. When I retired from law enforcement I continued making holsters for a growing circle of law enforcement and other contacts, while operating another business as my primary source of income. As the economy started circling the toilet bowl (2007-2008) I needed to make some extra cash to make up for declining business, so I started offering my holsters on-line, selling several each week. Recognizing the marketing power of the Internet, I put up a website and quickly found myself working 7 days per week, renting larger production shops, hiring and training help to stay current on upwards of up to 2,000 orders per year. I developed several new holster designs which drew considerable interest, and further refined some holster designs to tweak performance. Along the way I gained several insights: 1. The major holster manufacturers concentrate their production capabilities on the most popular modern handguns. As new developments come along and sales of some earlier products start to decline those older products are quickly dropped from the line-up. 2. There are millions and millions of perfectly good handguns out there that people want to carry and use, but none of the mainstream holster makers are offering anything for. 3. Just because a new "plastic fantastic" or "wonder nine" hits the market every few weeks does not mean that those who have good quality older handguns with which they are comfortable will abandon the known and proven for the newest hot product. 4. Dummy guns are usually offered only for those handguns that have achieved a significant market share. That means that there will usually be a year or more from introduction to any decision to make dummies for any new model. If you want to offer holsters for the latest developments you will have to consider purchasing the actual handguns in order to get a jump on the marketplace. 5. Don't overlook accessories related to holsters. Many, many customers want matching holster, belt, mag pouches, etc, and you will either fail to get those orders or you will find out that these are very profitable products. 6. Custom work can be interesting and a pleasant diversion to straightforward production work. But custom work requires lots of time (patterning, mock-up to test & revise pattern, repeat again and again, then make the final product). I offered 13 holster designs, with or without a few common options (lining, thumb-break, tooling, hand-carving), left-hand or right-hand, 4 finish colors, for 168 different handgun models (resulting in over 80,000 possible variations), and we completed orders at the rate of 47 minutes of shop time per product. Compare that to real custom work, easily consuming 10 hours or more per finished product, and do the math on pricing to achieve an equal return. During the last 8-1/2 years of my 43 years in holster making I kept close track of actual orders and sales. In my shop I found that over 60% of all orders were for revolvers, not the most recent semi-auto pistols. In fact, nearly 1/3 of all of my sales were for one specific revolver series (J-frame Smith & Wesson). Very few holster makers offer any significant range of revolver holsters these days, leaving a huge market niche to be exploited. Also, orders for vintage semi-auto pistols (such as the S&W Model 39, Browning Hi Power, and others from the 1930's through 1960's) exceeded all orders for the newest stuff combined. Some handguns (such as the 1911 series) come in so many variations, and from so many different manufacturers, that it can be very difficult to meet all requests (I used 8 or 9 dummies and at least 6 actual guns in the shop). Maybe this will give you some ideas about what worked for me, and allowed me to have a very comfortable income and retirement. By the way, my business was purchased by a very capable family of leather craftsmen who are continuing to do very well with my designs, methods, and marketing plans. All the best.
  12. I was in the business from 1972 until retirement in 2015, last 8-1/2 years were full time. Started out with very little money to spend so I learned to adapt and modify tools to meet my needs without much investment. For sanding edges I used drum sanders in various sizes chucked into a bench top drill press. I sanded while the leather was damp, which allows the leather fibers to fall to the bench rather than filling the air with dust. Typical holster or belt takes about 2 to 3 minutes. Sanding sleeves for the drum sanders cost less than $1 each and will do hundreds of holsters and belts. For edge burnishing I used dye on the edges, then rubbed on a mixture of 50% beeswax and 50% paraffin wax, then burnished using a hard felt polishing wheel chucked into the drill press (about 1700RPM). Typical holster or belt takes about 3 minutes. Waxes cost about $2 per pound, which will do many hundreds of products. Felt polishing wheels cost about $1 to $2 each (depending on size), and each will do 200 to 300 holsters and belts. Friction from the felt polishing wheel polishes the edges while also melting the wax and forcing it into the leather fibers at the edges. Result is a well sealed edge with high gloss polished surface, stands up well to use. Far superior to edge painting. Waxes can be combined by placing equal amounts into a heavy duty freezer bag, then suspending the bag in a large pot of boiling water, then pouring the mixed wax into molds (I used muffin pans, producing cakes of about 2 oz. weight). Later on I found a nice lady who makes candles, and she produced my wax mixture in her machine, charging me $20 for 20 lbs (which was probably a 5 year supply in my shop). Watch the sales at Harbor Freight and you can pick up light-duty bench top drill presses for about $60 each. I found that they last about 2-3 years in production (about 4000-6000 holsters, belts, etc). The shaft bearings eventually wear out because pressure has been applied from the sides rather than in line with the shaft, as a drill press is designed to function. When that happened I just bought another (actually I usually had a back up sitting new in its box ready to set up and continue production). You might prefer to pay more for a heavy-duty drill press from other sources. So there you are. Less than $100 and you can expect proven professional results with minimum time and effort.
  13. A deal has been done. Lobo Gun Leather will be going forward under new ownership in November, 2015.
  14. S&m 500 Pattern?

    Sorry if I annoyed you in some way. I deal with this issue with customers all the time. Most people just don't understand that in order to pattern a holster you must have the firearm (or close replica), in order to form the holster you must have the firearm (or close replica), that not every gun now offered or ever made is available as a dummy, or that dummies are not manufactured primarily for the use of holster makers. Lots of folks think that if a firearms manufacturer offers something the holster makers can produce holsters for it. Some folks think that a holster maker must have everything ever made to be in the business. When S&W started offering the Model 66 with 4.25" barrel some time ago (intended for the Canadian market, with some production sold in the US) I had a customer tell me that I would have to get one if I wanted his business. Since no dummies are made of that variation the customer was exactly right; if I wanted to complete his order I would have to spend hundreds of dollars for the revolver. Ruger has offered the GP100 with 4" barrel for years, and recently added a 4.2" barrel to meet Canadian requirements. We are seeing some of those show up in the US market, and no dummies are offered. Lots of holster makers receive inquiries from people who have handguns that are not commonly seen or available. Some folks have handguns that have been custom made or modified from original specifications. There are also hundreds and hundreds of after-market products (laser sights, tactical lights, custom grips, custom safety levers and slide releases), all of which can complicate the business of finding a holster for a specific set-up. Any attempt to service every possible market segment or demand will run up against the brick wall of cost vs. benefit. Again, I have been a bit lengthy with this response, and I have probably annoyed someone again.