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mattsh   

[Thought that I would at least get the text instructions posted out here. I am working on getting the pictures uploaded.]

I have been on this forum for quite some time. I haven't posted much but I have seen

several people ask about how a holster is made. I am not a professional. I pretty much do

this as a very part time hobby. I thought that I would share the steps I take to design

and make a holster. This particular model is my take on several makers. It is similar to

Alessi's DOJ model. It has a slightly forward cant. I owe all I have learned through

careful study of existing makers and many conversations with Lou Alessi. He has been a

great mentor and friend in sharing his wealth of knowledge on holsters. The following are

the steps I take in design and construction of a holster.

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1. First I lay out the belt line. In this case it is for a 1.25" belt and therefore

I lay out two parallel lines that are 1.5" apart. This allows for the belt loops to

have sufficient room to allow the belt to fit.

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2. I lay the gun on the paper and situate it so that the weight of the gun is balanced on

the belt [not too much below the belt and not too much above the belt]. This usually

equates to the belt running across the trigger guard and part of the breech of the barrel

(as seen in the picture).

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3. I trace the outline of the gun onto the paper.

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4. I lay out the design of the holster and allow "margins" for the space of

stitching and allowance for the thickness of the leather. In this case, being an OWB, I

am using 7/8 oz leather with an exotic overlay that is 2/3 oz. (This was a learning curve

as I have never used exotic before, next time I will use 4/5 oz with the exotic).

Typically I will allow about a 1/4" around the edges of the gun and the belt loops.

The belt loop needs to be far enough away from the gun so that it can be used, yet not

too far away that it wont pull the butt of the gun into your side for concealability (if

that is what you are looking for). One other consideration is that the holster should

provide adequate coverage of the trigger area and the mag release but yet not interfere

with the ability to grip the gun to remove it from the holster. As for the sweat guard, I

like to make mine cover the back end of the slide and be forward enough to cover the

edges of the rear sight.

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5. Here I have cut out the pattern and will trace onto another sheet to make a mirror of

the pattern so it will be 3D.

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6. Here I have flipped the pattern. In laying this out I allow about a 1/2" space at

the bottom and will overlap the patter where the mouth of the holster will wrap around

the gun (which will be at the base of the sweat guard).

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7. Here is the full pattern.

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8. I trace the full pattern onto cardboard. Any typical cardboard box will do. The

cardboard comes in handy because it is a pretty good simulator of leather in thickness

and will give you a good idea of how your holster is going to fit.

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9. The cardboard pattern cut out. After cutting out the pattern I will take a blunt

object and "breakdown" the honeycomb of the cardboard so that it is more

flexible and I can see how the holster is going to fit.

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10. This picture shows how the holster is going to fit.

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11. Now that I have seen how the cardboard holster fits, I lay out the mouth reinforcement

and the belt loop again allowing for the 1.25” belt the stitching marks (which are the inside lines)

are about 2” apart.

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12. I trace the cardboard pattern onto the leather and cut it out with shears. Make sure

that you lay the pattern on the leather correctly for right/left hand use and whether you

want the rough [flesh] side inside or outside. In the past I used a razor knife, but I

have found that shears work better for me. In the tight curves though I still have to use

a razor knife. Also, the shears I use are a pair of straight cut (yellow handle) aluminum

shears, I find that they have better leverage and make cutting very easy.

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13. This picture shows a couple steps later. Pictures would not have shown much. I have

cut out the elephant and glued it to the flesh side of the cow hide so the smooth side is

inside. I have also cut out the mouth/belt loop support piece and glued it together. Also

in this picture you can see that I have laid out the stiching and drilled the holes. The spacing

of the stitches is laid out using a stitch spacer wheel tool with the 5 stitch per inch spacer.

I hand stitch with a saddle stitch. I have found that drilling holes is easier and more uniform

than punching the holes. The stitching is laid out on an 1/8" from the edge. I drilled the holes

with an 5/64" drill bit because it fits my needle.

14. The next step is waxing and slicking the edges that are not stitched, the mouth and muzzle

area of the holster. To wax the edges I melt and use hot parafin wax and use a small brush to

appy the hot wax to the edges. I then use a slicker chucked in a homemade belt driven mandrel.

(Sorry, I could not get a good picture of the edge)

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15. I have prepared the inside edges of the belt loop area for gluing. I use a rasp to

rough up the surface to make it better for the adhering of the surfaces. I have died

the inside of the holster leather now with Angelus Pro Dye using a dauber.

16. After applying the glue I place the glued area of the holster in a bench vise between

two pieces of wood while the glue dries overnight.

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17. Here is a picture of the holster glued together.

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18. Here I have placed some blue painters tape on the area of the holster where I am

going to lay out the stitching. I typically use a 1/4" margin around the form of the

gun to allow enough space for the gun inside the holster.

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19. Here you can see that I have made a mark 1/4" from the edge of the trigger

guard.

20. I complete the layout of the stitching around the edge of the gun and mark the edge

stitching again 1/8" from the edge.

21. Now that the stitching is done, I mold the holster. I typically dunk the holster for

about 20-30 seconds in about a gallon of hot water (about 120 deg) with a drop of dish

soap (this helps break surface tension of the water and allows it to penetrate better).

The leather should not be saturated but should be "cased". To me this means

damp to the touch and will stretch or form with not much effort.

22. If the gun you are using is real for the molding I typically wrap the gun in plastic

wrap before placing it inside the holster. If you are using a dummy gun then just place

the gun inside the holster. I have just started using the rubber "plates" in a

press. I have not yet quite figured this out but it will get better in time. Also at this

time you will want to place a 'wedge' of sorts extending from the front sight back

towards the breech of the barrel to create a tunnel for the front sight so that it does

not pick up any leather as it is removed from the holster which would impede on the use

of the front sight. In this particular holster I did not use this as the natural bend in

the leather created its own tunnel. This is typically not the case and you will want to

create a tunnel for the front sight.

23. After molding the holster any 'boning' can be done. On this particular holster I did

not do any boning.

24. After boning remove the gun from the holster and let it dry overnight.

25. Now punch the belt loop holes. I punch a hole at each end of the slot and then use a

knife to cut between the two. I then use a dremel with a smooth grit sanding drum to

finish the edges.

26. Now finish all of the remaining edges with the wax and burnish.

27. Last step is to apply an acrylic finish. In this case I used a spray can of Leather

Sheen.

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Well, there you have it. I think I covered everything. Like I said, I am no professional,

so hopefully this will conjure up some conversation and others will kick in their tips

and tricks. My main goal was to get a visual reference out here and somehow put it to

words.

Edited by mattsh

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Don101   

Well congrats on an exelent run through and tutorial on how you do it, thanks that you have taken the time to plan and take pics on the step by step it make ya just want to get in the tack room and have a go, Don

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I appreciate you taking the time to outline your steps with pictures. I'm a little curious as to your edging method. It was my understanding that the waxed method was no longer recommended due to the fact that it was prone to wear off. Have you encountered this? If not, how do you prevent it?

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ArtS   

Thanks! A superb tutorial! I really appreciate it.

Art

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mattsh   

I am glad that you guys like the tutorial. I wish I had made a light box and taken better pictures.

paris - the waxed edge does not really have a surface wax finish to it (so to speak), the wax is in hot liquid form when applied and it soaks into the edge, then when it is burnished it makes a nice hard edge (which I am still trying to perfect). To burnish the edge I have a slicker wheel from Tandys with a bolt through the center of it. I then took an old drill chuck and mounted it to a brass pillar bed mounted mandrel driven by a belt feed from an electric motor. (hmm maybe I should have taken a picture of that). The burnishing gives the edge a nice hard formed look.

If this seems more clear then I will add it to the instructions.

If I can figure out how to get a good picture of a perfect burnished edge (not mine, it was one that Mr. Lou Alessi did) I will post it.

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TwinOaks   

Very nice tute for a basic 'askin's avenger' style. This is very well laid out, and the pics help show what you did. Thank you posting this. I think this should probably be pinned so all our guests and new members can easily find it.

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mattsh   

TwinOaks..Thank you for pinning.

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I am glad that you guys like the tutorial. I wish I had made a light box and taken better pictures.

paris - the waxed edge does not really have a surface wax finish to it (so to speak), the wax is in hot liquid form when applied and it soaks into the edge, then when it is burnished it makes a nice hard edge (which I am still trying to perfect). To burnish the edge I have a slicker wheel from Tandys with a bolt through the center of it. I then took an old drill chuck and mounted it to a brass pillar bed mounted mandrel driven by a belt feed from an electric motor. (hmm maybe I should have taken a picture of that). The burnishing gives the edge a nice hard formed look.

If this seems more clear then I will add it to the instructions.

If I can figure out how to get a good picture of a perfect burnished edge (not mine, it was one that Mr. Lou Alessi did) I will post it.

Great writeup!!!! Thanks for putting this together!!

I have been struggling with among other things - how to punch the holes (& hole spacing) - have been doing the two separate sides one at a time & its a little tough (understatement) to get them to line up.

What kind of glue are you using?

When you drill your holes - are you using a drill press or a dremel? And do you drill from the "out side" in, or the "belt side" out?

Im also looking forward to your comments on edge finishing - particularly how you get the two sides to have one edge, but also the waxing & burnishing parts. I'm just about fed up with using a box knife and an orbital sander & badly need to improve this area - I am saving up for another trip to the Tandy store.

And speaking of that trip to the Tandy store - can you take a picture of what you consider to be your minimum essential leather working tools? maybe a second picture with tools that are nice to have but not essential or used infrequently? Im starting out with bare minimum & adding as I go along..... Im always wondering what is the next thing that I need to buy.

Edited by RustyPhillips

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Bree   

Excellent addition to the knowledgebase! Great job! Now I need to pull out my XD Blue Gun and make one up for myself!!

:You_Rock_Emoticon::You_Rock_Emoticon::You_Rock_Emoticon:

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Echo4V   

First let me say thanks for this tutorial, I have a S&W that I'm wanting to build a pancake for so this will greatly help me. Secondly, I have a question that is related but may be a whole other tutorial...

If you were going to say basket weave stamp your holster, at what step in the process would you do the stamping? I know for tooling you should glue on a backing to keep it from streatching out but what about stamping, will that also stretch the leather?

David

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mattsh   

Here are some pictures of the homemade setup that I use to burnish the edges. I mounted everything to a 1"x12" board so I can clamp it down to my workbench then unclamp and move it when I am not using it.

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Here is a bitmap image that I drew that shows what a cross-section picture would look like of an edge.

edgebitmap.jpg

Edited by mattsh

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mattsh   

Here are some pictures of edges that I was able to get somewhat decent pictures.

These two pictures are of an edge that Lou Alessi did. This is what everyone strives for. Perfectly formed and a nice hard waxed edge.

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This is a picture of an edge that I burnished. Its not bad but I still have a ways to go.

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mattsh   

In response to Rusty here are a couple pictures of the tools that I use the most.

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From left to right: stitch spacing tool, free-hand stitching groove tool, adjustable stitching groove tool, edge beveler

The stitch spacing tool is a 5 stitch per inch and sorry I do not remember the edge beveler size.

DSC05071copy.jpg

From left to right: hole punch, razor blade knife, rasp, Tanner's Bond Leathercraft Cement

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mattsh   

Rusty -

You asked about drilling the holes. I find that it works best its makes a cleaner stitch in my opinion. I drill the holes with a drill press. I drill the holes from the outside in.

For finishing the edges I try to get the edge formed like the bitmap picture that I put above. To accomplish this I use a dremel with a drum sander attachment with a medium grit drum and sand the edges to that form. I then apply the hot liquid wax. It soaks in. I then remove any excess wax that may sit "on top" of the edge with a piece of denim in a burnishing type action. I then take it to my edge burnisher and burnish the edge to a nice hard shiny finish.

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mattsh   

Echo4v - I cannot answer your question I have not done stamping on any holsters. My assumption would be that you would do the stamping after the molding. Hopefully some of the others that have made holsters with stamping will chime in. I know there is a holster maker by name of Tucker that does alot of stamping on his holsters. I think he is on 1911forum and of course is at tuckergunleather.com.

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Srigs   

Great overview. Thanks for posting the overview.

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okiwen   

To add to the rest of the people. Thanks for taking the time to do your tutorial. I don't see the photos at work but was still able to follow quite well.

Does anyone differ from this way?

K

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Billsotx   
First let me say thanks for this tutorial, I have a S&W that I'm wanting to build a pancake for so this will greatly help me. Secondly, I have a question that is related but may be a whole other tutorial...

If you were going to say basket weave stamp your holster, at what step in the process would you do the stamping? I know for tooling you should glue on a backing to keep it from streatching out but what about stamping, will that also stretch the leather?

David

David, I'll chime in since it's been suggested. This probably isn't the only way and it may not be the right way, it's how I go about it. I stamp and/or tool right after I cut out the holster. As you pointed out the leather will stretch once you go to pounding on it - stamping/tooling it. Instead of gluing it to a backing I apply packing tape to the backside. I overlap the strips of tape about 1/2 to 1 inch and I let the ends run out a couple of inches because I'll next tape the whole thing onto a small piece of cardboard - real high tech here an empty cereal, cracker, cookie box ... lol! Can't help it, it's hereditary, my parents were depression kids. You don't have to attach it to a piece of cardboard if it's an entire holster, but that makes working with a mouth band or belt loops easier to handle.

Oops forgot one thing. Before you put the tape on. True up the edges so your borders are nice and even and well defined and also layout your stitch lines, unless you just want to plow through you're work; some folks do that and sometimes it looks ok. Anyway the inside stitch line should end up between two borders in my opinion. That's the way I've seen it done mostly and that's the look I like.

This is not etched in stone: If you're basket stamping (there's a couple of tutorials on the forum) I first use a lined or checkered beveler and bevel around my border on the side I'm going to stamp/tool. Next I'll layout a light mark if I'm basket-weave stamping and then apply all my basket-weave stamping. Then I use a decorative border stamp - a cam or geometric - and when through stamping and while still damp from quick casing I peel the leather off of the tape, not the tape off of the leather. If there's any residual glue and usually there is none from packing tape - rub that off with you fingers or a pencil eraser.

I've seen others apply the beveling after the basket-weave and some even leave the bevel off and just run their border stamps.

I've also seen it pressed, that is molded to the gun and that presses all your stamp impressions out into a remnant of a pattern and I tend to think - why bother to tool.

You can find a link to my web on my profile and go over there and look at a basket-weaved 1911 holster and there's a tooled mouth band on a revolver holster. I working on the site so there's only a page, but it might give you an idea or two.

Hope this helps. ~Bill

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Jordan   

Fine line as far as wetness for moulding, too wet and you will lose tooling depth and definition, too dry and moulding will not be as crisp around the weapon. There are to many curves and such to stamp after moulding and I have found experimentation is the only way to get it right, but then again, each time it is different. Also I found the better the quality of the leather the easier it is to straddle that fine line. Stohlmans book on holster making has a good description of basketweave process for a western type holster but boning a tight outline of the weapon does not seem to be the usual practice with that type of holster. Ain't leather grand, the fun part for me is trying stuff out and if it doesn't work try a different way. :Lighten::oops::bike:

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MADMAX22   

Yeah and then you get a different peice of leather and its allmost like starting over again LOL.

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carr52   

Here's my first attempt at it. It's a 9mm Keltec P-11. Your right about the learning curve part. I had to cut several paper patterns before i got one i was happy with. On the next one I'll make the belt loop bigger. I had to do alot of streching on this one to get it right but it fits an inch and a half belt kinda snug.

Tom

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mattsh   

I want to thank everyone for the comments on the tutorial.

carr52 - that looks pretty nice for your first holster - good and functional - I like it

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carr52   
I want to thank everyone for the comments on the tutorial.

carr52 - that looks pretty nice for your first holster - good and functional - I like it

The thanks go to you. With out your tutorial I'd still be hacking away at it. Now I have a great place to start from. I'm hoping my next one will be better. Thanks again Mattsh.

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MADMAX22   

Mattsh I was wondering when you talk of using a wedge to keep the front site channel cleaned out so that it wont catch once your all done what kind of critter did you use for this.

Thanks for the info.

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mattsh   

Here is a picture of what it will look like. I use a 3/8" dowel and sand it flat to give it a side to sit against the top of the slide as seen in figure A. I then sand the dowel to form a ramp as seen in figure B. Usually the overall length is about the same as the barrel minus the breach, but it is personal preference and what you think will work. The purpose for it is to provide enough room for the front sight to clear the leather without scraping the inside of the holster and getting leather on the sight causing a disruption in sight picture. With the channel being about the same length as the barrel the front sight will be able to clear the holster, since by the time you have drawn your weapon from the holster that distance, your front sight will be in the area of the holster that is wider. This will be where the trigger guard exists and the weapon will have more freedom to move out of the holster and the front sight will be clearing the holster. Hope this makes sense.

frontsightramp.jpg

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