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About Lobo

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    Leatherworker.net Regular

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    Beer, poker, good food, comfortable shoes.

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    Retired holster maker.
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    how women think
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  1. I did a lot of two-layer gun belts. Had a display set up to show the variations offered, all of them about 24" in length. Not long enough for anyone to buy (or steal), but enough to show the materials and workmanship. Mr. Customer could see them and handle them, place an order, and the belt would be put on the production schedule and delivered on completion. Biggest issue on belts, in my experience, is sizing. Clothing manufacturers have used "vanity sizing" for so many years that very few people have any idea of their waist size. I wear a size 34 waist trouser, but my belts measure 37.5" from buckle attachment point to tongue hole in use. Longest belt I ever made was 67", required 77" strap length, shipped with a holster for a 6.5" Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver (big dude, big gun). I always asked customers to measure a belt they were presently using, and I absolutely refused to accept returns due to sizing errors. Every buckle has a different length of the engagement; choose your buckle when you select your belt, and if you change the buckle the result is your problem, not mine. Event at that, when I retired and shut down the shop I had a couple dozen belts lying around that needed homes. I gave most away to friends and family.
  2. I like the idea of using the old sheep wagon. Should be a good tool to draw folks in to see what's going on. Nothing wrong with a good hat! Stetson 6X beaver felt in the winter, Resistol straw in the summer. Both are over 30 years old and still looking good! Personally, I avoided walk-ins and looky-loos, took no customers in the shop, never published my phone number, did everything via website and email. Front door closed and locked. I averaged 35 inquiries per day, each one taking 5 to 10 minutes to deal with by email. If I had walk-ins and took phone calls there would never have been enough time to get any production work done. Had a part-time assistant coming and going on her own schedule (sometimes early mornings, sometimes late evenings) doing much of the lay-out, cutting, assembly, stitching, then once each week spending 4 or 5 hours doing all the finish work at one time. My time was spent doing holster forming, edge finish, hardware, managing the website, keeping up with inventory and supplies, dealing with the emails, packaging finished orders, mailing, and carrying the loot to the bank. Couple of times each year I would have a brainstorm, spend a few hours each week for several months working on new product and design ideas. Always doing new patterns (there seems to be a new handgun on the market every other week and holster requests start to come in) which is very time-consuming, lots of changes as prototypes are made and tested. Many of my personal holsters came from product prototypes, not quite perfect but perfectly adequate for the purpose. .
  3. Agree. Maybe one end of the strap came from the belly area, variations in density, wrinkling, other potential defects. We don't always see potential irregularities in the leather until assembly, stitching, finishes applied, etc. 43 years in the business, I made a lot of chew toys for the dogs. For whatever it might be worth, I used to cut my belt straps from sides, laying out from the back to the belly and angled for the lengths I wanted. Always marked the end from the back, then when assembling two straps I alternated the two pieces so that the ends were reversed (back to belly ends). This reduced the effects of slight irregularities in thickness so the overall belt was more uniform and stronger. Usually did 5 or 6 belts per week to fill pending orders. When new shipments of leather sides arrived I laid each one out and cut a few straps from the middles, leaving two pieces that were then easier to handle when laying out holster patterns on the bench. Kept the straps for use as needed, replenishing various lengths as each size was used up. With the straps already cut it was easy to lay out all the week's belt orders and do them all at the same time (cutting, assembly, cementing, stitching, etc). Knock out 5 or 6 in a couple of hours, then they were ready to go through finishing cycles (edge burnishing, oiling, final finish, hardware) with the week's other orders (holsters, pouches, etc). Working in batches is much more time-efficient than doing single pieces from start to finish.
  4. Back in the early 1970s the thumb-break holsters became very popular. Many of the cops I worked with wanted their strap-snap holsters modified to thumb-break so I worked out a few designs for several popular designs. Each one took about an hour to 1.5 hours, mostly small scraps of leather, and some reinforcement for the thumb-release (local lumber yard had sturdy steel straps used to secure pallets of lumber, easy enough to cut and fit for the purpose). I charged about $5 per, back in the day. Probably did a couple hundred over the course of a few years. At the same time I was making basic pancake-style holsters for $6 each and thumb-break police duty holster for $15 each (steel shank, hand-sewn toe plug, lots of work!). Doesn't sound like very much today, but back then my take-home pay (after taxes, retirement fund, family health insurance) was $192 every two weeks, and my house payment was $182 per month. A dozen little side jobs per month made a big difference! The leather work remained a little side gig through the 1970s working uniformed patrol, through the 1980s as a detective and supervisory investigator, and until my retirement in 1995 as a chief. Kept on pounding out a few here and there until about 2006 when I discovered the internet and website marketing, then it became full-time 7 days per week for about 9 years (no days off, no weekends, no vacations, no holidays). Wore me out! Made me an old man! But it also allowed me to finally retire very comfortably, debt-free, new home, and a nice investment portfolio. Plenty of opportunity out there for people willing to work for it. But we must be careful what we wish for because sometimes we get more of it than we can handle!
  5. Over the decades I have made hundreds of sheaths for people with good knives and worn out, lost, or damaged original sheaths. I always enjoyed those little chores but seldom made much more than material costs. Very few people are willing to pay the value of a couple hours of skilled craftsmanship that is required to complete a simple knife sheath. Worked with a good custom knife maker for several years. Different proposition, doing a dozen at a time and working for a professional who understood the time and costs involved. He was charging $250 and up for his knives so he didn't mind paying a fair price for what he wanted to offer his customers. I also ended up with a few of his knives in trade for his sheath needs.
  6. I retired nearly 7 years ago. I offered 13 different holster designs, with or without 4 common options, left-hand or right-hand, in 4 different finish colors, for about 140 different handgun models. That equates to some 80,000 possible variations. Prices ranged from mid-$50 range to $150-plus range depending on the customer's preferences. Average sale price was $78; average materials cost was $9; packaging about $1, delivery (postage) about $4. Gross profit about $64 per piece. Always someone who wanted something else, their own design idea, a copy of someone else's design, whatever. Every week another class graduated from Holster Genius School and wanted someone to build their idea of "the perfect holster". My standard response became "$60 per hour plus materials and shop supplies". How much will that be? "I don't know, I haven't done it yet". How long will it take? "I don't know, I haven't done it yet." Doing custom work is much different than producing products to an established and proven pattern. In my shop we completed standard production items in batches of 10 to 12 at a time, usually 35 to 50 per week, with average shop time per piece at about 47 minutes. Doing a single one-off special order piece might take 6, 8, maybe 12 hours of shop time. General production products at $64 gross profit on 47 minutes of shop time equals $1.36 per minute ($81 per hour). Even if I had customer orders for custom products at $60 per hour plus materials and shop time I would have been losing money doing those orders (as long as I had pending orders for general production). I charged $25 for basketweave tooling on a holster; each piece takes about 15 minutes. My Sheridan-style floral carving artist was paid $60 per holster; I charged $90 to the customer. Remember that these figures reflect 7 years ago. Bought my home 7 years ago for $182,000; it is now worth $340,000. Bought my truck 4 years ago for $37,000; same model now is $54,000. Gasoline was $2.20 per gallon; now it is $4.89. Good Hermann Oak veg-tanned cowhide was about $4.50 sq. ft.; now it is about $8.00. Hell, 7 years ago I couldn't pick up $50 worth of groceries; now I do it with only one hand. If you are doing leather work as a hobby, filling your spare time, maybe earning a little pocket money, it's all good. But if you are running a business you must balance your capacity to produce against product demand, along with overhead costs. If you are capable of producing 10 items per week and 20 potential customers want those items your price per unit will be toward the upper end of market tolerance. There is simply no reason to accept less than what the market will bear. Since my retirement the new owners of my business have raised prices significantly, but they are still working at near their abilities to keep up with demand. More power to them! Best regards.
  7. About 12 or 13 years ago I hooked up with a shop providing laser engraving services. All run from a computer program, basically any image that can be scanned into memory can be replicated in any scale. My focus as a holster maker was offering the option of military and law enforcement images, such as military unit crests, badges, etc. Customers could send me a photo or other image via email, have it replicated on the new holster. The shop doing the laser work was willing to take these on as a one-of-a-kind job for a quite reasonable fee, and the turn-around time was only days. In a year's time I think we did about 5 total orders. Wasn't worth the time dealing with customer questions and putzing around with the details (photos, links to images, endless questions). Market demand did not justify the time this little idea ate from my daily schedule. Your experience may be different.
  8. OP is in Pennsylvania, son with the pistol is in Missouri. I ran into that situation several times, people wanting a holster made for a pistol I did not have and no dummy gun available. The choices were: 1. Purchase a pistol. This is viable only when there is significant demand and more orders to be expected. 2. Mr. Customer can send his pistol to me via a Federal Firearms License holder, pay the shipping both ways, pay the FFL transfer fees at both ends. Usually requires next-day air service, which is a bit expensive ($75 or so each way). Many FFL holders will do the transfers and charge $25 to $50 or so for each transfer. Another scenario is a new handgun model announced by a major maker (happens every couple of weeks for the past 15 years or so). Lots of people wanting holsters for their new guns, but no dummy guns (probably won't be seen for a year, if ever, depending on market demand). Dummies are usually available only for current production handguns that have achieved a large market share; new models and older models are seldom seen. I bought a lot of guns over the years. Most paid off over time. Some sat in the gun safe for months or years with no orders coming in. As soon as I used one to pattern and form a holster for sale the gun itself is a tax-deductible business expense (here in the USA anyway), so I looked at it as building my retirement fund with tax-free money. After retiring I sold most of them, usually making a tidy profit (which is recaptured depreciation, treated as capital gains for tax purposes with very preferential tax treatment). A few customers sent their custom or one-of-a-kind handguns to me. I really did not like to have them on hand because of the liability for loss or damages (my business insurance policy had a $1000 deductible). Considerable risk to assume for a single holster order. I thought about obtaining a Federal Firearms License so I could receive and transfer firearms in accordance with the law. But then my shop would be subject to inspection and audit at any time, and every firearm on the premises would have to be treated as inventory, recorded in the bound book, records of every transfer, background checks, all the other hassles. More intrusion than I was willing to accept.
  9. Very nice design and execution. I especially like the articulated connections allowing the straps to move with the body. A lot of thought and planning went into that project.
  10. Good idea on the leather belt loop. Another approach I have used in the past for competition holsters (and police duty holsters) is reinforcing the holster back and the belt loop using strips of 20 to 24-gauge galvanized sheet metal (some HVAC shops will give away scraps, but you want the heavy stuff instead of the lighter metal typically used for duct work), and later with Kydex. A small panel encased in the holster back panel will keep the holster rigid and resist flexing over time. A strip encased in the belt loop from the holster attachment point upward and underneath the belt will keep the holster at a consistent angle and positioning. Assembly can be done with rivets or T-nuts and machine screws through both reinforced areas making a very strong connection. I came to like the Kydex for this use. Easy to cut and shape, warm it up with a heat gun and pre-form it to any contour or angle you like to establish carry angle and offset from the body. On duty holsters with thumb-break retention a small strip of Kydex can be incorporated in the thumb-break as reinforcement. Kydex is very durable, impervious to moisture, and is dirt cheap (used to be under $2 per square foot, and that is enough for multiple projects). Some of the competition and duty handguns can be quite heavy and that weight puts a lot of stress on the leather, over time causing excessive flexing and softening at the stress points.
  11. One stitch per second is like "light speed" for those of us who hand-stitched everything for many years. I remember spending hours at a time stitching up a few holsters at a time, tearing the skin off my fingers followed by aches and pains in my hands, wrists, and arms. The day I received my Cobra Class 4 stitching machine was a wonderful day. Work that used to take the better part of an hour could be done in a few minutes, minus all the aches and pains, waking up in the morning with claws for hands that couldn't hold a coffee cup. Carpal tunnel surgeries. Cubital tunnel surgeries. Permanent damage to the ulnar nerves in both arms. Anti-inflammatory medications as a daily regimen. Prior to my retirement in 2015 I was filling 40 orders every week. Totally impossible without a power stitching machine. Still have to force my fingers to get any function during the first hour or two every day. 43 years in the business, 35 part-time and 8 full-time. Made a lot of money and retired very comfortably, but I'm still paying the price for that now.
  12. For many years I have kept a Louisville Slugger baseball bat in my car. My old fielder's mitt and a baseball ride along also. Never know when I'll find a game to play in. A nice russet potato in a sock can be handy for social occasions. Of course, they will sprout and turn mushy so we have to replace occasionally. 24 years as a cop, always carried a 24-ounce pocket sap, spring steel with a rounded flat piece of lead in a leather casing. Our old uniform pants had a special pocket along the seam of the right leg. In plain clothes I carried it in my back pocket. Came in handy more than once. Back in the 1970s a company called Damascus Industries made "sap gloves". Basically just a nice black leather glove with the knuckle area containing a pouch filled with about 8 ounces of powdered lead. Another version placed the lead-filled pouch in the palm of the hand, which provided a pretty convincing slap to the face when circumstances required such a response. Know your state and local laws! Blackjacks, slap-jacks, flails, and other such things may be classified as dangerous or deadly weapons, and little or no wiggle-room may exist for those carrying such devices. Of course, there is always a $2 roll of nickels, wrapped securely in duct tape to avoid breaking the paper roll, easily gripped in the hand to add some authority to an attention-getter pop in the face, or the ribs, or the kidneys. Also handy for pay phones, if you can find one in 21st Century America.
  13. Lobo

    Sweat And Blood

    That piece represents a lot of time, thought, planning, and effort. Exceptionally nice job! Having the sutures removed usually hurts less than the suturing! Best wishes for your recovery.
  14. For years my preference was a mixture of 50% beeswax and 50% paraffin. I had a lady who made candles mix it for me in her wax melting machine, poured into small muffin-size chunks for use in the shop. Rubbed onto the edges at room temperature, then burnished on a hard felt polishing wheel turning at about 1700 RPM, which quickly builds friction to melt the wax and force it into the exposed edges. A single 2-ounce "muffin" of wax mixture would easily do a hundred holsters or belts. After dressing the edges on a drum sander, beveling, and dying if needed, the actual burnishing process takes about 2 or 3 minutes per product. The result is a perfect high-gloss edge that is very resistant to wear or abrasion. Wearing a belt right now made about 12 years ago and finished that way. All edges remain well sealed and presentable. Holster I'm wearing dates to about 2008, still looks and functions just fine. Caution: Melting waxes will produce vapors that are easily ignited, so mixing the waxes can be dangerous when there are exposed heat sources. It is possible to mix and melt the waxes in containers (heavy duty freezer bags) immersed in a pot of boiling water without generating the flammable vapors. Personally, I provided my candle-making friend with 10 lbs. each of beeswax and paraffin wax, let her do it in her special machine, and paid her a buck per pound for her efforts. 20 lbs. of finished "muffins" gave me all I needed for a decade of production work.
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