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About Lobo

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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. Very nice results, especially for a first attempt. Very clean lines, nicely formed and finished. Belt slots angled or perpendicular to the belt line is more a matter of aesthetics than anything else, in my opinion. To my eye following the general profile of the holster is more appealing than larger protrusions to accommodate a more vertical belt slot. Couple of comments from an old timer: 1. The reinforcing pieces you have incorporated offer little, if any, actual benefit in a pancake-style holster. Nice for aesthetic appeal, but the function of the pancake-style includes flexing at the fore-and-aft stitch-lines, so an added bit of leather on the outer side has no real benefit in retaining shape for ease of re-holstering. The pancake-style is intended to reduce bulk, and adding the patches overcomes that to some degree. Others will quickly disagree with me on this, so all I will offer is that I started making pancake-style holsters 49 years ago and have been using that style for discreet concealed carry for decades. 2. The profile of the little Ruger holster offers very good clearance around the grip-frame, important for obtaining a solid grip during the draw. The Sig holster offers much less clearance for the hand during the draw, and might benefit from a re-design to taper the leather away from the pistol grip-frame in order to allow more ease of access. I have referred to this as the need for a proper "shooting grip" during the draw, eliminating the need to shift the pistol in the hand before addressing a possible target. Excellent workmanship!
  2. About 2008 or so I had the idea of offering holsters and accessories laser-engraved to display military unit crests, law enforcement badges, and other such items. Local trophy & engraving shop was well set up to handle that part of the work, all that needed to be provided was a scanned photo or image (jpg, gif, etc) to load into the computer and just about anything could be replicated. The only critical requirement was a good clear image for the computer to read and reproduce. I offered this as an option via my website for a couple of years, and completed a few orders. Overall, customer interest was not sufficient to continue so I dropped the option. I recall spending a considerable amount of time on those few orders, discussing customer ideas, dealing with the transfers of images (even e-mail attachments take time), laying out individual pieces, frequently tooling borders for the images, delivering pieces to the vendor shop, picking up completed jobs, etc. Bottom line, time is a limited commodity and must be made to be productive. My records showed that individual orders typically took 14% of gross sale to cover materials, supplies, packaging, and shipping, thus 86% gross profit margin in return for the time invested. Adding time to an individual order detracts from the time available to complete other orders, so the effect is to drive gross profits down. 30 completed orders per week at average gross profit of $60 per equals $1800 for that week. To take on 10 orders requiring the same amount of time to complete would require a gross profit average of $180 each to achieve the same income. The high-priced orders convey a sense of greater worth, but the run-of-the-mill orders pay the bills and fund the retirement plan. For me, this was a business and not a hobby. Maximizing profits allowed me to live well and retire comfortably, and also added value to the business when I retired and sold the company. My input, for whatever it might be worth.
  3. First comment: That is a very nice piece of work! Second, re: can we dye veg-tan after neatsfoot oil? My response is Yes and No. As others have pointed out, any sealant or finish coat can be expected to interfere with the dyeing absorption. Selection of the dye is likely to be a factor in success. Water-based dyes will be inhibited by the oil in the leather fibers, oil-based dyes are likely to do a better job. Another likely result will be incomplete absorption and probable dye residue transfer from the leather to the user's skin or clothing during contact (not the best result). Finally, veg-tanned cowhide will always be photo-active, responding to ultraviolet and sunlight by darkening (not always predictably or evenly), and oxidation is probable over time. I think what you are describing as a grayish patina is probably oxidation brought on by exposure to light and air. Obviously, the ideal solution is to dye the leather while it remains in the unfinished state and allowing plenty of time for the dye to completely set before continuing with any project. Application of neatsfoot oil also requires a period of time for the oil to "settle" into the leather; it never dries but it does migrate within the leather fibers until it reaches a relatively even saturation. Probably the best product for replacing some of the natural moisture removed by the tanning processes (nasty stuff, lye to remove the hair follicles followed by repeated soakings in tannin-infusions, etc). Neatsfoot oil is rendered from the natural oils of the feet and lower legs of cattle, part of nature's way of protecting the animal's exposed and vulnerable parts from the environment (particularly freezing temperatures); some folks refer to neatsfoot as "cow oil", which is an accurate description. Another passing thought: neatsfoot oil can exhibit oxidation from exposure to sunlight and air, and may be a factor in the grayish patina you are observing. Thorough cleaning (saddle soap may be helpful) followed by a good acrylic sealant may cure the problem. I hope this helps.
  4. Perhaps I should clarify my use of the drying cabinet, based upon some of the follow-up discussion. During the wet-forming process I used another heating process to maintain 125-130F with a timer. Working from thoroughly dampened for initial forming, then 15 minutes in the heat, then detail forming, then 15 minutes in the heat, then boning. After boning the piece went into the hot box, usually 3 to 4 hours. The piece was then ready for edge work (sanding, beveling, burnishing) followed by sealing and finishing. The "hot box" maintained 104-109F and worked very well for setting and curing dyes, sealer, and finish applications. Each piece could remain in the hot box for hours; I remember a couple of times when I left a batch in overnight because I forgot to turn it off before leaving the shop. No problems at all. The temps maintained in the hot box were not (in my opinion) optimal for achieving the collagen effects, which require a higher level of heat. The family who purchased my business have transitioned to a large food dehydrator, capable of maintaining the desired temperatures with plenty of air flow to evacuate evaporating moisture. I really like the dehydrator for these uses, and I wish I had known about them years earlier!
  5. Had another thought about this post and looked up another post I made a few years ago about a drying cabinet to help speed up production times. I remember using this on occasion to turn out a holster order in a day, using it for setting the dyes and finish coats, and complete drying after forming/boning. Easy to make, inexpensive, efficient.
  6. Sorry, but I just can't resist! Just how fat is the lady we are building a corset for?
  7. Probably the easiest way to deal with this issue is using a drum sander to dress the edges after assembly and stitching, then bevel edges, then burnish normally. I dampened the leather prior to sanding, which allows the wet fibers to fall on the bench instead of polluting the air where I am working. After sanding the outer edges are splayed out a bit, ready for the beveling tool to cut them away cleanly. Lots of methods for burnishing, and it could start a long discussion on what others do, how they do it, and why. My method evolved over time and experience. After sanding the finished edge smooth and beveling I applied dye to even out the coloring, then rubbed the edges with a mixture of waxes (50% paraffin, 50% beeswax), then burnished on a very hard felt wheel turning at about 1700RPM. Friction melts the wax and forces it into the leather fibers, and the polishing effect leaves the edge as slick and pretty as anything you can imagine. The entire process takes only a few minutes per piece. I can do 15 or more per hour easily. The waxed and burnished edges not only look great, they are very resistant to moisture and abrasion. When long-term use starts to cause a little bit of wear the holster can be burnished again and look as good as new.
  8. The S&W Model 29 (and companion 629 in stainless) is made on the large "N" frame and also features the longest cylinder length used in that series. Barrel profiles will vary quite a bit, but most are the heavier "bull barrels" (the exception being the Mountain Gun series). What came to be known as the N-frame started out as the large-frame Hand Ejector series very early in the 20th Century. The Model 29 is a model number designation dating from about 1960 or so, when S&W started using such numbers in lieu of the original marketing names. Originally, the 29 was known simply as the .44 Magnum model. All of the N-frame revolvers share the same frame dimensions, trigger guard profiles, and other major design features. The differences will come primarily in cylinder lengths (depending on calibers from .38 to .45), fixed or adjustable rear sights, and barrel profiles. Probably 3 representative pieces will make holsters usable for all, except the high-end "hunter" and "silhouette" models with crazy barrel profiles and attachment rails for scopes and other accessories. Finding "dummy guns" for any of the revolvers has become a tedious challenge. Contrary to some beliefs, dummy guns are not made for holster forming, they are made for training purposes (law enforcement and security forces), so what might be available at any given time is usually limited to the most common and popular makes and models in current production. There is a significant and enduring market for good revolver holsters, so those in the business can benefit from investing in the necessary tools for patterning and forming work. In my shop I kept several N-frames including a Model 29 6.5", Model 629 3", Model 28 4" Highway Patrolman, Model 625 .45 caliber, Model 1917 US Army, and a .38-44 Heavy Duty Outdoorsman. That combination allowed me to make holsters for probably 98% of all N-frame S&W revolvers. Unfortunately for today's small shop operator, those same revolvers would cost thousands of dollars to purchase. There would have to be a steady stream of new orders to justify the investment; but the investment is exactly that, not an expense but an asset that grows in value over time. The guns I acquired over the years for use in the holster work provided a very nice dividend for my retirement fund!
  9. I always wanted a minimum of 12 hours between steps in the production process, particularly anything that uses liquid in the process (dyeing, oiling, sealing, finishing, wet-forming). Of course, that is more difficult to do when making one item at a time from beginning to end. I liked working with batches of about 10 pieces (holsters, pouches, etc) doing each step in the process 10 times, then moving on to the next step (or next batch) during the next working session. The way it usually worked out was 5 work sessions (morning or afternoon typically) to complete each batch, then 2 days (weekend usually) for final finishes to cure, then get all the orders packaged for delivery to the customers. Each batch was composed of about 10 orders based upon like features (dye colors, lined vs. unlined, plain vs. tooled, etc). An order for several matching pieces (holster, mag pouch, belt, etc) would be done at the same time so that dye results could be monitored in the different hides and leather weights used. Usually 3 batches per week moving through the work stations. Occasionally I would have an order for multiple items going to one customer (retailer, military or LE agency) so I would add that as a fourth batch for the week. Almost always worked out to 30-50 pieces per week in order to keep up with promised delivery dates. I admit to "fudging" a bit on my promised production times. If you promise completion in "about 6 weeks" and get the order out the door in 4 or 5 weeks all is good; but if you take 43 days you can have a customer on your back and screaming in your ear! The only times I had anything on hand for immediate sale was when mistakes were made. Customer ordered left-hand, a right-hand was produced. Customer ordered smooth leather lining, suede lining installed (or no lining). Sometimes there will be a cosmetic issue, a bit of scar tissue that was not readily apparent until after dyeing, then showed up as an ugly mark. Lots of ways to make mistakes, especially when you are in "cruise control mode" at the bench. Those items were listed on the website with a description of any issues, priced at a discount (small or large), and usually went away quickly. Of course, major problems became chew toys for the dogs. For about a year I kept track of the actual time spent on production work, my own and my assistant's. Working in the ways described we were turning out one completed product for every 47 minutes of shop time. There is simply no way to do this work one unit at a time and maintain that level of production. Just the waiting periods after dyeing, sealing, final finish, etc, make it difficult to complete a single piece from beginning to end in less than 2 or 3 days. Sure, someone will come along and argue that point and tell us how they do it all the time in a single day, and that is fine with me. I'm just describing what I found to work in my shop. Setting up a stitching machine to sew with white, brown, or black thread takes 20 minutes or so. Why do it constantly for each order when you can do it once and stitch a dozen pieces before any further adjustments? Same with the dye stations, set up and clean up when changing from black to another color selection, do it one time and proceed with a batch of items. Of course, we can play like the big companies, purchasing pre-dyed hides, running multiple stitching machines for each thread color, and so on. That would be the ultimate goal for those making the transition from a small production shop to a manufacturing shop, and the savings in time and labor would be great. Meanwhile, for the smaller production shop the guy responsible for keeping it going is spending hours per day at the benches, hours per day dealing with customers, and additional time monitoring inventory of materials and supplies, dealing with suppliers, working on advertising, taking care of the accounting, paying the bills and running deposits to the bank. Usually done all alone by one person, and it can become a 7-day per week contest to keep everything moving along.
  10. I am impressed by your inventive approach! Everything you need with nothing you don't need. Perfect for the intended uses.
  11. Your floral carving work is absolutely beautiful, Rocksnake. Best regards!
  12. I truly admire the craftsmanship demonstrated by a well done toe plug in a holster. There really is no simple or easy way to accomplish the goal, and either it is perfectly done or it stands out like ugly on an ape. I think this is a disappearing feature that will be seen very little in future creations. The time involved in doing this type of work will drive up the market price of the end product to a point that cannot be sustained. I have done a few over the years. I won't brag on my abilities, especially when compared to some of the master craftsmen of prior years. I can say without hesitation that the time to get one toe plug done right is equivalent to the time required to assemble and stitch two or three common pancake or scabbard-style holsters without such a feature. Like it or not, the leather crafting business is all about turning time into profits. In 1972 I was happily making simple pancake-style holsters for $6 or $7, maybe $2 more for a thumb-break, and police duty holsters for $15 or so. But I lived in a $18,000 house and drove a $2500 car while working as a city cop for $9,000 per year salary. An extra $20 or so per week was very welcome at that time. By the time of my retirement in 2015 I was making an average of nearly 40 pieces per week. I was paying about $14 for materials average per completed piece. My work shop cost more than 4 times as much as my house payments back in 1972. I was paying a trainee-apprentice $15 to $20 per hour to do the basics (layout, cutting, dyeing, finish work, some assembly and stitching) while also working about 80 hours per week myself. I doubt that very many customers would see the value in a holster with sewn-in toe plug priced at double the going rate for another design without that feature, but that is what it would take to compensate the time involved in such work.
  13. Right on! I must have made and delivered a couple of thousand gun belts, two layer construction cemented and stitched. Never had a problem with a single one. For CCW trouser belts I liked to use two straps totaling about 13 - 14 oz. in weight (one strap of 7/8 with another of 5/6, or two straps of 6/7). Always purchased my leather by the side (usually 22 to 25 sq. ft.) and the first thing taken out would be 8 or 10 belt straps, cut diagonally from belly to back in lengths from about 50" to 65" which will make just about any common belt lengths. Assembly was done back to belly on the length of the straps, which usually evens out the differences in hide thickness. In my opinion, two layers cemented and stitched are stronger and less likely to stretch in use than a single layer of equal weight. Kind of like plywood, multiple layers laid up with solid bonding providing greater strength than a single layer of wood. I used Fiebings Tanners Bond to cement the layers together, then a 10-lb. round steel billet rolled over the pieces to bond them securely, then stitched together. Contact cement will work very well also, but I liked having a little more working time with the Fiebings cement. Either way there is plenty of flexibility in the finished belt to conform to the body during use. Allow each newly cemented belt blank to thoroughly cure before proceeding with the other processes. Rushing through any part of the process is a sure method for failure. The cement may be dry to the touch in a half-hour, but overnight provides even better adhesion.
  14. In public school at about 12 years of age, crafts class included a little bit of leather crafting. Enjoyed it, but no strong connection made. Age 22, as a young police officer with a mortgage to pay and kids to feed, I started making holsters and accessories for myself. Others who worked with me saw what I was doing and started asking me to make things for them. That led to a little part-time sideline business for the following 35 years. In 2007 and 2008 the US economy was circling the toilet bowl. My usual business had slowed considerably and I was looking for ways to add a little income. Started offering my holsters on-line, primarily on eBay. That led to requests for more products, and by 2008 I had my website up and running. I had to rent commercial space for production work and was soon working 7 days per week filling orders. By 2009 I had moved into larger quarters and hired a helper to assist with basic production work. Completing an average of 2000 orders per year for customers in all 50 US states and 33 other countries. Ideas that had been percolating in my brain for years kept guiding me in new designs, primarily focused on improvements to earlier developments by others. Introduced several new lines that were well received on the market. In 2015 I was just plain tired. 65 years old, arthritis, carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel, shoulder surgeries, cataract surgeries, the handwriting was on the wall. I could not continue doing the work. Stopped taking new orders, finished up everything pending, kept the shop open for warranty work only. Then a good family of leather workers (other product lines) stepped up and purchased my business, continuing the trade name and all of my designs. Now I am a consultant, sharing ideas for products and production methods with the new owners. Comfortably retired and debt-free. Income from the sale covered our retirement home and funded the first few years of retirement. Now I can draw on my retirement funds and investment accounts to live pretty well. It was a good ride. Best advice I can offer is to keep it manageable, always remember that it is a business and not a hobby, be careful what you commit to do, avoid debt like the plague, and be very careful about relying on any hired help (everyone wants a job and a paycheck, but very few seem willing to show up everyday, on time, do what they promised to do, or clean up after themselves). Your name and reputation goes with every product you sell, so you have to do it right and stand behind it. Best regards.
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