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About Lobo

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    Beer, poker, good food, comfortable shoes.

LW Info

  • Leatherwork Specialty
    Retired holster maker.
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    how women think
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  1. Retired after 53 years of useful endeavors. Buy me a beer and I'll tell you more.

  2. Wet forming is a process that can only be used with vegetable tanned or rawhide, otherwise the formed shape has little way of being retained. Weight of the leather is determined by the intended purposes. I regularly used 7/8 for most holster applications, but 8/9 and heavier for really heavy pieces. I also did thousands of holsters made with two layers of leather cemented together, flesh side to flesh side, then made into holsters with total finished thickness/weight of 12-15 oz. All of these can be wet-formed, the differences being in the effort required to do the forming work and the drying times required. For most applications in our shop I found that water at room temperature worked just fine. I have also worked with very warm water, which tends to penetrate more quickly. My usual procedure was to immerse a holster into room-temp water for about one second per ounce of leather weight (7/8 oz. leather for about 7 to 8 seconds), then proceed with the basic forming to the handgun. I then placed the new piece into a drying cabinet (more later) with internal temperature controlled at 120-130F for ten minutes. Next step was the first detailed forming using the "boning" technique (smooth tools to force the leather into a final contour). Then another ten minutes in the heated drying cabinet, followed by a second "boning" to finish that process. That was followed by an hour or so in the heated drying cabinet. Horsehide requires much longer exposure to water prior to the forming. It is far more dense than cowhide and resists moisture infiltration, usually requiring 30 minutes or more in the water before wet-forming could be done. The application of heat in the 120-130F range has the effect of releasing the collagens in the leather fibers and a significant hardening effect on the final formed piece that enhances the wet-forming process and provides a more lasting effect. My drying cabinet was made from a kitchen wall cabinet 18"W X 30"H X 12" depth. I drilled dozens of 1/4" holes in the top to allow heated air to escape, and holes lower on the sides and back to draw in fresh air by convection. The heat source was made with two porcelain keyless light fixtures at the bottom controlled by a rheostat (dimmer switch) with 120V house current as the power source and 100W light bulbs to produce the heat. A thermometer near the top provided the internal air temperature, and the rheostat allowed control within the desired range. Drying holsters were hung on wire hooks inside the cabinet. Capacity was about 12 holsters at a time. All this might sound a bit primitive, but it worked very well for many years during which I produced 1500 to 2000 pieces every year for customers in all 50 US states and 33 other countries. All of my cutting was done by hand, assembly by hand, stitching on a Cobra Class 4 (Leather Machine Company, highly recommended) machine, wet-forming and boning by hand, and all finish work by hand methods. The only power tools in the shop were the stitching machine, a drill press, and a sander (for edge dressing). I retired 5 years ago with over a million in the bank, so maybe such primitive methods are still worth considering.
  3. My all time favorite is the leather business I started in 1972, worked it part-time for 32 years, then went full-time with a website for another 11 years. After 43 years I retired and sold the company to a good family that continues to make an excellent living with my original designs and product line. Sale of the business paid for my retirement home and funded several years of retirement before I finally started using my savings and investments. Retail? No way! Customers walking in any time of the day, hours of questions and BS. No, I did everything by website and email, never published my phone number. Products? I'm a retired cop so I stuck with what I knew; holsters, belts and accessories for professionals who need to carry a defensive firearm comfortably and discreetly. 13 basic designs, with or without 4 common options, left-hand and right-hand, in 4 finish colors, for 162 different handgun models (about 80,000 possible variations depending on customer preferences), plus belts, ammunition pouches. Custom work? Never again! Endless chit-chat over trivia. A never ending line of people who think they each have an idea in mind for the "perfect holster" and looking for someone to make their dream a reality, but when their little half-baked idea is all done and doesn't work as they dreamed it would none of them ever remember it was their idea to begin with, but they always curse the name of the craftsman who just couldn't get it just right. Everything I made was done to fill an order and paid for prior to delivery. I provided a one-year warranty covering any defects in materials or workmanship. Any order placed that wasn't paid for never got made. There are many, many people in the world who want a "try it before you buy it" deal, so I let them order from others. Employees? Never again! Being an employer makes you a professional baby-sitter. Grown up humans show up claiming to want a job, but showing up every day, on time, finishing what they start, cleaning up after themselves, or showing any basic responsibility just doesn't happen anymore. Their little soap opera lives always make it impossible to make it to work when necessary, some show up 2 hours late then make up for it by leaving a couple of hours early. Some think it's OK to spend half their working hours on side projects for friends, using my materials and supplies while I pay them to be there. Down side? I worked 7 days per week, usually 10 to 14 hours per day for 11 years. No weekends off, no vacations, no hunting or fishing trips. Two days off for an old friend's funeral 300 miles away, two hospital stays for cancer treatment, other than that it was every day and all day. Up side? I served customers in all 50 US states and 33 other countries, and made a number of good friends along the way. I also retired debt-free in a new home with over a million in retirement and investment accounts. Be careful what you hope for because you might just get it.
  4. I will take issue with this to some degree. Like everything else in life firearms and holsters have evolved quite a lot over the past 30 years or so. Today just about every public shooting range, and many privately owned ranges, require holsters that fully contain the trigger guard area; this is something that was very seldom seen back in the 1970's and 1980's. The difference has come about because of the widespread acceptance of striker-fired semi-auto pistols (many with no manual safety devices, like the Glocks), and leaving the trigger exposed is an invitation to an unintentional discharge. As a retired police chief I have read dozens of reputable studies reporting that unintentional and accidental discharges of police handguns has been a growing problem since the transition away from double-action revolvers (30-plus years ago now). Back in my puppy policeman days we carried double-action revolvers, typically Colt or Smith & Wesson, each having passive safety devices built-in that require the trigger be completely pulled to the rear and held throughout the hammer fall, and double-action firing required about 20 pounds of continuous pressure applied to the trigger. We carried those revolvers in holsters with the trigger and trigger guard areas completely exposed with no problems whatsoever. Today's striker-fired semi-autos may, or may not, feature a spring-loaded tab on the trigger that must be actuated by the trigger finger during the trigger pull. Trigger pull weight is typically 4 to 6 pounds (unless modified, and modification kits are widespread, allowing significantly lighter trigger pull weights). Holsters now almost universally feature full coverage of the trigger guard area as a means of preventing unintentional discharge caused by impact, interference of clothing, pressures applied by car seats, and other causes. Law enforcement officers are usually trained and drilled on safely drawing and holstering the handgun to avoid conflicts and accidents. That doesn't mean that accidents do not happen. Training, even when done properly and repeatedly, can easily be overcome by adrenaline-fueled incidents, or simply stupid acts done with little or no thought of consequences. A holster may have an approved fully covered trigger guard, but when the handgun user attempts to holster the pistol with his finger inside the trigger guard there can be some ugly results. Not everyone who purchases or owns a handgun is a trained law enforcement officer. Many people acquire handguns without any training in safe handling or operation, or (perhaps worse) had some level of training years earlier and assume that they know everything necessary without regard to weapon type, holster type, or other factors in play. Even if you, as a holster maker, sell your products only to full trained and experienced users there is nothing to prevent those products from passing through other hands and used by less qualified people. There are also holsters that remain in use way beyond the point in time that they have become so worn or damaged that they should be retired or trashed. The one thing that will always be a factor in every incident is that when an accident or injury occurs the user will be looking to blame anyone but himself, and the user can easily retain an attorney to seek damages from the holster maker based on a theory of faulty design or poor manufacturing practices. I will restate my earlier advisements to spend a few bucks now for competent legal advice, purchase a comprehensive business liability insurance policy, and always keep all of your personal assets (home, bank accounts, retirement funds, etc) completely separate from the business operation to shield yourself from today's litigious idiots and their cut-throat lawyers.
  5. Remember C-96? LUFA must still be around (Law Abiding Firearms Owners, an association of Canadian citizens that defeated that ugly bit of legislative over-reach a few years ago). I'm sure that many Canadians are already working on plans to put a stop to this latest rubbish legislation. Google search for LUFA and read a very interesting story about how law-abiding Canadian people taught their government to keep their hands off basic liberties. It took about 10 years, but good Canadians made the government give it up.
  6. Here in the United States anyone can sue anyone else for any stated claim. No proof is required to file the lawsuit and there are plenty of lawyers willing to take on any case for a contingency fee (a percentage of any settlement). When you are the defendant in a lawsuit you must respond within the allowed time period and defend against the action or face summary judgement by default. There lies the very real danger, which is the expense of defending against the lawsuit, and that could easily reach into the tens of thousands of dollars before any hearing or trial occurs or any evidence is presented in court. A good business insurance policy can provide a manufacturer with significant protections against claims pertaining to product liability or completed operations. I carried such a policy for many years and the premiums were a few hundred dollars per year. In the event of a lawsuit I knew that I could expect the insurance company to assign an attorney to take over the response. The insurance premium was very cheap compared to having to prepare and file a response, much less prepare for trial in court. My most recent experience with attorneys involved a death in the family with no will left behind. The attorney charged $350 per hour and required a $3500 retainer to begin work on the case. Over the following 12 months I spent $15,000 in legal fees and court costs while dealing with a fairly uncomplicated matter of an older single man with a home and a few assets (totaling less than $100.000), and no one was contesting the action at the courthouse. If you are engaged in a business (holsters or otherwise) I strongly recommend: 1. Establish a business entity for conducting the business. This can be a simple LLC (limited liability company) or a subchapter S corporation (very easy to do, very little expense, and tax filings are very simple to do) 2. Establish a business bank account to receive every dollar that comes in and pay every bill that relates to the business. Do not co-mingle personal finances with business finances in any way. Keep everything at arms length from your personal assets 3. Consult a good insurance agent and get a business insurance policy that includes liability coverage (premises liability, completed operations, product liability, etc). Even if you work in your home you will have no business coverage at all under your homeowners insurance policy (specifically excluded in most policies). 4. A modest consultancy fee for an hour of a lawyer's time now may save you everything you own, and maybe everything you ever acquire, in the event of a problem in the future. 43 years in the holster business (32 part-time, 11 full-time) and I was never the target of a lawsuit because of that business. But I carried the insurance anyway and always slept better because of it. My business operated as a limited liability company, all the tools and equipment were owned by a Subchapter S corporation, and the business checking account and credit cards handled all the money and the bills. My home, my personal accounts, my pension plans, and my investments were always kept completely separate. I hope all the rest of you folks never need to worry about these things, but I know there is an idiot born every minute and a lawyer ready to take his case any day of the week. If you don't have your business affairs in order and properly managed you are risking everything on every sale.
  7. Plastic breaks if enough pressure is applied. Plastic wears when enough abrasion is applied. Nothing lasts forever unless it is a government program funded by tax money. Yes, you can expect some wear and tear when using dummy guns in the holster shop, and eventually you will have to replace a piece to get back into the groove for production. This is especially true if you use a press (pneumatic or hydraulic) for your forming processes. But it is much better to snap off a trigger guard of a Rings Blue Gun than to do the same thing to a Glock, Sig, Springfield, or other actual handgun (those with plastic grip-frames anyway). That is when the real tears start flowing. When I started making holsters in 1972 things were pretty simple; about a half-dozen handgun manufacturers each making about a half-dozen models. By the time I retired in 2015 there were over 70 dummies in my shop and the gun safes held nearly 100 actual handguns; dozens of manufacturers each offering dozens of variations, and something new coming on the market every few weeks. It can be a challenge keeping up with everything! I regularly had customers requesting holsters for guns I had not heard of before. Always have to make decisions about which to go for and which to pass by, and the dummy makers are almost always a year or so behind the curve of public demand. I remember when Colt, Ruger, and a couple of others offered dummy guns made up from scrapped parts, non-functional but externally a perfect match, usually a frame/receiver with barrel, etc, taken from rejected parts bins and welded up for the holster makers to purchase for a few bucks. Haven't seen that for a long time. Sig USA used to offer anything in their product line to recognized holster makers for distributor cost (less than wholesale), but you still have to have a federal firearms licensee receive the shipment and do the transfer legally, so the cost is much more than any dummy gun. Being a retired cop, I have taken advantage of Glock's law enforcement sales program, typically 10% off. My local FFL knew I was purchasing for use in the shop and had a copy of my sales tax license, so I saved the taxes on each deal also. During my final several years in the business I would usually purchase about one new gun every month, as needed to stay current, and the costs were considered as tax deductible business expenses. After retirement those handguns were fully depreciated business assets that could be sold with the proceeds reported as long-term capital gains (recovered depreciation) which provides preferential tax treatment. Maybe something to think about. What other business allows you to grow a gun collection while writing off the costs as business expenses?
  8. The main thing to keep in mind is that trouser waist sizes have no relationship with the actual measurement of the user's waist. Clothing manufacturers have engaged in "vanity sizing" for so many years that very few people really know what their true waist size is. I wear a size 34 trouser waist. My belts are made to fit at 37.5" from the buckle engagement point to the tongue hole to be used. Over the years I made a point of asking each customer to measure a belt now in use, from the buckle engagement to the tongue hole in use. Without fail, that measurement will be from 2" to 4" different than the customer's stated trouser size. This created problems so frequently that I made it a policy that belts would not be accepted for return due to size. I always made a point of asking for the exact measurement, then I made the belts to the size provided by the customer, period, end of discussion. Another issue that can arise with specialty or custom belts is the buckle to be used. Not every buckle has the same "throw length"; the distance from the point at which the buckle is installed on the belt to the point at which the buckle engages the belt tongue. These distances can be as short as 1.25" or as long as 3" or 4" with some custom buckles. If the customer expects the belt to fit his waist with his buckle in use I suggest having the customer send his buckle in with his order so the belt can be sized properly for use with that buckle. Nearly all of my belts were heavy-duty for carrying a holstered handgun, most being double-layer construction. The time required to make such a belt is very close to the time required for a typical holster. Every time I had to re-make a belt order I was taking time away from completing another order for another customer (and generating some income in the process). Add in some hand-carving, tooling, or customization (initials, names, etc) and you can end up with a lot of completed product for which there may be no buyers. I am happily retired now, but I have many years of memories dealing with customers who couldn't be troubled to take a simple measurement, and expected me to absorb the costs of their mistakes.
  9. Interesting resources on this subject include the mail order catalogs of the 1880's and 1890's (Sears Roebuck & Co., Montgomery Ward, Abercrombie & Fitch, and others). All types of the commonly available revolvers and holsters were offered and displayed in the catalogs. While those living in or near the larger communities may have had access to saddlery and harness shops offering belts and holsters, most of the folks residing in the more rural and isolated areas relied on catalog orders for many things. Clothing, shoes, household goods, veterinary supplies, stoves for heating and cooking, firearms, ammunition, just about anything imaginable (Sears even offered houses, all the pieces cut and ready to assemble with windows, doors, and everything else required, delivered in crates by train to the nearest depot). Some of these retailers also operated catalog order and delivery offices in many communities, allowing local people to place and receive orders conveniently. For those interested in offering period-correct holster designs I would suggest a Google search for the old mail order catalogs of the latter 19th and early 20th Centuries. Some are reproduced in pdf-format and individual pages can be run off with your computer and printer. One thing I am sure of is that you will not see anything like the gear portrayed in western movies and TV shows of the 1940's through 1970's.
  10. The two-layer horsehide belt I am wearing right now is 11 years old and has seen nearly daily use for all of those years. I made this belt to fit a 37.5" waist at the center tongue hole, with 5 tongue holes on 1" spacing. The holes were cut round using a 5/32" punch. After reading this post I pulled the belt off for measuring and found the fit at the center hole is now 37.75" (0.25" stretch over 11 years of use) and the tongue hole in use is now oblong and measures 3/16"W X 5/16"L (so there has been measurable stretching in use). This belt was constructed of two layers of 5/6 horsehide, so the finished weight/thickness is about 11 oz. In my experience, two-layer belts tend to stretch far less than any single-layer belt. Cementing and stitching the two layers together provides an effect similar to plywood (far greater strength than the combined strength of the material of the plies). I would expect that a single-layer belt of 12-oz. leather will show some stretching, and the tongue holes will expand under pressure, within the first year or two of use. Whether or not that will have much effect on the spacing of the tongue holes will only become apparent after actual use (and will probably be affected by the buckle in use and the user's habits in use). I usually recommend trouser waist size and belt size for IWB carry to be about 2" greater than for OWB use to allow for the bulk of the holstered handgun. This will vary, of course, depending on the user, the handgun chosen, and the holster design and construction. It will almost certainly vary when the user chooses to enjoy a large meal! I was always happy to make belts as the customer wished (1" tongue hole spacing, 3/4" spacing, number of tongue holes, etc) within reason. I cannot recall any complaints arising from such choices I told many customers that my two-layer belts were adequate for supporting just about any holstered handgun and accessories required, and that they were adequate for beating children and women, but far too heavy for use on dogs. I tried to make it clear that this advice was given with my tongue firmly in my cheek!
  11. Exceptionally nice piece! Good and functional design, perfectly executed, and the carving work ads artistry to craftsmanship.
  12. All leather is not created equal. The leather stocked by Tandy is frequently imported from unknown sources, tanning methods can vary quite a bit (from legitimate vegetable tanning to the old-style tanning with feces and urine, still rather common in Central and South America). My first suggestion is to stick with good North American vegetable tanned hides, such as Hermann Oak Tannery. Contact Springfield Leather Company (see the banner ads) and you will find it generally available in the common thicknesses useful for holsters and belts. The tanning process removes nearly all of the natural moisture from the hide, and this can result in finished products that may crack at stress points. Neatsfoot oil is rendered from the feet and lower legs of cattle, naturally good for leather as a means of replacing some of the moisture to allow flexing at stress points and reducing the tendencies for cracking. Neatsfoot oil does not dry or set up like many finish products; it remains in the leather fibers as a lubricant and moisture resistant product. After dyeing an initial moderate application of neatsfoot oil the product should be set aside for at least 24 hours to allow the oil to settle into the leather fibers and seek its final level. The piece can then be sealed and finished These are my recommendations: better leather and a finishing process that takes into account the nature of the materials and products used. Best regards.
  13. Lobo

    Deer hide

    The usefulness of deer hide will depend on the tanning method(s) used. Most deer hide is relatively thin, typically soft and pliable. Best uses I can think of would be clothing or small personal items (handbags, pouches, or similar). Personally, I would avoid showing the bullet hole in the hide in a finished product.
  14. Over the years I have had requests for holsters without markings of any kind. One was for a gentleman in Israel, paid in cash and provided only a post office box address for delivery. One order was for 6 holsters sent to a US special forces team. They were deploying (undisclosed destination) and would be issued pistols on arrival, but wanted no markings on any of their gear. In such cases I assumed these were people involved in some type of clandestine work. I did not argue with them, I just got the work done.
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