dikman

Packing Iron leather questions

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I've finished the book (sob! I want to read more!) and have a couple of questions. He refers to the most common types of leather used as bridle and skirting. I gather that skirting is the heavier type but how does it relate to what we use today, as in what weight would the two types be?

In most cases it appears that holsters were normally a single layer of leather (unlined) so would they have been fairly soft (by our standards, where we generally make rigid holsters)?

The book cleared up a few mis-conceptions I had about the Mexican Loop holster, and I had a bit of a chuckle at some of the old posed photos.

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1. Bridle leather is dyed thru and waxed on both sides so its smooth. Its usually about 3.5mm thick. Not necessarily 'soft' but more supple. Not too good for tooling or carving

2. Skirting leather is heavier/thicker at [usually] 4 - 4.5mm minimum, also dyed thru, but finished only on the grain side. Its stiffer than Bridle. Its good for tooling/carving and wet moulding

Both are available as such from tanneries, but Skirting is more akin to your regular tooling/carving leather

#1 would have been used on holsters which would get rough treatment and not much looking after care

#2 would be used on the tooled/carved holsters were the owner would tend to look after it better

NB; remember, in the 1880s/1890s a drover earned $13 to $18 a month. A basic cheap Mexican Loop holster cost about $2. Thats about 3 or 4 days wages. He would look after that holster

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Thanks fredk, so the major difference between the old skirting and what I get is it's pre-dyed. That would account for the fact that most of the old leatherwork is all the same colour as I guess it would make life simpler for the saddlers.

Is skirting a particular cut of the hide, or is it simply a term to denote how the hide is treated (which is what it sounds like to me)?

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afaik 'skirting' is treated so its much stiffer than regular tooling leather.

I have some thick side from Le Prevo and its very supple, a thinner piece I picked up [but did not buy] at Tandy was almost as stiff as a board. I guess that piece at Tandy would be like 'skirting'

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Saddle skirting is typically very thick vegetable-tanned leather, 12-oz to 15-oz or so. For those who need a point of reference, one ounce in leather weight equates to approx. 1/64" in thickness.

You will seldom see cowhide any heavier than what is commonly referred to as saddle skirting. When shopping around it helps to keep in mind that "gauged" leather weight is usually within a range of tolerance, and there will be variations throughout the hide, side, shoulder, back or other cut being offered.

Any leather other than vegetable-tanned is generally unsuitable for use in holsters. Any veg-tanned leather that has been infused with waxes or other treatments is generally unsuitable for use in holsters.

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Something else to consider is the time period. Good hides were shipped by wagon and not overnight air or truck.... the majority of work by a leather worker was in repair and building of saddles, harness and other items needed for transportation, work and necessities of life. Holsters were a tool to hold a handgun.... just a pocket, something that didn't need to be strong, but needed to be durable. The hides were cut to provide the most with little waste, and by the degree of strength to the items needed. Harness, reins and other items that need the greatest strength and durability came from the back. Saddle parts and items such as horse collars, bridles, halters, etc. were from the middle of hides. The leather left over was the bottom or bellies of the hides. The softer and more flexible leather...... If you can get ahold of or inspect any large quantity of ture period holsters you will see how soft and pliable the leather is. Course time and age will apply here also..... but you will find that the grain is not as tight in period holster as in period harness or saddles. Holsters with tooling will not be as pronounced as that in saddles of the same time period, which I believe is from the use of the softer leather....

Remember that during this time period there was not the machinery that we have to day to split an finish leather coming out of the tanneries. Those variations that Lobo talks about would have been more pronounced during that time period than what we see today. 

Bobby

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Thanks Bobby, that's exactly what I wanted to know. Not having access to old original holsters is why I asked, as the photos obviously can't show how the leather actually performs.

By the way, would these saddlers have had any type of stitching machines, or was it all done by hand? And what size thread would they have used relative to our sizing system? In the photos some of them look like they've been sewn with fairly fine thread (#138 ?).

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here is a good reference site on vintage holster making etc.

https://www.vintagegunleather.com/

 

 

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10 minutes ago, dikman said:

By the way, would these saddlers have had any type of stitching machines, or was it all done by hand? And what size thread would they have used relative to our sizing system? In the photos some of them look like they've been sewn with fairly fine thread (#138 ?).

Most assuredly yes. Singer originally made his sewing machines for harness makers. If you look carefully at a number of the holsters you can tell which ones have been sewn on a machine. A great many holsters were made in bulk and sold by mail order direct to customers and to retail outlets. Only by sewing on a machine could a supplier be able to offer them at a cheap price 'by the dozen'. The military holsters from about 1858 onwards were sewn on machines, the first good sewing machine was about 1853

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Here is a good reference site on vintage holster making etc.

https://www.vintagegunleather.com/

 

 

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fredk, I was thinking more about the saddlers located in the western towns, not the cities "back East".

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Even they had sewing machines.

As soon as a town was set up, even when the businesses were still in tents and half built wooden buildings, the newspapers had their presses, dentists had their foot-treadle drills, saloons had their ice-making machines. Do not think that just because it was the 1880s/90 they were 'backward'. In fact they were more advanced than parts of Europe. They embraced and used any technology they could

Edited by fredk

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And before electricity there was water power. Nearly all industrial towns are located on waterways for a reason: the flowing water was used to power equipment used in production. I have watched a water-powered trip-hammer machine used to forge steel rifle barrels; no reason at all that the same power source couldn't be used to run any type of industrial equipment.

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Lots of buffalo hides were used to direct power in our industrial revolution.  Belting driven equipment.

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