Maverick44

Suggested tools for holster and belt making?

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Hi everyone, My name is Aaron. I've been dabbling in leatherworking for a few years now, and I'm wanting to get serious about it. I'm mainly wanting to focus on making holsters (both western, and modern styles), and gun belts. What tools would you guys suggest I get. I'm wanting to get a complete enough set that I could make just about any holster or belt I want. I already have a few basic tools (listed below), and I have a budget of about $150. I'm also a woodworker, so any tools that I need that can be made out of wood (mallet, sewing horse, burnisher, ect), I can easily make. I know I need a round knife and a cutting board, but what else do I need? I've looked at what places like Tandy's and Zach White's has, but there's so many options that I don't know where to begin. I'm not too concerned with stamping or embellishment yet. I want to get into that eventually, but I want to get good at making stuff first.

Here's what I have.

mallet

utility knife, xacto knife, and shears

spacer and groover

Scratch and diamond awl

needles

and a really cheap set of punches I want to replace with something decent.

 

Thanks in advance fellas!

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strap cutter is a big plus

slot punches are  nice.  Maybe a 3/4" and a 1 1/2". 

Snap setters if you're going to use snaps.

cutting board?  maybe a piece of masonite to cover a table - that way  you can replace it easily when it's marked up.

You "can" get a round knife, but don't need to.  I'm made a jillion things, never owned a round knife (i've seen them, but didn't see where it did anything I wasn't already doing with something else)

OH>>>  don't forget your tools you own... sometimes a wood gouge is a nice tool to have on a leather bench.

AND>>>  don't forget leather!  Yeah, some will laugh.. but I have personally seen a BUNCHA fellas get so wrapped in buying tools that they had no money left for LEATHER (tough to do leather without leather) 

Edited by JLSleather

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Get a good overstitch wheel for spacing, no need for a round knife your utility knife with a sharp blade will do fine.  Get a good strop to keep everything sharp.  Jeff pretty much covered everything else.

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Someone here's  "sig" ..Art' maybe ?..I think..?  is "For heavens sake Pilgrim, make yourself a strop"..

First leather thing to make yourself is a strop...no matter what you may wish to make as the second thing, or subsequent things.. :)

Oh and you'd best get a stock of bandaids and some super glue..to seal the inevitable cuts in you, while you are discovering just how wickedly sharp you can get things with a strop :)

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We don't make many holsters in Britain; as you probably know, our gun laws are very strict. But I would imagine that the same techniques for other items would be used for holsters. Search YouTube for - saddle stitch, edge burnishing, edge bevelling, knife sheaths, pouches, possibles bags, belts, wet moulding

The key to good leatherwork is razor sharp tools, so make a strop from oddments of wood & leather. There is advice on this forum, and YT. But treat yourself to some proper stropping/honing compound

Yes, the traditional leatherworker's knife is a round knife, but they're expensive, and good ones are very expensive. You also need a bit of experience & skill to use them. You can do a lot of good work with a Stanley/boxcutter/craft knife, especially if you resharpen the blades on a fine stone and a strop. This seems to reduce the shoulder of the bevel and polishes the cutting edge  

Search Google and YT for 'Japanese Style Leather Knife' They are more reasonably priced than a round knife (unless you get the absolute top of the range) and can be made very sharp. But they're not so easy to use for curves. 

Thread -- Synthetic thread, such as Ritza, is very popular, but I still prefer linen; it's up to you. Rocky Mountain Leather Supply seem to have a good choice. 

You will need an edge beveller; size 2 is as good as any to start with

You could try using a pair of dividers instead of a stitching groover to mark the line of the stitching

Have a look at YT videos by Ian Atkinson and Nigel Armitage, they cover most aspects of leatherwork and produce some excellent work. I don't think either of them use a round knife

Don't forget beeswax. Even if you buy ready waxed thread it does no harm to give it an extra rub sometimes, and it's also used for other leatherwork jobs

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Good ruler I use a see through grid one.I have several.  Use them on every project at sometime.  Because it helps me find the center. Rivit setters and rivits. Though Chicago screws or burns rivets work as well.Also don't forget about GOOD LIGHTING! You can't cut a line if you can't see a line.

Edited by Grumpymann

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Strop?  Nah, kaint find one here :)   I use mostly x-acto and utility knife blades ... about 10¢, and when they're dull I get a new one.  HOURS of time making belts and holsters because I'm NOT spending that time sharpening a blade. :dunno:

And, a fella with a wood lathe should have no trouble at all coming up with a burnishing stick in about any size/radius he might want ;)

 

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I can hold off on the round knife if you fellas think I'd be better off without it. I'm no stranger to sharp. I collect hand planes, and know my way around a chisel, lol.

Here's what I'm looking at so far.

Strap cutter

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0036UU0AG/ref=ox_sc_act_title_6?smid=A2MI9QS56ZOCLV&psc=1

3/4” slot punch

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001VSJRHW/ref=ox_sc_act_title_5?smid=A33BCVPK0F58UK&psc=1

Snap setters

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07P3JYY61/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=ABFL3LCQSAEAJ&psc=1

Size 2 edge beveler

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00430GAS4/ref=ox_sc_act_title_3?smid=A307EOO7SO3VAU&psc=

Dividers

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CK2569L/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?smid=A16WV1H5YQTNTV&psc=1

Punches

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07GCWY3HH/ref=ox_sc_act_title_4?smid=AAJPXZR0IAJR3&psc=1

Of course I'll also make sure to get the consumables like beeswax, leather, dye, and thread.

 

Thanks again fellas

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I would think about spending a little more on the edge beveller myself. That is one tool you do want working well. One like in this video perhaps 

Have a close look through the magnifying glass at them. Other here may have some better recommendations I think.

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SHop a little.  You can get wing dividers at pretty much any store in the country.. often for $2-ish.  Menards or Lowes will carry them.  Harbor Freight probably got a coupon to get 'em free.

I'd pass on that hollow slot punch - I've seen em and wouldn't own one if it was free.

You'll find a LOT Of people (some of them right here on this site) who will go out of their way to charge you $10 for something that aint worth $2.  I've seen utility knives ($6 off the shelf at the auto parts store) being called "leather knife" and sold for twice that.  Not naming names (yet), but shop a bit or ask out loud.  Don't take the advice of somebody just because he's on here, or has a web site, etc -- including from me.

I'm all about the BUSINESS END of a tool.  If it's supposed to CUT something, then I want it to CUT.  Don't care about - and aint payin extra for -- cocobolo wood handles "crafted" in a $35k CNC or laser tool... pretty is nice, but only if it WORKS.

IN fact, I'm gonna say a guy with wood tools could likely make that strap cutter in a hour with some scrap wood, a wing nut and a jam nut, maybe a coping saw to cut the blade slit and a screw to hold it in.  That "strap cutter" is in fact 3 pieces of wood, a 10¢ blade, and 25¢ worth of stuff from the hardware store.  It's marked purdy like, but hardly a "precision" instrument.  A guy basically needs a "fence" to put the leather up against and a way to hold the blade right distance away (which you could do by putting a slit in the table and screwing down a "fence" for that matter).  i bot the strap cutter, due to space available, but .... you get the idea.  Somebody selling the "walnut and oak "checker board" conglomeration with high gloss urethane finish and hand polished surface" is wasting their time barkin' at me ;)  You see the trend.

 

Edited by JLSleather

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Aaron, it sounds as though you can find your way round tools and sharpening. Here are some examples that I've made, to give you, and anyone else, some ideas

I have a 4" carbon steel vegetable knife that I no longer used in the kitchen. I fitted a bigger handle for more control and it's now my clicker/trimming knife

I had a cheap & nasty block plane that was fiddly to adjust and I hardly ever used it. But the blade was quite good, so I reshaped it and turned it into a Japanese style leather knife

I picked up a rusty old decorator's filling knife at a car boot sale for 50p - about 65 cents -  but underneath the dirt & rust it was good forged spring steel. I reshaped and sharpened it to make a skiving knife

See if you can get hold of old industrial hacksaw blades, they're usually in 25mm or 40mm widths. I've made them into skiving knives and kiridashi or English style paring knives

I got my dividers for £2-50 from the secondhand tool stall at my local market; my cutting mat from a craft shop, get the biggest you can manage

Have you seen Paul Seller's channel on YouTube? It's woodworking, but he shows how to make some tools, and other aspects of woodworking with hand tools

You can cut a slot by making two holes with a round punch and joining them up with straight cuts

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I'm with JLS...I simply need my tools to do what they're intended to do. I care not a "tinker's dam" about whether or not it has this maker's name on it, that type of steel/wood in it...when I pick it up and put it to leather (me doing my equal part, of course), does the tool do the job.

I've slicked leather edges with the brown/black Sharpie that I just touched 'em up with...no sense in buying that which you might have already have laying around. My father-in-law is a taxidermist...ever-now and then I can get a piece of antler to polish and use.

As far as knives & cutting goes, I use plain utility knives and X-acto (#2 blades, I believe). Ol' Sam Andrews gives good advice on how to use an X-acto knife, especially in tight corners. Check him out on YouTube...his holster videos are full of valuable information. I use a pair of heavy cutting shears from HD for bulk leather cutting.

I don't do much stamping work...wasn't a granite supply place in my area...went to HD and got a 12x12 garden patio paver and similar sized granite tile 1/2" thick...heavy-duty construction adhesive smeared around on both for 100% coverage...left to cure in the summer sun...has held up great the past 6+years on the corner of my bench (a post underneath to avoid bounce).

Harbor Freight has those acid brushes (25-30pcs for $3-4)...they great pretty good brushes...I save old glass pickle jars to use for glue pots, get a rubber grommet at Tractor Supply, drill a hole in the lid for the grommet, stick in the brush...now you can tightly slide the brush up and down.

 

Edited by Double Daddy

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2 hours ago, Double Daddy said:

Ol' Sam Andrews gives good advice on how to use an X-acto knife, especially in tight corners. Check him out on YouTube.

Oh, yeah.. Sam is THE guy to see for holster videos.  There are a LOT of them out there, but cut through the NOISE 1000 guys are making and go straight to what is head and shoulders the best source of info on there.  Far less "marketing spam" and more actual useful info.  Here's one video I found very good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFsXw3gabqk#t=16

And another, where Andrews quickly and accurately describes how to make your own patterns for holsters - very well covered in 12 minutes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PdKDmcmu8k&t=2s

 

 

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One of the best things I have used in making holsters or knife sheaths are old or new manila file folders.  These are thick enough to make great patterns and where they are unfolded you have a center line to work from.  If you take your handgun or knife and lay it down relative to the center line it makes it easy to trace a good design.   then, you only have to cut it out on one side of the center line, then fold over the part you have cut out then trace the outline of your pattern on the other side.  Also, it is easy to make the pattern right or left handed by just flipping it over on either side when you place it on your leather and drawing the outline.  I have a large collection of these patterns over the years of all kinds of revolvers and autos that I have made, and when someone asks me to make a holster I often already have the pattern.

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19 hours ago, kayw said:

One of the best things I have used in making holsters or knife sheaths are old or new manila file folders.  These are thick enough to make great patterns and where they are unfolded you have a center line to work from.  If you take your handgun or knife and lay it down relative to the center line it makes it easy to trace a good design.   then, you only have to cut it out on one side of the center line, then fold over the part you have cut out then trace the outline of your pattern on the other side.  Also, it is easy to make the pattern right or left handed by just flipping it over on either side when you place it on your leather and drawing the outline.  I have a large collection of these patterns over the years of all kinds of revolvers and autos that I have made, and when someone asks me to make a holster I often already have the pattern.

For patterns that are too large for one manila folders you can also purchase manila pattern stock in rolls which come most commonly in 48" rolls similar to kraft paper.  Lately though I've been sketching patterns on kraft paper and transferring to them to Texon or Bontex bag stiffener for a more permanent pattern.

Edited by TonyRV2

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this will help too.  It has good advice to help with your first one.  it actually has a list of needed tools/supplies

Edited by Mark3031
add more info

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I bought a pack of those folders. They're MUCH nicer than trying to use copy paper. I also took a look at my edge beveler and it's a size 2. It cuts fine and cleanly, so I'll probably stick with it for now.

I had a piece of leather lying around that was just big enough for a scabbard style holster for my XDM-10, so I followed that video of Sam, and I'm sold on him. :D I've always had issues with getting the fit just right. More often than not, the holster would end up way too tight. The holster I just made fits perfectly. I'm a little rusty as it's probably been a year or more since I made one. It didn't turn out as nice as I would have liked, but I'm happy with the fit.

Do you guys have any advice on sewing through thick leather, especially when you're adding a welt to the holster?

 

Thanks fellas. You guys have been a huge help.

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11 minutes ago, Maverick44 said:

Do you guys have any advice on sewing through thick leather, especially when you're adding a welt to the holster?

Got a drill press?  Chuck a machine needle in it and "press" the holes (don't turn it on).  

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I've got two, lol. I'll give that a try. I'll order some machine needles next time I order supplies. Thanks for the tip!

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