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holster and sheath Edges

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I am still learning.  I started with the sides sewn together, then started using a welt.  THEN added a liner on the holsters.  That resulted in an edge about 3/4" thick so then I started skiving both sides and using a tapered welt.  One problem I am still having with laminated or multiple pieces of leather sewn together is a nicely finished edge. Right now I sand and burnish then repeat until I get something pretty good but there are spots where the glue is visible.  If I dye the edge that helps but then there still seems to be soft areas that are dinks or depressions and I have been using shoe wax that is the same color as the dyed edge to even out everything.  Getting a nice edge is my number one area I need to improve, the rest of the project looks good.  Any tips of the trade appreciated. Thanks.

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Oh the dreaded edge.  It just plain sucks getting it right.

That thickness is a whole different beast than what I work with.  I make gusseted handbags and small items.  My thickest edge may be 10 ounce. I've seen saddle makers that cut and glue their leather together wider than the finished piece and trim it with a head knife to get a smooth even edge.  You may get by with a drum sander.  

Glue, I use flammable contact cement applied thinly.  I don't have issues with glue lines. I've tried water based glues and have had issues seeing the glue line.  I hammer and use a roller on top of the edge.  

I would not think shoe polish would work well.  There is a hard wax made by Columbia that is used with an electric filletuese that will work for some filling.  The wax needs to be melted and will fill some gaps.  You can use a hot butter knife.  District leather supply and Rocky mountain leather sells the stuff.

The technique I use is from a leather worker named Niwa of Niwa leathers.  

1) make your trim cut super clean.  The cleanest, glassiest cut-edge possible.
2) bevel/round the edges.
3) Sand the edge into a nice round shape with 400 grit.  Sand each edge down towards the center, as if you're pressing the fibers from the edge to the center.  Don't sand lengthwise.
4) Only after the edge is shaped perfectly, and fairly compressed by the 400 grit, apply water.  Apply very sparingly.  Burnish with a canvas, lengthwise in small sections until you hear it squeaking.
5) check the edge.  It will have darkened with the water.  If it darkened very smoothly and evenly, with no light spots, then move on to 6.  If not, move back to 3 (sand again, and then reapply water).  Repeat as necessary.

6) sand with 600 grit, again sanding each edge down towards the center
7) 800 grit
8) Gum trag/Tokonole and canvas (very sparingly and evenly, working in small sections)
9) 1000 grit
10) wax + heat + soft cloth (or gum if you don't want to use 


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I make a field holster that is 8 oz leather wrapped over and 4 8 oz layers for a welt.  It's almost an inch thick.  

I sand the welt square on a sanding drum before gluing it up.  I use 2 different grits of drums

Glue up the holster

Trim the holster 

Sand again on drum


Wet sand, 400 and 600

Wet burnish


Burnish with tokonole

Rub edge with a mix of beeswax and paraffin wax to fill in occlusions.  

Apply finish

I'm not going to claim I can get that thick edge glass smooth all the way around.  But it does look good.  

You can also use edge cote but I've had mixed success and prefer the above method.  The edge cote does fill in the gaps and even out nice.  But it can flake off with use too.  

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I think the best way to have a good edge is to have nice clean cuts with minimal trimming.  I don't have good luck sanding before glueing due to the flesh side getting soft and leaving a pithy look to the seam after finishing.  Use a good leather, not one that gives a lot of fuzzy edges when sanding.  For example,  choose welt material from the butt instead of the neck or belly area.  With good leather and good cutting a nice edge can be achieved by burnishing with only water.  If you're dyeing your edges make sure whatever edge enhancing stuff your using will accept dye.  Sometimes after I glue and trim I'll wet the edge and let it get dry and hard before sanding.  For thick edges use a sharp beveler in the size 3 or 4 range.  That will give a good round edge and cut down on the amount of sanding needed.  If choosing to use any advice make sure to practice on scrap first!

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