Author Topic: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making  (Read 24826 times)

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Offline Zeus

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Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« on: January 27, 2012, 02:08:49 PM »
I figured I'd kick off this section with something simple. A lot of guys start out making new sheaths for existing knives before they learn to make the knives themselves. There are also a lot of experienced knife makers who don't do sheaths.

Anyhow, if you're looking to get started making leather sheaths this should help you decide what materials and equipment to buy.

SUPPLIES

Leather



First off, you'll need some leather! There are many different kinds of leather, but the vast majority of them are unsuitable for making a knife sheath. Consider what a sheath must do. First and foremost, it must protect the wearer from the knife it contains. It has to hold it's shape, and be durable. And if you want to sell knives, it must be attractive as well.

I only use one type of leather to make sheaths, vegetable tanned tooling leather. Vegetable tanned tooling leather is the same stuff saddles, gun belts and holsters are made of. Other types of leather (chrome tanned, buckskin, garment leather, upholstery leather, latigo, suede, etc.) are not suitable for making a sheath because they are generally more pliable and they cannot be carved and tooled easily.

Vegetable tanned tooling leather can be "cased" which is moistening the surface with a wet sponge. This makes the leather at the surface pliable and compressible so that it takes stamps and tool impressions easily, and it is easier to cut so carving intricate designs is possible. This is advantageous to the knife maker who desires to embellish his sheaths with decorative tooling or carving. Or even if he only wishes to stamp his mark into the leather. Another quality of this type of leather that makes it suitable for sheaths is it's ability to be "wet formed". The leather can be completely saturated with water, which makes it very pliable. It can then be shaped and formed to fit the contours of a knife. Once dry, it will become hard and stiff again, holding the new shape. Some commercial sheath makers will tell you not to wet form their sheaths, but that is because they use cheap, thin chrome tanned leather that can't be wet formed.

Tooling leather can be bought several ways, and in several "weights" or thicknesses. Typically I'll buy a "double shoulder" which explains where the actual leather was located on the cow. It is also sold as bellies, single shoulders, sides, and a few other cuts I can't recall. I like to use 8-9oz leather, which is about 1/8 to 1/10 of an inch thick. This is a good thickness because it provides a lot of rigidity to a sheath. A stiff sheath is a safe sheath. A sheath that can flex too much is begging to catch the point of the knife and be sliced open. Also, 8-9oz leather is thick enough so that a single layer can be used for a welt for blades up to about 3/16" thick.

Tooling leather also comes in a few different grades. The most expensive stuff is very smooth and even. The surface is free of blemishes and the thickness is very consistent throughout. The cheapest grades are covered with "range marks" which can be anything from ranch brands, barbed wire scars, deep wrinkles, insect bite scars, etc. Some of the really cheap grades will have the worst blemishes sanded off, but this makes the surface harder to carve, tool and dye. The best value are the middle grades of leather that have a few minor blemishes and scars (which can add a certain rustic beauty of their own) but are free from major flaws, and sanded repairs. "Splits" are vegetable tanned leather that has been split off from the surface layer, so both sides are like the "flesh" side of regular leather. Splits are good for welts and other applications where neither side will be exposed to the surface. They don't carve or tool well, and are fuzzy on both sides so don't try to make a whole sheath with one.

Cement



You'll need something to glue the various layers of leather together. I use Barge Cement. Plenty of folks use contact cement or rubber cement. Barge is a brand of contact cement that's available in small tube which is convenient for folks who aren't making a ton of sheaths at a time. You apply it to both pieces of the leather to be joined and smooth it out with a scrap piece. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes, and then stick the two pieces together. It will instantly form a strong bond on contact. (That's why it's called contact cement). Then you can let it fully cure for a few hours for full strength.

Thread




You'll need to stitch your sheaths together. The cement is strong, but its real purpose it to hold everything in place while you stitch. I prefer to use "artificial sinew" for stitching. It's a very strong synthetic fiber that has just enough wax to keep it from fraying. I typically add a bit of beeswax to the ends to help prevent them pulling out of the needles. Artificial sinew is available in many colors. Most common is "natural" tan. Waxed nylon and polyester thread are also popular choices, though I find they use a LOT of goopy wax and it builds up on the leather while stitching making a big mess that you have to deal with later. The traditional thread is waxed linen. So if you're a leather working purist, that would be your choice. It's tough, but not as tough as the modern synthetics.

Beeswax



A good thing to have on the bench. You can draw the end of your thread across a cake of beeswax to keep it stiff and prevent fraying. This makes it easier to thread your needles, and it helps keep the thread from slipping out of the needles when you tug on them.

Needles



You'll need some strong needles for stitching heavy leather. I buy them in packs of 100 because they are a consumable item. A pair of needles will last maybe 2 to 4 sheaths before I break one of the eyes or it gets too bent up to use. While they are technically a tool and not a supply, I chose to list them here because they are consumable.


Dye





There are three major types of dye used for coloring leather. Oil base, solvent (alcohol) base, and water base. The oil base is what a lot of the professional leather workers use. It's the most expensive, and gives the most even finish. But it's the slowest to dry by quite a bit, and cleanup is difficult. Water base dyes are the hardest to achieve an even finish with, but they are generally less toxic and they dry faster than the oil dyes. Alcohol based dyes are the fastest drying of the three. They penetrate more evenly than water base dyes and are a good compromise. Regular rubbing alcohol can be used for cleanup if you get some on your hands, tools or workbench. I use alcohol based dyes most often.

Gum Tragacanth



This translucent jelly-like substance is used to slick and burnish the edges of leather. It softens the fibers in much the same way water does, but when it dries it helps bind the fibers down so they don't easily "fuzz up" again.

Edge Dressing



I use Fiebing's Edge Kote, which is available in a couple of different colors. It is a really nice finishing touch that helps seal the edges after slicking, and like the gum tragacanth it helps to keep the edges from fuzzing up again.

Finish



There are many different finished for leather. Oil based, wax based, water based, etc. I use a water based acrylic finish from Tandy called "Super Sheen". This leaves an attractive, shiny finish that dries quickly and is somewhat water resistant when dry. It can also be used as a "resist" when applied with a brush if you are doing special multi-color dying techniques, though purpose made resists are available.

Hardware



This is really dependent on your sheath design so I won't go into too much detail here. Snaps, rivets, Chicago screws, Dee rings, grommets, Sam Browne studs and conchos, the list goes on. Some require special tools and dies to install. A basic pouch sheath can be made without using any hardware, however.

TOOLS

Shears



I couldn't imagine doing any kind of leatherwork without a quality pair of sharp leather shears. I have a pair from Tandy that are about 15 years old and they can still cut through 10oz leather no problem. A lot of people like to use a knife to cut out leather, but I prefer the shears. They are also good for snipping off the ends of your thread after stitching.

Knife

A small carving knife with a 2" or so blade can be useful for trimming stray bits of leather, evening up edges, or cutting out the entire pattern (though I prefer shears for that, see above).

Needlenose Pliers

Essential for grabbing the needles while stitching through several layers of thick leather. There are lots of other uses for these, like holding the backs of Chicago screws as they are tightened.

Edge Beveler



This tool is essentially a metal rod that has a notch in one end, and a handle on the other. The inside of the notch is a sharpened blade. You place the notch on the edge of the leather and push, and the blade shaves off a thin strip of leather to give the edge a more rounded shape, rather than square. I use a #2 edge beveler on both sides of a piece of 8-9oz leather to help give it a more rounded shape to prepare it for burnishing.

Stylus / Modeling tools



These tools are a big help for many different tasks on the leather bench. One end has a ball point stylus, the other end has a small "spoon". This tool can be used for marking lines and transferring patterns on cased leather. It can be used to transfer stitch holes through one piece onto another. It can be used to mark and draw on leather, and the spoon side helps smooth tooling and stamp impressions, and helps define the edges of carving. I use it every time I make a sheath.

Overstitch wheel



This tool looks like a tiny cowboy's spur on a stick. Essentially it's a wheel with evenly spaced points that is used to mark the position of stitches evenly. It can also be used after stitching to roll over the stitches to help pack them down. A common easy substitute is to use a dinner fork to mark stitch spacing.

Awl

I don't use an awl, but many leather workers do. It it used to make holes in the leather for stitching, among other uses. Typically there are several blades that come in an awl kit, for producing different holes in the leather.

Stitching Groover



There are a few different kinds of stitching groover available. The one I use has an adjustable edge guide that allows you to position the groove at whatever distance from the edge you choose. This tool cuts a shallow groove in the surface of the leather so that your stitches will lay flush with the surface. This prevents them from snagging on things, and protects them from scuffs and wear. It also makes the stitching look neater. My stitches look tremendously better since I started using this tool.

Edge Slicker





I use a couple of different tools for slicking edges. The most versatile is a Nylon Folder tool from Tandy. It comes apart into two pieces, a slicking stick/folder, and an edge slicker/edge marking guide. I also use a "circle edge slicker" from Tandy, that is essentially just a small nylon pulley with a nice rounded groove. You fit the moistened edge of the leather into the groove, and briskly rub with the slicker until it is burnished and smooth. You can also use small glass or plastic bottles, cigarette lighters, or pretty much any handy, smooth object to burnish edges.

Mallet



Not everyone will need one, but they are essential for tooling leather, punching holes, setting snaps, rivets and grommets, and many other uses around the shop. Don't use a hammer or you will damage your tools. Always use a polymer or rawhide headed mallet.

Swivel knife



If you're going to be carving and tooling leather, you will need one. For making simple sheaths, you can do without. Sadly, there really is no middle ground here. There aren't a lot of different brands to choose from. The good ones, Al Stohlman brand, are expensive. The next best are way cheaper. I have been getting by with one of the really cheap ones because I don't use it enough to justify the expense. But just be aware there is a huge difference, and no real middle ground for price and quality. Several specialty blades are available for these. Some are made from ceramic, some are angled, and some have multiple edges for making "hair" effects on intricate picture carving.


Drill press


I use a drill press, rather than an awl to make my holes for stitching. It is not traditional. A lot of folks might balk at the idea of using a power tool for leather work. But, I can make a hole using a 1/32" drill bit in a couple of seconds, where it takes far longer to push an awl through several layers of heavy leather. If I have a line of a hundred stitches I can finish it in a few minutes on the drill press, where it would take the better part of an hour struggling with an awl.

Belt Sander/Grinder

I use a 36 grit belt on my grinder to sand the edges even after stitching and before beveling and slicking them. I sometimes use my spindle sander too if there is an inside curve. This is another of those steps that could be done with sandpaper by hand but if you have the tools, use them and save the time.

Tooling Stamps

I have a set of very basic leather tooling stamps. They used to sell them as kits, and you can do hundreds of different floral patterns with just a basic set of 10 or so tools. I supplemented this set with a couple of basket weave stamps because I really like basketweave tooling on belts, holsters and sheaths.

Straight edge/Ruler

Essential tool for measuring, marking and cutting straight lines.

Skiving Tool



"Skiving" is shaving leather to make it thinner. A skiving tool is handy for when you need to put a wide bevel on the edge of leather for various purposes. Adding a tapered welt in a sheath to accommodate a wide knife handle is one example. You can do this with a sharp knife, but the actual tool is much faster in practice.

Strap Cutter



Not essential, but another huge time saver. Belt loops, baldrics, danglers, you name it, if you need a strip of leather with parallel sides this tool will make it a lot faster and easier than marking straight lines and cutting with a knife or shears.



Well I hope you find this list useful. It is by no means comprehensive. There are hundreds of tools for working leather. These are just the ones I find most useful. I use almost all of them every time I make a sheath. However I have seen some truly great leatherwork made by guys who don't use a single purpose-made leathercrafting tool. A creative craftsman could make many of his own tools, even tooling stamps could be made by filing the ends of steel rods.

If you are serious about making leather sheaths, research some of these tools and decide for yourself which of them you can't live without. :)
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 05:19:10 PM by Zeus »

Offline Red (TM)

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2012, 10:54:59 PM »
way to kick it off Zeus!! this is a great starting point for anyone looking to get their feet wet in leather making. and most of these tips will apply to general leather working as well, not just knife sheaths. that means holsters, wallets, you name it :D
"Big drama next few hours.. But whatever happens, no matter what they tell you.. Don't let 'em take them chains off me.."

Offline Zeus

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 02:12:54 PM »
Updated the original post with some pictures. :)

Offline Red (TM)

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 02:23:03 PM »
wow! you have a TON of leather tools!! i think i have 3 of those that you listed :D
"Big drama next few hours.. But whatever happens, no matter what they tell you.. Don't let 'em take them chains off me.."

Offline Zeus

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 02:25:39 PM »
Lol, well those are just the important ones. :D

There are more but they aren't really that important to making the type of sheaths I prefer to make, though that could change. I got most of these in a starter kit years ago from Tandy. The good thing is they last forever if you take care of them.

Offline Red (TM)

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2012, 02:30:22 PM »
amen brother! ill get some pics of what i use up tonight when i get home ;D
"Big drama next few hours.. But whatever happens, no matter what they tell you.. Don't let 'em take them chains off me.."

Offline Zeus

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2012, 02:31:36 PM »
Great, looking forward to them!

Offline Remo007

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2012, 03:10:36 PM »
Super Post Zeus!!! :D 8) :D My first Sheath was for a Predator that Trentu will be Gettin', and it's a Monolith, but of course my First Attempt at any Leather Work. Once I get Photo Bucket up, I'll post some pics.
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Offline Dano

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2012, 08:11:31 PM »
Awesome post Zeus!  The pics are great, the explanations really helpful and really helps steer a person in the right direction.  Great job man!!

Offline Zeus

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2012, 08:34:26 PM »
Thanks! Just trying to help folks get a good start. Next time I make a sheath I will try to get some pictures of the tools in use.

Offline greyhound352

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2012, 05:08:08 PM »
Great post Zeus I see a few tools I think I need to get. I also need more practice burnishing the edges on my sheaths.  Thanks for the tips.
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Offline madmax

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2012, 08:37:35 PM »
That was a great intro to leatherworking tools.  Really covered the bases.
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2012, 08:52:44 PM »
Hopefully I'll get some time soon to post up some sheath template pictures you guys might find helpful. It has been an incredibly busy day, as you can imagine!
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Offline Nelson

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2012, 07:44:57 AM »
This is a great post. As someone that has been thinking about and wanting to make a sheath this is a great starting point. Thanks so much for sharing this. I would love the see some of the templates..
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2012, 12:03:11 AM »
Here is a link to a sheath tutorial/pictorial with a template image, and a lot of the tools from this thread being used.


http://bladesandbushcraft.com/index.php/topic,105.0.html
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Offline trentu

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2012, 06:20:14 AM »
Maybe we can get Red to post a pic of his famous stitch hole marking tool. Patent Pending? ;D
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2012, 11:05:09 AM »
Maybe we can get Red to post a pic of his famous stitch hole marking tool. Patent Pending? ;D

I've heard it is cutting edge technology!
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Offline greyhound352

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2012, 12:25:32 PM »
Maybe we can get Red to post a pic of his famous stitch hole marking tool. Patent Pending? ;D

I've heard it is cutting edge technology!

We need a pic Red.  ;)
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Offline Noisemaker

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2012, 03:14:31 PM »
I went through the Tandy website an priced out what you showed there for a beginer starting from zero and you would be looking at around $300 for a set up like this. 


Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2012, 03:19:31 PM »
I went through the Tandy website an priced out what you showed there for a beginer starting from zero and you would be looking at around $300 for a set up like this.

Thanks for doing the research! Yeah leather working tools are pretty expensive, but they do last. Mine range from about 15-17 years old all the way up to some I've bought just this year, so they will last a lifetime if you care for them. Many of these tools are "convenience" tools. By that I mean that you don't need them to produce a sheath, but they make it a lot easier. As I said before I have seen sheaths made without any purpose-made leather crafting tools that look fantastic, so don't let the price of these tools discourage you from experimenting with leathercrafting.

Also, Tandy does sell kits that contain plenty of basic tools at a discount because they are bundled into a kit so that's probably the best way to buy them if you want to save a little. Bite the bullet and get a bunch of them at once.
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Offline rogumpogum

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2012, 11:42:22 AM »
And if you're patient, you can nab lots of tools on eBay... Might be older and used, but it's a great way to start.
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Offline Remo007

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2012, 12:16:38 PM »
And if you're patient, you can nab lots of tools on eBay... Might be older and used, but it's a great way to start.
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Offline Highlife

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #22 on: February 14, 2012, 09:38:42 AM »
Also, watch the sales at Tandy.  And also, note that some materials are available at Michaels craft store, where you can use a 40-50% off coupon (waxed thread, art. sinew, snap setter kits, leather lace, etc).
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Offline Noisemaker

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #23 on: February 14, 2012, 02:31:41 PM »
I was thinking that was a reasonable investment for a new hobby.  Most of my BS over the years have been more expensive that that. 

Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2012, 08:27:25 PM »
I was thinking that was a reasonable investment for a new hobby.  Most of my BS over the years have been more expensive that that.

Yeah almost any hobbies nowadays require a significant initial outlay. But you're right, $300 to get a good start isn't bad at all compared to some of them.
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Offline Toddler

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #25 on: February 17, 2012, 02:30:00 PM »
Thanks for the tutorial!  THis is something that I have been wanting to do myself.  Tandy from what I understand is the place to go for this craft, any other suggestions for material sources?
I don't need a bigger knife, I need smaller wood!

Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #26 on: February 17, 2012, 03:12:38 PM »
Thanks for the tutorial!  THis is something that I have been wanting to do myself.  Tandy from what I understand is the place to go for this craft, any other suggestions for material sources?

I know there are a few others. But like Red has told me, it's best to buy the actual leather over the counter, in person. This way you get to inspect it and see if it's something you want to use. Tandy has stores all over where you can look it over before buying it.

As for the other supplies and tools, there are a lot more different sources. Many of those sources are re-selling Tandy stuff. But a lot of the stuff Tandy sells is just re-branded to begin with.

If I'm ordering online I always check Amazon first just in case they have it, then move on from there.
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Offline Toddler

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #27 on: February 17, 2012, 04:22:27 PM »
Good advice!  THe leather might not be what you want for your project, never really thought about that.  I need to make a leather sheath for my Tracker.  No scout carry for me, too darned heavy for that, so I want a side dangler with some room for other tools and headgehogs are just too  expensive right now.
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Offline Noisemaker

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #28 on: February 17, 2012, 05:54:26 PM »
I just found out about hedgehogs and they are nice but they are very spendy.  I really like the sheath work Red did one the blade I got from him.  Super quality stuff.

Offline Half Axe

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #29 on: March 02, 2012, 05:38:49 PM »
Great post, Zeus!  I've been doing leather work as a hobby off and on for thirty years and you summarized things way better than I could.  Glad you put in the drill press part - I've used the technique on some knife sheaths with good results.

Offline Zeus

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #30 on: March 02, 2012, 06:25:12 PM »
Thanks, Half Axe. :)

This is actually just another admin account we used to set up the forum. Zeus<> PetrifiedWood are interchangeable. I rarely use this account. it's sort of a "spare" if that makes any sense. ;)

Offline Half Axe

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #31 on: March 02, 2012, 08:25:28 PM »
So, Zeus is Petrified Wood is you?  I had no clue.  Good to know.  I am very much a newbie at this forum stuff.

Offline Dano

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #32 on: March 06, 2012, 07:32:06 PM »
Something to consider for those new to Tandy Leather (and I must admit I forget all the details) are their memberships.  You can purchase annual memberships at a couple different levels which give you discounts on purchases.  When you place an order online, it will not show up on the invoice, as their system routes your order to the nearest store for processing.  But you will get an order confirmation and shipping details and that will show the reduced rates.

Check with them (they have a toll free number) and get all the details, but it has saved me quite a bit.  When I first signed up, the savings alone paid for one or two of the tools I purchased.

Offline wsdstan

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #33 on: April 16, 2012, 11:35:56 AM »
Thanks for posting this.  It is really helpful.
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Offline wolfy

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #34 on: April 16, 2012, 09:29:30 PM »
This place is outstanding for everything leather related.  I've dealt with them in the past and always received excellent service and quality goods........

http://zackwhite.com/xcart/home.php
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Offline Desertsniper

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Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #35 on: April 16, 2012, 09:55:56 PM »
Awesome write up!

Offline hushnel

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #36 on: May 16, 2012, 04:42:20 AM »
Nice, you got everything, you covered it very well.

Much of my leather work is done in primitive settings or the projects are themselves primitive. I've never used the drill press for stitching, though I am aware that many leather workers do and to great effect.

I started with the lacing chisel, so I guess it's my most used technique, you gotta love the exact stitch spacing these tools provide but they do cut the leather. The advantage of the awl is legendary, the saber type edge of a good quality Osborn awl blade will pierce the skin and separate the fibers of the leather, this type of stitching hole closes in on itself creating a tight seal against the stitch, it's the reason you can't punch too far ahead, I find 5 stitches pre-punched is about all you can do before the leather starts to close up the hole. The major disadvantage of the stitching awl technique is getting a straight stitching line on both sides of the project, it takes practice and is helped by the use of a stitching pony.

In this picture to the far right is my #1 awl, just a Osborn awl blade glued into a piece of deer antler. To the far left is another awl blade made into a tiny sword I use as a pin in my hat. The bone awls are a very hard bone from a deer, not so great on thick veg. tanned but they work well on thin hides like deer.



The lacing chisels are on the right in this picture,


Just trying to add to the knowledge base, if it clashes with your intention please feel free to delete this post, if you would like to add it to the original post you're welcome to do that too.


Thanks,  Mike

« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 04:45:43 AM by hushnel »
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Offline wolfy

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #37 on: May 16, 2012, 09:14:07 AM »
Mike, for what it's worth, I also use an Osborne awl and also find it takes great attention to keep the back side of my sheaths looking as 'professional' as the fronts.  The natural tendency of the leather fibers to close around the hole is the reason I use it instead of drilling, but I don't know that it makes all that much difference in the grand scheme of things.  The overstitching wheel is conducive to a really nice finished stitch job IMHO, but keeping the diamond-shaped awl holes lined up at the same angle and taking care to keep the first pass of the sewing thread on the same side of the hole for each stitch also helps.  I mark my intended stitch spacing in the groove from the stitching-groover, stitch, and finally, run the overstitching wheel over the finished line of stitching to 'even' it out and give each stitch a nice hard rounded appearance.  The finished stitching really looks nice when done this way, but that's just the way I do it and all I know is what I read in Al Stohlman's book, so YMMV :shrug:
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Offline hushnel

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #38 on: May 16, 2012, 10:07:20 AM »
Al was the man, I learned almost all I know from his books. I believe that the awl and saddle stitch method is superior to any other form of leather sewing, that's just my opinion but there is a mechanical logic to it particularly considering the characteristics of the leather's structure that supports this opinion, at
Least in my mind.


Though I do get lazy now and then or need to keep my prices low, then I'll thread up this. It's kind of like cheating, I don't use it all that much, but hope to in the future.



Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #39 on: May 16, 2012, 12:29:19 PM »
Wow! Those Tippmanns are nice, but pricey.
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Offline hushnel

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #40 on: May 16, 2012, 01:52:33 PM »
I know, I paid about $1,200 for it around 5 years ago from a couple of jobs I did. Figured I would eventually have a use for it.
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #41 on: May 16, 2012, 11:59:14 PM »
I think they are up to $1600 or so now. I remember Tandy carried them maybe 15 years ago. Beautiful machines. I'll bet they are fun to use!
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Offline hushnel

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #42 on: May 17, 2012, 04:26:24 AM »
They ain't plug and play, I don't have much sewing machine experience, every time you change the thickness of leather you have to set up the tension balance between the thread tension and the bobbin, it's tricky. My wife does it on her machines all the damn time but she tells me it's intuitive on her part and she can't really explain it to me.

Since nearly all of my projects are one off customs I don't fool around with it much. Now if I was doing some limited production type stuff it would be worth the time to set it up. I plan on getting more into the leather business once I'm retired and take the time to really learn the machine.

I have used it on a few bags and machete sheaths, I can run  24" stitch line in about 3 minutes or less, the machine is capable of working a lot faster than I. I keep my eyes open for older industrial leather machines, hoping to fine one of those one of these days. I'm thinking if I can come up with stuff that I don't have to stitch by hand I should be able to charge less. Knife sheaths and holsters will always be hand stitched.
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Offline wolfy

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #43 on: May 17, 2012, 07:19:00 AM »
Yeah, that and if you're like me the hand-sewing is just kind of relaxing and almost therapeutic at times.  I don't have as much of it to do as you do, either.  I might feel differently if I were looking at an order of matching saddlebags for a biker club or something 8).   

My grandma could set the tension on her old treadle Singer for different weights of fabric quicker than a wink, but Mom never was very good at it.  Grandma did a lot of custom sewing with that old Singer, though and could sew in her sleep I think.  You could tell she dreamed about it when she'd doze off in her easy chair because her right foot would be rocking back and forth as she sat there with her eyes closed and a contented look on her face O:-)
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #44 on: May 26, 2012, 05:31:19 PM »
I think things like belts would be right up this machine's alley. Long run of stitches that would take a long time to do by hand.

I bought a sewing machine for my wife a few months back and we played with it a bit. The thread tension isn't too bad to balance on a fabric machine, you just run some test stitches through some scrap material and adjust until they are balanced.

But, there's a big difference between thick leather and thin fabric.
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Offline hushnel

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Re: Leather working tools and supplies for sheath making
« Reply #45 on: May 26, 2012, 06:46:42 PM »
I have used it on long runs like machete sheaths, and saddle bags.
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
~Lao Tzu "Pedicabo Ego Eam"