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Old December 1, 2010, 10:45 PM   #26
HighValleyRanch
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Started on the Bearcat holsters today!

Lashlaroe,
I have seen a few pancakes for revolvers that I really like, but most of them are high rides, so I designed the gun to sit about cylinder even with the belt.
And most of the pancakes have the tradtinal pancake shape, not the thinner piece hanging down for the barrel like I designed.

I started on two holsters for the Bearcat I am borrowing. She was so nice to let me play with it for a few weeks, I want to surprise her with this new holster. I found a picture of a bearcat online and used that for the carving motif. Got two holsters carved out and both molded by tonight.
Here is pic of the carving! The funny thing is that I realized that my high school mascot was the Bearcat, and I've never know what the heck one was.



Good luck on yours! Hey, where the heck did my bearcat and leather tools go?? Post some pics when you are working on it. Promise not to tell!

Making two. One for her is strong side cant forward with simple rawhide lacing around the edges and belt loops like the one above.

The second for me is to go with the one for the Colt New frontier. It will be cross draw, and canted, pancake like above, with the same color and "silver" studs and shape to match. That way I can have both .22's on one belt, one reverse draw and one cross draw.
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Old December 1, 2010, 11:12 PM   #27
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Quote:
Good luck on yours! Hey, where the heck did my bearcat and leather tools go?? Post some pics when you are working on it. Promise not to tell!
LOL! Good one!

I like your bearcat depiction and look forward to seeing the finished products.
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Old December 1, 2010, 11:14 PM   #28
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Wow! That is a neat carving! I love it!
Did you burn the word "bearcat", or...?
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Old December 1, 2010, 11:21 PM   #29
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Great writeup, rodfac. I found it very educational.

Quote:
Cavalrymen, excepting officers who provided their own mounts, could not weigh more than 140 lbs during the indian war period because the equipment and tack that they carried was kept to 100 lbs....the total load being 240 lbs
Most today don't realize that people were typically smaller in stature than they are today. If one ever gets the chance to look in an original stagecoach, one soon has to wonder how more than two people could fit inside.
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Old December 2, 2010, 12:06 AM   #30
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Model P,
the word BEARCAT was done while the leather is in the carving moisture content and was done with a ball point pen. I found that works great for the imbedding and the ink ends up being dark when the antiquing stain in put on.
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Old December 2, 2010, 10:51 AM   #31
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High Valley...that's my take on it as well...one hand for the horse and one for the weapon...though I doubt they were shooting while dismounting. Watching a trooper (re-enactor) dismount is a lesson in "I've got too much c..p on for this".

Elmer Keith remarks in his "Sixguns" that cavalry in the Civil War, begged, borrowed or outright stole all the Colts they could lay their hands on and carried them in every available nook and crany...a good '51 or '60 Colt being far better in a moving fight than any saber.

While Southern cavalry fought mounted for the first part of the war (they were used as raiders, screens, and the eyes and ears of their armies), the North used cavalry in larger formations and as sort of mounted infantry...check out Buford's defense of the approaches to Gettysburg on the first day....had they not had Spencers and Sharps carbines, the battle would have gone in entirely different direction. Later in the war and through the Indian Wars, Northern horsemanship improved as did their equipments but tactics remained similar. Indian horsemen could and did out run US Cavalry throughout the plains wars due to their light weight....ie. they weren't carryingn 100 lbs. of gear...and for the most part were far better horsemen.

But here's a thought...why the Colt SAA instead of S&W Schofield? If you've ever tried to reload a Colt on horseback, let alone a running horse, you'll know where I'm coming from. The Schofield opens with one hand and easily presents six chambers ready to be charged...the Colt...well we know how easy that is. But the army had long experience with the Colt, throughout the Civil War...

Just some thoughts, High Valley...you've done a first rate job on your holster....many kudos....by the way, I love the eyes on the bearcat...slightly bewildered...first rate work, padnuh...

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Old December 2, 2010, 03:45 PM   #32
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BUILD ALONG

though I would post progress working through the process for anyone else wanting to learn holster making.

Got the two carved pieces molded over the Bearcat last night.
I found that by only wetting the parts that had to be molded, and wetting mostly the backside, I could preserve the clean lines of the carving. Before, I was soaking the whole piece and lost detail in the carving, so this was a good find. I bend the leather over the gun, and then use plywood over the flats to hold it down while drying. Once it is almost dry, I take out the gun and take off it off the ply wood to air dry completely.

This morning I punched the stitch lines and the belt loops and rough cut to about 1/4 inch outside the final contour. I wait until after gluing and stitching both sides before the final cut. The cross draw one has the prepunched holes for the "silver" studs already to go.

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Old December 2, 2010, 04:11 PM   #33
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you're way more artistic than I... ( those look awesome ) I spend more time on function... then usually slap a fancy piece of leather over the top... MRS MAGNUM used to tool leather alot when she was young, & has a pretty good selection of tools... I reciently bought the 4 piece barbed wire tool set( I hate fancy tooled holsters with plain straps that cross over the art work... thought I'd start by stamping several of the straps on my tooled holsters )... but so far... I've just been really "paranoid" ( dragging my feet ) about tracing out & cutting on something...
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Old December 2, 2010, 04:53 PM   #34
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It's not as hard as one puts it to be.
Main points:
Use a spray bottle to wet the leather. You can cut while damp, but only tool when it is drying out. You will find the right balance. Tooling too early means mushy imprints. It's almost better to tool when dam near dry. The leather can be light and when you tool, it will turn dark, and that way you know you are in the right moisture content.

Stamping is the easiest, but carving and free hand is a little harder. But all carving using the same stamping techniques, just knowing your tools and how they end up affecting the leather.

The main tools I use are the edge beveler, the background, and the cutting knife. This is a special pivoting knife that does the right width cuts.
Those three tools will get you to over 50% of the work. Then its just the finishing tooling.

Be sure to use natural leather. Tanned leather or other finished leather will NOT TOOL PROPERLY. Only raw natural leather tools the best. I find that the 6 to 9 ounce leather holds tooling the best, although I have tooled 3 to 4 ounce as well.

Try it out on some scrap to wet your feet. I learned from the guy at Tandys and in ten minutes I was on my way.

GOOD LUCK!
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Old December 2, 2010, 05:17 PM   #35
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MRS... has a couple swivel knifes, along with her tools... so far, I've only had the guts to play with a few tools...

I made a small "traditional" flap holster that fits my little Iver Johnson solid frame 22 or my Hopkins & Allen spur trigger solid frame in 30 rimfire ( that we made the rifled 22 caliber chamber inserts for ) alot of my old holsters have a bit of border tooling along the sewn side, & around the flap border... I used my stiching groover to make a double line border, & copied the star pattern in the corners, & used a checkering type of back ground stamp to fill between the lines... it actually looks pretty good... so, I'll try something more challenging in the future...
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Old December 2, 2010, 05:55 PM   #36
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Quote:
Be sure to use natural leather. Tanned leather or other finished leather will NOT TOOL PROPERLY. Only raw natural leather tools the best. I find that the 6 to 9 ounce leather holds tooling the best, although I have tooled 3 to 4 ounce as well.
I think you meant to say use only vegetable tanned leather to carve on,,,
Chrome tanned garment or upholstery leathers will not tool at all.

What you said about tooling when it's almost dry is spot on correct,,,
You should keep the surface at least damp though,,,
Or the core of the leather dries out too fast.

That darkening you speak of is called the burnishing effect,,,
You are correct about the leather turning dark in the indentations only when the moisture content is "just right".

I carve and stamp heavier leathers but it does take a bit more preparation to get the moisture content correct,,,
The advantage of carving on heavier leathers is you can tool much more deeply,,,
You will be amazed at how much depth your florals will have with 8-9 or 9-10.

Nice job on those holsters my friend,,,
You got skills.

.
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Old December 2, 2010, 06:26 PM   #37
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Nice looking holster. I bought a pancake holster in the late 70's for a S&W K frame from a guy named Roy Baker.He was known as the pancake maker.I still have it but ftom years of use it's getting rot.I should talk,you should see me now.lol
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Old December 13, 2010, 09:41 AM   #38
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HVR,

So I resurrected this thread as I am going forward with a pancake like yours for my father's Bearcat. I won't get the tools or the revolver until Christmas time and I have to pick up a couple things yet too. I have a few questions for you.

1) Did you use a Thonging Chisel to make the stitching holes?

2) Did you use a 1/16" punch for the stud holes and the non-straight stitch holes".

3) I have never made a holster; how do you protect the gun while molding the leather shape?

That's all for now, lol. Thanks for your input.

Also, I would love to see the finished Bearcat holsters if you have a pic or two.
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Old December 16, 2010, 09:20 PM   #39
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Quote:
HVR,

So I resurrected this thread as I am going forward with a pancake like yours for my father's Bearcat. I won't get the tools or the revolver until Christmas time and I have to pick up a couple things yet too. I have a few questions for you.

1) Did you use a Thonging Chisel to make the stitching holes?

2) Did you use a 1/16" punch for the stud holes and the non-straight stitch holes".

3) I have never made a holster; how do you protect the gun while molding the leather shape?

That's all for now, lol. Thanks for your input.

Also, I would love to see the finished Bearcat holsters if you have a pic or two.
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Sorry Lashlaroe,
I lost track of the thread when they moved it over to the gear section.
I hate that because it limits the amount of general viewers and it's harder to keep track of your posts and replys on various forums.

Anyways, here are some of the answers.

I have a 4 prong flat chisel punch made for punching slotted holes that I use for the stitching line. Some people use the star roller which rolls along the line and marks the points in various increments, but I don't like that . The four prong slot cutter precuts the first layer and it makes it easier for the awl stitcher to puncher cleanly. The main thing in the stitching is to make sure the tension is even and the loop is hidden in the leather. Better to hove the loop show on the back side, but the front has to look even with the thread coming out of the holes cleanly. It will be apparent when you make some mistakes that it didn't come out even. Have to screw up to learn, so start making a bunch of small projects to learn.

I make the stitching line AFTER I wet mold the leather to fit the gun.
More on this later.
After you mark the stitching line, use the four prong punch ( I like the small one with tighter holes) and always insert one of the prongs into the last hole to keep aligned as I move down the line. I use regular sharp point punch for marking the really curvy holes. On the studs that are two prong, I drew a line parallel to the stitching line for the inside prongs. Then I measured 1 inch increments and marked the stud line with the punch lightly. Then I measured 1/4 inch (for the 1/4 studs) out at every increment for the outer prong. I then used the punch to MARK the holes and used an awl to actully pierce the leather. Once all the 2 prong holes for the studs were pierced, I poked the studs in, flipped over the leather and tapped the prongs together with a small hammer. Tandys has a stud installer, but FORGET USING IT. It is a POC and it is better to use the method I describe. Using their tool will result in disaster, because the stud can move around and will no puncher the thick leather on its own accord.

3. After I do the carving, I let the carving dry. Then I spray the sides that are not carved and the entire back to get the leather soft enough to mold. I use to dunk the whole carved piece, but lost too much detail in the carving, so now only wet the leather enough to mold. I place the gun on a flay piece of plywood and spray the leather with a windex bottle to get the leather just wet enough to mold. Then I put the carved leather piece over the gun and gently work the shape with my hands. I work on the sight side first as that is the straight edge. Bend the holster over the gun and work out the flat bend, the vertical side and then the softer top bend over the gun.
At this point I use another 1/4 inch piece of plywood to hold down the straight side. I screw it over the leather (remembering where to keep the leather pristine) to hold it down flat to the plywood forming board. Once the sight (straight) side is screwed down, then I can work the leather over the gun and start to form the trigger, ejector side. I work it so that the leather comes out flat on this trigger side, and cut a scrap of 14 plywood to hold that side down. finally, I use a piece across the bottom if I want an enclosed bottom holster. The bottom takes some work because the leather is scruntched on both sides and needs flattening down. Might need to spray wetter to do this. If the leather doesn't mold, it needs to be wetter, but it doesn't need to be sopping wet. The leather is very open to marks at this point, so watch that you don't make unnecessary marks with finger nails, tools or anything while molding.
Sometimes I protect the gun with saran wrap or even just a plastic bag. Other times I leave the gun unprotected, because the leather is not soping wet, so the gun gets wet, but can be easily wiped off. You can oil the gun as well to protect it. The moisture issue is not as bad as you think.

At some point when I have more time, I will do a whole tutorial that be stickied for people to learn the process. Photos would help the above descriptions and a carve along might be nice.

Here's one pic of the finished holsters:
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Old December 16, 2010, 09:51 PM   #40
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HighValleyRanch,

Thank you, that was Excellent! Thanks a bunch for that detailed write-up. There is certainly no reason that I can't do this now. It's only a matter of practicing the carving a bit now, since it's been many years since I was a teen and last put a tool to leather.

Also, that picture in sepia looks fantastic! You should enter it in the December photo contest.
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Old December 16, 2010, 10:45 PM   #41
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Hi Lashlaroe,
Here are some tips to help on your carving.
I do the predrawing on some regular bond paper, and use my scanner to work up the sketches to add details but save it as I go along. That way I can make changes, cut and paste with the copies.

Then I wet the leather with spray. Only get it wet enough so that it is darker, and then it start to dry, but before it turns light again. When the leather is still slightly dark, i put the drawing over the carving area and trace the major cut lines. The pen or pencil indents the moist leather enough so that you have the clear cut patter. No need to add all the little details, as you work those in at the end. Just the major outlines and needed reference points.

Once the imbedded lines are in the leather, it's just a matter of using the swivel leather knife to cut the leather. I use a 1/4 inch slant knife and cut fairly deep, depending on the thickness of the leather I am working.
Cut all of your original tracing lines and now you have a pretty good start.

Next I choose either to stamp the back ground and use the beveling tool to contour. Keep track of what is in front and what goes behind when using the beveling tool. With all of the cut lines, it is easy to forget the relationships of the front and behinds. I found that it is not necessary to bevel to lower the background with the beveling tool before stamping the background texture. You can do both at the same time. I use a small triangle ahape background texture tool for most of it. Remember that the stamping of the background ends up with the dark contrast needed for the carving to stand out. I have a few other background tools as the antique swirls in the bearcat holster. Once most of the background is stamped and lowered, it is a matter of contouring and beveling and using some of the embossing tools for depth. I go back and do the stem cuts on the flowers, hair lines on the animals, whiskers, etc. with the swivel knife for the end details.

When the leather is perfect for carving, it will be fairly light, but as you carve, the beveling will cause the leather to darker from the burnishing and the stamping and any tool work will darken the leather.

I still have a lot to learn about the finishing. Still no happy with some of my results, and the carving can disappear with a black finish, or at least only be a subtle part of the piece. Just depends how much you want the carving to stand out. Myself, I don't like the leather too light, and prefer the carving to be something that people notice as a after thought detail, rather than the main thing. The whole look of the holster is more important to me than the actual carving detail.

GOOD LUCK,
DON'T HESITATE TO ASK ME MORE, AS I AM MORE THAN WILLING TO SHARE ANYTHING I CAN.

Here is a good color rendition of the two holsters.
My buddy is going to give his fiance the finished bearcat holster i made for her lending me her gun for over a month. I just dang felt so guilty for keeping it so long, i had to do something for her. He wrapped it up and put in under the tree (from me and the wife). It is just like the cross draw in this photo, but is made for strong side foward cant and does not have the studs and is slightly smaller, but still the "slim pancake" design.

(Billy Jack Leather is the name I am using for now for my leather work)

HVR

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Old December 17, 2010, 09:24 AM   #42
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curious if you want to talk finishing...

I've been doing some expirementing there... often I find the dyes are too dark, or too intense... I did up some tooled key fobs for a bunch of family members, for Christmas, with a bunch of my scraps... & took some of the regular Feibing dye, & diluted it down with rubbing alcohol... I found that I could thin some of the dyes down quite a bit & still get plenty of color...

also seems the alcohol doesn't do anything to hurt the tooling, & if anything, the faster drying might have helped the tooling stand out more...

the dyes I thinned out to expirement with were light brown, light blue, & red... I actually with the flesh color of vegi tanned leather, got a nice "dusty rose" color with the highly thinned red dye, & the floral patterns I tooled on those stands out quite well...

don't know if I'd go as far as to recommend alcohol for forming the leather, but if the gun was adiquately protected, it might do a fine job of molding, while leaving to tooling proud ???

thoughts ???
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Old December 17, 2010, 09:39 AM   #43
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Well I, for one, happen to like whatever you used to dye those holsters in your pictures. It's just about right in my book. It looks fairly close to the aged leather items I own.

I thank you for the extra info on carving and your general willingness to help others do this. Rest assured I'll ultimately have more questions sometime after Christmas when I have everything to get started.

I still think you should enter that sepia picture in the December photo contest.
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Old December 17, 2010, 10:25 AM   #44
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looks like saddle tan to me ??? I have a couple I did up in that color & like it alot...
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Old December 17, 2010, 11:23 AM   #45
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Hi,
I was previously using the Fiebings alcohol based dyes and found them excellent for coverage, color and penetration, but due to California's strict environmental laws, alcohol bases dyes are no longer available, and Tandys is now only selling water based dyes here.

I used Tandy's Eco flo hi lite colorant, coffee brown for the first coat to darken mainly the background impressions, but that gave too much a greenish tint, so I then put another top coat of Tandy Antique Leather Stain, dark brown which when used seperately comes out pretty orange and does not really high light the carving details. This comes out to pretty close to the color in the color photo.

While the Hi Lite can be wiped with water to lighten the proud portions, it tends to flatten out the depth. Just wiping on the hi lite leaves unpredictable aging coloration that is to me more antique.
There are some agents that can be mixed to gel the product further allowing more time to wipe off the hi lites for more contrast, but at 8.00 per bottle, it takes a while to experiment. Last time I spent over 200.00 in product an leather already!

The water based product are tricky, because they dry, but are still susceptible to water marks if exposed to moisture, so after these water based dyes are rubbed out for sheen, I use a top coat product that is lacquer based to seal the finished project. This gives a final rubbed gloss coat that gives aged patina to the project. I also burnish the edges with newspaper and a wood dowel. I forget where I learned this, but the black ink in the newpaper always helps to burnish and gloss the project, so by rubbing it you get this nice aged sheen.
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Old December 17, 2010, 11:29 AM   #46
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Oh, and one more thing about the Fiebings alcohol based dyes.....


They are fantastic for stock refinishing. I have done black powder rifle stocks using this product and other wood working project and the alcohol based dye penetrates the wood better than any other stain product I have ever found.

Curly maple is so hard, that it is virtually impossible to get oil base stains to penetrate deep enough for a dark color. The Fiebings colors deep and aged.
By wrapping a regular maple stock with cord and using a butane torch to scorch the stock, I was able to get a curly maple effect with the fiebings stain.
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Old December 17, 2010, 04:41 PM   #47
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Is the laquer-based top coat product something you get at Tandy too? Or is it something available elsewhere?

I just spent 3 hours making a round trip to Tandy (closest one) and spent way more than I expected to while there. Wow, nothing inexpensive in that store!

So now I have what I need to get started as soon as the gun and most other tools arrive. However, I didn't think to get a top coat product and am wondering if a thinned woodworking product could be used instead. I have lots of things for woodworking.
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Old December 17, 2010, 05:41 PM   #48
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Al Stohlman will spin in his grave,,,

But I am no fan of lacquer for a top coat.

Ask any saddle-maker in the world what they use,,,
Most will say 100% pure neatsfoot oil (not the compound),,,
For my leather I will use almost any of the carnuba wax products,,,
But I will not use anything that seals the outer layer of leather against oil penetration.

Tons of people in this forum know more about guns than I do,,,
Leather and leather work is the thing I am well versed in.

I've been working leather since before I was a teenager,,,
All through junior high and high school I worked part-time for a saddlemaker.

I managed a Tandy Leather store in Riverside, California back in the mid 90's.

I am an alumni of Dusty Johnson's Pleasant Valley School of Saddle-making.

I have an Associates Degree in Shoe, Boot & Saddle from Oklahoma State University at Okmulgee,,,
I did the extra work and earned the Certification in Saddlemaking over and above the associates degree program itself.

I know leather,,,

Never in all my years have I seen or heard of,,,
Any professional saddle-maker using Neat-Lac on leather.

Eventually that stuff will harden and crack.

Go to the Al Stohlman Museum at the Tandy Factory in Fort Worth,,,
Look at some of the original pieces you see in his books,,,
Cracked lacquer is evident in a lot of those pieces.

Use Carnuba Cream,,,
Or Fiebings Atom Wax Leather Balm,,,
or go fully traditional and just oil and buff the leather.

But please please please reconsider using lacquer on your leatherwork.

I apologize if this sounds like a rant or a personal attack,,,
I just hate to see quality leatherwork like yours,,,
Covered in a finish that will deteriorate.

Aarond
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Old December 17, 2010, 06:00 PM   #49
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aarondhgraham

Quote:
Use Carnuba Cream,,,
Or Fiebings Atom Wax Leather Balm,,,
or go fully traditional and just oil and buff the leather.

But please please please reconsider using lacquer on your leatherwork.

I apologize if this sounds like a rant or a personal attack,,,
I just hate to see quality leatherwork like yours,,,
Covered in a finish that will deteriorate.
Thanks for the advice. No insults taken, and like I stated, I need help on the finishing aspects.
I gathered from other posts that using neatsfoot on holsters is a bad idea because it softens the leather, and holsters are supposed to retain their rigidity to hold the gun properly. I did use neatsfoot on the flap holster for my colt and noticed that although it had a softer more leather like quality, it became dull on the exterior rather than the polished lacquer luster.

Neat lac is the Tandy product I used. I do use neats foot on all my saddles and head stalls and other horse tack.

I am assuming that the lac dries the leather out and prevents natural moisture by its top coat?
Will try some wax product at your suggestion.
Thanks for any input....it IS appreciated given your expertise.
Please feel free to add or comment on any of my other comments without feeling like you are contradicting or insulting me. I have only learned the craft by mistakes and that is not always the best teacher.
No expert, I am just trying to help others get started on their way given the limited way I have found.

Would actually really like to hear some experts tips on the process.
My skills are wood working and I have a degree in Art, which is the background to all the crafts that I do. I am a well known professional grip maker by trade, not a leather worker.
HVR
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Old December 17, 2010, 08:43 PM   #50
lashlaroe
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Join Date: November 20, 2010
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 180
Well thanks to both of you, I now have a better understanding of what I'm going to do with mine. This has been a great thread!

Two thumbs up!
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