alw-iwb1-sig-p238-04Welcome

Thank you for purchasing a holster pattern from Adams LeatherWorks – we sincerely appreciate your business!  This instruction guide is intended to walk you through the process of using our patterns and building your very own holster!  We understand you may have many questions along the way – please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need additional assistance!

Disclaimer

The patterns available for sale on Adams LeatherWorks are the very same patterns we use to build holsters for our customers.  We understand the actual design may not be ideal for everyone.  As such, we strongly encourage you to make adjustments to the actual design as you see fit – especially if you intend to make and sell holsters for others.  With so many holster makers out there, it’s hard to be unique in this industry, but we still encourage you to try…  Our goal is to help you focus on the art of making holsters and perfecting your skills without getting caught up in the details of making patterns.

That being said, there’s many, many ways you can build a holster.  Some of the variables that can affect the overall process are listed below:

  • Hand stitched, or machine stitched?
  • Dip dyed, or airbrushed?
  • Are you using contrasting thread colors?
  • The actual style of the holster?
  • Tooled?
  • If tooled, will it be antiqued?
  • Will it be lined?
  • Stitched of Molded Sight Channel?

Learn From My Mistakes!

I highly suggest building a mock-up holster if you haven’t built a holster from a particular pattern of mine before.  As you’ll eventually find out, there are several variables that can affect the final fit when forming the holster.  For example, using thinner leather will result in a holster with too much space between the firearm and the stitch line, which results a loose holster.  If you use a stitched sight channel vs. a molded sight channel, this can affect the final fit as well.

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As I’m writing this tutorial, this is the first time I’ve built a holster using this particular 5″ 1911 IWB1 style pattern.  To create the pattern, I started with my 5” 1911 Avenger style holster pattern, which I always build with 8oz leather.  Both holster styles use what is commonly referred to as a “clam shell” design, whereas the leather is folded to create a pocket for the firearm.  Basically the same, right?

When I built this IWB1 style holster using the Avenger pattern as a starting point (shown in the photo to the right with the aluminum 1911 dummy), the stitch line ended up approximately 1/4″ too far from the pistol.  I suspect this is from a combination of using 6-7oz leather instead of the normal 8oz I use with the Avenger patterns, as well as from using a stitched sight channel instead of a molded sight channel.

If I were to use 8oz leather with a stitched sight channel, it would be wise to create another mock-up to verify the final fit prior to building the final holster, as the stitched sight channel needs less stitch offset than the molded sight channel.  I suspect my initial pattern would have worked fine if I’d stuck with 8oz leather and a molded sight channel.

All that being said, if you’ve never made a holster before, I always recommend building a mock-up out of scrap leather that’s the same thickness as you plan to build your holster from.  This will give you more confidence when you build your final holster, and it will also reveal tips and tricks along the way you may not already be aware of.

Supply List

While it’s always possible to use substitutions, the following is a list of recommended tools and supplies you’ll need to complete this project:

  • (Premium) Vegetable Tanned Leather – generally speaking, I recommend 6-7 ounce leather (lighter or heavier weights will require you to move the stitch line in or out slightly).  The leather should be firm, with a clean flesh side.
  • Sharp knife (to cut out your pattern)
  • Round knife (to cut out your leather – can also use box cutters, exacto, etc.)
  • Scratch awl (to transfer pattern)
  • #2 edger (for easing edges)
  • Adjustable (and free-hand if hand sewing) groover (for cutting stitch grooves and/or cutting decorative grooves)
  • Straight edge (ruler, etc., for marking straight stitch lines on leather)
  • Burnisher (for smoothing and rounding edges)
  • Bone Folder (for forming/boning the holster to the gun)
  • Dye (whatever color you prefer – I prefer Fiebing’s Pro Oil dyes, but Angelus is next on my list to try)
  • Dye applicator (I use an airbrush, but you can also dip-dye – quickly – if you prefer)
  • Contact cement (Barge contact cement is quite popular – lately I’ve been using Tandy’s EcoWeld water based contact cement)
  • Sander (for sanding edges – I use a sanding drum mounted in my drill press)
  • Beeswax
  • Pure Neetsfoot Oil
  • Smooth-faced hammer (for mating glue surfaces and for hammering stitching closed)
  • Mallet – Light weight (for tooling)
  • Maul – Heavy weight (for punching slots)
  • Sponge and bowl (for dampening leather with water)
  • Gum Tragacanth or Saddle Soap (for smoothing the edges and/or interior)
  • Small and large daubers (for applying dye and/or gum tragacanth)
  • Finish (I use either Angelus 600 or Fiebing’s Resolene – both cut 50/50 with water)
  • 1″ Sponge paint brush (For applying finish)
  • Hole punch (for cutting holes for snap hardware)

If you’re hand-stitching, I will refer you to an essential book you owe it to yourself to purchase – The Art of Hand Sewing Leather by Al Stohlman, as well as the following website – THE WRTC METHOD OF STITCHING A LEATHER KNIFE SHEATH

Hardware List

For my strap hardware, I use:
  • DOT Snap (Cap, Socket and Stud – I don’t use their Posts, but you might want to have some on-hand – if so, get the longer post length, which can be ground shorter if necessary – or just buy both lengths…)
  • Leather Washer (I just cut a circle out of leather, about 3/4″ diameter, and punch a hole in the center just large enough to fit over the snap stud)
    • This helps the holster slide over the edge of your pants easier
    • It’s not necessary to edge and burnish the leather washers, unless you really want to, but I do advise at least dipping them in your acrylic sealer for a couple seconds, as this will help stiffen the washer to minimize crush, as well as obviously protecting it from moisture like the rest of the holster
    • You may also wish to dye the washer to match the holster color prior to applying the acrylic sealer
  • 6-32 x 1/4″ 3-prong T-Nut (some people prefer to use the next size larger than this – 8-32 x 1/4″ I believe, but my patterns aren’t designed to use the larger hardware)
  • 18-8 Stainless Steel Flat Undercut Head Phillips Machine Screw, 6-32 Thread, 1/2″ Length from McMaster-Carr (get 8-32 x 1/2″ if you get the larger t-nut)

Pres-N-Snap_with_diesTools for Snaps

Press-N-Snap (Optional, but recommended)

To install the snaps, I purchased the Press-N-Snap tool from Rochford Supply.  They sell a bench mount that works pretty well, and I would suggest buying it – it will help to hold the press in a vertical position so you can focus on aligning your directional snaps.  The dies that come with the press should work fine for Line 24 snaps, but you will need to either modify the dies, or buy another set that works with the directional DOT snaps (I’m not sure what the part number is for the DOT dies).  The modified die works fine on line 24 snaps.

If you’d like to visit the manufacturer’s website, they are located at http://www.pressnsnap.com/.

Setter & Anvil (Budget oriented, but difficult to use)

If you prefer to save your pennies, you’ll need to purchase a snap Setter and Anvil.  They work fine, but the post on your caps will tend to bend over a bit when you hammer the cap’s post onto the snap socket.  You may also find it necessary to punch a tiny slit in the leather large enough for the snap socket’s metal lip to bite into the leather (this lip, or tooth, helps to prevent the socket from rotating, which is part of what makes the snap directional).

Using Our Patterns

1: Print the pattern on the heaviest paper or card stock your printer will reliably feed.

This will become your pattern, so the thicker, the better.  Likewise, you can print the pattern onto plain paper, then spray-mount the paper to cardboard, etc…

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Verify the prints are the correct scale.  I have placed a scale bar on at least one of the pattern pages.  Measure the bar to confirm it’s the same length as I have indicated on the pattern.

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2: Cut the pattern out with whatever tool is appropriate for your chosen substrate.

I like to use a retractable blade utility knife – the kind that has a long blade that’s scored to easily snap off the tip for a fresh edge.  You can get a lot of life out of this type of knife before having to switch to a new one.  I also like the folding lock back style knives with replaceable blades, but tend to use the retractable style most often.

If your pattern has a “Match Line”, this is because the pattern was too large to easily fit on an 8.5”x11” sheet of paper.  You will need to tape the pieces together along the match line.  To do this, simply cut out the pattern pieces, then cut along the “Match Line”.

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Flip the pieces over and align the top & bottom edges, then tape together along the entire seam line.

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Your pattern is now ready to use.

3: Position the pattern on your leather

Be sure to leave adequate room between pieces to maneuver your cutting tool.  As you progress with your skills and improve your tools, you can position your pieces closer together.  I suggest no less than 1/8″ generally speaking.  For right-handed gear, position your patterns with the text facing up.  For left-handed gear, position your patterns with the text facing down.  If you wish to build your holster with the flesh side facing out, you’ll need to reverse the pattern piece(s) for the piece(s) you want flesh-side-out.

4: Carefully trace around the perimeter of your pattern with a pen or scratch awl.

I personally have been using the Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel pen on the recommendation of Larry Mingus at SWFLholsters.  If your pen accidentally slips and draws over the top of your pattern (happens to me all the time), you can erase the mark very easily with an eraser or lighter – very neat!  Beware, I’ve heard cold temperatures can make the errant pen mark show show back up.  Do your best to make sure you don’t get stray marks on the leather because they could show up later when subjected to cold temperatures.

  • NOTE: If you’d like to use a “Stitched” sight channel (strips of leather sewn along the top edge of the slide) instead of a “Molded” sight channel (using a dowel placed over the sights to form a sight tunnel), there are two rectangles indicated on the pattern starting just beneath the reinforcement piece, carrying all the way down to the muzzle.  These indicate the size & placement of the leather strips you will also need to cut when cutting out your leather pieces.  IMPORTANT – if you use a stitched sight channel, you need to verify the handgun does not have high-profile sights.  It will be very difficult to build a stitched sight channel tall enough to clear the sights without using excessively thick strips of leather to form the channel.
  • NOTE: If you do not wish to use a sweat shield on your holster, trace along the left side of the holster pattern, then flip the pattern over and trace from the back side of the pattern to complete the other half of the holster.  Do the same thing for the reinforcement piece.  You may find it necessary to measure from the outer edges of the pattern pieces to find the center-line so you’ll have a reference point when flipping your pattern pieces over.
  • NOTE: I draw all of my pattern pieces for right-handed use.  If you need to build a left-handed holster, simply flip your pattern pieces over and trace your pattern pieces from the back side.
  • NOTE: You may want to transfer all your pattern marks at the same time you’re tracing out your pattern pieces before you remove the pattern piece from the leather.  Personally, I just wait till I’ve cut out all my pieces before I transfer my pattern marks.

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5: Cut out your pattern pieces.

I prefer to use a round knife for “push cuts”.  They come in various sizes and styles – mine is 4 7/8″. The larger the blade, the larger the minimum radius you’ll be able to easily cut.  This minimum radius will vary with different thicknesses of leather.  I can cut around 3/8″ – 1/2″ radius in 8 oz. leather relatively easily, though I almost always need to true up the edges with a matching drum sander since it’s almost impossible to make a clean, perpendicular cut with this small of a radius.  When cutting this small of a radius, imagine your knife is a motorcycle – lean into the turn.

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You can also use a straight knife, trim knife, razor blade, scalpel, etc. for “pull cuts”.  I find this style of blade way too tiring for thick leather, but they work great for thinner, easier to cut hides.

As a side note – It can be tempting to cut your pieces away from the larger hide to give you something smaller to work with (like I did in the beginning of my early 3-part YouTube video…).  Unless absolutely necessary, I suggest you avoid doing this.  The weight of the larger hide, the friction of the hide against your workbench and the added area to grab/hold will substantially aid in cutting out the smaller pieces.  It’s relatively difficult to cut through thick leather, and the more leverage you can provide to hold your pieces still, the safer and easier the task will be.  And by all means, always remember to keep your body clear of the cutting path!  Treat your knife just like a gun – never aim at anything you’re not willing to kill, or in this case, AMPUTATE!

If you need help sharpening your round knife, this excellent video will help you.

Don’t forget to cut your sight channel pieces if you’ll be using a Stitched Sight Channel.  I forgot to cut mine, so they don’t show up till a little later…  🙂

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6: Transfer your pattern marks if you haven’t done so already.

The pattern has dozens of tiny dots that indicate the location of stitch lines, grooves and belt slots.  Poke through these dots to make tiny dots in the leather.  I use a scratch awl I purchased from the hardware store.  The shaft was relatively long – maybe 4-5″ when I bought it.  Using my grinder, I cut off all but around 1″, then sharpened the tip to a point.  The length I used isn’t important – just make the overall length of the tool comfortable for you to hold.  Don’t make the tip too sharp, or you may pierce all the way through the leather.  I also sharpened the tip to a tiny chisel shape – this helps later when I’m scraping the grain surface for gluing.

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Be sure to also mark the stitch lines on the flesh side (inside face) of the holster so you’ll know where to place glue later on.  I use a custom awl to transfer my marks.  Pay close attention to the photos to see which marks I’ve transferred to the pattern.  To make the marks read better, I highlighted everything with a permanent marker so you can see it better.

  • BODY – Outer Face: Stitch Line (left half), only on one half of the holster.  If you are hand stitching and will be cutting a stitch groove, you can flip the pattern over and transfer the stitch line to the other half of the pattern.  I am machine stitching and can’t easily control exactly where the needle exits the leather, so I don’t bother with marking the stitch line on the back face.
  • BODY – Outer Face: Start & Stop point of the stitch line (right half).  I will use the Start & Stop points, as well as the stitch line to indicate where to cut a decorative groove along the edges.  Again, since I am machine sewing, I will only cut a groove in areas I won’t be stitching.
  • BODY – Outer Face: Reinforcement location, only on the outside face of the holster.  This shows me where to place the contact cement.
  • BODY – Inner Face: Stitch Lines, on both halves of the holster.  This shows me where to place contact cement.
  • BODY – Inner Face: Stitched Sight Channel, unless using a formed sight channel with a dowel.  This shows where to place contact cement.
  • REINFORCEMENT PIECE – Outer Face: Location of holes for T-Nut mounting hardware.
  • BELT LOOP – Outer Face: Location of holes for mounting and snap hardware.

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7: Cut the decorative grooves.

As you may have already noticed, I only apply the decorative stitch groove on the areas that will not be stitched and I only edge the areas that will not be double-layered.  Here is a photo of my Tandy adjustable groover.

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If you will be hand sewing, go ahead and cut your stitch grooves as well.  That being said, I would wait to cut the stitch grooves around the perimeter of the holster until you’ve glued everything together and sanded the edges flush.

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I dye my pieces prior to assembly, so I bevel and cut my grooves prior to dying.

8: Bevel the appropriate edges.

If your edger is having difficulty cutting the leather, try dampening the edge with a damp sponge.

  • NOTE: You only want to bevel the bottom edge of the reinforcement piece, and the areas of the body that will not be mated to other edges.  I have tried to indicate this with arrows on the following photos.  If you continue edging past the point where the leather is glued together, you’ll end up with a visible seam, or gulley.  Yuck!  You can safely bevel all edges of the belt loop piece since it will not be glued to anything.
  • NOTE: It’s worth mentioning that water will ‘stain’ leather.  If you get water drops or runs across the surface of the leather, I suggest you go ahead and wet the entire surface with a damp sponge.  This way, the entire surface will ‘stain’ to the same darkness.

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9: Skive one end of each of the sight channel pieces from the flesh side.

I usually start my skive cut about ⅜” away from the end of the piece.  Once skived, bevel the grain-side’s edges.  Do NOT bevel the flesh side, as this will reduce your available gluing surface.

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10: If you want to use contrasting stitching, now is the time to dye your leather.

What’s contrasting stitching?  If you are dying your leather, and you want to keep white, brown, red, etc. thread color, you need to dye your leather prior to assembly.  For this tutorial, I will not be dying the leather.  Here’s a video you might find helpful from Ian Atkinson on YouTube discussing the various types and application methods.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTNJSOEwPUs’]

11: Burnish the bottom edge of the reinforcement piece.

  1. Dampen the edge with water
  2. Using 220 grit, sand along the edge in the same direction – do not sand “back-n-forth”
  3. If you have saddle soap, burnish the edge with it.  Otherwise, just burnish using water and your burnishing stick.  Beware of products that might resist dye when you dye your edges (if you want them dyed – I always dye mine).
  4. If you dyed your leather in the previous step, you can proceed to polish the edge by applying wax, then buffing to a shine.  I like to use a 50/50 mix of beeswax and paraffin.

If you haven’t watched it yet, I have a video on my blog showing how I burnish my edges.

https://www.adamsleatherworks.com/leather-burnishing-with-pro-edge-burnishers/

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12: Punch the holes in your reinforcement piece for your T-Nut hardware.

Don’t do like me and forget this step, or you’ll have to pull the reinforcement piece away from the body so you can go back and punch the holes and insert the t-nuts…

  • The size hole you use will be determined by the size t-nuts you’re using.  I prefer 6-32 x ¼ 3-prong t-nuts, other prefer 8-32 since they’re a little larger & more durable.  It’s up to you which size you use.
  • You will need to clip the prongs on the t-nuts a little shorter – that way they won’t punch all the way through the reinforcement piece.
  • Using a couple pieces of scrap leather, punch holes through the scrap pieces, then place them over the shaft of the t-nut.  Gently hammer the leather to help seat the prongs of the t-nuts in the leather.  It may help if you dampen the flesh side of the reinforcement prior to hammering.
  • Insert an appropriately sized screw into the t-nut to confirm you didn’t just damage the threads.  If the threads are okay, move on to the next step.  If you damaged the threads from hammering, get a new t-nut and try again…

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13: Scuff the area of the holster beneath the reinforcement piece, as indicated on the photo.

Using your scratch awl, scuff the grain surface of the holster body in the area where the reinforcement piece is located.  This is to roughen up the grain and prepare it for contact cement, which helps the cement to bond to the leather and create a better bond.  Apply contact cement to both surfaces.  Once the cement is dry, stick the two pieces together and gently hammer the pieces together to create a tighter bond.  Trim and sand away the excess leather if necessary so you’ll get a smoother, more precise stitch line in the following step.

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14: Glue the reinforcement to the body

  1. Apply contact cement to the reinforcement area of the body, as well as the flesh side of the reinforcement piece.
  2. If you accidentally get cement outside the intended gluing area, wait for the cement to dry, then using your finger, gently rub the cement towards the border area and it will usually pull away from the leather.
  3. Once the cement is dry, carefully align and stick the pieces together.
  4. Hammer together with a smooth faced hammer to form a tight bond.

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15: Attach stitched sight channel

If using a stitched sight channel:

  1. Apply contact cement to the holster body and flesh side of the sight channel pieces
  2. position the skived away from the muzzle end.
  3. Hammer together like before once the cement is dry.

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16: Sand edges flush around reinforcement area

I use a sanding drum kit that I bought from the home improvement store, which I mounted in my drill press.  If you keep the sanding drums clean (I use a wire brush every now and then to clean off the leather dust and cement), the drums will last a long time.

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17:Mark stitch lines, then sew together

The easiest way to sew the sight channel strips is from the back side of the holster.  I like to sew just a bit past the skived end to help hold the end down.

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Use your adjustable creaser (or wing dividers) to mark a stitch line around the perimeter of your reinforcement piece.  If hand sewing, you can dampen the grain with a sponge so you can make a deep impression in the leather, which will help the thread recess flush with the surface (to protect the thread).  You can also use your freehand and adjustable groover.  If machine sewing (I use the Cobra Class 4), you just need to lightly mark the surface just enough that you can easily see where to sew with your machine – you don’t even need to dampen the grain first.  I like to inset my stitch line about 3/16″.

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18: Hammer stitches tlat

Once sewn, dampen the leather with a sponge, then hammer along the stitch lines with a smooth faced hammer to close the stitch holes.  This helps to lock the thread in place.

19: Sand reinforcement flush again

After sewing the reinforcement to the body and hammering the stitches flat, the glued edges can sometimes become somewhat uneven and may need to be sanded flush again.  Dampen the edges, then sand the edges again if necessary.

20: Bevel and burnish the openings

Before sewing the holster body pieces together, sand the mating edges of the reinforcement & holster body pieces flush to even them and remove excess glue (if you didn’t already do this in the previous step).  Then proceed to burnish and dye all opening edges, to include the top edge at the opening, around the sweat shield and the muzzle opening.

21: Glue the holster closed

Apply contact cement to the mating surfaces on the inside faces of the holster and allow the cement to dry.  Dampen the flesh side of the holster and the reinforcement piece to help the leather fold closed more easily.  Avoid getting the exterior face of the holster damp if you plan to go ahead and sew the holster closed, as the damp leather will be easily damaged when damp.

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Hammer the glued surface to form a stronger bond, then sand the edges flush.

Here’s a photo of the stitched sight channel, just in case you’ve never seen one…

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22: Sew Holster Body Closed

Apply contact cement to both mating surfaces of the flesh side of the leather.  Once the cement is dry, align and press the body pieces together, then gently hammer together for a better bond.  Trim and sand away the excess leather if necessary.   As you did with the reinforcement piece, mark your stitch line, then sew the body together.

23: Burnish Perimeter

Burnish the perimeter of the holster body just like you did with the reinforcement piece.

24: Forming the Holster

Dampen the holster by dunking in water for about 6-7 seconds.  Add about 1 second if the holster is dyed black.

  • For my dunking water, I like to add a couple drops of dish soap to a pan of warm water.
  • Make sure the water is not too hot – if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your leather.

Hammer the stitches closed like before using a smooth faced hammer.

Proceed with forming the holster using a variety of hand tools.  I do 99.9% of my forming work with a bone folder and the round end of one of my tools (actually, I use the round end of my hand burnisher that I bought from Tandy, but anything round and smooth will work fine.).  The photo below shows (from top to bottom) a wooden clay modeling stick, bone folder and my Tandy wood burnisher.

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Yes, a true bone folder is actually made out of bone…  Avoid the cheap plastic “bone” folders sold at the hobby store – they are too flexible for leatherworking.

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If you are using a molded sight channel, instead of stitched like I am showing in this tutorial, you will need to tape a dowel rod to the top of your slide.  Cut a notch in the end of the dowel so it slides over the front sight, then cut the other end approximately at the front edge of the ejection port and/or the front edge of the trigger guard.  It doesn’t really matter which you choose, but it at least needs to extend inline with the front edge of the trigger guard, as this is where the holster really starts to tighten up around the firearm.  I have included an example photo showing my typical setup, though I obviously won’t be using a dowel since I’m using a stitched sight channel.

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Once the holster is formed, place the holster in an oven set to around 135 degrees for about 45 minutes.  This will help to stiffen the leather and make the holster firmer.  Note that while many makers use the oven method, others do not advise it because they feel it’s bad for the leather (it’s skin – you wouldn’t want your own skin in a 135 degree oven, etc.).  The choice is yours, but I’ve not had any problems using an oven, nor have any of my customers called me saying their holster cracked to pieces, turned to ashes, etc.

After the holster has been in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, remove it from the oven, then place the holster in front of a fan to dry overnight.  If you can place the dummy gun in the holster while it dries, this will help it not shrink so much while it dries.  If you are using a real firearm, DO NOT leave your gun in the holster to dry unless you take proper precautions to protect your gun from moisture.

25: Belt Loop

While your holster is drying, go ahead and burnish the edges of your belt loop piece.  Don’t forget to punch the holes for the hardware if you haven’t done so already.

Once the belt loop’s edges are burnished, dunk it in water for a couple seconds, then fold over so the holes align and gently press flat.  You don’t want sharp creases in the fold – it just needs enough of a bend to help it lay flat.  Remember, you’ll hopefully be wearing the holster with a ¼” thick gun belt…  Set it aside to dry overnight with the holster – OR, you can go ahead and oil it.

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26: Final Burnishing and Oiling

Once the holster is thoroughly dry, proceed to apply a light coat of oil to the exterior of the holster.  If your holster is lined, you can apply oil to the interior as well (assuming you lined it with vegetable tanned leather).  You do not want to apply oil to the flesh side of the leather, as the flesh side will absorb too much oil.  You don’t want a ton of oil – just enough to add some of the oil back to the leather that has been removed from the previous steps.  I use pure neetsfoot oil, and I apply it with a 1″ foam paint brush.  Some people suggest applying the oil to a cloth, then rubbing the cloth over the leather.  Others suggest spraying the oil over the surface with a sprayer of some kind, like a squirt bottle, etc.  Once oiled, give it a few minutes to soak in.  You want to wait at least 24 hours before applying your finish coat.

After wet forming, you may find it necessary to touch up some of the burnished areas.  I like to rub a little beeswax over the edge, then burnish, then buff with a clean cloth.  You can also use Gum Tragacanth, but be careful to avoid getting the paste on your thread – it may pull some color from your edge dye.  It’s best to dampen it with the gum tragacanth, then let it soak in for a moment, then wipe away the excess before burnishing.  Don’t forget to burnish your belt slots as well!

Using a wool dauber, apply the gum tragacanth to the interior of the holster, then burnish smooth.  I like to use my wooden clay modeling stick.

27: Apply Finish

Lately I’ve been using Fiebing’s Acrylic Resolene for my finish.  I cut it 50/50 with water.  I’ve also used Angelus 600 (also cut 50/50 with water) and was quite pleased with that product too.  When I first started, I was using Tandy’s Satin Sheen, though I don’t recall diluting it.

Dampen your 1″ foam paint brush with water, and remove the excess water from the brush.  Then, dip your brush in the finish and proceed with applying a liberal coating to the interior of the holster.  You want the finish to soak in really well.  Be sure to get finish up into the nooks and crannies around the stitch lines.  Let it dry to the touch – this usually takes just a few minutes.

Dip your brush in the finish again, then proceed to apply finish to the exterior.  Be sure to apply a little extra finish to the stitch line – the acrylic sealer helps to glue the stitches in place should your thread ever get cut.  Work quickly to cover the entire exterior of the holster – don’t forget the belt slots and the edges of the holster.  Keep working until the finish is even and all the bubbles are gone, then hang it to dry.  Once the bubbles start to go away, you’re getting to the point where streaks will start to appear if you work it too much longer.

Apply a second coat if you want more shine or added protection from moisture.  I usually just do one coat.

28: Install Snap Hardware

Install the snap hardware on the belt loop piece.  The snap hardware and tools are mentioned at the beginning of this tutorial under the “Hardware List” section.

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I like to use leather washers installed between the belt loop piece and the holster body.  This allows the holster to slide down over the top of the pants a little easier.  If you decide to use a spacer, cut it slightly larger than the snap hardware, punch a hole in the center just large enough to fit over the t-nut, then dye (if you want it dyed) and seal it thoroughly.

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29: Test Fit

Once the holster has had plenty of time to dry (usually overnight), you can test the fit of the holster.  Most likely, the fit will be very tight.  If it is, don’t try to stick the gun all the way in the holster – we already know it’s too tight and it’ll just be difficult to remove later.  Remove the gun, then stick the gun muzzle down in a zip-top baggie.  Wrap the baggie around the slide and trigger guard area, then insert the gun in the holster and let it rest.  After a few minutes, remove the gun from the baggie and holster it again.  If it’s still too tight, repeat the process and increase the resting time.  Don’t try to stretch it too much – you want it to break in a little more while wearing it, so it needs to be a little tight, though not so much you can’t remove it from the holster.  Practice will tell you when it’s stretched enough.

You may notice the acrylic sealer is adding to the friction, making it a tad more difficult to draw the gun.  If so, take a little neutral shoe polish and rub it on your finger.  Then, rub your waxed finger over the contact points inside the holster.  This should help ease the friction inside the holster.

30: Example Photos

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