THIS TUTORIAL IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. THE BASIC ASSEMBLY PROCESS IS THE SAME AS THE PANCAKE STYLE HOLSTER PATTERN, SO I COPIED THAT PAGE AND AM EDITING IT AS TIME ALLOWS. PLEASE CONTACT ME IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS THAT AREN’T ANSWERED ON THIS PAGE.
Thank you for purchasing a 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 magazine pouch! We understand you may have many questions along the way – please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need additional assistance!
The patterns available for sale on Adams LeatherWorks are the very same patterns we use to build holsters and related gear 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 and related gear 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 and related gear. 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 or magazine pouch?
- If tooled, will it be antiqued?
- Will it be lined?
In an effort to broaden the patterns available for sale, we have decided to sell our patterns as-is, in the same state of detail as we personally use to build our products. We could certainly add instructive text, convert them to vector format, etc., but that would keep us out of the shop and slow down product creation. We want to broaden our offerings, make more patterns available for sale, and spend less time sitting in front of a computer! If you have any questions or need additional information or instructions, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Over time, we hope to add to this page to help eliminate commonly asked questions.
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 8 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.)
- Black pen or scratch awl (to transfer pattern outline)
- Scratch awl (to transfer pattern dots)
- #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 also very highly rated)
- Dye applicator (I use an airbrush, but you can also dip-dye – quickly – if you prefer)
- Contact cement (Barge contact cement is quite popular, but other quality contact cements will do)
- Sander (for sanding edges – I use a sanding drum mounted in my drill press)
- 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)
- Tooling stamps and related tools (these will vary, depending on what you’re actually doing)
- Sponge and bowl (for dampening leather with water)
- Gum Tragacanth (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)
- Slot punch (for cutting belt slots) or 5/16″ Drill belt and appropriately sized wood chisel to cut out the center, or you can use a sharp knife
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
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…
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.
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.
4: Carefully trace around the perimeter of your pattern with a pen or scratch awl.
I prefer to use a black pen with an ink that dries quickly, but you can use whatever tool you’re comfortable with. I don’t suggest a ball-point pen, as the ink takes too long to dry. As you transfer your pattern to the leather, the ink absorbs into the leather and can leave ink smudges all over your leather, hands, etc.
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.
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.
Transfer Your Pattern Marks
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.
The following photos show the dots, as well as score lines connecting the stitch line dots. You can also see the decorative grooves I cut at the top opening. These areas will not be sewn for an un-lined magazine pouch, so adding this groove is a nice finishing touch – a magazine pouch without them tends to look incomplete, though I admit I don’t usually add the score line on the back of a magazine pouch with a pinch guard because it’s such a small radius – I’d rather not risk messing up the groove and ruining the pouch. Note the spacing of the dots on your pattern. These dots are in no way meant to signify the spacing of the actual stitches. Since I am machine sewing, they simply give me a good indicator of my stitch line, without having to scribe an actual score line in the leather.
If your magazine pouch will not have a reinforcement piece, do not mark the holes at the reinforcement area. Transfer the dots for the reinforcement piece onto the front of the magazine pouch.
You only need to mark the belt slot location on the front – you don’t need to mark it on the interiors or the back piece.
As you can see in the photo below, I have transferred the stitch lines to the interior of the magazine pouch – this is so I will know where to apply glue for assembly.
On the photo below, notice how I only marked the pattern at the “start & stop” points of my stitch lines (the actual marks have already been obscured by my decorative groove). Those “start & stop” points tell me where the stitching stops, and where I need to start my grooves.
Note I have transferred the stitch line points to the interior of the back piece as well (a bit hard to see in this photo).
I’m sure you’re wondering why I don’t cut stitch grooves around the perimeter and along the stitch lines – that’s a very good question. Because I’m machine sewing, I can’t control where the needle will exit the leather on the back-side of the holster. If I cut grooves on the back, and the stitch exits in the wrong place, the magazine pouch is ruined. Machines tend to pull the thread relatively flush with the surface of the leather, and that can also be helped by hammering it flat (while damp) with a smooth-faced hammer. Also, when I dye my holsters and magazine pouches, I dye them very early in the build process, prior to assembly. This is so I can use light colored threads. If I cut my stitch grooves around the perimeter prior to assembly, then glue everything together only to find the leather doesn’t quite line up, my stitch lines may be too close to the edge once the edges are sanded flush. The best method (in my opinion) is to use an adjustable creaser just prior to sewing, once the edges have been trimmed, sanded and edged. If I’m machine sewing, I only mark the front. If I’m hand sewing, I’ll mark the front and back so I can “aim” my exit point for a more consistent appearance on the back. You can dampen the leather to help the crease go deeper into the leather to help bury the thread (make it flush with the surface of the holster).
Edge & Groove
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.
If I’m gluing two pieces together, I don’t want to have a trench where the two pieces mate together. You can see what it should look like in the example photo below. The dots on the leather may be confusing to look at, but what’s important to see here is how the edging stopped at the point the two pieces will be glued and sewn together.
As you’ll see in the image below, you will want to radius all sharp corners on the reinforcement piece. The radius doesn’t have to be large – I just knock the sharp corners off with my drum sander. This prevents the corners from (A) snagging and (B) lifting or separating or otherwise being more prone to damage. You’ll also want to edge all sides of the front of the reinforcement, as well as all sides of the back of the reinforcement piece EXCEPT for the edge that rides along the top edge of the magazine pouch opening.
Speaking of edging – here is a photo of my edger. It’s a Tandy edger, and the size is #2. It’s the only edger I have, and I use it for everything that needs edge’n.
The following series of photos shows the process of tooling a holster reinforcement, beginning with a photo of the tooling design pattern. The actual pattern will vary from one pattern to another.
The photo below shoes the swivel knife cuts that are initially made once the pattern has been transferred to the cased (dampened) leather.
Once the swivel knife cuts are finished, proceed with beveling around your cuts to create depth to the design.
Utilizing a series of stamps, proceed with adding detail to your design. 99% of my stamping tools came from a basic Tandy starter kit many years ago.
Here is a photo of one of my Avenger reinforcement pieces with the swivel knife cuts already done.
And here is that same Avenger reinforcement piece with completed tooling. You can see all the stamps that were used with this particular design.
If you’d like to learn more about my tooling process, I encourage you to watch my “How to tool pancake reinforcement” video, here:
I prefer to apply my dye using an airbrush. Quite frankly, it’s the only method I’ve had any success with. I’m currently using Fiebing’s Pro Oil Dyes for most of my colors, with the exception of “Red” – I’ve been using Tandy’s Professional Water Stain which is applied quite easily with a sponge. Angelus’ “Red” dye worked very well for me, so I encourage you to try their products as well. The actual application method will vary depending on the type of dye you’re using. You should always work with adequate ventilation if the product requires it, especially when airbrushing.
Here’s a video you might find helpful from Ian Atkinson on YouTube discussing the various types and application methods.
Burnish & Dye Edges (Reinforcement piece and around openings)
To get a nice, clean dye line when you dye the edges of your leather, it’s essential to burnish the edge first. This helps to smooth the surface of the leather, allowing your dye applicator slide more easily over the edge. When I burnish my edges, I like to rub a dampened sponge over the edge of the leather. Avoid dampening the grain surface of the leather, as doing so can lead to a noticeable discoloration in the dye around the top edge of your pieces. If you get the grain very wet and you’re concerned about the discoloration, it’s best to go ahead and wet the entire grain surface so the whole surface can dry uniformly. All that being said – it’s usually not a problem as once the leather is stitched and later oiled and finished – the discoloration usually is camouflaged by the visual border line of the stitching, and the edges sometimes being darker anyway because the oil has penetrated more deeply around the stitch holes.
Once the edges are damped, gently sand the edges to help remove the fuzz. Always sand in the same direction, such as left to right or right to left – do not go back and forth. The sanding, in addition to removing excess fuzz, will help to burnish the leather and make it more smooth.
After sanding, proceed to burnishing with your wooden (or whatever else you have handy) burnisher. This will help to slick and round the edges. Select the appropriate size groove and rub briskly back and forth over short sections (whatever you can hold steady in your hand – usually 3-5 inches). The photo below shows (from top to bottom) a wooden clay modeling stick, bone folder and my Tandy wood burnisher.
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.
Once the edge is slicked and rounded, place the leather on a flat surface and quickly rub the flat surface of your bone folder over the top/grain surface of the leather around the areas you just burnished. When you burnish the leather, it can tend to squish the edges a bit, making the edge look a bit like a mushroom. You want to flatten this back out. Avoid rubbing the grain too much, or you’ll burnish the grain surface of the leather (making it a little darker around the edges).
Once the edge is dry (no longer cool to the touch), you can proceed with dying the edge. I like to use a really large permanent marker on my edges because it’s very easy to get a clean dye line. You can also use a wool dauber – just be careful not to over load the dauber with dye as it can flow extremely quickly out of the dauber, onto the leather and drip to areas you don’t want it. Edge coating products are another option – they’re more like a paint that is applied to the surface of the leather, instead of being absorbed into the grain of the leather. I’ve seen someone mention a contraption that has an applicator in the tip with a dye reservoir in the handle – you just pour the dye into the reservoir and apply it just like you would with a permanent marker. I’m not sure where to buy those.
After your edges are dyed and have had the appropriate amount of time to dry, do a final burnish on them. Rub the edges with a clean cloth to remove excess pigment. Dampen the edges slightly, then rub the edge with either paraffin, beeswax, or gum tragacanth. Burnish the edges again with your burnishing tool, which will warm the surface and help the wax (if that’s what you choose to use) to be drawn into the leather. Polish the edge with a clean cloth to remove excess pigment.
Sew Reinforcements Onto Body
Using your scratch awl, scuff the grain surface of the magazine pouch 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.
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″.
Burnish the Opening
Before sewing the magazine pouch body pieces together, sand the mating edges of the reinforcement & body piece 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.
Sew Magazine Pouch Body
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.
Edge & Burnish Perimeter
Edge and burnish the perimeter of the magazine pouch body just like you did with the reinforcement piece.
Punch Belt Slots
Belt slots can be punched several ways. If you’re just getting started, or only plan on doing a hand-full of holsters, you may not be prepared to buy a dedicated punch just yet. If that’s the case, your best bet is with a drill press and an appropriately sized wood chisel. Most gun belts are 1.5″ wide, and usually up to around 1/4″ thick. When referring to the dimensions of your slots, we’ll refer to them as “width” and “thickness” dimensions. When I cut my slots, I like to cut them slightly wider than the width of my belt. My punches are 1/16″ oversized in both the width and thickness directions. So, they’re 1 9/16″ x 5/16″.
The thickness dimension isn’t directly related to the actual thickness of the belt. Why? Well, the belt won’t be passing perpendicularly through the belt slot – it will be passing through at an angle. So, the actually thickness of the sloth should theoretically be much wider than the belt thickness – especially when coupled with the fact the holster will be nearly 1/4″ thick! However, if you attempt to pre-curve your holster and pre-stretch the belt slot, this will help to open up the belt slot, allowing the belt to pass through at more of an angle, which helps the belt to lay more flat against the body. Also, with the belt running through the holster at an angle, the holster essentially grabs onto the belt, helping to minimize forward/backward movement. In other words, it gets locked in place when you tighten your belt down.
Drill Press Method
If you’re using the drill press method, I suggest using a 5/16″ drill bit. Please note the belt slot locating marks on my patterns are most likely not precisely located – they are a visual reference to tell me approximately where to place my punch. If you are cutting a slot for a 1 1/2″ belt, you will want to place your center-points (where you touch the drill bit to the leather) @ 1 1/4″ apart (assuming you are using the suggested 5/16″ drill bit). If you’re cutting a slot for a 1 3/4″ belt, the center-points would be 1 1/2″ apart. A 1 1/4″ belt would place the marks @ 1″ apart. The following graphic demonstrates how the measurements work out.
When drilling your holes, you’ll want a wood backer-board under your leather. This will help to get nice, clean exit holes.
Once the holes are drilled, you can use a wood chisel to connect the tangents of each of the drill holes. You can also use a knife to cut out the slots – just make sure you don’t cut beyond the holes at either end (once you get to the end, remove the blade and cut from the opposite end to connect the cuts). The size of the chisel should be the same size as the center-points you marked earlier. For example – if you’re cutting a slot for a 1 1/2″ belt, you’ll use a 1 1/4″ chisel. I suggest you cut a relief slot first, as indicated in the graphic below (left). This will help relieve pressure inside the slot as the chisel pushes through the leather. Once the relief slot is cut, make your final cut to connect the tangents of the two holes as indicated in the graphic below (right). Be sure to hold the chisel perpendicular to the leather so the blade will exit at the correct location.
If your chisel cuts didn’t quite line up with your holes, simply take a small razor blade and trim away the excess material.
Dampen the leather with a damp sponge, then ease the edges with your edger.
Slot Punch Method
If you’re planning to punch your belt slots with a slot punch, I like to dunk the holster in water just prior to forming, then punch the slots, edge the back of the slots with my edger, then burnish the slots. The magazine pouch is now ready to form.
Form the Magazine Pouch
I hope to make a video dedicated specifically to forming a Pancake style magazine pouch. Until then, please refer to the following video for forming your magazine pouch. The process is very similar and should show you what you need to know to form your holster with as much, or little detail as you desire.
Once the magazine pouch is formed, place it in an oven set to around 135 degrees for about 45 minutes. This will help to stiffen the leather and make the magazine pouch 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 magazine pouch has been in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, remove it from the oven, then place it in front of a fan to dry overnight. I suggest you insert the magazine briefly into the pouch to make sure the opening didn’t collapse while drying in the oven. Usually, this is enough to open it back up and then you can remove the magazine and let the pouch continue to dry in front of a fan. Do not leave a real magazine in the damp leather magazine pouch while it dries…
Final Burnishing and Oiling
Once the magazine pouch is thoroughly dry, proceed to apply a light coat of oil to the exterior. If your magazine pouch 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, 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 or Gum Tragacanth over the edge, then burnish, then buff with a clean cloth. If you use Gum Tragacanth, but be careful to avoid getting the dye-colored paste on your fingers – it may stain your thread. It’s best to dampen the edge 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.
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. It worked fine as well.
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 magazine pouch. 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 magazine pouch – don’t forget the belt slots and the edges. 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.
Once the magazine pouch has had plenty of time to dry (usually overnight), you can test the fit of the pouch. Most likely, the fit will be very tight. If it’s too tight, stick the magazine in a zip-top baggie. Wrap the baggie around the magazine, then insert the magazine into the mag pouch and let it rest. After a few minutes, remove the magazine from the baggie and test the fit 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 magazine pouch. 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 magazine. 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 pouch. This should help ease the friction inside the magazine pouch.