Sunday, August 1, 2021

Making a Leather Feather

 The first time I learnt to make a leather feather like this, was in a class I attended - the master, Jim Linnell, was the instructor.
It was 2013 and I was fortunate enough to get the feather Jim made during the class - picture above.
These feathers were not cut free from the leather, but remained as a 3D "tooling".
The videos I am going to show here, shows you how to make a feather that is cut loose from the leather.

To start, I use a 2/3oz vegtan leather, a swivel knife, a hair-blade tool, a wide fine-textured beveler, a very sharp Exacto blade (or you can use a fresh scalpel blade).

After cutting it free from the leather, the only steps that remain, is to thin down the ridges that will be on the back, sculpt it a little and then turn them into whatever color you desire.

There are so many variations you can play with when making these feathers:  the color, the shape, the size, realistic or not.

In the following photo, on the right, are the two feathers I did in the video.  I painted the middle one with a silver acrylic.

In this one, I did not cut free the top of the feather, but tooled the piece that the leather is still attached to, to look like a separate piece of leather.

You can see Jim Linnell's feather class at:
Tandy's Facebook Videos
And his feather patterns are free at:
Elktrack Studio

Have Fun!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021


 There is no better reference book than Al Stohlman's book on Holstermaking.

It shows you how to design your own holster and how to build various variations into your holster.

But there are a few points I want to expand on.  For example, none of Stohlman's holsters in that book were lined.  And nowadays there are many methods of wet-molding that can make a difference to the technique you follow.

First, let me suggest this sequence of making a holster:

  • I would first make the paper pattern, transfer it to a piece of leather and make a prototype just to make sure the basic pattern translates to a leather holster as expected.
  • Then transfer the corrected pattern to good leather.
  • Now tool the leather and dye it.   Do NOT seal or condition the leather - you have to be able to get it damp for the wet-forming step.
  • Now cut it out, mark the stitching lines and stitch the holster - remember that the leather will be vulnerable until conditioned.
  • Get the leather damp and wet-form it by pushing your seran-wrapped gun into it.   Work careful so that your tooling is net affected - stretching tooled leather while wet-forming, can diminish the depth of your tooling.
  • Let the holster dry and then apply sealer  conditioner on the outside and conditioner on the inside.
This post will be added to as I get seasoned holster makers to give me their input.

Here are useful comments I have received:
From JR Parker: 
"Holster making is one of those skills you learn by doing. The above book is a good general reference for "field" type holsters (but it is dated). It is not a reference for modern practical gun leather.
My best suggestion it to take a class or 3 from someone who is skilled at the craft. Master the basics before trying to teach others.
I'm of this opinion simply because a holster is not like a billfold, wallet or belt. If you get it wrong it may have dire results and someone cold be injured.
Think of it like saddle making. Would you buy a saddle from someone who doesn't know anything about horses or saddles?"


Thursday, June 10, 2021



  1. If you store leather in the dark, it will not darken.
    Well, it is not light, or sunlight, or UV light that darkens leather.  
    It is air - oxygen - it is the tanins in the leather that oxidizes with its contact to air, that turns a darker color.
  2. Oil makes leather darker.
    No, oil might accelerate the oxidation process.
    When all the tannins have oxidized, you can add as much oil as you want, the leather will not go darker.
  3. Leave leather in the sun to make it go darker.
    Well, it might just accelerate the oxidation a bit, but it is still oxidation that darkens the leather.
  4. Saddle-Lac, NeatLac, Resolene will prevent the darkening of vegtan.
    No, all it might do is temporarily seal off the leather fibers from the air around it.  As the finish wears through and the fibers get exposed again, they will oxidize once more.

Here is an example of two sample sheets made about two years apart -  you can see how much the leather oxidized under Resolene.  The newer one will oxidize too, but nobody can say how much - that will depend on the recipe used to tan the leather - the more tannins, the darker it will oxidize.

Long ago in a guild we experimented with a complete UV light blocking finish we got from France.   It was a bit slower, but the leather with that finish on, still turned darker.

Then one day I saw a kit that had been hanging at the very back of a peg on the wall at a Tandy store.   The leather of the kit was the normal light color you expect in a vegtan.
Except for a very small round spot that had darkened - it was right next to s small hole in the plastic.   The leather darkened only in that one little spot.
This made me think that it was not light that had any effect - that whole piece of leather was exposed to the exact same amount of light.   The only difference was the exposure to air.
I asked the question on the forum of the Leather Chemists of America, and they confirmed for me that it is oxygen that oxidizes the tannins in the leather that makes for the darker shade and not light.

There is an interesting aspect to this:
When leather is exposed to sunlight for too long, it bleaches to a very light unnatural color.
And the moment you touch that leather with water, it immediately gets to its darker oxidized color again.  
You can see that on this sign that hung in a store window for a long time and got afternoon sun every afternoon.   All I did around the buffalo head was to paint it with clean water (and when I took this picture, that water had dried totally).


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Bag Strap

 My friend Lauren introduced me to this strap design.

I will add a diagram soon as well as a photo, but in the mean time, here is the video:


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Mottled Effect

 There are some beautiful projects out there where people have created a mottled effect - some with shaving cream (see Marbling) and with many other techniques.

This inspired me to try too and it came out so nice that I just had to share.

My first attempt was to dab at the leather with a piece from an old shirt:

The last few dabs were with a dark brown and made it look a bit dirty here and there.

Next I used red, light brown and dark brown, dabbed on with a piece of trimmed sheep wool.

This was the look I was after!

I decided to make a brown only one and see which one would best fit the center piece of the valet tray it would be part of.

I chose the brown one and here is how the application of a conditioner made the color pop (I used dubbin for the conditioner, but something like Dr Jackson's Hide Rejuvenator or Aussie would be just as good).


Then came the video:

And this is the pieces after the fun was done:

I will add photos of the completed projects....


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Freehand Weave

 The first step is the design the weave - well described in the video.
Transfer it to the leather, cut line with the swivel knife and bevel the ribbons as each of them dip below the others.

The leather is a milled Sienna side from Tandy - look at the beautiful texture!

Then you employ the 6900 stamp to enhance the corners as shown in the video - this is what makes this weave so special and easy:  two stamping tools only for the weave.

Here is the video:

This shows the veiner used for the border:


And this is after blue purple on the border and covering everything with brow Hi-Lite stain:

Have fun with your own variations!