Secrets of custom holster building

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Thread: Secrets of custom holster building

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    Senior Member Array rednichols's Avatar
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    Secrets of custom holster building

    Custom makers are in a different game from the large makers; but don't necessarily act that way if they are only "custom" makers by reputation.

    Likely, when you think of a holstersmith building your holster, you assume he/she begins with a paper pattern of the various pieces, then cuts them individually by hand, glues and stitches all together, cleans everything up, moulds it, finalises it. Certainly that is how a maker would do it, who "mass" produces holsters; that is, either makes large batches, or has made small batches for so long that it has become worthwhile to have pressknives (clicker dies) made up for the popular sizes. And there's nothing wrong with that; it leads to better cutting economy for him/her, and to consistent production for you. But the design "dies"; that is, it's no longer being improved; too much invested by the maker in tooling.

    And even when prototyping for a production facility, one makes the samples this way, to simulate production. One has to prove to oneself, and to the client, that it can be mass-producted.

    But a true custom maker shouldn't be doing it this way, and perhaps yours doesn't. Here it is the art that is being sought, as perhaps by a luthier (makes violins, etc.); and the constant, subtle improvements that are added based on learnings from the previous models. So a custom maker is likely to be building your holster this way, to increase precision:

    the finished product: a completed.jpg

    small parts attached in the correct positions: b assembly.jpg

    main portion cut away by "cheating" with tools: c cheated.jpg

    ready for stitching after completing with knife: d ready (1).jpg

    the resulting aligned edges: d ready (2).jpg

    the polished edges using liquid silicon @ 2500 rpm: f silicon polished.jpg

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    VIP Member Array chiefjason's Avatar
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    I'm not sure folks understand how labor intensive it is to do it right. A gazillion little steps. Take time on the front end to save it on the back end, but no way to get around taking the time somewhere. You can wet edge and sand the edge a bit before dying and burnishing. Or I can not do it and spend forever fixing the imperfections at the end.

    I just delivered a S&W L frame Avenger style holster with thumb break and my first real gun belt. Learned a ton on those builds. My next Avenger will be quite different.

    Thanks for taking the time on these Red. I really enjoy trying to pick things up that I can use later.
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    VIP Member Array Phaedrus's Avatar
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    Thanks, Red! It's fascinating to get some insight into how you work, and to see the steps involved.
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    Distinguished Member Array BlackStallion29's Avatar
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    Custom holsters are definitely a work of art.
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    Member Array Shrike6's Avatar
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    Custom hand leather work is very interesting and fulfilling for me to watch.
    I have always found the work that Hermes does is the pinnacle of the craft.
    When you see the selection of leathers, the mastery of handling and cutting, the mastery of hand sewing and finishing, you
    know this as a true art and science.
    Since Hermes doesn't do holsters, one has to find the masters of holster making elsewhere.
    Red shows the pinnacle of the craft in holster design and creation. It is a pleasure to see Red's workmanship, and I get great pleasure handling and using the holsters he has made for me.

    P.S. IF Hermes DID holsters, their prices would turn your hair white. I've bought a couple of their bags for my wife, and they may have caused arrythmias every time.
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    Senior Member Array rednichols's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shrike6 View Post
    Custom hand leather work is very interesting and fulfilling for me to watch.
    I have always found the work that Hermes does is the pinnacle of the craft.
    When you see the selection of leathers, the mastery of handling and cutting, the mastery of hand sewing and finishing, you
    know this as a true art and science.
    Since Hermes doesn't do holsters, one has to find the masters of holster making elsewhere.
    Red shows the pinnacle of the craft in holster design and creation. It is a pleasure to see Red's workmanship, and I get great pleasure handling and using the holsters he has made for me.

    P.S. IF Hermes DID holsters, their prices would turn your hair white. I've bought a couple of their bags for my wife, and they may have caused arrythmias every time.
    In my early years I worked for a fine leather handbag maker in S.F. (Ganson of California); there is little technology sharing between the two (handbags and holsters), though I did bring some machinery to Bianchi from them, to replace handwork (e.g., power hammers and electric skivers and band splitters; but then, the local saddler has all these machines, too). We holster makers are generally stuck in the saddlery days; and I doubt any of us makes anything in the class of a Hermes bag :-)

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    Senior Member Array rednichols's Avatar
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    More useful information for choosing your holster.

    Everyone knows that holsters are glued together. Everyone. Except -- they're not.

    And so why DO we use glue?

    1. to position the pieces
    2. to keep these pieces from becoming loose; such as a lining
    3. to keep the edges of these pieces from splitting open and peeling
    4. to reinforce the stitching, so that the looseness doesn't work against the threads
    5. to keep the pistol from tearing the lining loose during holstering
    6. to keep the front sight from catching inside a loose lining, and preventing the draw
    7. for looks -- to make the leathers look as if they are a single layer
    8. here's a surprise -- to prevent squeaking / creaking

    Here's a common Bianchi; its welt is done perfectly: bianchi.jpg

    An expensive Null; still very good, with the sometimes inevitable occlusions: null.jpg

    A very old Lawrence: not glued at all: lawrence.jpg

    And a recent horsehide Kramer: not glued either: kramer.jpg

    A reasonable conclusion is that a "custom" maker doesn't necessarily do his/her job better than a mass-maker; and sometimes does it poorly by comparison. Why wouldn't they do at least what a big maker does? To save cost? Nope -- because they don't know any better. Few of the little makers have ever been inside another maker's shop, and so have been self-taught. And therefore, they don't necessarily know what the cost is to the consumer, of them not getting everything just right.

    To do this test on a holster -- perhaps you're considering buying it -- just squeeze the pistol's pocket.

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