Stiffening Leather Holsters

This is a discussion on Stiffening Leather Holsters within the Defensive Carry Holsters & Carry Options forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; First of all, this is a great forum! Lots of knowledgeable people with willingness to help. I have been making my own leather holsters for ...

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Thread: Stiffening Leather Holsters

  1. #1
    New Member Array cdb45357's Avatar
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    Stiffening Leather Holsters

    First of all, this is a great forum! Lots of knowledgeable people with willingness to help.

    I have been making my own leather holsters for about 6 months now and I am prettty happy with the results. I have a question about the stiffness or firmness of holsters. I have made many IWB holsters that work great, but I would like them to be a little firmer. I have used the hot water, hot water with alcohol, and hot water with soap techniques for molding the leather. The holsters form and mold well, but they just aren't stiff enough for me once they are dried. I have handled some professionally made holsters that are very rigid without the use of reinforcement. Often times with thinner leather than the leather I am using.

    My question is how do they get the molded leather to be so rigid? Is there some kind of finish (chemical) that they use to stiffen the leather once its molded? Or is it something in the process that I am missing.

    Thanks in advance for any helpful suggestions.

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  3. #2
    VIP Member Array Redneck Repairs's Avatar
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    I have handled some professionally made holsters that are very rigid without the use of reinforcement. Often times with thinner leather than the leather I am using.

    My question is how do they get the molded leather to be so rigid? Is there some kind of finish (chemical) that they use to stiffen the leather once its molded? Or is it something in the process that I am missing.
    Tho i am no holstermaker ( i am sure some of our fine members will chime in ) IMHO its a combo of lack of experiance in boning on your part , and a lack of experiance in selecting the proper leather to start with . Gunsmithing is somewhat a science since you deal with known material propertys , Leathersmithing is much more an art since you deal in organic material where each skin , and even each part of each skin will be different to work with . Keep plugging and dont get disappointed . Youll likely get some fine tips here , but the real answer is to build more and learn from each one you do .
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    VIP Member Array MNBurl's Avatar
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    I think I maybe able to help.

    After hot wet forming (you dip it completely correct), do you stain the leather and then put a top coat on it?

    Staining the leather helps firm it up and the top coat helps also. Also, the leather itself does play a part.

    We need pictures now of some of your holsters. Welcome to the forum.
    MNBurl

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  5. #4
    Distinguished Member Array jarhead79's Avatar
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    First step is getting decent vegetable tanned leather. PM me if you need some good sources.

    Dying and clear coating the holster will stiffen it more, after it is molded.

    The more detail you can get into the holster by boning, the more retention and stiffer it will be.

    A lot of makers use a press with gum rubber. With the blank in the wet holster, pressing between the gum rubber compresses the leather a tad and this also helps with rigidity, though it can easily be accomplished with hand tools.

    To me, it sounds like the problem is in your leather, not so much your method.

    Nate
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    Member Array LastManOut's Avatar
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    Let me ask also, how would I make an existing leather softer, or the better question is how do I re-form a holster to allow for a draw with less resistance?
    I've tried holster, draw, re-holster about 200 times with limited results.

  7. #6
    Distinguished Member Array jarhead79's Avatar
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    The first step is to stretch the holster by wrapping your unloaded gun in ziplock bags, seran wrap, or wax paper. Wax paper being the best choice.

    Insert your wrapped gun into the holslter and let it sit for a while.

    You DON'T want to soften the leather.

    Nate
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    New Member Array cdb45357's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone. To answer some of your questions: the leather I have been using has already been stained (black). I purchased it that way. Perhaps another dip or two might help. I also brush on a clear coat of sealer after I finish the molding. It sounds like there might be other products out there that I could dip the whole holster in to seal it (possibly multiple times would help). I will try to post some pictures, but I'm having camera issues right now.

    Again, thanks for everyone's help. It is truly appreciated.

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    I would agree that your problem is likely your choice of leather.
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    Member Array TexasGeezer's Avatar
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    I tried my hand at making a leather holster for my P3AT, following informatin gleaned from THIS FORUM and am pleased with the outcome. I dyed the holster after I cut out the pieces, then glued and stitched it and then hand molded it after dipping it in hot water with a bit of dish soap for about 40 seconds (till the bubbles stopped), trying to get as much definition as possible. I didn't have any way to use a press. After it dried for about 24 hours, I gave it a couple of coats of clear leather sealer and a light coat of neutral shoe polish. It seems to be retaining it's shape OK after about a month of use.

    I think the leather was about 5 -7 oz, but the P3AT is a small, light weapon, so larger pistols would probably need thicker leather and, I suspect, would be more difficult to hand mold.

    Chuck
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    Member Array killam1357's Avatar
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    Dipping Times

    Have you tried getting virgin leather and dipping it about three times and tooling the leather to the firearm? It is not easy and requires some work but it seems to have a positive result on the holster for me, then coloring, and finishing.

  12. #11
    Ex Member Array barstoolguru's Avatar
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    if you are looking to stiffen up the mouth of the holster you can try and glue or rivit a pc of kydex to the opening and it will give it some spring to hold its form

  13. #12
    Member Array Denster's Avatar
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    Actually the key to firming a holster is to place the holster while still damp and after molding with the gun removed in a convection oven or heat box to dry at between 120 and 140 degrees F. In the presence of moisture and heat collagens are released from the leather (think liquid hide glue here) and essentially glue the fibers in place.

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    VIP Member Array xXxplosive's Avatar
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    OK..............I'll give up my secret only once here.............use WitchHazel to mold, much better than your method, will take a set almost immediately then oil well as it drys.

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    Member Array luke213's Avatar
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    You haven't mentioned where your sourcing your hide or what tannery it's from but I would suggest that's the first place to start. Get some good Hermann Oak leather from someone like Springfield Leather and then try again. I suspect your going to find even without adding heat or anything to your wet molding the stiffness will be significantly more than what you have now. Also what weight leather are you using? Depending on the holster maker I've seen IWB rigs made from 5-10oz. leather though usually it's 8-9oz. or 7-8oz. also consider that some holster makers are using horsehide which can sometimes be thinner but stiffer in the other rigs you've looked at.

    One other thing that allot of us do is dry the holster faster/hotter to stiffen the leather up some, however it's a fine line between hot enough and too hot so you don't want to overdo it. Personally I gun for 110-130 degrees F in my dry box and they get fairly firm with that setup I leave them overnight then start the finishing. Also like guys said above if your putting a clear coat on them that will stiffen them up a bit as well, if your doing a more traditional wax finish you will not get that stiffness from the top coat.

    Lots of things but start with your leather, once I switched to Hermann Oak way back when I first started building rigs for myself I knew it was a night and day difference from the cheap leather I started using(I only built rigs for myself out of the cheap stuff, my sold holsters have been Hermann Oak from day 1). Oh and I should mention unlike allot of things leather isn't just leather where it comes from, who tanned it etc makes a big difference in the end results. Also I always looked at holster making that the materials are cheap compared to the time and labor involved in producing a holster. I'm not going to waste my time with cheap leather since it takes me as long or longer to build a holster from it, start with the best materials you can get take your time and you'll end up with a good holster.

    Take care!

    Luke
    I am the owner/proprietor of www.adamsholsters.com Custom holsters made for you. To contact me please use E-mail rather than Private Messages, luke@adamsholsters.com

  16. #15
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    Lots of Excellent advice above. I just started about 6 months ago myself. I'm using a 8/9 drum dyed cowhide and made myself a hotbox, after drying and sealing the holsters are as stiff or stiffer than any I've bought.

    One of mine

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