Friday, April 24, 2015

consuming to invest 28



Tanning was a skill not because it was hard to learn but because it was a centralized activity. Rather than a household chore like knitting, producing leather was better on a large scale. Households can of course easily tan a hide or two, no chemicals needed other than the own animals brains, and it was a bonus you got from getting meat for dinner. Then, with only a punch, hammer and knife, you were able to produce leather accessories ( animal hides of thinner skinned animals could be sewn with conventional thread and needle. Thicker skins went to cobblers and accessory makers such as for horse tack ). Home production was more for rural self sufficient homesteads. Urban, settled areas had commercial tanners. The processing was centralized, both to move the putrid stench to a least unpleasant location and to get economics of scale with semi-skilled grunt workers. Following the market from Mountain Man re-enactors, there are books on primitive tanning widely available. Get a few, even if you are going to remain at the household level. Hides are invaluable, if nasty to process.



There are a lot of 19th century books reprinted now. At first, they were only available as e-books from such Web sites as Gutenberg. Now, however, titles are being offered in paper. And usually at very modest mark-ups. While our public universities which pretend to champion the cause of the poor habitually charge $50 for a three hundred page book, these reprints usually go for $10 to $15. Suddenly, you have available a timeless retrieval system for skills, affordably. One cobbler book is "The Art Of Boot & Shoemaking" by John Leno. Go to Amazon for this one. Others, such as many on black powder manufacturing, are similarly priced. The great part is, you can read these free, in their original form on e-books. Then, if the book is worthy, you buy it from the paper book publisher. They slap on their logo, and design a new cover, then copyright the whole thing, but their source material is still in the public domain. Many poo-poo the Internet and e-books, but in many cases such as this, an invaluable modern resource for traditional skills ( needless to say, DON’T rely on e-books for the far future. Paper is a much better time traveler ).


Leather Working

It used to be, leather working was a highly paid modern skill. Gunslingers and horse riders would pay good money for solid craftsmanship. Alas, after cloth and plastic alternatives, and now Chinese leather imports cutting into those fields, you will be lucky to make this a business, even a "micro" one. You can still build for yourself. I have a wicked cool homemade knife gifted to me I’m wanting to sheath, and am planning on buying leather tools and material just for that one project ( and for a bayonet frog. Beyond those two projects, I can’t see what else I really need ). Then, I have the tools needed post-collapse. I can’t think it would make me money currently, however. But then, why worry. Most of these skills won’t. I just bring this up to warn you off dreams of treasure that are no longer valid. Again, go to Amazon. Several books on leather making are available ( read the comments carefully-you’ll know the right ones to buy, then ). Alas, most are from the 70’s, and high priced. But you just need two or so to cover the basics. Leather making ( the tools themselves also available from Amazon ) is just a few specialty tools, cheap, and a little practice. It is nice to have modern additions such as snaps and grommets, but not necessary ( although, easy to stockpile as they are hundreds for a few bucks ). I’d get a thick leather knife, easy to sharpen, rather than a razor blade cutter. And a few punches. A couple of tools to really make things easier, such as a seam measuring device, but can wait for your budget to catch up. If I could get started as a kid working leather, anyone can easily handle it ( I’m all thumbs guided by impatience ).


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  1. You might check out Tandy Leather James. My father made all of his pistol holsters and knife sheaths from supplies that he got from them. This was many years ago, before internet and places like Amazon existed, so I can't say if it's the best around anymore, but it was in the 70's.

  2. For a beginner Amazon is a pretty good start. I get both the veg-tanned splits(sheathes and belt pouches) and the upholstery pieces(book slip on covers and lace), both are 2 square foot. I use Tandy for big stuff, but you pay through the nose for shipping, while 35 bucks at Amazon is free shipping.
    Two tips for those just starting out: YouTube is your friend, and do not use leather for your first designs - construction paper or freely available cardboard should be used to get in the habit of measuring and cutting - don't waste your beer money and make yourself sad.

    1. And without beer money you are forced to make garbage can wine.