When was the last time you went to learn a new skill and ended up saving money? Never, right? It used to be, when there was actually a sense of community and walkable neighborhoods ( and correspondingly we weren’t a bunch of bitter loners ), a buddy or friend got with you and you bought him a six pack and he apprenticed you. That was how I learned how to do bike mechanics ( single speed only-all the gears and sprockets and cables and pads and derailers on multispeeds still confuse the hell out of me ).
That is how I learned how to disassemble various firearms. Hey, I make NO claims to having any aptitude towards mechanical movement. As embarrassing as that was, it is about par for the course. Now I’m pretty good with a lot of stuff like that, doing a lot of repairs on the apartments, but it wasn’t a natural fit for me. So, when it came to leather work, I SHOULD have been less reluctant to learn. I had some experience when I was a wee lad, although it was doing everything ass backwards as it turned out. I was just following my lifetime reluctance to learn repairs.
I’d be the last person to tell you learning them wasn’t very useful. It is amazing the money you can save and the independence you gain for even the most fundamental DIY skills. I just haven’t overcome my long standing reluctance to understand that even as I’ve learned it ( “I know you’re listening to me, but you aren’t hearing me” ). I had wanted to learn leather crafting, but as I had about two projects I wanted to undertake, I kept putting off doing so. It seemed a lot of effort for a knife sheath ( OMG, Becky, a minion sent me the sweetest knife ever as a gift, and it needed a sheath ) and a bayonet frog.
For those who have mistakenly believed semi-auto is a suitable substitute for a bayonet ( all those Alibi Ike’s using every excuse in the book to deny the greatness of military bolt action guns are now out of luck as the reasonable prices dried up and everything is collector grade price, even for the crap ), you may not understand what a bayonet frog is. It is simply the attachment on your belt that holds the bayonet sheath. I kept putting off getting one because the price was a bit too high, and I kept putting off making one because I had no leather working tools.
Slowly but surely over the last year I bought in onesies and twosies the necessary tools. Yes, I know, if I had not bought a few books I could have done this long ago. In my defense, almost nothing gets in the way of books. I eat less delicious foods in favor of buying books. Well, I did. As I just explained I’ve finally cut that amount way down so as to put away the last bit of saving I can before the economy implodes. What I’m doing today is sharing this experience with you so you understand that I wasted a lot of money on tools and leather trying to learn this skill.
Why, oh why, might you ask, should I give a care about leather working? The raw material cost is so high it almost seems insane to pursue the craft. A strip of leather for a belt is $15. A one foot by one and a half foot square of stiff leather is $20. The only reason I care is that on principle I hate canvas and I absolutely loathe that melt and form plastic nonsense. Leather is a functional old-timey craft we’ll need to return to soon enough ( canvas uses cropland, cows eat grass on land unable to grow human food-you do the math ).
Now, before I begin, PLEASE do not even remotely think what I’m going to tell you is a tutorial on leather working. It isn’t. I leave out a lot of tools and material that can make other leather items. This is just my experience with an introduction, one project leather working. I don’t cover the other needed items like rivets or quality longer lasting techniques. What you can take away from this is how easy it is to get started. As in one fifth of my costs. You won’t make anything pretty-it is not suitable to turn you into a master so as to give leather gifts or charge money for your items. But it will churn out some functional items.
A bayonet frog is, essentially, two strips of leather joined in two loops. The first vertical loop is to rest the frog on your belt. The horizontal loop attaches to the front of the first loop and holds the sheath. I started with this project first for its simplicity ( and I only started anyway since I got my everyday combat carry belt-which was replacing my inadequate M1 Garand style ammo belt-assembled and the lack of the frog became glaring. As per a previous discussion, my “always on” belt contains a knife, two cartridge pouches and a bayonet, and that is it. I don’t believe in carrying the kitchen sink just because I might need it ).
I had a brain fart and realized I didn’t even need all that expensive leather I had bought. I had screwed up and got too thin of leather ( basically, for clothing ) and I hated to use a significant portion of my stiff leather, as this was a training project. Luckily, I had not thrown away an old pair of leather combat boots ( unfortunately, I HAD tossed several pairs of cowboy boots with fake lowers but real leather uppers ). The boots were SOOOO comfortable and only $55, but the bottoms wore down in less than a year and they were worthless. I only accidentally saved them as I put them with other items and stashed the box.
So, I don’t know how long it took to tear apart the stitching of the boots and reclaim the leather sides, but the whole project did take three plus hours. Just to stitch two loops of leather together. That is ridiculously long for what I did, but I did learn to sew leather, and I got free leather to do so. And for Amateur Hour, the frog turned out looking pretty sharp ( the boot leather seemed thick enough but the frog ended up drooping under the weight of the bayonet. I took a long boot lace and looped it around the frog and the web gear belt, stiffening it and fastening it to the belt so it doesn’t slide. It looks ugly now, but perhaps I’ll need some emergency cord one day ).
To make up for the too thin leather, no rivets and no glue, I just double stitched everything. The leather sewing awl turned out to be useless, since the needle kept popping out pulling the needle back through, so I just used the needle by itself. Make sure to order “leather sewing awl needles” and not just plain “leather needles”. The awl type has the hole on the bottom rather than the top. $5 for a set. To make using the needles easy, I used a “drillable awl”. Think a thin screwdriver with the tip a point.
I just took a rubber mallet and beat the wooden handle to drive the steel through both leather pieces and then you don’t have to fight too hard to push the needle through ( mallet, $7 and awl $8 for a set ). I just set the needle in the smaller hole and pushed the leather against the needle which had its back on the cutting board. Pulling it back out was a bit of work. The thread was easy. I ordered a “284 yard leather sewing waxed thread” unit for a ridiculously low $4 with free shipping. Caution, it took two months on the slow boat from China.
For a knife, you want the “skiving knife”, $9. It works so much better than an X-Acto knife. No aching fingers and just sharpening rather than replacing. I did have a “lacing chisel set” but those were worthless. They did poorly punching through and I just ended up using them as a placement guide for the stitching ( they have a tool for that, looks like a wheel like on a cowboy’s spurs ). All In all, I only needed $30 in tools for plain, cut and sew only projects ( yes, I know you need to score the stitch line. I didn‘t. It was blindly attempt this or forever wait for all the perfect tools necessary ). And you can even use the mallet on other items like your bullet puller.
END ( today's related link http://amzn.to/2G6cBva )
* By the by, all my writing is copyrighted. For the obtuse out there
Since you mentionned bayonnets, let's talk about seax baby : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SeaxReplyDelete
Basically the seax has the dimensions of a Mauser bayonet, and was the ubiquitous weapon/tool after the collapse of the Roman Empire. It was your Forever Weapon and Forever Tool.
It was an Intermediate Length weapon, between the roman "poodle stabber" Gladius and the (too heavy for many) Main Battle Sword "Spatha" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spatha)
It was ubiquitous but superiorly forged, because it was designed to last as long as possible (forget the pre-collapse crap weapons).
Everybody had a good seax, whereas a sword was costly (seven pieces of gold, worth 1,300 USD today - including One-Point Attachement tactical scabbard ) (reference : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_sword look at the "history" part)
Sorry, got carried away by attempts at humour. The Gladius was of course longer and heavier than the seax.Delete
Thus the seax was intermediate between a knife and a sword. Quite like a bayonet, really.Delete
Hmmm...almost sounds like a Bowie would be close. Although I still think a Kukri is the best bet for affordable carbon steel short-sword.Delete
Now only $20-down from $26. What are you all waiting for?
French Wikipedia ( https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couteau_Bowie ) says that the bowie knife is a form of scramasaxe (seax) that was still made in Spain at the end of the Middle Ages.Delete
Here's a user guide for the seax : https://intheshieldwall.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/seax-and-scramasax-how-to-use-one/
Makes you wonder how innovative Mr. Bowie was, after all.Delete
Good ideas get re-invented as often as needed. And Great ideas get stolen even more often...Delete
Not stolen. Appropriated :)Delete
I almost forgot : this blog (now pretty much inactive) has lots of interesting stuff about knives (especially bowie) but also guns, weapons, history, opinions about politics and idiocy.Delete
You guys will love it !
Thanks, I'll give it a go.Delete
Ever see those WWI/WWII Springfield/Garand bayonets - damn near as long as a gladius (longer than mine, for sure) - maybe it's the 'modern' seax? Not cheap, anymore - hoe's the steel in that kukri?Delete
All reviews of the Kukri steel seem favorable. People complain very easily, so when something has hundreds of four or five star reviews, I feel safe buying. They say no edge from the factory ( I just oiled mine for storage-haven't played with it yet ). Just have the diamond Lansky for the initial edge and the Rada to keep it. This combo is a good near $50 investment but good for all your knives. My no.9 Enfield bayonets ( knife rather than spike ) were a major investment ( for me-a $30 bayonet for a $130 rifle ). They had no edge. I used the above and they were easily turned to razor sharp.Delete
You can recycle leather from shoes and furniture.ReplyDelete
Recently I helped a friend to clear his flat, and he wanted to bin a large armchair which had superior, rich leather. I got about 1,5 square meters of leather out of the armchair, and tried to convince the friend to keep the armchair's wood elements which were very good oak. But we binned it :(
Store your leather in open bags, or they will rot. In France we used to have foot's oil (oil taken from dead animal's articulations : the articulations have small oil cushions inside), it's extremely good for leather, especially for old, dry leather.
Now it has been forbidden, avocado oil is a worthy substitute. I also use massage oil from the Body Shop, (soy oil) which has become slightly rancid over the years. The trick is to saturate the leather with oil. My belts and shoes have tripled their useable lifetime with this simple trick.
Leather bits reclaimed from shoes are mainly useful for small parts, repairs etc. because the shapes are so intricate. Discarded shoes may be ugly and worn but sometimes the leather can be salvaged, and it makes good practice material.
I know it isn't optimal but I just use shortening for my leather. No rancid smell, and one $4 container lasts for years ( kind of like a tub of axle grease-it isn't really applicable for the items I put on it, but... ). I just glop it on, wait a week, then place in the sun or very low heat oven to melt the residue in. Not sure if I'm helping or hurting but it sounds good :)Delete
There used to be something called 'neatsfoot oil' for boots and stuff - don't know if it was petroleum or linseed or what - we used it to 'waterproof' out leather bootsDelete
Isn't linssed oil sold at the paint or hardware store?Delete
Stop hammering your tools.ReplyDelete
Get yourself a set of punches, and your needles will last lifetimes. These metal tools are meant to be hammered and can make evenly spaced lines of holes.
That was what I did buy, and they didn't seem to want to "punch" through the medium thick leather.Delete
Yeah, it took me perhaps a day to make the sheath for that Kershaw small diving knife I sent ya.ReplyDelete
It came with a plastic diving sheath and I knew you'd not care for it.
Course I've had leather tools since I was just a kid too. Learned back in the sixties when Tandy and radio shack were together. You could buy kits for almost anything from them.
I can believe an entire day-the thing is sweet. That kind of work is what people pay big bucks for.Delete
My dad used to make all of his leather goods, such as holsters and knife sheaths. We had one of those Tandy leather stores a ways up the street from us (This was back in the 70’s and you didn’t have Amazon).ReplyDelete
I want to say that the awl that he had, had a hollow handle, and there was thread inside, but I’m going from memory. He used to use soft leather, such as deer hide, to line his holsters, so that the courser cowhide didn’t wear on the guns finish. He would use the Barge cement to glue the two leathers together, and then stitch it.
Sometimes you can get the leather for free. I remember one time some guy shot a deer near my grandfathers property. I asked him if he wanted the hide, he didn’t, and gave it to me. I dropped it off at the taxidermists to have it tanned, which in those days (or at least with that particular taxidermist) it took months, but it didn’t cost much.
Hell, what's cheap anymore? Everyone is paying for all that debt. It's a shame they don't carry leather at the fabric store or similar. Oh, well, just a transition stage past consumerism.Delete
Tandy is still online - selling leather and all kinds of stuff. Old, wore-out cowboy boots are a good source, especially when yuppie wannabes wear out the soles and toss'em...Delete
Never had much luck with punches and awls, just drilled the holes and whip-stitched with thong... Kinda crude, but I liked the 'frontier' look then..
When you say "drilled the holes", do you mean that literally? As in, using a drill? I can see thong as it replaces the cotton thread. But only useful if you can waste the extra leather.Delete
Yeah, actually used a small dia bit in a drill press.. Mark the holes, clamp the leather pieces together with binder clips, and zip right through. Faster than it sounds. I was making small stuff; sheaths, small belt pouches, etc. Used leather boot laces for thong, didn't try to cut my own. Tandy sold some plastic or vinyl stripping that worked OK, too.. Used to scrounge material from dumpster behind upholstery shop - not leather, of course - more like hide of the wild 'Nauga'..Delete
Wild Nauga-ha! I'm glad you brought this up-I never would have thought of it and it sounds easy peasy ( I have regular punches, not just leather awl ones, but they are so friggin wide-more like for belt holes ).Delete
Very simple knife sheath from strapping: Fold length of strap three times, one for belt loop, the other remaining length in half. Glue - stich - staple edges of sheath together, the belt loop at end of strap material. Done !ReplyDelete
My next project-thanks.Delete
Wild Nauga! LOL (with tears)ReplyDelete