Introduction: Jedi Gunslinger Tool Pouch
Yes I realize Jedi-Gunslinger is a contradiction...lets move passed it fellow nerds.
For several years I have been dabbling in leather work, helped along in large part to winning a starter leather kit in a contest several years ago. I previously made a couple leather tool bags for myself which caught the attention of one of my co-workers. He asked that I make him a tool back that would be custom to his taste but also specialized to his hand tools.
He requested a low slung gunslinger-ish belt and pouch with Star Wars flair. I was more than excited to get started on it when he told me his vision.
I am still a novice at leather work. The best advice I can offer when starting your own leather projects is to be patient. Don't try to rush any part of it. Schedule some time to do one or two parts and then stop. This helped keep me from trying to rush through parts that need patience. The next piece of advice I can give is to watch some videos of professionals to get an idea of their general techniques for tooling and finishing. Lastly, do NOT get mired down in the specific finishing techniques that are discussed on message boards.
Step 1: Tools and Material
This project required leather of course. Altogether it was only around $70 worth. The pieces included a 4" wide belt blank for $15 on ebay, a few pieces of scrap 8-9 oz, 6-7 oz, 4-5 oz, and sheep skin liner. My coworker purchased a cobra belt clasp for the front, and I bought a few pieces of bronze colored hardware.
The tools required were: Mallet, granite slab (or other hard surface), stitching punches, hole punches, swivel Knife, bevelers, stamps, needles, thread, contact cement, various dyes, and oils.
Step 2: Belt Design and Tooling
The belt was a 4" blank that I cut down to 2 1/2" with low areas on the sides which will hold the pouches. As I said previously the coworker wanted a Starwars theme so I got some lightsabers on the back and sides with a Jedi Starbird emblem in the middle. There are tons of videos showing good tooling techniques and I encourage anyone who wants to get into it to watch some for tips. It can be very very tedious. The belt size was going to be a little tricky because he didn't want a traditional belt buckle where you could have as much as 12" of size variation to accommodate different waist sizes. The quick connect cobra belt buckle meant that the size adjustment would be divided on each side and require a secondary piece of leather.
Step 3: Belt Finishing
I don't have any pictures of the dyeing and painting of the belt. I first dyed it, then applied the acrylic leather paint, and put a clear topcoat over it all. For aesthetic purposes I wanted to add a belt liner. I used a thin piece of sheepskin. I attached it first with contact cement and then stitched it all together including the pouch supports, buckles, and Starbird medallion. I had to make sure i planned out how the contact cement was going to be applied and applied it carefully. Once that stuff is stuck together it will get really messy if you try to take it apart. The cobra buckle is connected to two separate pieces of belt leather which I punched holes in for adjustment.
Step 4: Pouch Design and Patterns
The coworker provided me with all of the hand tools he wanted to carry around and requested that I try to make the pouch look like a holster. I played around with sketches and foam practice pieces and tool configurations but couldn't find the right setup that he was happy with. We also came to the conclusion that if the thing looked too much like a holster he may get unwanted attention from security guards or cops. We settled on a slightly less gun looking arrangement. There will be two separate pouches, one for his hand tools, and one for his tape measure, calculator, and notebook.
After finalizing the design I set out to make the patterns and flat pieces that would be formed into the pouch. This takes some trial and error and could get expensive if you try to go at it with your leather straight away. I've found that 1/8" craft foam is a good analogue to the leather thickness and helps me see how the leather is going to fold together. I used to make ductwork out of sheet metal so I am used to planning out seams, overlaps, and generally being able to visualize how a flat piece of material will need to bend to make a 3D shape.
I am not very good with a speed stitcher so I always pre-punch my sewing holes. If you do this you have to take extra care to get the holes lined up.
Step 5: Pouch Assembly and Finishing
After the pouch was laid out, punched and dyed I began assembling it. This is the easy part, mostly. Stitching the flashlight holder was a little difficult because i had to thread the needle through the cylindrical part with the tips of my fingers. The outer piece of leather that holds his screwdriver, mirror and pencil was wet formed, which I unfortunately didn't take any pictures of. Basically i soaked the leather for a few minutes in luke warm water and then stretched it over the tools. I stapled the wet leather down around the tools and left it to dry. After stitching everything together I rubbed it all down with some neatsfoot oil to hydrate the leather and keep it flexible.
Like I said at the beginning, I am not a leather working expert by any stretch. I'm sure there are a lot of people who do this stuff for a living that could tell me things I did wrong on this project, or could have done better. The point is that if I can do a project like this then anyone can. It just takes patience and trial and error.