Airship Mechanic Tool Vest




Tool vest developed for SteamCon III using typical leather working tools. While not describing the leather tools use, the sequence of assemble follows.

I acquired a vest near my size, from a thrift store, and cut it apart along the seams to make a pattern. Once the latigo leather was cut to the pattern, I punched holes along the seam locations, added "eyelets" and laced the parts together so fitting could be adjusted and tools placed. The four seams (2 sides, 2 shoulders) lacing was secured by squeezing the lace ends through red glass trade beads from Africa. I cut the pattern so a "7" brand on the hide was visible behind the calipers.

The tools were laid out on the vest in various patterns until I found one I liked, and then each tool carrier was cut and fitted to a specific tool. The calipers, square-nut wrench, and oil can I found at different swap meets, the other tools were from my tool box.

When I saw the marks on the vest from the caliper tips I hammered a small pouch out of copper to fit the tips, and riveted it to the vest to control damage from the ends. As the pouch ages, it looks better. I added rivets near the ends of the screwdrivers for the same reason.

The sheath was fitted to a hand-made knife made by a tool maker; Joe Rollins, from Rodeo, New Mexico. When I decided to sell the vest I changed the sheath to fit a slightly smaller knife, as I will keep Joe's knife.

The lower right pouch was made to be removable, held on with a short belt-like strap held to the vest with snaps, which may be removed and worn separately on a regular belt. There is also a small inside pocket, sized to fit ID's and a small amount of cash.

Two of the decorations are a metal, art-deco, button (near antique), plus a Canadian made, pewter, art piece, the subject of which is the globe. The third piece I made from a Balloon Pilot's Wings and a Lazy Dog.

As the theme of SteamCon III was "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", I tied a Monkey's Fist (generally made much larger for a heaving line) around a stainless steel ball-bearing, and added it to a strap. The strap buckles are buckles ment to adjust vests with straps on the vests back.

Since this image I have riveted a very small brass handle near the sheath so the knife may be secured with a wire "zip- tie" to meet the overly restrictive Californian laws.

A small "tassel" of turquoise and purple suede strips is attached to one shoulder for a hint of colour. Rivets were then added to all the cut edges as a finishing touch. The vest was accepted well at SteamCon III, and an image, or two, has been posted on flickr. As stated in an earlier reply, this posting was inspired by a suggestion from SHIFT!. (Sold at Clockwork Alchemy)

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    12 Discussions


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I picked the knife up at a trading post in Lordsburg, New Mexico some years past. It's carbon steel and Mesquite. Keeps an edge very well.

    It's hand made by Joe Rollins, a tool maker out of Rodeo, New Mexico. He's hard to track. I came across his tool making quite some time back, illustrating hand made farm and mining equipment parts. He makes parts for ancient machinery still in use in the back country of the Southwest.

    As a note, the vest is for sale, but with a different knife. I'm hanging on to Joe's knife. I have two of them and I don't believe I'll ever see any others.

    Winged Fist

    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great looking vest! But I think you've sold yourself short with the order of your pictures. I would suggest editing this project, and placing the third or fourth pictures in the first place, as these show the finished project.

    Instructables uses the first picture to display the project, and in this case, all people see is row of tools. Most Instructables use a "finished product" photo for the lead picture, so people can get a sense of what they are clicking on.

    Also, if you detailed the process of making the vest, actual step-by-step instructions, I think this project would get  a lot more attention.

    That said, well done!

    2 replies
    awlWinged Fist

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the compliment and advice, all sounds good. As I'm new to the site reasonable protocol advice is always helpful.

    Winged Fistawl

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey Awl - You might also consider listing and/or labeling the tools. You could list the tools in your description, and you can also use the photo description feature by clicking within the photo (in editing mode), and naming the tools in the text box.... Just a thought.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    wow this is really neat, wish i had the leather right now to make one. This will go well with my awesome leather gauntlets

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the compliment. I enjoy working leather. I posted to this site at the suggestion of SHIFT! who felt others may share an interest. I may post more images after Clockwork Alchemy.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I made it with the last of my Latigo leather. I bought an old vest from a thrift store to cut a apart for the pattern. The tools are from my tool box and a few others I picked up a swap meets. Total time was 12 hours from start to finish.