Introduction: How to Design and Build a Leather Holster
I have a friend that recently purchased some new firearms. He requested that I make holsters for his new firearms. I did not have patterns for these new firearms, so I had to make new patterns.
Step 1: Designing the Pattern
Two styles of holster were desired. The first was a belt slide holster, the second was a pocket holster. The belt slide holster will be made from two pieces of leather, the pocket holster will be made from one piece of leather.
First I will describe laying out the pattern for the two piece belt slide holster. It was decided that the larger holster will be 2-1/2 inches wide, for a 1-1/2 belt. The firearm is placed in the center of the 2-1/2 inch wide strip at the angle of the finished holster. Carefully trace the outside of the firearm. Now measure the thickness of the firearm on the right side in this case it is 1 inch. Now enlarge the right side of the pattern tracing 1/2 inch (half of 1 inch). Now measure the left side if the thickness changes along the edge measure minimum and maximum. Divide the measurements in half and enlarge the tracing in the appropriate area. This is the stitch lines of the pattern. From the stitch line measure 2 inches (arbitrary distance, corresponds to the end of the grip). Then measure for the belt loops. Measure in 3/8 inch for the beginning of the loop. Measure over 1/4 inch for the thickness of the belt. Measure the top and bottom 1-3/4 for a 1-1/2 belt located so there is a least 3/8 inch from the side (radius the corners and locate loop accordingly).
A second belt slide holster was made for a small firearm. The same procedure was followed, but the thickness measurements were smaller, 3/4 inch tapering to 3/8 inch. So the tracing was enlarged 3/8 inch to 3/16 inch. Belt loops were placed the same as the larger holster.
Two pocket holster were patterned, one with a laser sight installed and one without. The holsters are the same size except there is a different stitch pattern for the laser and non laser firearms. The holster was made 3-1/2 x 3-1/2 approximate size of a wallet. Also a 1/2-3/4 inch reinforcing piece is added to the top edge to keep the holster open and to reduce "printing" (silhouette of the firearm showing through the clothe of the pocket). These holsters are made from a continuous piece of leather. So laying out the pattern is slightly different. A 3-1/2 inch strip is marked out and the center is marked. The firearm is then placed sights down on the center line and centered. The firearm is then rotated to the right and placed flat on its side. The outline is traced. The firearm is then re-centered and then rotated to the left and traced. As in the first example the thickness is measured on the trigger side of the firearm and stitch line is established half the thickness on each side.
After the pattern is finished, it is cut out. Then a second pattern is trace from the first and cut out. The second pattern is your cut pattern. The first pattern is then cut on the stitch lines, cut on the side away from the firearm, to give a little extra if the measurements are too tight.
Step 2: Cutting Out the Pattern
The cut patterns are placed on the leather (6-8 ounce shoulder leather) and traced. The patterns are orientated for best use of material and to save cutting.
After the patterns are cut (using a straight edge when possible) The stitch patterns are marked on both sides of each piece.
Step 3: Dying the Inside of the Holster
The inside of the holster is dyed Stay inside the stitch lines as the dye may effect the gluing in the next step. Allow to dry before handling (it will dye skin also)
Step 4: Gluing
Apply glue (I use Tandy rubber cement). Let the glue tack (dry so it is not shiny). Then assemble piece, since it is contact glue, have the piece in the proper orientation before pressing together. After pressing together the glued area is hammered with a mallet to remove air pockets. I then clamp the edges overnight.
Note the one piece holster has the reinforcing band installed now, but is not glue on the stitch line, The reinforcing has to be sewed while there is access to the back side. If you glue the stitch line access to the back is limited.
Step 5: Special Operation for One Piece Holster
These instructions are for a one piece holster only.
The reinforcing band is stitched (stitching instructions will follow)
The fold is thinned so that it folds easily. I use a gouge tool to remove 1/16 to 1/8 inch of material in the fold. This keeps material from bunching up in the fold.
When the material is removed and it folds easily. the stitch line can be glued and clamped as before.
Step 6: Stitching the Holster
I use a Tandy Saddle Stitching and double lock stitch the holster. A groove is cut for the stitches, using the grooving tool both the guided tool and freehand. The stitch marking wheel is then rolled in the groove marking the stitch spacing. Then instead of using the awl to make the holes for the thread, I drill 5/64 inch holes for the thread. Finally the holster is sewn. Double needles and lock stitching. To get the correct length of thread I lay the thread on the grooves to be sewn and then the length is measured 6 times to get the approximate length need for the stitching.
Step 7: Molding
The holster is submerged in warm water for 2-3 minutes. Then the firearm (in a plastic bag or plastic wrap) is placed in the holster. Then a screw drive handle used to push the leather tightly against the firearm. Pay special attention to the trigger guard and ejection port as these areas will "lock" the firearm into the holster. Let dry overnight.
Step 8: Dying
I make utilitarian holsters with no tooling (pretty designs) and normally black or dark brown dye.
To dye I wipe the surface with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils that might be on the leather. When dry the dye is applied. I normally apply a coat and when complete I recoat the whole item. It is then put aside to dry over night.
Step 9: Edge Beveling and Edge Coating
The edges are beveled with the beveling tool and then wetted and again the screwdriver handle is used to burnish edges rounded. When dry, edged coating is applied. Then set aside to dry.
Step 10: Sheen Application and Addition Thoughts
The final step is to apply the Super Sheen (shiny wax) Again let dry overnight and buff when dry.
This process can be used for any item you may want to carry is a leather pocket. When you have a sharp blade, sandwich a spacer piece (1/2" wide, length of stitching) of leather between the two sides so the blade will not cut the stitches. You will have to put in a safety strap for retention since the leather will not be molded tightly to the blade. The same applies to plier.
For a belt loop on a sheath, make the pattern longer and fold it back to form the belt loop on top. When assembling keep access in mind. Order assembly so you do not paint yourself into corner and cannot get the needles through the stitches in a dead end location.
If you do not get the retention is a holster that you want, remold and study where you need better holding. Finally you may need to add stitches in an area to tighten up the holster.
For very heavy duty applications you may want to rivet the corners of a project to reinforce the glue and stitching.