I decided I wanted to try and make a shooters bag to go with my Hawken Rifle, not wanting to spend a lot of money, and not having made one of these before. I spent a lot of time online looking at what others had done and what a good one would cost if purchased from a maker of such items.
I had in my closet a leather bound briefcase I had not used since the late 80's. out came the exacto knife and I carefully disassembled it resulting in the leather you see in this the first photo. I think it is 2 to 3 ounce leather
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Step 1: 1. Cut Out Your Pieces
After looking at many different styles and a couple where they showed the parts layed out, I decided on a rather detailed bag with inside and outside pockets. I measured my available material and carefully cut out all the pieces I would need to make a bag.
the biggest pieces are the bag's back panel, front panel, and flap. these are the pieces with the curve cut into them. the flap is 1/2 inch wider then the front and back. The outside rear pocket, and inside rear pocket are flat pieces cut from the front and rear panels of the briefcase. The front pocket is a salvaged pocket from the inside of the briefcase and was already molded to shape. I decided on a full gusset so the narrow pieces were cut for the sides and bottom gusset. the sides have a slight taper making the bag opening wider at the top. The finished bag is about 8 inches wide and 6.5 inches deep. its 2 inches wide front to back at the top and 1 inch at the bottom. Add 1/2 inch to these dimensions to allow for the edge seams and stitching.
I have made holsters, knife sheaths,and quite a few other items from leather over the years. I am an experienced craftsman, Blacksmith, woodworker, welder and just generally handy with tools and projects. I have given you general dimensions but everything can be done to your own taste or style and within the limits of your available materials. I start every project by first looking at a lot of pictures. the bag I made is based on looking at many different styles and then looking at the amount of material I had from my Donor briefcase. I had just enough to do this project. the fact that the leather used was already professionally dyed was a bonus..
I made some templates out of thin poster board and layed them out on the leather before I started cutting. Be methodical and most importantly, be patient. I used a single strand whip stitch on all the edges and a double line saddle stitch on the pockets and side braces. I made the rivets as described and purchased the US Air Force front medallion at the arts and crafts store. I am not worried about being authentic to a certain period, I wanted a bag I could use and that would be my own design.
I hope this helps you.
Step 2: 2. Assemble the Pieces
stitch the inside back pocket to the back panel.
Stitch the outside front pocket to the front panel, Stitch the pocket flap on at this time as well.
align the back pocket, back panel, and one side gusset piece and stitch together. repeat with other side and bottom gusset piece. Note, the back pocket is the same width as the back panel and you attach it to the back panel as you stitch on the 3 gussets.
You should now have a major part of the bag complete.
Question. how did you make all the holes line up?
Answer, I cheated. when cutting out my pieces, I saved the factory stitched holes on at least one edge of each piece and used another piece with the holes in it to transfer to the edges that needed a hole. pieces were clamped to a flat board and a very small drill bit was used in my dewalt drill and I carefully drilled through the template through the 2 or 3 pieces of leather.
While this is a bit time consuming, it made the stitching process pretty painless.....Patience!!!!!!
Mark and Pre drill or punch all your holes. think of what you are trying to accomplish. if needed, make some practice pieces out of card board.
You should have a pile of pieces with all the holes in them before you start stitching.
Use a pencil to label your pieces, not a pen like I did, the pen won't come out!
The whole point of this is to make a bag that is uniquely yours and isn't store bought. little mistakes and irregularities don't matter as long as the finished product is useable.
Step 3: 3. Attach the Front to the Back
You should now have two assembled pieces, the back with inside and outside pockets attached, plus the side and bottom gussets, and the front panel with outside pocket and flap attached.
Stitch the front to the 3 gusset pieces. stitch the gusset bottom corners together and now you have a bag without a flap. Note carefully line up the hole on all 3 gussets and put a temporary stitch in at the corners to keep everything lined up as you begin to stitch.
I did the bottom first, then the sides, then i stitched the bottom corners of the gussets together.
I like the contrast of the sinew against the dark leather.
I decided to add a decorative whip stitch to the flap as an accent. its not necessary but I like the way it looks.
Step 4: 4. Add Front Flap and Fasteners.
Stitch on the front flap, and the shoulder strap loops, attach buckles and straps for pockets and flap.
OK, I am glossing over a bunch of stuff but here are some helpful hints.
Stitch the curved portion of the flap and back panel together.
Cut mark and drill the holes in your D ring supports and stitch them through both the flap and the back. angle them slightly outward and the bag will hang better. the curve is so it follows the curve of your torso when its being worn. Hint, if you are left handed the bag Hangs on you left side and you carry the rifle in your right hand.
If you plan to attach a powder horn, the spout points forward. Look at some of the many pictures out there and you can get some good ideas.
Go to the arts and crafts store and buy a couple small buckles and a couple D rings for the strap loops.
Buy a big roll of synthetic sinew and a packet of needles.
Go to Ace hardware and buy a box of solid Copper slate nails to make rivets,(100 per box) about 10 cents each. It takes 2 nails to make 1 rivet. they may be cheaper somewhere out there but I couldn't find any locally so opted to make my own.
1. how to make a rivet.... cut the head off a nail, clamp in a small pair of vise grips and file flat, drill a hole in it.
2. punch hole where needed, insert nail back to front. slide buckle strap onto nail. slide rivet washer you just made onto the nail. make sure you have a solid block behind the nail...Metal if possible. take a pair of side cutters and push the washer down and cut off. Peen over nail shaft to lock washer on the shaft.
I also recommend the good will store as a source for leather belts. I am using a dark brown cotton Karate belt for the shoulder strap on this bag, 2 bucks at good will.
Final notes. The leather I used was to thin for this project, the bag did not have any body to it and was kinda floppy. I solved this problem by cutting two side braces and a bottom brace out of 10 ounce holster leather and stitching them into the sides and bottom. this firmed up the body of the bag quite nicely. you can see 3 lines of saddle stitches in the side view.