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Making a holster for ANH Stunt

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There are a number of tutorials on the FISD boards that describe how to make a holster, however, I wanted to share everything from sourcing materials, tools, and information, to the construction of a leather holster in the ANH style.  I know that the holster may not be 100% screen accurate, but I think it comes pretty close.  Before I start, I'd like to thank those that did the enormous amount of research to make the holster what it is today.  So, thanks to TM, Billhag, and TKBondservnt for their expertise, hard work, and attention to detail.  On to the tutorial:


I live in the U.S.  All of the tools and materials were sourced in the Tampa, FL region.  Everything I'm using is available from Tandy Leather Factory.  I'm sure you can source the materials from other vendors too, as I've used very common leatherworking tools.  I had zero leatherworking experience when I started the project.


Here's some pictures of the final product for reference:









Total cost:  $54 (for the leather tools and supplies).  You probably have the other materials for your build anyway.


Things you'll need:

Cardstock (for your template)

Pencil and eraser

Utility Knife

Ruler (at least 16" long)

Veg-tanned Leather (at least a 16" X 12" piece, 7oz.-8oz. thickness)

Small sponge and water

5/32" Leather punch (for making single holes)

2mm Stitching hole punch (4 prongs, also called a diamond hole chisel, for making stitching holes)

Mallet or Hammer (be extremely careful if you use a hammer, you can easily damage the punches with too much force)

Plastic cutting board (or something to put under the leather while you punch holes.  High-end leatherworkers use granite or marble slabs.)

Fiebing's Leather dye (SMC black)

Eco-Flo Satin Shene Leather Finish

Leather thread (heavy waxed thread)

Leather Stitching needles (need at least 2).  They are just thick, blunt stitching needles.

Needle nose pliers or a Leatherman tool

1 Snap (Nickel-colored)

3/16" pop rivets and 3/16" washers (need 2 of each)

1/8" pop rivet and 1/8" washer (only need one)

Aluminum Threaded post w/ Screw, 1/4" (need 2 for mounting on canvas belt)


The pics below illustrate the leather working materials and special tools.



This is what veg-tanned leather looks like.  Obviously, this is too small for the holster project.  It's just a sample:




From left to right, hole punch, stitching hole punch, wax thread, needles:




From left to right, leather finish, black leather dye




Posts with screw for mounting holster to belt (I got these at Lowe's) Thanks for the idea, Vern:




First thing to do is to measure, draw, and cut out a template using card stock.  I followed TM's template (you will also need to cut two 3/4" squares of leather for the small, black spacers at the top of the holster):




This is the template I made up.  I draw on the nappy side of the leather (it takes the pencil lines better).  I also flip the template upside down so I don't mark up the measured side when I trace it (that's why the template is in reverse).  Just be sure to arrange the template so that the smooth side of the leather is on the outside when you fold the holster over. 


For the straps that attach the holster to the belt (including the little black spacer squares), I measured them out on the leather itself.  No need for a template. 


I also added a taper on the end of the handle strap.  I just free-handed the taper.  The handle strap template is on the right side of this photo:




Trace the template on the nappy side of the leather.  Make sure to mark where to punch holes for the rivets and snap.  Cut the holster out using your utility knife and a metal ruler for a guide.  Be very careful with this step, obviously.  I used a new blade to make the cutting easier.  Also trace the straps and squares (again, marking the hole placements) and cut them out.


You will now have the leather holster, two 4" strips that will attach to the belt, one handle strap, and two 3/4" small square spacers. 


Next, you need to case (properly wet) the leather to prepare it for tooling.  Do this by wetting your sponge with water, wringing it out to remove excess water, and rubbing the damp sponge on the leather.  Start with the nappy side, then flip the leather over and wet the smooth side.  When you wet the leather it will darken.  You should wait until the leather turns back to a lighter shade before you begin to tool it.  When the leather gets back to its original color, it means that the water has absorbed fully into all of the interior grains.  It should also feel a little cool to the touch.  Wet all of the pieces, in their entirety, to avoid inconsistencies in texture and color. 


Here's a good video describing the casing process: 


Here's some pics:


Dry veg-tanned leather:



Wet on left side:








After about 8-10 minutes (it's ready to go now, and cool to the touch):



Once all of the leather pieces are cased, you can punch all of the 5/32" round holes for rivets and snaps.  You'll need holes in the spots indicated on TM's templates.  Two on the top edge of the holster, one in the upper-middle of the holster, one in the center of the holster, one in each spacer square, one on each end of the handle strap, and two on each strap that connects the holster to the belt.  Make sure to follow the measurements.


Here's a picture of one of my mistake holsters.  Notice the orientation of the holster forced me to fold it so that the nappy side is out.  Also, you want to use a nickel-colored snap, not a gold-colored one.  Whoops.  But it does show where the holes should go (I installed a male snap into one of the holes needed):



Here's a picture of a practice handle strap.  It looks so much better with a tapered end, I think.  This one isn't cut very straight either.  You can see how unprofessional it will look if you don't take your time cutting the leather straight, and paying close attention to measurements:





After you punch out the round holes, you need to punch the stitching holes using the 4-pronged diamond punch.  The template shows where you will stitch the holster together.  I used a straight edge to mark a straight line for punching the stitch holes.  I drew the line about 1/8" in from the edge of the holster to allow some leather to hold the stitching.  Another trick is to punch one set of four holes, then use the last hole in the punched set as a guide for the next three holes.  Here's some pictures of the process: 




Use the last hole in the set you just punched as a guide for your next punch (working left to right):




With all of the round holes and stitching holes punched, you can now prepare a workspace for dying the leather black.  You certainly want to dye leather in a place that is very protected from possible spillage.  Cover your workspace with plastic bags.  Consider drop cloths as well.  Wear gloves too, or you'll be walking around with dyed fingers for a while. 


The Fiebing's Leather Dye I used came with a wool dauber.  Use it to spread a thin layer of dye on both surfaces of the holster, spacer squares, and handle strap.  Make sure you get the edges (and the edges on the inside of the holes):




Here's a video from Tandy Leather that talks about dyeing techniques: 



I let it dry for about 8 hours, then rubbed the leather (both sides, and a lot) with a clean cloth to get as much excess dye out as possible.


Once the leather is dyed and buffed, apply a very thin layer of the Eco-Flo Satin Sheen Leather Finisher on all of the parts.  Make sure to get the edges.  Just use a clean, soft cloth to apply the finisher.  I used an old T-shirt:




I looked up a lot of information about finishing leather.  Most say to let the first thin layer dry for about 4 hours, then apply another thin coat.  Do this for 3 total coats.  The point of finishing the leather is to seal in as much of the dye as possible.  If you don't finish/seal the leather, it will bleed onto your nice, shiny, thigh armor.  No good.  So don't skip this step.  After the final coat, I let it cure for a few days.


You may notice that some of the dye will bleed out even after finishing the leather.  This is normal.  There are solutions to this all over the internet, but none of them seem to work perfectly.  To my mind, it just takes time to get all of the extraneous dye out of the leather.  It took maybe a couple of months for my holster to stop bleeding altogether.  Just make sure to check your thigh armor after a troop, and clean it as necessary.  Perhaps someone can chime in about how to prevent dye bleeding after finishing leather? 


So, now that everything is dyed, finished, and left to cure for a few days, you're ready to stitch up the holster.  Rather than using tape or adhesive, I chose to actually stitch the seam together.  I used a "saddle stitch" for this.  The stitching is pretty easy once you get going.  You'll want to use needle nose pliers (or, wait for it . . . a Leatherman tool) to pull the needles through the holes.  The holes are quite small, and it gets tough on your hands if you don't use pliers to pull the needles through.  I also pushed the needles mostly through the holes (before pulling them) with the side of the pliers. 


I found a great video explaining saddle stitching.  The guy talks about some techniques at the beginning that are irrelevant for this project (e.g. carving a stitch groove and marking/drilling stitch holes).  Obviously, I had punched the holes, so all of these techniques are not necessary.  


Here's the video link (start paying attention at 4:12): 



I'll attempt to sum up saddle stitching in words:


1.  Measure the thread you'll need by running the thread down the length of the seam, then doubling back.  Do this 4 times (I added a bit more to the length of the thread just to make sure I didn't run out).  It's way better to have a little excess thread to cut off at the end, than to run out of thread in the middle of the seam.   


2.  Thread and lock your needles, one on each end of the thread.  Use the locking technique described in the video.  If you tie knots to lock the thread to the needles, it will be very difficult pulling the needles through the stitching holes.  Believe me, you'll appreciate any help you can get once you start stitching.  


3.  Begin stitching on the 3rd hole from the bottom of the holster.  Thread one needle from the back of the holster to the front, sending the needle through the 3rd hole from the bottom.  Center the thread to the holster.


4.  Take that same needle (from the front of the holster) back through the 2nd hole from the bottom.  Both needles will be on the same side (the back) of the holster now.


5.  Thread the other needle through the 2nd hole from the bottom (toward the front).  Make sure not to catch the thread when you go through the hole.  The needles will now be on opposite sides.  Take the needle you just put through the 2nd hole from the bottom and send it through the bottom-most hole.  Both needles will now be on the same side again (the back).  


6.  Send the first needle through the bottom-most hole (toward the front).  Make sure you don't snag the thread.  The needles will be on opposite sides, threaded through the bottom-most hole of the holster.


7.  Now begin to backtrack (towards the top of the holster) by sending the needle in the front through to the back (both needles will now be in the back of the holster).  Yes, you are going back over the stitching you just made.  This will lock the thread in place without cutting it, or using any knots.


8.  Continue stitching until you reach the top-most hole. 


9.  To finish the seam, backtrack 3 holes (just like you did to start the stitching).  Most leather workers say that you don't need to tie any knots to hold the stitching, but I tied a knot on the back of the holster anyway.  Then, cut off any excess thread.




Almost finished.  All you need to do is measure for your handle strap, assemble the straps, and add the hardware.  This was certainly the most satisfying part of the build for me because it all starts to come together and look nice. 


I installed the nickel-colored snap at this point, in order to be able to accurately measure the handle strap length.  The female snap goes on the tapered end of the handle strap.  The male snap goes in the hole you've punched in the front of the holster:




For the handle strap assembly, you need to fit your blaster into the holster.  You want the handle strap to snug the blaster into the holster, but not too tightly.  Here is the way the blaster (I'm using a Hyperfirm E-11 for these pictures) will sit in the holster:




Notice that the magazine housing stops the blaster from falling through the bottom of the holster:



You want to snap the handle strap into place, and run it up to the curved section where the blaster's handle meets the long receiver tube.  The handle strap will nestle just inside that curve.  Here's the curve I'm talking about:




And with the strap wrapped over it:




With the strap fairly tight, mark the back of the holster (on the nappy part) where you'll cut a thin channel for the strap to pass through to the rear of the holster.  Make the mark a little behind the receiver tube of the blaster in order to hide the cut when the blaster is holstered.  Also, make the mark a little below the curve in the blaster's handle.  This way the handle strap will come up and over the curve in the handle, and will hold it in snug.  Just use your utility knife to make the cut.  This is what you'll end up with after you make the 3/4" long cut for the handle strap:




Then rivet (using the 1/8" pop rivet and washer) the handle strap to the back of the holster.  I wanted the rivet to be higher than the edge of the handle strap, so I just punched another hole.  Here's what it'll look like from the back:




Now that you've got your handle strap secured to the holster, all you need to do is attach the tan straps and black spacer squares to the top of the holster.  Use the 3/16" rivets and washers for this.  Make sure the nappy side of the tan straps face out when you install the rivet.  You want the smooth side of the black spacer squares to face out.  Here is a picture of the construction after installing the rivet:




Finally, attach the holster to your canvas belt.  I used Vern's idea of the threaded posts with screws for the attachment.  I also followed Billhag's measurement diagram.  There are other threads on the FISD boards about making sure the holster is mounted properly to fit your size, but I won't get into that here.  This is the Billhag diagram I followed:




Thanks for looking through this tutorial.  I hope it helps someone along the way.  Like I said in the beginning of the project, there are other tutorials for holsters out there, but I found it useful to combine a lot of ideas together during my build.  I just thought I'd add another one to the list. 


Be well.

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I use this on the belt, and on the top of the holster for the straps.  4 for stunt 6 for hero.


the snap hardware is not supposed to be brass colored... it's supposed to be nickel.



Edited by gmrhodes13
link not working, removed gmrhodes13 2020
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Thanks for noticing the snap color, Vern.  I'll add that into the thread as another "don't do this, it's just a practice piece".  The final product that I'll show does indeed have nickel hardware on it. 

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Hello David,

Great tutorial for me! I'm starting to do the same. I've got a piece of 7.5oz leather and it's difficult to bend. So when you've done your holster was the handle strap flexible enough? And the holster at whole? Did you use any of impregnations? Or the eco-flo finisher has the same function? 

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@Ales:  The leather loosens up after you wet it, and I flexed it back and forth while I dyed and finished the holster.  I would recommend cutting the leather while it is dry and rigid though.  It should make for straighter, better cuts.   


The strap works well on mine, and the holster works too.  The holster holds shape very well, but remains flexible enough to fit E-ll's easily.  I was going for a more structured look with the holster, rather than something flimsy and light.  As you put use into it, the holster will loosen up as well.     


"*Warning* The screen-used holsters were very flabby, so this is a small diversion from super screen-accuracy." 


I really tried to find the balance between function, look, and screen-accuracy.  I just made the decision to structure the holster a bit more than the screen-used ones.    


And, no, I didn't use any impregnations.  Just cut, wet and punch holes, dye, and finish.  


I hope this helps.      

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