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How to: Make a holster! (Not 56k friendly)

2755 Views 23 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Eaglestroker
I had several requests for this in my last leather thread so I decided to do a write up while I worked today. This is not a perfect holster nor did I intend for it to be - if you attempt to follow these directions attempt at your own risk. I will start with a holster 'blank' I have already cut from a side and glued - you can figure that part out :thumbup:

With that out of the way, lets get started! First off your going to need some tools:

Not included in the picture are the obvious of needles, and a few other things we will cover as we go. You may be asking 'Why in the world does he need a drill?' That's a pretty good question, and will be answered soon. The BARE minimum to do this and do a good job with it is leather, an awl or drill, need and thread, something to bone the leather with, and something to finish it with. Even 'Mop'n'glow' floor sealant makes a good leather sealant so be brave and experiment!

First off you need to lay out your stitch pattern on the leather as well as groove it if you have a groover available to you. I need a better groover! You can also use a drill and small drill bit to make the holes, it tends to give you a very nice uniform hole to stitch in.

After this you'll need to start your stitching. I won't teach you how to do that part either, youtube saddle stitching leather for a better idea than I could ever try to relay to you over text. You'll end up with something like this:

If your going to tool the holster such as my 'basket weave' now is the time to do it. This is debatable but the reason I do mine after sewing is so that the leather can not stretch and will remain the same weight which is important especially for a heavy 1911!

I thought this pattern looked pretty cool left like this, you tell me what you think. Now it's time to punch the holes. A open punch and a chisel are the best ways of doing this.

I forgot an old lesson and rounded out the front side which you should never do for aesthetic reasons, and to ensure a tight fitting belt. This holster is set up for a 1 1/2 inch belt.

Now it's time to shape down the edges. Water can be used, but the issue is it takes a while to dry. Alcohol drys completely in around 20 minutes and also activates collagens in the leather that help it to set hard. Heat can have the same effect but that is tricky and I don't have an oven capable of low enough temperatures. Dip for 2-3 seconds, the main goal of this is to not have leather dust flying everywhere. A belt and/or drum sander are ideal but you deal with what you've got.

After this is done and the edges are rounded, it's time for some beeswax and a hard buff ball to burnish the edges!

After this step, an application of neetsfoot oil followed by the same buff ball results in a very nice burnished edge.

Now I go a little out of order. I decided to do this one black to try a few new things out so I used some Edge Kote:

NOW, it's time to get to business and shape this bad boy. First an 8-10 second soak in some alcohol after grabbing a trusty antler.

Be sure to cover the gun in something, I learned this the hard way:

Ok I will post finished pictures later tonight, but here you go. :wave:
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Dried, now a good coat of die. After this it gets an all over coat of neatsfoot oil to prevent the leather from ever drying out and cracking, and a semi gloss sealant on top.

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My good camera isn't with me, but ta da! The retention on this guy quite frankly makes me proud.

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And a S&W I did at the same time:

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jakeg823 said:
These hold pretty tight to your body? If you can a pic of one on would be cool.
This is my fat self wearing one:

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rcowanjr said:
Thanks for creating this thread. I've been wanting to make a holster. Your easy to follow directions have convinced me to go for it. BTW, those look really good.

:thanks: again!
That is exactly why I did it, feel free to ask me any and all questions and ill try to answer them for you. The key is to start with great leather!
sidroski said:
Where did you get your tools? That's nice looking work. Sounds like a hobby but if you're doing for sale, I understand not giving away trade secrets.
I went by Hobby Lobby but was not impressed by their products or service, just pointed it to me and walked away. After a couple minutes, I did too.
I got my tools from the local Tandy Leather, if you don't have one locally I'd look here:

Either are good resources - when it comes to Tandy's there are certain things they are good and bad for and leather isn't one of the things I would recommend buying from them.

I don't make any friends with 'trade secrets,' there isn't anything I know you couldn't find out on your own fairly easily so I don't mind sharing!

Shooter said:
Where do you get your leather? Can you get small piecesso you cando one or two projects or do youhave to buy a cow? Does someone make a starter type kit with basic tools? 'what was the antler for?????
I ordered sides directly from Wickett & Craig, for smaller pieces try Springfield Leather which is linked right above this post. Tell them what your doing and they will hook you up. I've seen a few 'starter kits' and they seem like a lot of fluff.

Whatever you do don't by cheap foreign leather! If I were buying tools I'd skip an awl all together, since I discovered the drill it doesn't get touched.

Expat said:
Shooter said:
Sorry Expat, but that still doesn't explain what the antler is for. If you know please share the information.
He uses it as a tool to trace the imprint of the gun into the soaked leather for an exact fit of the holster to the gun. Thus they call it boning or boned in.
Well put :thumbup: this process also adds retention to the holster so that a retention strap isn't required.
IslandTimes said:
That's awesome, and a much easier and better tutorial than I've seen other places. Definitely going to have to try this soon!
When you are close to attempting it let me know and I will add on to this post. I've learned a lot more since making this that will save a lot of headaches to someone first trying it!
mhead said:
I understand what you are doing with the antler , but why do you use a bone or antler ? Do they make a tool ? What does the antler do that wood or plastic cant do ? . . . .Just curious , nice work by the way i would love to have one for my 1911 .
I'd be happy to make you one :thumbup: The antler is a free tool. You can buy something called a bone folder fairly reasonably. I recently picked up this one:


You can buy one from a leather supplier for more but it is the same thing. The 'pros' either use a press with two straps of rubber to define the gun, or a vacuum sealer set up. I don't have the space to dedicate to this or the coin to drop so it's done by hand and an antler/bone folder :)
IslandTimes said:
Alright, so I finally picked up some leather and tools to make a holster. Have any more tips that will save me a headache or two?
Test your designs with cardboard (even sew them/staple them together) before ever cutting leather. I've wasted a lot of leather that way. Keep a tight stitch line, for a autoloader measure the width of the slide, divided by two, and add the width of the leather and that is the distance your line comes out from the gun. A revolver is really an educated guess so you will just have to use some leather on that. Use a hard surface for cutting your belt loop slots, if you don't they will look like my early ones (garbage). Set up your steps and follow them closely, remember you need to burnish edges of things like belt loops or reinforcements before you sew them on. I can walk you through my new way of burnishing that looks MUCH much better if you are interested. Here is a link that I used:


That site is also really helpful for ideas and critics once you finish. Also keep your awl perpendicular, if your having issues chuck the bit into a drill press and do it that way to keep it uniform. When sewing I also recommend learning a lock stitch and using it every 4-5 threads so your work doesn't loosen up as you continue on. I could explain it too you if needed. Most of all have fun! I've learned so much over these 5 months and still have a long way to go - my next battle will be with learning to lace for edges and what not.
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