Vegetable tanned leather

Joined
May 29, 2004
Messages
339
Has anyone had any experience with leather from Springfield Leather Co.? They have what looks like too good of a deal on imported single shoulders. I've got a feeling that their quality is probably on par with Tandy. I am looking at 7-8 oz.
 

Horsewright

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
9,555
I would recommend staying away from the imported shoulders. I know they can be a good deal. But ya work with good leather in and ya get a good product out. I say that after using many imported shoulders and double shoulders many years ago and I fought them. I would really recommend either Herman Oak or Wicket and Craig leather. Both are US tanned and you won't have the problems that many imported shoulders do have. Yes they are more expensive, no doubt, but worth it. In a shoulder you will usually have some fall off, maybe some wrinkles etc so it may not all be usable. But you are getting 5 square ft., and at $25 it does sound really good. But the problems I've had was that a lot of times all the tanning solutions are not completely washed out of the leather. Ya dampen the leather for your work and mysterious green spots appear or a white haze. The frustrating part is ya get a couple decent projects and then bam everything goes all to heck.

The cheapest way of buying quality leather is by the side. But you are looking at $220ish and $30 bucks shipping. However you are gonna get a lot of really good usable leather. The most expensive way of buying leather is by the square foot. Both Springfield and Maker's Leather Supply will cut these premium sides for ya and sell it by the square foot. You are paying like $15 a square foot instead of $9 but if ya don't need a whole side its worth it. If you are building just a few sheaths 2 or 3 square feet will get quite a few built for ya. BTW 6/7 or 7/8 oz is bout right for most sheaths. I use 6/7 for some and 8/10 oz for others depending on the size of knife and type of sheath.

I have a very strong personal preference for Wicket and Craig and so does Paul Long who has maybe made more sheaths than me, maybe not, but certainly for sure has been doing it longer than I have since he started leather working in 51 and I was born in 59! Maker's Leather supply will sell Wicket and Craig by the square foot. Look at the russet in 6/7 oz thats what I use the most. For Pancake sheaths or larger knives I use 8/10 oz and they will sell that by the foot too. Really is the way to go. Paul has his own version on the old ya can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear deal. Something about sh.. in and sh.. out, ya get the idea.

I can tell ya the headaches saved and quality of the product on the other side is worth the few extra $$$.

Wicket and Craig russet 8/10 oz:

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Same 6/7 oz:

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Joined
May 29, 2004
Messages
339
AHA! Russet! Horsewright, I have admired your leather work for years and wondered how you got that beautiful finish. I tried dyeing natural leather with a light tan dye and it always left me disappointed. I have checked out Maker's web site, I'll probably order from them. I used Tandy leather and was always unhappy with the flesh side of their product. Several years ago I bought some supplies from a retiring knife maker and included was a 1/2 shoulder of really nice leather so I do know the difference. Thanks for the reply.
 

Horsewright

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
9,555
AHA! Russet! Horsewright, I have admired your leather work for years and wondered how you got that beautiful finish. I tried dyeing natural leather with a light tan dye and it always left me disappointed. I have checked out Maker's web site, I'll probably order from them. I used Tandy leather and was always unhappy with the flesh side of their product. Several years ago I bought some supplies from a retiring knife maker and included was a 1/2 shoulder of really nice leather so I do know the difference. Thanks for the reply.
"How do you get that color/finish?" is the single most asked question I get from other leather workers. It's simply the leather. I don't do anything but a very light oil finish after its done. A light coat of Bag Kote and perhaps a lil diluted HiLighter if its carved thats it.

Now, guessing shortages from supply chain issues etc I couldn't get my normal 8/10 oz russet for a while, month or two anyhoo. I tried several different suppliers. In the interim I was able to get Wicket and Craig 8/10 oz in chestnut (from The Hide House). Exact same leather only chestnut instead of russet. Really liked this leather too:

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Thanks for the kind words!
 
Joined
May 29, 2004
Messages
339
So I am going to hijack my own thread...Horsewright...since we have discussed the finish of the leather, another question (or two) come to mind. You get such nice crisp moulding of the leather to the knife or gun. Do you use a vacuum bag? I have made quite a few sheaths and I can match the quality from a company such as Randall but try as I may I can't get the detail that you do. If it is a trade secret I understand but I am really curious. BTY, the chestnut is nice also. now I am going to buy 2 sides.
 

Horsewright

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
9,555
I don't know any trade secrets. I'll answer anything I can. The lighter leather molds better than the thicker. I soak it in water Pro Carv mixture until it sinks. Pull it out once it sinks and lay it on a towel. I'll sand edges now then edge the edges, punch slots in pancakes or holsters, edge the slots and then rub the exterior edges on my stick of rosewood chucked up in a lathe. Then I'll fit the knife or gun and mold it. If its tooled I don't do a lot of molding on the front mostly on the back. If plain, bout half and half. I use an old knife handle block of ligum vitae that has been sanded and the corners rounded as a molding tool. I think what really sets my molding is then after I do the molding and take out the knife or gun I bake the sheath or holster in the oven. This really sets the molding in the item and firms up the leather adding to the durability and retention of the item. I theorize is what the oven does is get the item drying from the inside out. I bake everything I wet mold. 178 degrees for three hours. Flip at every hour starting with the front up.
 
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