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Amazing Sunday morning.

Perfect day in this part of the country.  Nice and quiet, just the way I like it.  Working on a simple little project for an old friend over in Arizona that needed some latigo string for some saddle and chap repair.  Don’t get me wrong–challenging and complicated is always welcome, but simple is a nice change of pace.

It’s a nice break from just doing gunleather.  Mix things up a little, so to speak.  I do have a bunch of holsters I’ll be working on this week.  If you’re in the market, or just curious, feel free to stop back by–I’ll have pictures of the process as they progress.  As long as I don’t forget to drag out the camera.

Hope you’re having a terrific Sunday.

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Saddle stuff, gunleather, and semi-unplugged.

It’s finally cooled off around here and I’ve knocked the dust off a couple of saddle trees.  The gunleather keeps me busy, and as always, thank you to all of my holster and gunbelt customers.

As most of you know, I stopped accepting advance orders about a year ago.  It gives me the opportunity to make the stuff I want to, without the stress of a backlog.  It’s funny how that works–something will “click” with folks, and you get buried in orders for it.  I think you have to have a personality for the “always booked” lifestyle.  It just doesn’t suit me.

I’ll be working on more gear for the 1911, and continue to dress ’em up with florals, oak leaves and acorns.  Probably throw some basket stamping in there.

When I have products available, I’ll be posting them here with the handy little “Buy Now” button.  It’s a win-win…I don’t have a waiting list, and you don’t have a wait.

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Bob Klenda. Colorado leatherworker and saddlemaker.

I’ve never met Mr. Bob Klenda, but over the years I have become well aware of who he is, and I’ve also got several of his patterns, and we’ve talked on the phone.

A two word description?  Nice guy.

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Wordsmith. I like the portrait that paints.

Wordsmith.  Word-smith.  Defined, it’s “a skilled user of words.”

I just think it has a really cool ring to it.  Wordsmith.

There’s a visual it brings to mind–that of a pair of hands, working at something.  Molding, shaping, carving.  Chips of wood landing on the ground, or the floor.   Sparks flying from the hammer of a blacksmith.  The ringing of hammer on anvil.

For me, it’s cool to make stuff.  To take raw materials in hand, and visualize a finished product.  In my case, it’s often a side of leather produced by other hands from a cow, steer, or bull.  To cut it, shape it, glue it, form, mold (mould), sew and finish.  In my world, leather is the canvas.  Every piece is different.  I kinda love that.

I look at words the same way.  God knows there’s an overwhelming assortment to choose from.

Leather, words, and guns.  I get to play with all three.  Words are the trickiest–the least predictable.  I’m careful with all three, but pay particular attention to the words.  Guns are simple, not unlike hammers, screwdrivers, or any other tool.  Leather presents its challenges, but most of the time it yields to my will.  Words?  Not so much.

I’ll keep playing with words.  With leather.  With guns.  It’s what I do.  What I’m about.

Life is good.

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Sewing machines, stitchers, profanity & thoughts of violence.

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DISCLAIMER:  The following article contains profanity.  Cuss words.  Depending on your level of tolerance, you may or may not be offended.  No discussion of leather machinery, particularly leather stitching machines, can be had without cussing.  No honest discussions, at least.  Sincere apology, in advance.   

If you’re in the leather business, or leaning that way, sooner or later you’ll deal with what I’d call the nightmare that shits on the dream.  It’s all fun and games until you get your first leather sewing machine, or “stitcher.”  I say your first because there can never be just one.

You will get one.  You’ll begin to covet, to justify, to shop around.  You’ll convince yourself that your work will improve, become more consistent, and a hundred times more efficient.  The math will prove, again and again, that a powered leather-stitching behemoth is an absolute necessity.  For my part, I would agree.

Over a decade ago, I had to have one.  The big, grey Asian-import beast arrived from China by way of California on an 18-wheeler that was unable to navigate the two-rut sand trail that I live on.  A friend with a hardware store and a forklift lifted the pallet-strapped monster into the back of my pickup truck, and I brought the 750-pound monster home.

I was excited.  My wife, not so much.  They say “ignorance is bliss,” and when it’s applied to heavy leather stitching machines, they’re not far off.  I think that wives have a sixth sense about stupid shit their husbands do/buy/collect.

This being Florida, the weather was perfect for my new arrival.  Around 150-degrees Fahrenheit, and sauna-level humidity with intense, roasting fire ants with a magnifying glass, sunshine.  “Sunshine.”  It looks like such a happy word.  It’s not.

Long story short, I got the beast off the pallet, all assembled, plugged in, and tested.  She worked perfectly.  Beautiful, snug, six stitches per inch through over ¼ inch of Hermann Oak’s finest veg-tan leather.  I was soaked with sweat, dehydrated, having visions and passing out, but I was ecstatic.  This was the most beautiful, grey hunk of cast iron I’d ever seen.  So what if she dripped oil like an old Harley, and kinda stunk a little.

In my little corner of the leather world there are four of these babies.  Three that make my life a living hell, and one that gathers cobwebs in my barn.

My favorite one, is the one in the barn.  It’s also the only one made in America, but that was many, many years ago, and we don’t do that anymore.  Make sewing machines, that is.  I digress.

Holsters and belts are a large part of what I do.  I use these oil-soaked, needle-bending, unpredictable machines for the stitching on these products.  In general, the stitcher isn’t called on to do anything until all the high-stress, creative, fine work is done.  The stamping, the floral carving, the creasing, the dyeing.  In other words, when you reach the point of maximum time and money invested in an item, it’s time to sew it.  Hours, usually, have been spent getting everything as perfect as you can.  Hours…

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Now it’s time to entrust your creative treasure to the beast.  You’ve cleaned it, oiled it, threaded it carefully, checked the bobbin—twice.  Checked the bobbin again, and checked the needle…again.  You’ve talked to it gently, encouragingly.  You have looked this soulless chunk of cast iron evil over for any potential problem.  Prayed, cursed that you had to go through all this preparation, then prayed some more and begged forgiveness for the earlier cursing and frustration.

But wait, there’s another step.  Scrap leather—test pieces.  Always run a few test pieces.  Never just turn the machine on and sew something.  Never.

Your test pieces will be perfect.  99.999% of the time.  Perfect.  Back and front.  Ahhh, life is good.  The miracle of the lockstitch.  Chinese engineering.  That’s why they’re called test pieces.  Because they will be perfect.  Not just damn good…PERFECT.

Now for the product—the holster, the belt, whatever.  It doesn’t matter.  Hold your breath (even if it takes 20-minutes for this stitch job).  Breathing can piss off the stitcher gods.  Set the needle, decide you don’t want the bulk of a backstitch, and touch the foot pedal.  Walk that baby, slow.  Ignore the fraying of the thread…one stitch and you can fix that at the end—just don’t…please don’t let it break.  Ahhh…son of a b—no, it’s okay.  Three stitches down, backside should be good, let go of the thread, pause a second and steal a breath to make the spots and faintness go away.  Wipe your sweaty, machine oil-drenched palms on your pants.  Try not to hyperventilate, and start again.  Don’t look ahead of your stitch line, take it slow, don’t worry about the cramp in your leg.  Focus.  Ignore the pain.  Be thankful there’s no blood—yet.

Done!  Finally!  Still conscious!  It doesn’t look that bad.  It doesn’t look that great, either.  Cut the threads—leave enough to pull them up tight.  Evaluate, critique.  Take a half-hour to get your respiration back to normal.  Turn the machine off, and give it a little pat.  Pray, giving thanks, and swearing not to cuss and throw tantrums in the future.

Take a little break.  Some time to reflect on why you bought a big leather stitcher in the first place.  Not to mention the two others your dumb ass ordered to keep the first one company.  Contemplate therapy, then convince yourself that therapy is for sissies.  You got this.

Make more stuff.  And, repeat.

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Sharp stuff, and flowers on leather.

Leather Wranglers ROUND KNIFE black knives cherry handle leather tool blade Sheridan floral flower carving stamping Gibson Bruce Gibson Design

Beautiful Friday mornin’ here on the Redneck Riviera.  Thought I’d put up a photo of one of my favorite leather tools.  This is a round knife made by Paul Zalesak out in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I can’t say enough good things about it.  Handmade by a blade artisan, and a razor out of the box.  Heck, it still is.  It requires very little on my part to keep an amazing edge–I strop it occasionally, and that’s about it.  Hell, that IS it–I haven’t done anything in the 2 or 3 years I’ve had it except strop it.  And, I use it every day.

Take a look at their website.  Mighty fine folks to do business with.

http://www.LeatherWranglers.com