It all started two weeks ago when I bought a (fake) gun. A heavy .45 caliber Cavalry Revolver by Colt. It ain’t real, but it sure looks it. It came out in 1873 in the American west and many a hardened cowboy carried one. I got mine because I want to make a period holster and gunbelt. Every year around this time I get the itch to learn something new and make anything beyond my typical skill level.
Last year that was the cattle whip. Which – by the way cowboys never actually used it on the cow, it was created more as a noise-maker to drive cattle in a specific direction. When you flick your wrist, the energy rolls down the whip and speeds up until it reaches the end. The end loop snaps around faster than the speed of sound and you get a mini sonic boom. Unfortunately – there’s only a part one to that whip-making post because quite honestly, I may have jumped in a bit too deep on that one. There are a lot of refined skills you need to build up to get a whip looking nice. The complexity slowly wore me down and I just moved on to other things.
Well, this season I am going to aim a bit lower! Making a holster is actually a fairly simple process that involves several different skills. The better I hone them, the better my holster will look in the end. To get it looking right I need to perfect casing the leather, stamping patterns and designs into it, dyeing, edge finishing, stitching, and ageing it to look nice and old and well-used. The photo above shows my first attempt at a Mexican Loop Holster. I threw together the design just so I could practice using the stamping tools and dyeing it/ treating it to look real old.
I think I may have overdone it a bit with the ageing process. I dried the leather up too much and to me it looks like there is too much cracking. On my next one I am going to see if I can refine it a bit more and get the leather to crack/distress more subtly and only in specific spots. I literally kicked this thing around in the dirt, walked on it over rocky concrete, blasted it with a heat gun, and dipped it in boiling water. In my next post on the holster I will go into a bit more detail on what seems to work the best.
The art of stamping leather is a lifelong learning process in itself. As such I decided to make myself a regular old belt first and carve/stamp my own landscape pattern into it using a series of stamps and modeling tools. In my haste in making the belt above I nicked the edge a bit. Well, since it’s for me that’s ok – it’s got some character! That may disappear too after I bevel the edges later on.
I decided to give it a test shot on a scrap piece before I commit to the actual belt. Here’s the design about half way through.
Now, I’ve never really been a fan of stamped leather, or carved patterns in leather…but for some reason I feel that changing fast, especially when it’s my own creation. I am sure that getting the design I want to look right is fairly unlikely at this point, but at least I am going in with low expectations!
So, this is less of a tutorial and more of a ‘follow along’. Read on to Part 2 here.
4 thoughts on “Stamping a Leather Belt (Part 1)”
Hi Mr. LENTZ,
The photo of your belt is very similar if not identical to the Arizona flag. A very high official of that state is a good friend of mine & I know he would love & wear it. Could you please tell me what size it is & if it is for sale? Look forward to your reply! Many thanks, Jack
Hi Jack – thanks for writing in. At this point I am just messing around and making this belt for myself. No plans as of yet to sell stamped belts, but I do have a plain version here: Leather Belt
Thanks Jack – will do! I certainly am inspired by the old-time saddle-makers of the west and tend to read up on their styles and life’s work. If you are into that sort of thing, there’s a great magazine that focuses on that style of makers and the industry called ‘Shop Talk’ by proleptic. They have great articles and the magazine is written in a small-town tone so it’s fun to read.
Mr. Lentz, Thanks for the reply, I understand your just messing around – if you ever decide to make a custom one of that design to sell please let me know. Your stuff is beautiful – it is truly a throw back to the saddle-makers & leather-men of my early days in the west.