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Category Archives: Tutorials

How to Store Leather and Keep it Dry

dry cabinet for leather

As it turns out the Pacific Northwest is a damp place! When you are in the leather goods business, the top priority is keeping those hides in good shape and in an environment that is temperate and dry. After moving up to Washington state last June we put the leather workshop into a steel building on the property. The building was pretty bare bones, just a large open space and your standard steel sheeting for walls. The priority once we got up here was to get the place insulated and heated – both for comfort and to help control the very humid air up here. Living in a forest probably makes that problem a bit harder to solve. It’s just always wet here and will be for 8 months out of the year. As time went by, the insulation went in, and heating was installed but the humidity remained…inside the building. Heating air will reduce the relative humidity but in this temperate environment in the PNW, you can have days in the fall where it’s mid sixties and 95% humid. What happens is that the damp air slowly makes its way inside to the slightly warmer dryer air. Over time I would see the humidity levels increase a few percent each day hovering close to 70%. You can’t keep unwaxed leather for a prolonged period of time at that level so a solution was needed.leather shelves

Since I started leatherwork I have been storing my rolled up hides on these steel and fiberboard shelves. It worked great in the Southwest, where it was dry enough to keep things in good shape. They also offered a portable solution for the numerous times the shop has moved (4 times in 5 years !). Up here in WA, this shelving style was not going to cut it. One of the main problems with it is airflow. Up here the damp air can just sit there undisturbed. simple leather shelves

So, looking at these old shelves I decided to come up with a better solution to help protect my investment. The first thing to do was to get the whole shop dehumidified. I purchased a large ‘whole house’ dehumidifier and had it installed into the heating system. Now when the humidity in the shop hits 42%, it kicks on with the blower and blows dry air out the ducts. The dry air measures around 20% humidity and it mixes with the more humid shop air to bring things down a bit. It’ll drop to 38% and the system shuts off. So far so good on that end…but I needed something a bit more stable and I am not sure how well the system will hold up come warmer weather and high humidity (it’s winter now so the air is relatively dry). under stairway

I have this space under the stairway that is kind of a dead area. Can’t do too much there except store things…so why not build the shelves into that space.

plywood for shelves

Since completing the walls in the shop, I still had a fair amount of plywood and lumber so I got to work framing things up. By the way – that foam insulation on the floor works great as a backstop for cutting plywood with the circular saw on the ground.

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How To Install Plywood Walls in a Workshop

tools for installing plywood walls

 

Here’s a little tutorial on how to install plywood walls, but first… a little backstory. This summer we moved our leather shop up to Washington state and into a new workshop space. The workshop was bare-bones and definitely needed a little help, and part of what needed to be done was sheathing the walls in plywood. I chose plywood simply because I really only had two options… Drywall or Plywood. Drywall is notoriously a pain in the behind and I have no real experience with it. I also think drywall is not a great choice for a workshop since it does not function well in being able to install shelving, brackets and hangers wherever you need them. Truth be told plywood was actually my second choice. I originally wanted to install aged wood boards to lend a little character to the space, but reality dictated that this would be a poor choice due to non-uniformity in wall thickness, warping, smells, and insect infestation.

That said I suppose we should get on to it, so here’s a quick tutorial on how to install a plywood wall. Once you have these basics down for measuring, cutting to width, cutting holes for obstructions and securing…you can just repeat over and over until your project is done. Oh – for those with workshops in their garages attached to the house, make sure to refer to your local code to see if plywood is allowed. In many places you can use it – just not on the wall that is shared with the house.

PART 1: Tools and Materials

You won’t need much to get this project going. I should note that the tools I use, I purchased on my own accord and I do not receive any compensation for showing them off (similar tools from other brands will work quite well too). The image at the top of this post – from the top down I have a track saw and track (used to cut the plywood to width or length, or other odd angles), battery operated jigsaw (cutting out holes or other obstructions), deck screws #9 x 2″ length GRK brand, drill with bit for screws, drill bit slightly larger than width of the blade on jigsaw, work gloves, t-square 36″, pencil, notepad, measuring tape, protective glasses, thin wood shims (to raise plywood off ground level).

plywood type for building plywood walls

Then of course you will need to choose the right type of plywood. Typically most will base this on price, I did too since I had to purchase around 40 sheets of the stuff! I actually really dislike the look of the typical cheaper plywood you find in most home stores. It’s not the most pleasing stuff to look at. I ended up going up a notch in price for something called ‘Sande’ plywood. From researching it online it doesn’t appear to be the best type if you are building finer cabinetry, however for a wall in a workshop I think it will do quite well. A lot of people had issues with ‘voids’ in the plywood – that’s something you don’t want in a woodworking project. I ended up choosing this type for two reasons – it was still towards the cheaper end, and it has a very flat look to it. The grain pattern is not very pronounced so it kind of blends right in.

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Leather Moccasins Tutorial (Part 3 of 3)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

It’s now time to complete the final steps in this 3 stage DIY Moccasins Tutorial. I had to put off this last blog post for several weeks since we ended up moving the workshop out of state. You wouldn’t imagine the work that goes into moving a leather goods workshop. If you are interested in taking a look at that here’s a link to the first moving post here, and the second post here. Now back to Moccasin making! In Part 2 we glued up the Upper and stitched it together, then we glued up the back of the moccasin and stitched that together too.

Now the fun really begins. It’s time to lace the upper to the main body and in doing so we will also be securing the liner on that end just by running the lace through it. I chose to cut my own lace out of about 9/10 oz. full-grain vegetable tanned cowhide. I cut it down to size using a series of lace cutting and skiving tools. For the average person…I’d just recommend buying some pre-cut lace at 1/8 inch width and about 3/32 thickness or so. Not thicker though – as it will be hard to pull through all of the layers. I took a length of about 6 feet of lace and tied a knot in one end. I know this seems like a lot of lace, but the first time I did it I used a few feet less and ended up running out of lace a few inches from the end! One of my moccasins is now jimmy-rigged with another lace piece tied onto it on the inside. You can’t see it, but my little toe knows it’s there. I guess it’s part of the handmade world of imperfection.

I cut the other end of the lace to a point and even shaved off some thickness to the back. This will help you attach it to the lacing needle.

I attached the lacing needle and used pliers to crimp it onto the lace.

Starting on the side, (either is fine, but make sure to mirror it when you make your second moccasin) I folded the deer skin over the liner and pushed the lacing needle through all three layers.

Here you can see the liner is sandwiched in between the deer skin. Go slowly and make sure the needle goes through the holes in every layer.

You do the same technique on the Upper, lace goes down through the top hole, liner, then folded over deer skin. Then the lace is fed out the body (inner deer skin, liner and outer deer skin). I slowly made my way around the entire moccasin, trying as best as I could to keep the lace tight. Inevitably I had a few loose spots, but this can be fixed with a lacing Fid at the end of the project. Basically you insert the fid under the lace and work it around to pull the loose lace into tighter areas to even it out.

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Leather Moccasins Tutorial (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

In Part 1 of this tutorial, we did a lot of cutting, shaving, hole punching and generally prepping the leather for the next stage. Here in Part 2 of this tutorial we are going to glue things together and stitch them up. Above I have taken the deer skin and the shearling of the upper and put glue between them only on the part just underneath those clips. I chose not to glue the whole piece together as the glue may wear over time and it could be visible on large flat surfaces. By only gluing at the top – we are just securing the pieces together long enough to punch the stitching holes and stitch them together. the other edges with the holes punched in them will be laced together and do not need glue.

 

On the body of the moccasin I clipped both the deer skin and the shearling together first to line things up. Then I carefully glued between the pieces on the back end of the leather and replaced the clips. Make sure to wipe off any glue that seeps out after replacing the clips.

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How to Make Leather Moccasins (Part 1 of 3)

tutorial for moccasin making

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

 

This past Winter break, as the holiday leatherworking season was coming to a close, I set off on the interesting and challenging journey of making my own fur lined moccasins. I like to dive into projects where I lack certain skills, just so I can learn them along the way – this project is actually great for that. It’s not so hard that a beginner shouldn’t try it and by the end you will have a pretty clear understanding of several skills including patterns, cutting, punching, skiving, sewing, lining, and lacing. Plus, you get even warmer feet for the next winter! I put together this fully photographed step by step tutorial on how to make leather moccasins to help everyone out there that’s interested in making more than just a keychain. Projects like this typically take me several months to photograph, record and put into a blog, so I have broken things up into three separate posts, this being the first. The others will follow soon, but there’s a fair amount here to get started!

Above is the first moccasin I made…we actually it’s the second, I completely screwed up the first one I made in several ways…gave up the project for 1 full year, then decided I would not accept defeat and gave it another shot this past winter. Below are a few photos of the first failed attempt:

Above, my first attempt sits next to my original pair of Minnetonka’s. I struggled through every single step of this first try…hours and hours of work…only to find that the finished result was a hair too small due to excess fur in the inside, as well it didn’t feel durable on the outside as this is just a shearling’s skin exposed as the ‘flesh’ side out. It’s very brittle and tears easily. I worried about stepping on a rock and the thing splitting in half!

Above is a close up of that failed attempt, the fur was a big problem for all of the stitching work and lacing. Causing stitching holes to be way off and making it nearly impossible to pull lacing through at the end. I gave up and started anew below. Read on to see how my second attempt (and your first) will be a success.

TOOLS

tools for making moccasins

So you’re going to need a few tools to get this project completed. Above from left to right: Paper towels, small exacto knife, rolling blade, leather scissors, utility knife, pen, pencil, ruler, rotary hole punch.

more tools for moccasins

The above tools apply more on the stitching and lacing end: Electric Pet Shaver (yep mine’s a cheap one by Wahl designed for grooming pets), pliers, maybe 30 rubber coated mini clips to aid in gluing, Fieblings leathercraft cement or other PVA glue, stitching pricking iron, lacing needles x 6, harness hand sewing needles x 6 with blunt tips, single stitching awl, waxed stitching thread, mallet. (not shown here: stitching cutter – used to take your own store bought moccasins apart for pattern making, and poster paper used for tracing the pattern onto)

LEATHER

For this project I use a Top Grain deer hide bought on ebay, it has a thickness of 3 to 4 oz. Look for one with minimal holes and tears. I also purchased a shearling hide for the liner, also available on many online stores. You don’t necessarily need the liner, but this tutorial shows how with one, so modify at your own risk!

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A Look Back at 2017

I kind of like this time of year. The holiday order rush has dwindled, the New Year is upon us, and there’s finally a bit of time to sit back and reflect over the happenings of this past year. It’s interesting how the feeling of today will vastly differentiate itself from that of tomorrow, Jan. 1 2018. A single day change, and suddenly we will all be off to the races to improve, modify and hopefully make our lives better in more ways. I too am like this, and admittedly I too also falter on quite a few of those changes after a few weeks! That said, I think change should be thought of more as a continual process that has no beginning date or end date. Just a constant modification to improve our lives and those of others as well.

Alright – that’s enough philosophical rambling for now, so here’s a peek at the actual changes in the workshop this past year:

New Designs

The most obvious thing to start with are the new leather goods designs created this past year. I initially spent a significant amount of time looking into stitching a line of bags, even came out with one design for a few weeks as a test sale. Alas – I decided I am not quite yet ready to stray from my trusty rivets.

I still do like that design above, perhaps it’ll reappear at some point in the future. After that bag, came a whole slew of new ones here:

A few new wallets and accessories were built:

Even a few updated designs for the ladies, with a snap closure for the Tote, and anew handbag:

Then I decided to make an entire line for gear suited for all your doggies. This involved months of research into the best type of leather and hardware to be used on items that will undoubtedly see extremely rough treatment. It turns out, U.S. Latigo leather (highly resistant to weather and wear) and a new style of solid drilled brass rivet (near impossible to separate without ungodly amounts of force), and stainless steel hardware (the toughest you can get), all make for fine quality collars and leashes built to last:

A lot was learned in running my small workshop as a business this year. Namely – you really can’t sit back and just enjoy the spot you’re at too much. I mean you can, but as a business owner you really need to keep innovating and pushing the load uphill. If you relax too much, that load will push back on you and run ya over! Each year I learn little lessons like that, this year the lesson was, simply put, today’s world changes incredibly fast. Marketplaces can change from one month to the next so you got to be on your toes and change with it!

Another thing I learned is that running a business can be all-consuming. It’ll eat up all your time if you let it. Truth is, there is always something to be doing or working on next. For the next year I aim to come to peace with that and know that at the same time, it all doesn’t have to be done right now. Perhaps some gets done after a nice long walk, or after a full weekend has been spent with the computer off, or maybe sometimes that work will wait until after a short trip through the desert with my backpack.

Trips and R&R

Speaking of which, quite a few fun trips were made this year:

Backpacking into the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho for the Total Eclipse

A bit of Oregon and its endless beauty.

And a lot of Desert, to quench the soul’s need for some peace and quiet.

Tutorials

The year before I may have over-promised on my ability to post many more tutorials for y’all. As it turns out it takes a long time to build a tutorial for the site that I feel merits sharing with everyone. Ever notice how on other tutorial sites here and there, the stuff is shoddily built, corners are cut, or it’s just not a product made to last? Well, I only post techniques and builds that I am proud of and of sufficient quality. This means that for some things it can take over a month for me to finish. Heck, I don’t usually have all the skills myself to complete the project, but it is certainly worth taking the time to learn the new skill and build it the right way, so that you can have a handmade item for a long time to come. Here are a few from this year:

Well, ok this one above was technically from the very end of last year, but it’s worth posting up here. The Leather Keychain Tutorial.

I’m not sure this one above counts completely, but there’s some good info in there. I hand stamped a leather belt with a scene from the desert. I have worn it every day since. Stamped Leather Belt.

I know there wont be too many people with a need to make the above western style gun holster, but for me I have been working on some items to use as decoration in the shop. In the above tutorial quite a few new skills are passed on to you the reader. In-depth saddle stitching included. Leather Gun Holster Tutorial.

Sneak Peak

Coming into the new year I am working on some new moccasins to keep my feet warm. Now, technically I started these an entire year ago and gave up due to several technical complications. Well, I am happy to say that I finally figure out a way around those issues and have the right foot down below. I am photographing the entire process of making the left foot, so it will be a tutorial on the site within a few weeks time.

As for a look into what’s to come next year, well a lot really! I am planning a ton of new items for the shop. Look forward to several new wallets and accessories and perhaps even a few more bags too. I have quite a few in the works, so keep an eye out. Also – for those who enjoy the tutorial section of my blog, I will have a couple more scattered throughout the year depending on the time I have for it. Something even bigger may be happening this year, as once again I am looking into moving the workshop. Greener pastures await!

Thank you to all my readers out there and those of you who spent your hard earned cash on my leather goods. As a very very small business I truly appreciate you and your support, I wouldn’t be able to do it without ya!

Cheers to all of you in the New Year and good luck to you in your endeavors!

Sincerely,

Mr. Lentz

How to Make a Leather Holster

leather holster tutorial

Consider this a practical and quick how-to guide on how to make a leather holster. I have trimmed down all the steps to only those necessary to make this a simple and fast weekend project. I’ve written several other tutorials over the years, so if you like this one – you can see the others over here. This is a fairly simple project and you will learn basic template skills, leather cutting, leather finishing, and stitching.

There are many ways to make a leather holster, certainly ones that are quite a bit more precise as what I’m about to show you. However I realized after going through a bunch of those long and detailed posts, it kinda took the fun out of making the holster and made it a bit stressful. So – what I’ve done here is kind of took the key points and made them into an easy to follow guide to setting up your template.

leather holster tools diy

First let’s start with the necessary tools for the job. Now assuming you are putting a gun in this holster…you might want to get your gun first. Mine’s a replica 1873 Cavalry Single Action Revolver, it’s a non-firing type, which makes this projects a bit, um safer perhaps?

Basic tools needed from left to right:

  • Poster board for the template
  • Pencil
  • Rolling blade with a larger diameter
  • Gun
  • Sharp Scissors or leather shears
  • Metal ruler
  • Razor blade

leather holster tools diy

In the image above, I decided later on that you don’t actually need all of these items, so I will note that below:

  • Leather glue (not needed)
  • Clips (not needed)
  • Stitch line creaser
  • Stitch wheel (not needed if you have the next tool)
  • 4 Pronged diamond punch awl
  • Mallet
  • Waxed thread
  • Two leather needles – these have a blunt tip
  • Stitching pony – to hold your piece while stitching

That’s about all that is needed if you want to do a crude job of getting this holster made, but if you want a more refined look, checkout the next set of tools:

leather holster tools diy

  • Hole puncher, or hole punch set – helps cut out tight corners with thick leather
  • Edge beveler size 2 – rounds the edge of the piece to look more finished
  • Drum sander – helps even out uneven cutting
  • Cocobolo wood burnisher with a bit of waxed canvas taped on – make burnishing and polishing your edges a breeze
  • Weighted mallet – used to  hit the stamping tools
  • A few random leather stamping design tools – just for looks really
  • Swivel knife – carves designs or reference lines into the leather before stamping it

As well you will need some leather. I recommend Full-Grain Vegetable-Tanned leather at about 9 – 10oz. thickness. Leather dye is also optional if you want to darken the leather – though this will also happen naturally over time with sun exposure and exposure to oils and use. Also, get a cup or so of olive oil, or a good leather conditioner. I sell some that I make in the shop, but I only make it in small quantities. As well – a few paper towels and a sponge.

PART 1: The Template

First grab your posterboard paper. Actually…first – empty your gun out and make sure there are no bullets in it or the chamber, etc… My gun happens to be a non-firing replica, so I’m fairly safe there, unless I drop it on my toe. It’s fairly heavy!

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How To Make A Leather Keychain

Every holiday season I like to put together a little DIY leather tutorial. This year i’m going to teach you how to make a leather keychain. I put together this step by step guide with photos of everything below, as well as an easy to follow video. Last year I posted how to make a wallet or belt. You’ll be workin’ that leather into a keychain in no time! Every major section has a little link to jump to that part in the video, so if you need a better idea of how I did it in motion, click the link and go up top to the video – it should start playing right at the point you need. Well, let’s get on to it!

 

If you use these links below, you can jump to that specific part of the video. This way you can watch any step below if my written explanation needs more visuals.
Cutting Leather @ 0:23
Marking Stitch Stop Points @ 1:41
Stitching Grooves @ 1:56
Edge Beveling @ 2:37
Edge Sanding @ 3:27
Burnishing @ 4:08
Hole Punching @ 5:20
Personalizing @ 12:18
Oiling and Waxing @ 13:12
Stitching @ 14:06
Reverse Stitches @ 20:09

how-to-make-a-leather-keychain-tutorial-diy-01-00001First off there’s the tools you will need as the bare minimum, and the tools you might prefer to use if you want to make this an easier task. The tools to the right of the ruler above are about the bare minimum you’ll need. The tools on the left help to make things easier. The tools that help make it prettier are shown in use later on.

Tools Needed

  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors or razor
  • Stitching awl
  • 2 leather needles
  • Waxed thread
  • Stitching Pony (or table vise if unavailable)

 

Tools To Make Things Easier

  • Leather Scissors with micro serrated lower edge (easily grips and cuts)
  • Rolling Blade (quick work cutting a straight edge next to a ruler)
  • Strap Cutter (perfectly sized straps every time)
  • Belt Tip Punch (for nice rounded ends)
  • Craftool Diamond Punch with 6 punch head (much easier than stitch awl)
  • Mallet
  • Stitching Pony

 

Tools to Make it Prettier

  • Edge Beveler (Size 2)
  • Stitching Groover
  • Fine and Extra Fine Sandpaper
  • Cocobolo burnisher for Drill Press (burnishing those edges)
  • Leather Letter Stamps (personalize it?)

 

how-to-make-a-leather-keychain-tutorial-diy-01-00003You will need some hardware for this. The easiest option it to find an old key fob and take it apart to recycle the hardware. Just keep in mind your keychain width may change depending on your hardware. I had the above available in the shop, on the left my edge beveler seems to have made it into the shot.

how-to-make-a-leather-keychain-tutorial-diy-01-00004Find a good piece of leather to use. I had a scrap piece of Full-Grain Vegetable Tanned leather laying around, it’s a 6/7 ounce and makes just the right thickness for this keychain. You can find scrap leather on ebay or even a local Tandy Leather store without having to buy a whole hide. We don’t need much for this as you can see. The first step in making this leather keychain is to start with a straight edge. I am going to teach the way I would do it with my tools, but you can certainly improvise if you don’t have all of the tools seen. I took my ruler and rolling blade and cut a nice straight edge on this scrap piece. To jump to that point in the video, click this link and scroll back up to the video: Cutting Leather @ 0:23
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How to Photograph Stars in the Night Sky

astro photography of stars in the milky way

Every few months or so I walk out into the desert with nothing but a backpack and the bare essentials for camping it alone. It’s an essential part of balancing out my days as a leatherworker. The desert is a great place to find solitude, the kind you need when you are looking to recharge a little. There are many many places you can go in the Southwestern U.S. where you will not see another soul for your entire pack trip. I usually head off-trail after a few miles to get to more interesting features in the landscape and find a nice quiet setting to make camp.

desert silouette night shot
This trip out into the desert I decided to bring along my better camera and some simple gear to help take decent night shots. If you want to learn how to take some great star shots, you can follow my simple advice by reading on below. There really ain’t much to it, 75% of the work is just finding a good spot with low light pollution. I found this handy light pollution map so you can get a good idea of where you need to head: Dark Sky Map. From my use it seems fairly accurate.

star photography camera gear
Above is the camera gear I packed into my backpack for this trip. It’s an attempt at sticking with a minimal amount of gear without sacrificing my options when shooting. From left to right starting at the top: Canon 5D Mark iii with a Canon 50mm 1.4 prime lens attached, a Rokinon 14mm 2.8 prime lens (a great hobbyist lens for wide night shots), a Lowepro case that’s just big enough to fit the 5D with 50mm lens attached, two 64GB compact flash cards, two Canon batteries, a mini tripod from Cowboy Studio, a neoprene padded lens sack to carry whichever lens was off the camera, a small cuben fiber stuff sack to hold rocks if I wanted to weigh down the tripod against the wind, a plastic bag in case a sand storm or rain whipped up and I needed to protect the camera. It’s a simple setup and really, it’s all you need to get started.

Quick Tips

  • Find a comfy spot as far from cities and towns as possible
  • Use a decent tripod that can lock firmly in position
  • Weigh your tripod down with weights or rocks
  • Keep out of the wind
  • Use the feature on your camera called ‘Mirror Lockup’
  • Use a camera trigger, or set the timer on your camera for a 2 second delay
  • Try a lens with a nice wide aperture allowing for lower ISO shots
  • Try to keep ISO at or below 3200
  • Pick a cloudless night
  • Pick a moonless night (or not, depending on your shot)
  • Experiment with all types of exposure settings
  • Take a few shots in each exposure/position – then pick the best later on
  • Use manual focus and take a few shots adjusting around the infinity setting.
  • You’d better be a patient person

desert night sky photograph

How To Photograph Stars… or How I Shoot:

Here’s how I typically set up a star shot while out in the desert. First I usually forget to check whether there is a full moon or not and by the time I get out there I realize there’s still a half moon in the sky until 11pm. That means the best time for a good dark sky is a few hours past 11pm on that day. As I am hiking out in the day time I also realize I forgot to check the weather…and there’s a haze of thin clouds above me. Basically the first night of shooting didn’t go so well, so I had to scrap most of the shots, except the one at the end of this post.

On night 2 I waited until about an hour after sunset and placed my camera on the mini tripod (see all camera gear below). I set it in the sand, but a solid platform would be better, like a rock! Luckily for me there was no wind, but this is a big factor to consider when taking longer exposures as the slightest bit can shake the camera/tripod and result in blurry shots. If there’s a breeze, try to put the tripod in a spot out of the wind.

If you look close at the shot above you can see another galaxy 2/3 the way down on the left hand side. I am no astronomer so I can’t tell you what it is, but if you happen to have your iPhone with you while shooting – you can download all kinds of star map apps that make it easy to figure out the night sky. Of course if you are camping you should definitely leave the phone at home!

night shots in the desert

Certain things are only noticed after you bring the images home and process them. Above I captured a glimpse of a meteor. Don’t be confused by every line in your shots though – a lot of the night sky has planes passing through. You can identify those easily as the flashing lights will leave a trail with dots across it.

I used the Rokinon 14mm lens first as it is a very wide angle and I wanted to experiment with a bit of the ground in the shot. The moon was still fairly high, so I started taking shots of it in the frame as well. I set my aperture to 2.0 – which is a decent aperture to avoid lens blur I have found. I set the ISO to about 3200 or one stop below, and the exposure length to about 13 seconds. On my camera there is an option in the menu to use Mirror Lockup, in layman’s terms – you need to use this to get a sharper image. Google it if you want to know why!

I then set my camera to use the timer, and set the timer to 2 seconds. This helps if you don’t have a trigger, it allows for 2 seconds after you push the button for the camera shake to settle down, resulting in a sharper image. On the Canon 5D Mark iii, you can use the live view screen and zoom in 10x to help with manual focusing. This is a huge help since the Rokinon lens will not autofocus (and you wouldn’t want to use autofocus anyways for stars). I found that a hair back from infinity worked the best for a sharp photo of the stars.

star and planet photography at night

In my case I had the camera set up right next to my camp chair and cooking gear. This way I could keep setting up the shot and retaking the photos while I was waiting for my dinner to cook. Of course this also meant I could not use my headlamp as it would ruin the shot, but with a half moon – things were pretty visible and I narrowly avoided several burns. The shots were looking ok, but I knew I could get better if I waited for that moon to set. So at some point I gave up and went to sleep, waking at 3 am to use nature’s toilet and set up another hour’s worth of shooting.

One benefit of being up at 3 am to photograph the stars… there’s a lot fewer red-eye flights in the sky to ruin your shot! Of course shooting at 3 am will cause the user themselves to get red-eye. At some point I switched lenses to the 50mm just to see the difference. What you get is a bit more detail in the shot and you may be able to spot a galaxy or other phenomena. Try out different lenses to get the feel of what works for ya.

Different parts of the sky tend to have different densities of stars. It’s not always easy to identify with the naked eye, so just point your camera in different directions and see what you can get as a first pass. I do know that if you are shooting the Milky Way, that cloudy mass of stars in a lot of these shots, your best bet for brightness and density occurs early spring to early summer. This is because the Earth at night is facing what they call the galactic core, or center of the galaxy. Astronomy sites will have more detailed info on that subject though.stars in the desert night sky

For me when I am taking a star shot, I tend to like to include some of the ground for scale. The shot above had to be taken around 3 am, several hours after the moon had set, so I could get a nice silhouette. You’ll notice that if you try and shoot with a moon in the sky – it can tend to light up the ground almost as if it were daylight, depending on how long your exposure is.

Time-lapse night star photography can make for some very interesting pieces to watch. I only made a few this trip as they can take quite a while to capture. The way I did it with the Canon 5D Mark iii is to load a program called Magic Lantern on to an SD card and insert it into the camera. The program allows for all kinds of extra camera shooting features, and automated time lapse shooting is one of the benefits. Here’s a (very) short clip I made from some time-lapse photography, above.

The first star time-lapse shot was taken with Rokinon 14mm lens at f2.0, 3.2 second exposures, 12 seconds apart, ISO 3200, and there are 120 shots there – meaning it took about 30 minutes to capture. The second star time-lapse shot was also taken with the Rokinon 14mm lens at f2.0, 15 second exposures, 2 seconds apart, ISO 3200, and there are about 53 shots to make that part – so it took around 15 minutes to make.

One trick I learned to help with the monotony of time-lapse shooting, is to wait until you are ready to start your shot before beginning to cook dinner. Seriously. I set up the first star shot, then went about 10 yards away and heated up my meal in the dark. Careful not to use your headlamp unless you know it wont make it into the shot!

photographing stars in the night sky

Light pollution is pretty much everywhere these days. Above you can see it on the horizon, as the small orange area. Below it lights up the backdrop of the rocky hill.desert night sky with stars

Even after waiting for the moon to fully set (I went to sleep until 3 am) the night sky was still partially aglow in certain directions. This is due to towns and cities on the horizon.milky way photography example

To really see the Milky Way in your photos, you will need to do a bit of processing after the fact. I use Adobe Lightroom and will say that that is by far the best choice. I wont go into detail about the processing part, but I will point you in the right direction. You just need to know that the camera is not a perfect instrument, so it will not necessarily be able to get an image looking just like how your eye may have seen it. You will need to adjust the contrast, black levels, and give the right spectrum of light a little help in popping out a bit. Here’s one perspective on the editing side (and believe me there are many more).

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The shot above was taken with the moon still in the sky, thus lighting up the ground. I was lucky enough not to capture any planes in this photo – are rare occurrence in today’s world! Rokinon lens, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.moon setting in the desert night sky

This is the moon setting, right next to the Milky Way. I had to overexpose the moon in order to get more detail in the sky. This shot did need a bit of processing before the right look came to. Some photographers will take this shot as two exposures, one to get detail in the moon, and one to get the stars to show up. Then they edit the two shots together in photoshop. For me at this point I feel that’s going a bit too much into creating a ‘fabricated’ shot, though in their defense – that is typically how the eye would see it, so it’s not that far from what it naturally looks like.

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Make sure to get out into the night for some of your own shots, it certainly is a peaceful way to spend the evening! Feel free to share your star shooting experience in the comments below.

How to Condition A Leather Wallet

 

I, Mr. Lentz, believe that high-quality leather deserves high-quality care. This is exactly why I provide a free tin of my own handmade all-natural leather conditioner with every leather goods purchase. It is important to know how to properly maintain and care for leather so that it will last you the better part of your lifetime. After several emails asking how this is done in practice – I decided to make a short video and write this post to bring light to a very simple and quick process that will keep your Mr. Lentz goods looking great.

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The first thing to note is the importance of conditioning leather.

My goods are made with the highest quality full-grain vegetable-tanned leather you can buy in the U.S. This leather contains a bit of natural oils in it already – as well as a bit from the tannery. After I cut, brand, stamp, edge, wet, dye, and shape the leather…it tends to lose a bit of its oil and therefore needs some replenishing. I hand rub every piece with the same oil/wax conditioner that is in the tin – my own Mr. Lentz Spiff N’ Shine. This tends to darken the piece slightly and gives it some pliability and softness before I ship them out. Leather conditioner also allows the fibers in the leather to be more durable and less likely to dry out and tear. If your leather purchase seems a little stiff or dry after several months to a year, its probably time to apply a bit of Spiff N’ Shine.

 

  • Mr. Lentz Spiff N’ Shine leather conditioner works best on vegetable tanned leathers. All goods made by Mr. Lentz are vegetable tanned.
  • Typically you will not need to apply any conditioner within the first 6 months of use up to a year. It all depends on how you use the goods. For example if it is in your pocket every day and being handled a lot it may be fine for quite some time because it tends to absorb the oils from your skin. If the goods get wet – this may flush out some of the oil and it could be time to apply some Spiff N’ Shine.
  • To apply, simply take a very light coat on your fingers or soft cloth and gently rub into the leather on the smooth side of the surface. You can rub it into the rough back (flesh) side, but the oil will absorb quicker and may not be as even.
  • Make sure to apply to all edges, creases and slots as well – and anywhere where the goods get a lot of wear and tear action.
  • If you let it sit for a few minutes to 20 minutes the oil should absorb completely. If a heavy coat was used it may take a day or two for the oils to spread out evenly in the goods.
  • Since Mr. Lentz Spiff N’ Shine contains beeswax as well, you can buff the leather with a soft cloth after the conditioner has dried for a subtle shine. Otherwise, you should be all set.

 

If you need a refill of Spiff N’ Shine at any point be sure to check the shop, or if unavailable contact me and I will get you going.

 

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How to make a bar stool DIY (Day 3)

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Well, it usually takes a day or two off to realize that you might have made a big mistake…after already doing a lot of work. Here I noticed that I didn’t account for the relative angle of the drill press table, or rather the entire drill press sitting on a sloped floor. This made my holes about 1.2 degrees off, which is kind of significant for a stool. Luckily there’s a way to fix it.how to make a wooden bar stool

Above I cut out the template for the legs to sit against at 7 degree angle as per the plans. This simple setup will help make the measuring and cutting of the dowels a fairly simple task.
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How to make a bar stool DIY (Day 2)

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wood-stool-diy-ho-to-make-bar-stool-tutorial_0040Alright, it’s day 2 of the DIY workshop stool. I’ve finished figuring out how to put together the Grrripper (a device that lifts your hand away from the wood as you feed it through he table saw – they include a DVD which if you still have one of those ancient players it is well worth watching through), and now it’s time to prep the table saw. Initially I fed a piece of lumber through the table saw only to feel it resist an abnormal amount. It was not a pretty sight and felt a bit dangerous so I quickly hit the ‘stop’ button on the saw with my knee. After all the last thing you want is kickback – where the board slams you in the face and you have to come up with excuses for your girlfriend. Turns out my table saw needed a bit of rust sanded off the surface and a wax job. Now everything slides right through, always take care of your equipment. I ripped each leg of the stool to be 1.5 inches wide.
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How to make a bar stool DIY (Day 1)

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Now I’m not typically a ‘precision’ kind of guy. At least in the field of woodworking and joinery (in leatherwork I couldn’t stop that evolution). So when I decided to build this stool for my workshop I kind of thought it would be fairly simple. Boy was I wrong…and sometimes you have to face that as a DIYer. The fact is, with a stool – the more precise you can be in measuring lengths and angles…the less headaches you will have down the road. That’s why I bought this electric angle gauge:

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It measures down to 1/10 of a degree – allowing me to set up my drill press and table saw precisely. Unfortunately as you will read on further into the DIY, I may not have calculated the relative angle of slope of the garage. That’ll make more sense later though so let’s get on with it.

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As you can see above there are a few specialty tools you can use to make this a whole lot simpler. Starting from top left to bottom right: pencil, tape measure, ruler (I know this one looks special but any old ruler will do), right angle attachment for the drill (super handy), Kreg jig (very handy for attaching the seat), digital angle reader, rounded edge router bit (1/2 inch), forstner bit for cutting dowel holes, drill, Grrripper used to push wood along table saw (seems safer than other methods). I am sure I have skipped a few but, let’s just go with that for now!
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Making a Whip (part 1)

R0000055Well, sometime about a year ago I decided I wanted to pick up a new skill in leatherwork. I bought some books, looked around the internet and after a bit of research landed on the art of whip-making. It may sound a bit odd, but hey it’s also a bit interesting. Kind of a dying art really. Way back in the day when cattle ranching was the way of the West there were all types of specialty trades in existence, one of them included the whipmaker. Before I go any further I should explain that whips in the West were never intended to hurt the cattle. In fact hurting any cow on a ranch or in the range would be considered good reason for expulsion from all work duties.R0000060

In fact the whip was created to be cracked, a sound made when the the loop created on the whip when flicked by the wrist exceeds the speed of sound as it travels down the length of the whip itself. Here’s a quick little reference from Scientific American . Kind of like a mini sonic boom. This noise would be used to startle the cattle and help herd them in the direction the Cowboys needed them to go.R0000065

Well, now as things began to change for most in the West – cattle herding and whip use began to die down quite a bit. They are still used today, but only a fraction of a percent of what it used to be. It’s quite hard to find good information on whip making – the traditional way, beyond a book by Ron Edwards called How to Make a Whip. And one more source, the youtube videos by an Australian whipmaker named Bernie – you can find it here. To make a short story even shorter, I read the book and am following the youtube videos…and it ain’t easy!

R0000066The base of my whip is called the belly and in this case I am using several things to beef it up. The handle is actually a steel tent stake. One of those big ones that look like a huge nail. This gives the handle some weight and keeps it stiff. The insides of the whip are several layers of cowhide wrapped around thin strands of lace. I used a waxed thread to help hold the first layer in place. Then I started the plaiting. I may have two or three plaited bellies in the interior of my whip to build up girth and slowly increase the length. Since this is my first…it will undoubtedly look like a frankenstein inspired whip, but it’s a learning experience and my next one will prove to be better.R0000077I cut the lace from a side of cowhide using a australian strand cutter and going in circles around the hide. Then I ran the strand through a lace cutter to get the width down to 6mm. The lace needs to taper all the way to the end so using one of the tools shown above I crept the razor closer with each pass and narrowed down to 3mm at the tip. R0000067

Then I pulled the lace through a beveler on each side to cut a 45 degree angle into the lace. This helps it lay smoother when plaiting. I have made more mistakes so far on this whip than I can keep track of with all my fingers and toes, but it doesn’t bother me. It’s a fun experience and I am sure that even if my whip ends up looking like a bloated pregnant boa constrictor…it’ll probably still crack just fine – and my next one will be even better! Have a great Thanks Giving meal to all my U.S. readers out there!R0000076

How to Build a Picnic Table

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As September fades back and the rest of the country prepares for the cool and refreshing fall winds… down here in the Desert Southwest we are just arriving at the beginning of our summer. It’s hot as hell right now, and there’s nothing better than eating outside on a handmade picnic table where at least the breeze can catch you.

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The yard has been a bit, um, a bit too dainty with this tiny blue petite folding table to act as our only source of outdoor comfort, so let’s dive on in to a simple picnic table build first featured on Popular Mechanics website, link here. I will be following the plans pretty closely, except for making the table and benches a bit longer. Let’s get on down to it.

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First off here’s all the hardware you will need: 12 of 3/8 carriage bolts, 12  of 3/8 nuts for the carriage blots, 24 washers for the carriage bolts, 6 of 3/8 lag screws and 6 washers for the lag screws. Then get a box of 3.5 inch exterior screws. There’s a number of different head types – I chose the phillips since that’s what I’m used to, though I am sure there is a reason they developed the star shaped head – maybe I will be lucky enough to find out why in a few minutes!

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For reference this is a carriage bolt.

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This is a lag screw.

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And this is a deck/exterior screw.

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For the wood I chose douglas fir or yellow pine. I think the 2x4s are yellow pine. Just get some cheap stuff that isn’t all warped. I spent a good 30 minutes checking out all my pieces and digging through the pile at Home Depot before I got a decent selection.

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