Saturday, October 8, 2016

Back on the (stitching) horse...

© Joshua Stark 2016. 

Well, I had to work through another few months' worth of fits and despair, a general lack of confidence, and an honest-to-goodness artist's block (though I strain credulity with the use of the word, "artist").  However, I have finally finished an extremely overdue leather order -- three California duck straps.

Confidence is a real problem for me, and it is compounded by the fact that when you finally make your measurements and trace out your templates, there comes a time when you actually have to cut very expensive material.  A good side of leather can cost $200, and though it isn't as bad as I make it sound (I mean, I can cut, make a mistake, and cut another part, due to its size), it is still a pretty steep climb.

These duck straps were ordered by a good friend of the family, going back decades.  He's one of those guys you admire from afar: an amazing outdoorsman, great dad, and a man who hunts out-of-state with a group (these folks go to Colorado each year).

Here are some pictures of the process...

I've picked out the spot on the leather, traced the template, and began cutting with the head knife.

Here is the process for cutting out a strap end with a strap-end punch.  I've got here a rubber mallet, a strap-end punch, a block of marble, and a cutting board of some kind.  Notice that the strap has been cut at the end to the dimensions of the punch.
I'm setting up the punch.  I'll hold the punch, and hammer on it a few times while rotating it a bit on its edge.

And here's the final result. 

Three straps in slightly different stages, after stamping.  The top one is stained, the middle one is "cased" (fancy leather term for "wetted with water"), and the bottom one is natural (before being stained).
Cutting three straps from about 6 oz. leather.  Since I made three California duck straps, I cut 21 individual 1/2 in. straps, 14 in. in length (to leave room for folding over and riveting the strap ends).
To make the folding and riveting flush, I skived the ends of each of the straps.  I use a safety skiver, and hope that one day they'll make a left-handed version.
Here they are.  The top one was stained with "saddle tan", the bottom two with medium brown.

I was overwhelmed, in part, by the repetition.  I had 21 straps to build, dye, seal, then 42 skive cuts, and 42 rivets to place.  The great part is that, once I started, I realized that this repetition was just what I needed!  I got into a rhythm, and worked to improve my technique.  I also, I believe, have become more confident.

Now, it's onto a knife sheath, followed by a very nice Ranger-style belt for an Angolan friend.  I'm worried about the last one, because I want it to be just about perfect, and hand-cutting billets to look symmetrical is quite a challenge.  But working on these duck straps have put a measure of confidence in me I haven't had in a long time.

Sorry for the gory details.  Here's a pic. of my cousin after a successful day afield, using a strap I made for him last year.  He's my pro staff, I suppose.