Thursday, February 28, 2019

Shotgun sling, and getting on the stitching pony

©2019 Joshua Stark

One crazy discovery I've found from my time working with leather is that I really, really enjoy stitching and lacing by hand.  The stitch I perform most often is the saddle stitch, which involves two needles on either end of a six-foot thread, through a project that is clamped down in a contraption known as the stitching pony.

A rifle sling in the stitching pony, about to have a deer skin pad stitched to it.

Of course, my stitching pony is an example of my "useful" handiwork -- a perfectly practical, hideous creation that works a little bit less than a store-bought version, but which cost pennies.

Stitching appears to be a very boring endeavor, but in reality, the subtle steps to get it right take a lot of time to learn, while improvements and a job done right are nearly immediate in their reward.  I get great joy just from hand stitching a straight line.  Also, the saddle stitch is nearly indestructible, and easily repaired.

These pictures do not convey the satisfaction of getting it right.

But it is also one of those skills that goes completely unused if there is no motivation to begin.  The steps are many, and they have one purpose -- to put a thread into a material.

It's a type of work that goes well with a radio -- usually NPR, in my case, or music.  I can also talk some, though I can't really lose my focus, or else the lines start to sway.

For the past month, I've been coming back to a project that put me back on the pony: a shotgun sling for a friend of mine.

A shotgun sling differs from other slings in that it is not strapped into hardware directly on the gun.  Rather, leather straps are slipped over the gun, as in the picture below:

I'm not a photographer
 Although you can shoot with the sling on, it is really meant to help for long treks without shooting -- say, to a duck blind -- where it is then removed during the hunt.

It was a riot to make, since I had to research and test parts, get the buckle on right, and tool a new head for me, a Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata).  These are wonderful birds, picked on by many waterfowlers who don't know how to cook them right, but appreciated for their comical bill and striking colors.

I also tried to tool silhouettes of canada geese, which came out alright, but definitely not as good as I'd have liked.  More practice is needed, for sure.

Since duck hunting is so wet, I decided not to put a deerskin pad on it, but rather, some neoprene.  I looked all over for swimsuit-type stuff but couldn't find it in anything but really large amounts, so I went to the local Big Box and looked around.  I found some light neoprene in the form of pads for truck tool boxes, and I cut the piece from one (after I bought it, of course).

A neoprene pad, hand-stitched.
It seems to have come out pretty well.

If you are interested in a piece of leather work, check out my Etsy page here:

Also, if you have suggestions, let me know!

1 comment:

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