Saturday, October 31, 2009

First holster finished

I finished up my first holster this week. It's made for a replica of a 44 mag. My son Jake is hoping to get a real one someday to match the rifle he recently purchased, but he bought the replica gun so we could practice making the holster. He worked up the pattern himself from pictures of different holsters he found on the internet. Jake also cut out the leather and helped with getting the design stamped on it. I did the stamping and the actual construction. It's made out of 5-6 ounce leather, also lined with 5-6 ounce. The finish is just a coat of neatsfoot oil followed by a coat of Neat Lac and then a coat of Skidmore's Leather Cream. I don't know much about holsters, but it fits the gun really well and I am happy with how it looks.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When you care enough to send the very best...

I've attended a few classes at the Tandy store in Rapid City that Clay Miller (aka Bert)manages. Bert sometimes nags at us when someone pulls out a "black" tool at a class, saying we should only be using Tandy tools when we are at a Tandy store. Now I've got nothing against using Tandy's tools. I have LOTS of them, and I use them all the time. But, I like the few "black" tools I have too.

When I was taking Kathy's box making class at the store, Bert's wife Debbie told us she was planning to have a surprise party for Bert's upcoming birthday. So, I started putting an idea together incorporating the leather boxes we learned to make and those "black tools". For those of you that don't know, the black tools are (IMO)the finest custom made leather tools available, made by Robert Beard at Pro Series Tools. I decided to make up a leather box with the Pro Series Tools logo on the cover. What could possibly make a better gift for your leather carving friend than a custom made box full of custom made tools? Nothing that I can think of but... (there's always a "but" isn't there?) Well, Bert's a good friend, but Bob's tools are REALLY expensive and there is about a one year waiting list to get them. So here's what I came up with.

I wish I would have got decent pictures when Bert opened up the box but all I had with me was my phone camera and they didn't turn out well at all. Even without any black tools in the box, he seemed to enjoy the gift. Happy Birthday Bert!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Projects with my son Jake

One of the projects I'm currently working on is a holster for my son Jake. This is my first holster so it's kind of a learning deal. I've done a few projects for Jake in the last year or so as he always seems to have a thing or two he wants made out of leather. When I work on these, I've been trying to get him to do a lot of the work on them. He has done the cutting, edging, lacing and other things get the projects started and finished. For this holster, he worked up the pattern entirely on his own and so far, it seems to be working just right. We'll have to see what happens after it's all sewn together.
Here's where we are at so far on the holster.

A couple other projects Jake and I have worked on are a set of saddle bags for his saddle, and a matching scabbord. It's kind of fun to see him show a little interest in this type of stuff. So far, he hasn't wanted to get into the carving part, but he has talked about maybe trying to build a saddle one day!

Here it is on a saddle I made a few years ago. The saddle was made through a grant program with the ND Council for the Arts and saddle maker Rex Cook from Dickinson, ND. Jake quickly snatched up the saddle as soon as it was finished.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A weekend visitor

My friend Dave Peterson stopped by Saturday for a visit. For those who don't know Dave, he's married to Robb Barr's sister Cheryl. I met Dave several years ago in Sheridan and when we started talking, we realized that we lived fairly close together (by North Dakota standards anyway). Dave comes out to my side of the state a few times a year to hunt and when he does, he usually stops in to talk about leather projects he's working on. Dave got interested in carving leather after Robb passed away, so he never got to learn from the master, so when he gets stuck on something, he has to settle for me. He always brings along lots of goodies to show, and usually leaves me a gift or two. This time was no exception.

One this trip, Dave was hoping I could give him some pointers on carving shrubbery. Dave won a carving by Silva Fox a few years ago at the IFoLG show in Texas and brought that along to show me an example of what he wanted to try. I have seen pictures of this carving before, but this is the first time I had seen it in person.

I was really surprised at how SMALL the carving is. It only measures about 5 inches high by 13 inches wide. The detail on something that small is pretty amazing. I guess maybe that's why Silva has always been one of my favorite leather artists. Now I'm supposed to teach him how she did this???? Well, I tried, and he was fairly happy with my attempt. We also went over some techniques to do some hair, eyes and grass.

Dave continues to improve his carving techniques every time I see him. He brought several of the carvings that he's currently working on with him to show me. It's always fun to see what he's working on, and some of the new ideas he comes up with. He's always changing patterns and doing things a little bit different and comes up with some really interesting ideas.

When Dave left for the evening, he asked if he could leave most of his stuff here since he plans on coming back again tomorrow. Um....... sure.

I had a box full of Robb Barr's black tools to play with, a couple really cool swivel knives, and a Bob Beard mallet that you can't get anymore. It was like Christmas came early, even if it was only for an evening. There is just something really cool about carving and tooling on a piece of leather with the same tools that were once used by one of the real masters of the craft.

Dave came back again on Sunday afternoon and we started again where we had left off the day before. I've got a piece of Silva's work myself and it has quite a variety of different grasses, brush and trees carved on it. We spent some time studying this piece and trying to figure out what tools Silva had used to create it. We tried many different tools and combinations of tools and found quite a few that worked fairly well. Once again, it was a fun afternoon and I think we are both looking forward to the next time it works out for us to get together.

One last picture, some of the different things we worked on during the visit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another bird in progress

I've carved the wren several times. Now it's time for a different bird. This one is an American Goldfinch. It's carved pretty much the same as the wren was. I think I stuffed just a little too much putty behind him, I'm having some trouble getting the background to lay really flat. Once I get that fixed it's just a little cleaning up and I'll be ready to attempt the painting.

New life for an "oops!"

I've realized recently how much the right frame can add to a picture. A couple of things that I have done just for practice turned into pretty nice pieces when they were displayed the right way. As I was trying to clean up my really messy shop awhile ago, I found a bear head that I had carved a couple years ago. I had messed up the background on it, so I ended up cutting the head out and just saving that part of the picture. About the same time, I found a pile of mats and frames. I started putting different combinations together, and found one I kind of liked. Now, instead of just being another "oops!", the bear is finally something that can be hung on a wall.

Friday, October 2, 2009

2009 IFoLG show in Indy

Last week the International Federation of Leather Guilds held it's annual show in Indianapolis. I couldn't attend the show, but Kathy Flanagan was kind enough to haul some of my work with her and enter it in the show. My 4 entries did pretty well in the show with my latest wren and my flat, uncolored elk taking first place ribbons and the wooly chaps I made last spring taking a second place ribbon.

I've only gotten to attend one of these shows in person, the 2005 show in Denver. Seeing the pictures of all of the entries, and of the people there having a great time really made me wish that I could have been there. You can see pictures of the competition pieces here. You might think the leatherwork is the best part of these shows, but it's not. It's the people!

This year they gave out a couple special awards at the show, and I can't think of any more deserving people to get them. One was the "Heart and Spirit in Leathercraft" and it went to Dave Smith. Dave is a member of Lone Star Leathercrafter's Guild. Photo by Danielle Martin

The other was called the "Pathway to Masters" . It went to my good friend Kathy Flanagan. Kathy is a member of Columbine Leather Guild. Congratulations Kathy and Dave!!!!

Photo by Rosa Zalesak