DIY holster guys - Needles?


June 21, 2005, 10:34 PM
I seemed to have torn through all my needles for hand stitching. Luckily I finished the current holster without killing my last 2. Unfortunately, the needles ended up bending and eventually softening up and breaking under a good force through. The other issues I had was the eye would distort then snap in half during a pass through the leather. So, they all gave me service, although, they left a bit to be desired. I guess I was a little hard on them. I use needle nose pliers to push/pull them through as I can get my fingers around them enough to do the work. And I do try to use technique and be careful not to bend them crooked or force them wrong as I'm pulling them through the leather.

What needles do you use? Are there any "good" needles that will last longer than 2 projects each? The ones I finished off were the originals from the Tandy hand stitching kit.

Would needles like the one below work better since it has a smaller eye? It is size 000.

I also need to reorder thread, again, the original was from the kit. I guess that thread worked fine for my projects. What works for you?

Edit: I knew that would pop up since I didn't mention it :D Yes, I punch all holes with an awl.

If you enjoyed reading about "DIY holster guys - Needles?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
Ukraine Train
June 21, 2005, 10:45 PM
Do you use a punch to perforate the leather before stitching it? I use this fork looking tool that makes four diamond shaped holes with each strike and then you just run the thread through, much easier on the needle.

edit: You can see the punches I use in this pic, they're next to the scissors. The four prong one is used for straight lines and the single prong is used in bends.

June 21, 2005, 10:49 PM
Yup, I punch the holes with an awl, one by one. I can't use a punch - I only gots un mano ;)

June 21, 2005, 11:16 PM
Shorts, I have worked leather for about 15 yr now & made some real heavy holsters for heavy guns before all the light stuff came out. I have experienced all the things you talked of. The top needle probably started breaking around the eye. I use the one you pictured at the bottom. I get much better results from them & they last a long time. When they get dull you can use a medium course sharpening stone to make a sharp point. I use the sharpened leather needles to sew other stuff also. Heavy butlap material, matress ticking, etc. good luck. They that love liberty more than life die only once. They that fear death more than oppression die every time they close their eyes. Me.

June 22, 2005, 12:06 AM
Thanks for the input longtooth. I think the smaller eye would make it less susceptible to wearing out as quickly. I should order the 100 pack this time :o

June 22, 2005, 12:32 AM
What you need is the egg-eyed, blunt point saddler's or harness needles, size 0 or 000.
0 is small, 000 is larger and is the size I usually used for holsters.

These are similar to the bottom needle in your picture.

The eye is egg-shaped and won't cut the thread.
The point is blunt, which prevents the needle from cutting the thread as it's pushed through the hole.

These needles are available from Tandy Leather, The Leather Factory, and other leather supply houses.

You're punching your holes in EXACTLY the right way, with the diamond-shaped saddler's awl.

Finding the right stitching cord is difficult.
Most of what you find is either too small, or is too large.

The small rolls of cord sold by Tandy and most other sources is actually flat instead of round, and looks terrible.

I've had some luck with the artificial Sinew, but better is 4 pound rolls of Barbour's unwaxed linen cord sold specifically for saddle and holster stitching.
You have to wax it with a lump of beeswax before use.

The best I ever used was 4 pound rolls of waxed polyester cord.
It didn't rot like linen, and didn't stretch like nylon.

Unfortunately, the company I bought it from is out of business.

June 22, 2005, 12:42 AM
You can make your crafting even easier by putting a triangular point on your awl.

spend 10 mins with some fine sandpaper or a fine stone, and grind that bad boy down to a triangular point. back it up with a plastic cutting board so you don't go through your kitchen table (ahhh, experience!)

Cowhide is made up leather with grains that are like this: #

The goal is to seperate the grains enough to make a space for your thread but not so much that it won't snap back into shape upon exposure to moisture or oil. I have found that a triangular point does this admirably, but the stitching must be done soon after punching the holes.

FWIW: Goathide is less of an opposite in terms of angularity of grains...think: // and \\
K-leather (kangaroo---used in whipmaking, shoes, other non-puncture resistent applications) is ///// the grains are very thin, very strong, but exceptionally easy to cut and pierce. I think this would have exceptionally limited utility in holstermaking.

On thought on being of the un mano: next time you are in some store that has telephony installation tools, you might look into PunchDown tools...they are very reactive, and with some alteration could be made to do the multiholed thing for you with one hand.

what also GREATLY improved my stiching was a stitching spacer. Tandy has 'em. they are relatively cheap but work wonderfully.

Happy holstering!

June 22, 2005, 12:57 AM
Dfariswheel, thanks for the clarification on the needle size. I will order the 000 and see how they go.

JJpdxpinkpistols, I use a diamond-shaped awl. It has worked out well. For "research", I did a small project using only the pointed awl tip (the scratch awl) to see what the stitches would look like and how the actual stitching would progress. While the stitches loked nice, the small round hole was difficult to squeeze in the needles, compared to the diamond-shaped hole, which allowed the needle to go through easier. Again, I did that just as test for myself to "figure out stuff". I also have the stitch wheel and it works nice.

Here is my latest holster. This time for the wetting and molding, I did about a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water. This was the first time I tried this method and it worked out nice as far as the holster drying quickly. I did a coat with Saddle Soap (it's the onl thing I have in the house of the conditioning kind). I'll be thinking of the finish, if any I will put on it.

June 22, 2005, 12:38 PM
After I groove the leather I run an overstitch wheel in the groove to mark where the stitches should go. Then I use a Dremel tool with a 1/16" bit to drill the stitching holes. The needles go right through.

June 22, 2005, 01:15 PM
Ok, this raises a question for me. I've been using a stitching awl for a whole bunch of stuff. It appears that you guys are all punching holes and then stitching (unless I'm getting it wrong).

So is there one way that's better? Pros and cons on each side, maybe?

June 22, 2005, 01:25 PM
That is correct, I punch a hole, then stitch, then punch, then stitch.... It seems easier than forcing the awl, thread and all, through 2 pieces of leather. I don't know for sure as I have never tried the stitching awl method. To tell you the truth, I never understood how the stitching awl worked. I couldn't picture the mechanics of it :o

DT Guy
June 22, 2005, 01:43 PM
An easy way to put holes in leather is to use a brass pin turned down to the appropriate diameter for your thread. Spun fast in a drill press it gets VERY hot, and will both drill and burn holes in the leather in short order. It also seems to make holes that are somewhat more resistant to tearing than the diamond shaped holes.

Of course, your mileage may vary.


June 22, 2005, 01:48 PM
It took me a good hour to figure out how to make the thing actually stitch, and that was with diagrams and everything. I think it's easier to make a good solid stitch with the awl than it was with my limited experience your way, but it is rather difficult to drive the whole assembly through the leather. I usually have to work on top of an old phone book, and smack the butt of the awl with my hand to make it work. Otherwise I suffer pretty serious fatigue by about the tenth stitch.

I think I'm going to go pick up a punch and try it your way. It sounds a little easier on the hands, and I'll bet some practice will make good stitching easier.

June 22, 2005, 02:07 PM
Inspired by an older DIY holster thread, I've recently been experimenting with making my own.

I did an OWB pancake for my 22/45 first and it turned out fairly well despite the fact that I didn't yet understand saddle stitching at all. I guess the "single needle bachelor stitching" will hold for a lightly-used holster.

Because I was merely trying holstermaking to see if I'd like it, I went less than a full investment in tools. Basically, I bought a pack of Tandy needles, some leather, dye, and finish. I've been using woodworking tools (my other, other hobby) for cutting, marking, etc. My hole punch is a sharpened brad nail guided in a small chunk of clear 1/2" plexi so I can get the holes nice and straight.

The problem is that now I think I'm addicted - I'm gonna need some real tools!

I've got an IWB for my 1911 drying at home right now.

June 22, 2005, 02:28 PM
Ok, this has piqued my curiosity now. I have been doing a bit of leather work here and there ever since I got the merit badge, but it has been knife sheaths mostly, and most of those were made by copying the sheath I didn't like that came with the knife.

So, what leather are you guys using for holsters? Since I've been doing this mostly just for fun, I've been using the grab-bag leather you get at Hobby Lobby. How do you make a pattern for a gun? I'm about to have to make a couple 1911 holsters, and one for a hi-power, and I haven't the foggiest idea how to do it right. Knives are real easy, but guns are complex shapes.

June 22, 2005, 02:49 PM
That looks fantastic, Shorts!

Are you planning on any sort of imbelishment?

Andrew Rothman
June 22, 2005, 03:04 PM
The good folks at my local Tandy store (see my blog entry ( sugggested, instead of using a cutting board to protect the kitchen table, that I stop at Wal-Mart and invest $1.99 in a whiteboard eraser.

It's made of stiff, spongy stuff kind of like a cross between styrofoam and a sponge. Unlike a cutting board, it won't dull the needle or awl, and it's plenty thick enough to protect tables and hands.

June 22, 2005, 03:16 PM
I glue it up, then use a drill press before stitching.


June 22, 2005, 03:29 PM
Any particular type of drill bit? I tried a sample with a brad point bit and a twist bit and got really ragged holes.

I resorted to driving brad nails with a hammer.

June 22, 2005, 04:04 PM
The piece I'm using now is 7/8oz. It tools real nice when need be.

Yes, it is photoshopped to spare ID :neener:

For a "punch pad", I'm currently using a doubled-up piece of cardboard. I think a rubber mat would work better though.

For the pattern, you just place the gun down on a manilla folder (makes good templates) and draw how you want the template to look like. When you get that done, cut it out, then place it on your leather and trace the outline. I always place and trace on the backside of the leather so I can use a pencil. The pieces will be burnished anyway. Make sure you flip the template accordingly so that you have the surface you want on the outside.

The punch awl works nice for making holes. The key is to keep the edges sharp and it'll go right through. I also apply a little beeswax to the tip now and again if it gets sticky. Be careful with the sharp edges, they will slice and dice your fingers before you know it. I'm not sure how easy blood is to get out of leather :banghead:

I would like to cut better edges though. I've been thinking of a "cookie cutter" type thing ( I forget what it's called), but that isn't necessary until I'm mass producing a line lol

June 22, 2005, 05:54 PM
I prefer the diamond shaped awl, but I punch at an angle. To clarify, if you step back and look at the hole is resembles a parallelagram as opposed to a diamond. That allows the stitch to lay nicely and prevent premature wear of te leather between stitches. I also do all my holes first, then stitch.

As far as needles go, I prefer the 000 blunt saddle needles. Before I use them I polish the tips on a whetstone followed by jewelers rouge on a strop. Makes all the difference in the world. One of the problems you were probably having was the pliers on the needle tips. Every imperfection you leave on the needle tip is just something else for the leather to catch on. If you really look at the rough side of the leather, it looks almost fibrous. That's what makes it so hard for a scarred up needle to push through. That fibrous finish isn't only on the outside. For the thread, I prefer the linen.

June 22, 2005, 05:55 PM
"I've been thinking of a "cookie cutter" type thing ( I forget what it's called), but that isn't necessary until I'm mass producing a line."


What you're thinking of is a "clicker" - the machine/equipment used to press the "die" (cookie cutter) into the leather. Major time saver. I know of a place to get the dies whenever someone needs one - best prices that I've found and shortest wait time. In fact, that company says if you're cutting the same pattern out more than twice - you need a die. :D

June 22, 2005, 06:28 PM
In fact, that company says if you're cutting the same pattern out more than twice - you need a die.

Smart folks :D

June 24, 2005, 04:09 PM
Here's a pic of my newly-completed 22/45 paddle and 1911 IWB holsters inspired by the fine folks at THR.

June 24, 2005, 06:09 PM
Nice job :cool: I like the buttons for the belt loop. I've been wanting to try that method, but I need to get the punch tools for the button.

If you enjoyed reading about "DIY holster guys - Needles?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!