Friday, May 27, 2016

Wing and feather handlebar wrap

This is a design that I have been thinking about for a while. It wouldn't have worked as well on a standard round bar so I bought these integrated carbon bars. They're perfect for the design and look elegant.   

I didn't get any pics of the tooling process. But I made a template by wrapping the bars in saran wrap and then wrapping over that with masking tape. Then I cut it off and pressed it flat to get the pattern. Then I cut the leather. Tooled it. Soaked it and sewed it on.   

While making my last bars I found that combining two pieces, with the seam at the shift/ brake levers, worked far better than trying to control a single long piece. The bend in the bars causes the seam to coil around the bars and you'll see in some of the next pics that I was able to control it a little better. So for the lower piece, that covers the drops, I decided to go with a feather to give it some texture.  

It all culminates at the end and I found with my fly rod cases that sewing a circle or cap onto the end of a tube is very tough to get right. This tiny little plug was more difficult than the entire bar. 20 stitches working with wet and soft leather and zero room to work with or for error. But gladly it turned out perfect. 

Internal cable routing and also the strap to attach the shifter/ brake lever was sort of a no brainer. I played with the idea of doing a split so I could remove them if needed but the strap doesn't really work like that. You have to slide it onto the bars. So I just sewed it under.   

Before the dye is applied the tooling looks washed out. You can also see the slack in the leather. That corrects itself somewhat as the leather dries and shrinks. If you get the dimensions correct the leather shrinks to the bars surprisingly tight.  

Dye is applied. Easily the most nerve wracking part. It's instantly permanent and initially looks like you're ruining it. Spread it fast and keep going over it until it evens out. You can see where spots take the dye more readily than others. 

You can see how small the end plug is. Delicate work. 

I won't be applying a finish or sealant. The whole reason I use leather is because I love the natural look and leather only gets better as it's used. So besides the dye this is raw veg tan and will only get better.    

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mule deer skull saddle

Done but not dyed yet.  

Dyed black

I don't spend the big bucks (pun intended) on perfect leather so there tends to be slight imperfections either in color or texture. There are a couple of small blems on this one, you can see a wrinkle just above the head. I bought this half cow hide for $40.00 while a very fine piece, smaller than a half cow, could run upwards of $400.00. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Owl fly rod case

Pattern traced onto the leather and starting to cut and tool.  

Done tooling. Maybe 6 hours in at this point.  

Border is done. Stitch holes are awled and dye is applied. 

Not sure how many stitches there are, maybe 800 total. Each stitch is a struggle and I broke 5 needles on this run. You push the needle through the top and then have to torque it under the backside (blind) and push up from the bottom. 

Needle groove in my thumb and skin gone.  

The end caps are the most difficult by far. The fit is tight enough on the closure to leave it as is but I want to add a more secure closure. My idea is a length of black floating fly line that loops around the silver trout.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Fishing/ messenger bag

In terms of simplicity this was... simple. Just straight seams. All square. But with over 800 stitches using upholstery leather it ended up being tedious. I had to use small needles and small nylon thread which tangled easily. I use double needles so the thread "floats" in the eyes and it kept slipping out and I'd have to re-thread the eye. But I'm happy with my first attempt at a bag. This is small which is what I wanted. My Kindle or a paperback fits just right. 4 pockets inside and two of them I made with my fly wallet and tippet spools in mind.

Monday, March 14, 2016


     GZ drove up this morning and blessed me with his company. I'm literally hoarse from an hour and a half of non-stop animated conversation. Even yelling at times. Not at George but into the ether at various people and people in general usually involving politics. Anyway, ten miles total which is the longest I've run in awhile. Legs felt fine which is a testament to my time spent in my shed. Cycling helps a bit too.
     I started a new leather project, one that I've wanted to try for a few years now. A leather messenger bag. After the flood of '13 people had dumped a ton of water damaged stuff on the side of our canyon road which was to be picked up and disposed of. There were three or four leather sofas and chairs and I stopped and skinned them. I got a gazillion yards of really good upholstery leather from oxblood to black to brown. So I started a messenger bag and I have to say hand sewing upholstery leather sucks. I'm also using upholstery thread which sucks even more. I'm used to thick waxed thread which is simple to use but for the bag I wanted small stitching which means small needles and the thick wax thread won't fit the eyes. There's also going to be many hundreds of stitches, probably thousands, and wax thread is expensive. I'm about a third of the way done with an oxblood bag which is more a practice attempt.
 That is all.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fizik Arione Sugar Skull saddle

So you had to know this was coming. I wanted a seat to match my bars and seat bag so I made a seat cover. I ride the Fizik Arione so I peeled the cover off one of my older seats and traced the cover shape onto the leather.
      I found a design of a sugar skull I liked, made some changes to it, and drew it out on vellum paper. Then traced it onto the leather.
Traced onto the leather and ready to start cutting. I start by cutting every line of the pattern into the leather with a swivel knife. 

About half way through tooling the leather down. The stars under his eyes I used a wrench from an Avid disc brake set. Some of those cuts are tiny! This is 2mm thick leather and you have to cut about half way through the leather to get adequate relief. Go too deep and you basically ruin the entire thing by creating a tear or hole. 

Done. I went back and touched up a ton of spots. As the leather dries (you wet the leather to tool it) it changes quite a bit. I totally botched the stars under his nose.   

Mounted on the Fizik. 

The last thing was to dye it. I think this is the most stressful part. When you first smear the dye on it looks awful, black with swirls and smears. You control the darkness by how quickly you remove the dye. Leave it on a long time and it's dark and the smear lines will stay. I tend to wipe it off immediately and then reapply a light coat if I want it darker. This was three coats. I tried to make the nose dark and have it fade back. Looks OK. 

And the finished set. I don't like the seat bag so I'm going to make another one that matches.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sewn leather bar wrap.

This turned out to be about ten times more tedious than I expected. I've sewn around round things before for fly rod cases but this was smaller diameter, I had to contort to do the stitching, and I'm also using leather that is about a third as thick. Heavy is easy because it's durable and doesn't tear. Yesterday I got a screaming deal on an entire half cow in 2-3 weight veg tan leather and decided to try my hand at sewn handlebar wrap. I've seen many examples and always liked how it looks.
     Originally I wanted to tool and stamp the entire piece but suspected that I might fail so I left it blank just in case I had to cut it off and start over. I'm debating on the color, I like the old school brown but black is appealing. I'm leaning more towards leaving it untreated and letting the weather and my use color it. Like a pair of old gloves or boots.
     I soaked the leather for five minutes and stitched it on and as it's dried has tightened more than I thought it would. It's quite stable and seems to be holding tight. I suspect that over time it will loosen  as the leather stretches.  

I went with brown. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Leather bicycle seat bag.

My seat bag was falling apart, plus I never really liked it because it was a tad too small. So I lined out a rough design and built my own.
 I love my Merlin. So I carved their logo on one side. 
I applied an acrylic base and then brown antique stain. The white sinew stitches are growing on me. 
A trout on my seat bag. I wanted to add something substantial to me and fly fishing is that.
Almost done. 

I went with one my favorite (looking) closures, button/ cord and sometimes you'll see it as button/ loop. I sliced a piece of deer antler and drilled holes to make a large button. The cord is sewn to the face so I sliced an antler skull bead in half to cover it.  
Those inner flaps are to secure the kit a bit better and ensure small parts don't fall out.