Category: Articles

Get What You Pay For

You get what you pay for.  We’ve all heard that.  Once again, we revisit that often misused phrase.  The longer version – and basis for this – can be read in an earlier post.

To see if that’s actually true, you would need to know both what you are getting and what you are paying.  Price is easy enough to compare – in fact a simple search will do much of that for you.  Good news is, these days it’s also easier than ever before to compare what you get for that price.

Lately we have seen a significant increase in the number of people wanting OUR product and “their” price.  People routinely send us pictures of someone else’s work and as if we will make that.  But having found an item you like, at a price you think is acceptable, WHY contact us?  Seems logical to contact the person(s) whose picture you saw.  In the time it takes to contact us, you could have already made your purchase.

get what you pay forClearly, there’s a reason why people contact us.  There must be something about that ‘other’ product that isn’t acceptable in some way.  It does seem we should heed our own advice, and compare the items.  People show us goods less well built and less cosmetically appealing than ours.  Often, those are sold for less money; but not in all cases.  Others have noticed it as well, which is why we get some of these requests.

Taking our own advice, we have compared some of these goods.  We invite others to do the same.  You have our permission (and recommendation) to place our images and products along side of any others you are considering.  Please feel free to send other makers our pics or links to them and ask them to recreate the product.  We’d like to see you get what you pay for.



Coast Guard Charge Books

Coast Guard charge books should display the same professionalism and attention to the task at hand as do the men and women who carry them.

As with all of our projects, we recommend and ask that you compare the work with others available.

Coast Guard Charge Books

Certainly you can find many just by Google-ing “leather coast guard charge book”.   My personal opinion;  I like leather, but a neat, clean, well constructed wooden one is preferable to poorly done low grade leather.

This picture I consider a base line, standing order, worst case scenario, minimum acceptable.

Accepting less than this would be the civilian equivalent of, for example, an almost regulation hair cut, or shoes that used to shine, a crooked crease, dull brass, …

Just contact us with your request for any customization you need.

Compare Items Not the Hype About Items

By now, many have heard me say to compare items.  There are those of course who will be interested in something simply because it’s ‘trendy’ to do.  But this is not for those.

Common marketing practices try to take your attention away from the product itself.  Discussions on pricing, ‘trending’ terms, or more recently videos uploaded by the manufacturer (we used to call them “commercials”).  This only makes it more necessary to compare the items yourself.  But how do you compare?

To get to what is “better”, strip away the hype surrounding the item(s).   Remove anything which is not the item.  Strip off ‘colorful’ descriptions; strip off the ‘story’.

Is it ‘rustic’, or just ugly?  By ‘zombie’, do they mean poorly colored?  When a listing (let’s call it what it is – an ad) tells me about a “beautiful, great, hand crafted … whatever”, I think if you need someone to tell you it’s “great”, maybe it isn’t.  Calling it ‘great’ doesn’t improve it one bit.

Here’s a quick test which may help you determine what is fact and what is ‘hype’.

  • If you didn’t have the “story”, would it still interest you?
  • If there was no video, is it still something you would want, or is this video persuading you?
  • Compare items without the video – are they still comparable items? Are you buying the item, or are you buying the video?  I’ll have more about this in a separate article.

Internet shopping won’t let you feel a product, but you can initially compare items visually.  Because images can be ‘photoshop’ed and descriptions can be deceiving, it’s best to compare multiple options in search results.

Truth is, most of the hype you see is trying to sell you something.  Here are just some of the ways that pricing hype is inserted into your searches.

The ridiculous phrase “you get what you pay for…” is routinely used to justify the price of an item.  With it, a seller hopes to imply that because his (hers) is more expensive, then it “must be” better.  Did they think we would just take their word for it?

The retailer may claim he “has to” charge more because he has overhead – lease, electricity, insurance, employee costs, and more.  All of this is likely true, but has nothing to do with the item.  I expect to get what I asked for.  Why would I pay his electric bill when I can get the same goods and still pay my electric bill?!  If I paid $10, I don’t want a $2 item and a pretty story.  This is why stores are giving way to online shopping.

  • Often referred to as “price perception” is the idea that if you charge more people will think it’s “worth more”.  But have you ever seen someone in line at a store asking to pay more so their purchase is “more valuable”?  Ever find an item ‘on sale’ and refuse to take the discounted price?
  • Calling it something else. Years ago, you went to the hardware store when you needed a washer for a bolt.  They were a nickel each.  Now, they’re called “spacers”, and they’re a quarter.  But exactly the same thing, despite the story.
  • Say an item is made for $20, sold at wholesale to a retailer at $40, and sold by the retailer at $90 on the shelf. What is the actual “value” of that item?  Is it “worth more” after the markup?  Or maybe it is the same item in a different package.

Honestly, you don’t need me for this.  If you can read this article you’re already educated enough to see through this cheap hustle.  You may have heard another phrase: ‘if you can’t tell the difference, then why pay the difference?’

There is another side of this same coin as well.  Some items are priced in the same range as other items by the same name, simply because of the same name.  I’ve recently seen holsters priced at $65 apparently because others in his area were priced at that.  But the quality was clearly not as good as others.  Here’s the fact:  calling it the same and pricing it the same does not make it the same.  And talking more does not make it worth more.

Having said all that, I have a few items I offer for a price as well.  But this article is free (and so are the others) and I don’t mind my work being compared.  In fact, I prefer that people compare items.

Hand Made Versus Well Made, Hype or Quality

People talk at length about the term hand made, but I prefer well made.

I have seen hand made items which were excellent quality and looked great cosmetically.  And I’ve also seen hand made items which were just junk.  So, calling something hand made does not automatically make an item worth having.  Hand made means NOTHING if the product made isn’t better than it would be some other way.

If you want to sell me something ‘handmade’, give me a reason to buy yours instead of something else.  I don’t mean tell me it’s better. I mean I can see it’s better.

The only way to know which goods are worth buying is to compare the items.  Then you can know you’re getting better quality.  The value of ‘hand made’ is either:

  • It’s something I can’t get elsewhere, or
  • It’s a BETTER version of what is available elsewhere.

“Better” could be better materials or better workmanship.  Beyond these is just hype.  A story from a few years ago may put this ‘hype’ in plain words.

On a long drive, I stopped in a convenience store to fuel and stand up for a bit.  While in line at the counter, I took a bite out of the donut I was getting.  When I was next in line, I joked with the girl at the counter; “How much for these damaged donuts?”  She looked at the bite taken out and said ‘Damaged ones are free. But that one’s not damaged, that’s custom – and it costs extra”.  We both laughed, I paid and left.

But what if I put that donut back in the display case?  You come for a donut; see one with a bite out of it.  Would you want that one?  How will that girl sell you that one?

  • The girl might tell you a funny story about that guy who came in a while ago.
  • Maybe play your favorite song and tell you that donut is “unique” among the others in the case?
  • What if she reminds you the donut maker has worked hard since 4:00 a.m?

These are clearly ridiculous ideas; you wouldn’t actually think about buying that (you may never buy from that store again).  You looked at a case full of donuts, saw the one with a ‘unique’ defect, and ruled it out.  You disregarded the stories and compared the items.

Compare the material.

Firm leather with consistent texture and thickness are required.  It should be free of any significant defects or discoloration on both sides.  This is true whether hand made or not.

  • One guy orders leather from the tannery and has it delivered.  There’s a shipping charge.
  • Another person drives to the tannery and picks it up. He adds the cost of the trip plus an hourly wage for his time into his “cost”.
  • Another person buys it through a retailer. There is a mark-up by the retailer, and a shipping charge.

These methods can change the amount of time and/or money spent on the leather, but it’s the SAME leather.  Compare the material – not the story wrapped around it.

  • Flaws in the leather do not “add charm” to a project.  There’s a reason defects are called defects and the reason tanneries sell those skins for less money.
  • The methods of delivery or time spent on that do not affect leather quality.

Compare the workmanship.

In this is the value of ‘hand made’.  I have seen many comments that an item “can’t be hand made” because there weren’t any flaws or errors.  The work was done professionally, and if there were errors they were corrected.  The hand made item should be better than the mass produced.  If it’s not better, then it’s not smart to choose it.

As with materials, flaws and mistakes in workmanship do not improve the item.  Do you pay more for a house which is painted badly?  How about stained clothing or car dents?

Factories usually have “quality control” departments where occasionally a product is checked by a person to see that size, shape, color, etc. are “within specs” for that item.  But the hand made article can and should be checked every time.  It’s right in front of you – it is “at hand”.

Consistent color, consistently spaced and consistently tight stitching, and neatly finished edges are mandatory.  Tooling, if any, should be done well.  These are a starting point, not the end.

If an error can’t be corrected in the project, the project should be scrapped and replaced.  End result, if the “bad” are removed, then what is left is the good quality work.

Holster Design Pattern Upgrade Progress

The holster design of those “50/50 pancakes’- those with the front and back basically mirror image and a seam down the center – is being replaced.  These can bind, especially on the leading edge.  They’re tighter on the belt than in the hand, and the closer the slots are to the weapon the more pronounced the problem.

Pancake Holster Design IssueLooking from the front, you can see the seam is clearly down the center.  This has a molded sight channel.

When the front ‘wing’ is pulled IN toward the body, the holster flexes and the site channel collapses, causing the bind it was intended to solve.


Pancake Sight Channel Collapse


The more you bend, the more you bind.

The slimmer the wearer, the sharper flex, and the worse the binding effect.

And the more “break in” the back gets, the worse the problem becomes.


People are used to seeing them, so some will buy them.  And holster makers know they are easy to make, so some ‘push’ them a bit.  They bend the slotted “wings” toward the wearer calling it “molded”, they “mold in a sight channel”, or say that you need to “break them in”.   Some move the belt slots further out from the firearm and some move the stitch lines also (making it loose).  This may allow the use of that holster for a limited time.  But you surrender some retention and must rely on the belt tension.

These things attempt to make do with the simple holster design of ‘50/50 pancakes’.  Many would like to ignore this since ‘50/50 pancakes’ are so easy to make.  But making holsters without this pancake problem is just as easy –similar look, with better function.

Using a longer piece for the outside allows the leather to wrap around the gun without binding, and using a shorter inside piece there’s less leather to bunch in the channel.  The tension on the firearm is then the same on or off the belt (or very close) and there’s no need to rely on ‘retention’ from the belt.

Holster Stitch Lines –Basis of the Fit

Maybe holster stitch lines should have been covered in a little more detail in the file “about holsters” – available for free download –   since the stitch lines are the ‘base’ of any holster, and their placement can make the difference between a holster which is really a nice fit,  one which is “okay”, and one which is a pain.

more about holsters


Summarizing, belt holsters should be designed with:

  • room to grip the firearm securely;
  • secure attachment points which carry the rig without allowing it to “rock” and shift, and which are high enough on the rig to prevent ‘tipping’;
  • no obstruction of the mag / cylinder release (it may or may not be visible).



Obviously if the stitch lines are too close together the gun isn’t going to fit in the holster.

But stitch lines too far apart will cause the holster to become loose, retaining the weapon less (if at all).  You’ll see ‘holsters’ with stitch lines away from the firearm by ¼” – or even more.  I haven’t included a picture here because those holsters are not mine (somebody send me a pic of one of these and I’ll put it in here).  They generally come “boned” in against the weapon, with a story about the wearer needing to “break in” the holster.

I want holsters with a stitch line that conforms to the gun it was made for.  Otherwise, we could just do like some – put a stitch line anywhere, and bone inside of that (to be clear, I will not be doing that).

When the stitch lines are placed at a distance from the firearm, “boning” inside those lines is pointless.  Articles, posts, and / or videos showing people “boning” a holster between the gun and the stitch lines are deceptive (whether or not it’s intentional).

In this area between the stitch line and the firearm, the layers of leather either (1) are not glued together, or (2) are glued together.

  1. If they are not glued, they will open up quickly as the holster is used, overcoming any form in the leather due to this ineffective (temporary) “boning”.
  2. If the layers are glued, they will more gradually separate (‘break in’) leaving exposed glued areas inside the holster pocket.

Your holster will ‘break in’ up to the stitch lines.  By limiting the distance between the gun and the stitching, you are able to limit how loose the holster will become.

Traditional ‘pancake’ holsters – what I call ‘50/50’ pancakes – may be the most obvious example of this.  By design, they are tighter on the belt than they are when held in the hand.  The ‘retention’ of the holster is not better when worn (it’s the same holster) – they’re simply relying on the flexion of the holster to bind on the gun for retention. This inherent flaw in ‘50/50’ pancake holsters will be covered in more detail in another article.

stitch lines placementFor the moment, the point is that the ‘optimum’ distance for placement of the stitch lines on a leather holster is at the contour of the gun.

Ideally, the inside of the leather holster will be the same size as the outside of the gun (the expression ‘fits like a glove’).

The only way this holster can become loose is to actually stretch the leather which won’t happen if it is used for its intended purpose.

Leather Working: Trimming the ‘Bull’ from the Cowhide

I was a member of another site’s leather working forum – perhaps I still am.  I’ve requested my profile and content be removed but have not verified that it actually was done.

I have no “beef” with any particular person, or any desire to place blame.  No intention to “diagnose” who is responsible (or not).  It’s past the time to trim the fat.

My intention when I post something is the sharing of actual leather working information which is useful to someone.

  • I don’t want my content used to attract the newcomer – intentionally or otherwise – so someone can sell him/her something they don’t need for what they want to do.
  • I don’t want to engage in long conversations with people who appear to have no real concern for the topic and who may simply be lonely.
  • I don’t want to argue with someone who appears to be concerned that my free comments will reduce the number of people they can convince to pay for the same content.
leather working articles
Leather Working Articles

This is accomplished in simple leather working articles, usually using photos and/or sketches.  For the time being, I will be posting those articles on this site.  Without interjections from merchants.  Or ads.  Or plea to ‘like’, ‘pin’, twit, twist, or twinkle.

Some video content will be available also, but know that my position is that a video is not a “how to” if it doesn’t show you how to.  At the end of the video, a person should have the knowledge to do what they were looking for.

Information posted will be either mine, or used by permission.  If someone has already covered a topic well, I am happy to link to that instead of reinventing the wheel (I will need your expressed permission).  Where original art from others is used, credit will be clearly given.

I would love to see a collection of useful leather working videos, and would gladly display it here.  By ‘useful’, I mean there are enough ‘self promotion’ videos out there already, and requiring payment to view it does not make it “worth more”.

If I’ve covered something that was of use to you – great.  If you have a specific question – I’ll try to answer, or refer you to someone who can.

Where time permits, these posts will be available as a pdf download as well as the text form.