Thursday, February 23, 2012

Simple fix for a common problem...

I have fixed a few cases since I started building them. But first thing I usually ask, is the case worth fixing? Usually the case is actually worth fixing. In some instances it may not be, but I'll do it anyway to see how the case was built, and see where the failure was. It usually ends up being a bad stitch, or just generally cheap materials.

In this case, I was asked to fix a Giuseppe case strap that failed. I've done these before. It is a fairly simple fix.

First thing - the case needs to come apart. These Giuseppe cases are glued to an inner structure of tubes and cardboard. Sounds cheap, but it works. Anyway - I need to separate the outer material from the inner stucture. A very simple tool can be used - a thin aluminum ruler.

Separate all the glued parts and begin to slide off the outer material.

Once the outer is separated, you're left with the this...

Once the outer shell is removed, I can pull the stitching and cut off the bad section. The amount of strap removed is actually less than an inch, so the owner won't see any real difference in the length. This is glued in place and ready to stitch.
The perfect machine to stitch this is a cylinder arm machine. A flat bed machine would work, but just the ease of sliding the case over the arm and being able to stitch around is a breeze. I used #138 thread and matched the exisiting stitch length.

It's pretty simple from here. Just stitch around the case, and be sure to hit the strap. Now that we are done, just slip the outside of the case back over the structure and glue it in place like before. Not bad for about an hour's worth of work (Yes - I did clip the thread hanging off the bottom).

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


It has been a while since I've been on this thing. Hopefully I remember how it all works!

I have a lot of stuff to add here in the next few days. Stayed tuned. I'll probably spend less time updated the web site and focus on this for a while.

Thanks for looking.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Back again...

Sorry no pics on this one. Just an update - finally getting back into the swing of things. There was a lot going on other than cases, but I did happen to finish up a few that really needed to go out. Two more, and I should be caught up to the recent orders. Good thing winter is here, since now I would rather be inside, rather than out - and hence more cases finished!

I have had a few extensions to my usual work - I got an request from my brother to make another guitar amp cover - in leather of course. He loved the first one, but sold the amp, along with the cover, to which the guy who bought it raved. You can see it at my web site, - click on side projects. A friend of mine is getting married next summer and his fiance requested some custom handbags for the bridesmaids - not that I have made a lot of backs, but the design is simple - i'll post some pics as soon I they start getting made.

Anyway, like I said - it's been a few months since the last post, but I should start getting into the swing of things again, and maybe, if all goes as planned, I might have some to take with me to the Expo in Valley Forge this year. Of course that's what I said last year...


Friday, August 29, 2008

The Case...

I must say, I like working on the sewn cases much better than the riveted ones. The riveted ones are nice, relatively safe from fatal errors (and subsequently tossing to the scrap pile), but everyone makes riveted cases. The sewns ones, in my opinion take a little more time to cut but the finished product, I think, is a classic style. Simple, but effective.

I start by cutting the rough shape of the case. Everything is cut by hand using knifes and a straight edge. The leather is 1/8" thick or thicker, but a sharp knife (I use a strop and white buffing compound) will cut like butter.

I develop patterns using AutoCAD, plot and glue the to cardboard. Intricate patterns are made using adobe Illustrator. I acquired a 24" printer plotter, so full size patterns will be great (when I get a chance to print them!). Pattens are then traced on to the leather using a scratch awl, then cut using a head knife. It is a semicircular blade that cuts curved shapes extremely well.

Finally, the finished back of the case. A front piece is cut to nearly the same width, with a little left on to trim.

I picked up a trick from a leatherworking forum. While trimming edges has always been difficult, I took an old block plane, and sharpened the blade razor sharp. Now, I can trim the edges perfectly, getting the ready to sew and burnish.

Before I trim the edges, I glue the case, install some hardware, then stitch the full length of each side. The corners are then reinforced with rivets. Below, the case is stitched with heavy thread.

Once stitched, the edges are finished and burnished on a spindle fitted with a leather burnishing drum. Actually, not only the are the cases burnished, but all parts cut for the case are burninshed.

Lastly the edges are dyed, ready for installation of the handle or strap.

Once the handle and strap are one, the case gets tubes, and finally the bottom is stitched on by hand. The bottom it cut by hand, glued and stitched. Bottoms are stitched by hand, using a saddle stitch which uses two needles and an awl. It is time consuming, but it really the best way to stitch. I can do them on a machine, but I prefer not to.

Finally, once the bottom is stitched, it gets burnished and dyed. That about it for now. Next time? Maybe some tooling or something...

Thanks for looking.


Friday, August 15, 2008


I mentioned last time that I would go though making handles.

You can get handles basically anwhere, but they usually have poorly made hardware attached, even the ones from the Amish - believe it or not, most of the stuff the Amish sell, they don't make.
Speaking of the Amish... there is a harness shop not too far away from the house. The stuff that they actually do make is really very nice... but most of what is in stock is from catalogs. They do have great prices though. My favorite is watching the yuppie-harley-riding types approach the counter and say "what do you mean you don't take credit cards" and then leave empty handed.

Anyway, enough observations. I make all my handles from scratch. They are simple, but effective. I start with a length of leather - a good firm piece for the strap, usually from the top of the hide. The top starts at the spine, and goes south from there. I then cut a square of thinner 4-5 oz of for the handle itself. Below you can see the two pieces, and a finished handle.

These two pieces get glued, and will have D-rings attached.

After gluing the handle get folded, and then finally stitched. I use the Tippmann for that, since it is the beast of burden. It will sew up to 7/8" thick material. Perfect for handles or really heavy harness stuff. Here's the handle getting stitched.

Once these are stitched, a little tap with a hammer to set the stitches, and it off to be attached. Here you can see a few finished handles for cases currently being made.

They take a little bit of time to make, but it's worth it. I think it adds to the value of the case, knowing how much of it is actually crafted, verses purchased and attached.

That's all for now... next time, cutting the case itself.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Another week gone by...

I was in Florida last week, for the National Board meeting for the Civil Air Patrol. Orlando is nice, but WAY too hot. I'll stick with Central PA for now.
I took some pictures of the shop, and figured I could give everyone a decent view of the dungeon. I have much more room since I moved the pool table, but now I don't have any place to play. Oh well... guess I can always head to the VFW.

Here's a picture of my one bench. Not a lot of space, but since I moved the pool table, I build a new bench that is 4' by 8'. It is nice and heavy and absorbs the impact when hammering rivets and such.

Here's a pic of my tool belt. Custom? You bet... you can't buy these at the big box stores. I couldn't find one I liked, so I made my own ; ).

Here's a pic of the main work area. Basically everything gets cut with a head knife (the moon shaped blade) and the razor knife. I don't use a clicker, like the high priced guys do. One, they are big, and two, I don't need to make cases that fast. If I wanted production, I would move out of my house.

I use the Tippmann Stitcher for sewing handles and really heavy stuff, but that's about it for now. It's anice machine, and allows my to sew super heavy thread, like #346, close to 1 mm in thickness. Everything else though, is all I use to make my cases, an awl, ruler, straight edge, patterns, etc. All hand made, in the USA. Gotta love it.

Here's another pic of the Tippmann.

Here's a picture of the Consew. This thing is a beast, and I love it. The machine itself weighs close to 40 lbs. It will sew anything you can fit under the foot. It is a compound feed machine, meaning the needle moves WITH that material. It allows very fast stitching, with very little needle breakage. I don't use it a full speed, but instead have it geared down with a 6" and a 1" pulley. This allows me to stsitch at about 200 stitiches per minute, significantly less than the 1200 per minute it is capable of. This machine came out of a garmet factory in New York. This is a SOLID Japanese machine.

I just replaced the clutch motor with a new digital servo motor, so maybe I'll post the retrofit.

Well, that's about it for now. Next time? Making handles...


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I'm Back

It's been a month since this thing started, and everything is just as I expected.

I am slowly catching up, since starting a new job, moved a bunch of stuff around in the shop, and still trying to finish about 8 million things around the house. I have a pile of cases slowly going out the door, so if you're wondering where your's is, it is probably in the next batch.

I just finished a recent case for Cuemaker JER of Blackheart cues. It is a basic 2b2s sewn case, with brass hardware. I used Chestnut English Bridle for this one. I think it came out quite nice.

I'll some shop pics soon, with cases made in various stages. I think it will give a nice picture (no pun intended) as to how much work goes into a Nittany Leather case.

I'm off to Florida this week for the National Conference for Civil Air Patrol. Check them out at I'll probably post some pics from on the road. It should be a fun drive.