Hardening a holster

topic posted Sat, February 7, 2009 - 5:51 PM by  William
Greetings all,
I'm new to this forum thing ,so please bare with me. I looked at some postings about how to harden leather and read the different comments on using wax and hot water. I have a holster I made for pocket carrying a small automatic. I suspect, because I don't know much about leather working, I used a leather that was too thin. The thickness is 5/64 and I made the holster by wetting the leather and molding it around my pistol which I had wrapped in plastic wrap. I did the hand stiching and for me it looks OK. The problem I have is that after a week or so in my pocket the leather is getting soft. My question is, can I wet the holster and then do the Hot Water trick after the holster complete or will it do some sort of wild thing and not be usable? It looked like, from the postings I saw, the leather that was discussed was hardened before it was used. If I read the comments right, I may have to put the pistol back in the holster after it comes out of the hot water to make certain it will not shrink too much. Am I looking at something that is possible or should I go a different route? All comments will be appreciated.
posted by:
South Carolina
  • Unsu...

    Re: Hardening a holster

    Sun, February 8, 2009 - 12:11 PM
    Since my earlier 'holster' postings, i've now made five holsters.... three of them are really nice lol.

    My process went thusly;

    1. soak the leather in COLD water (warm water soaked more quickly but seemed to leech the tanning agent out of the leather, like steeping tea. I can't imagine this is good, so i use only cold water now. Soak it till the bubbles stop coming up, then leave it for another hour or two, which makes it VERY workable.

    2. form and mold it over the gun. My gun was SS, so the plastic bag was not needed.

    3. let it dry overnight and most of the next day

    4. place in the oven at 180-200 degrees F. (you'll probably need to remove the gun for this part) on a cookie sheet which is lined with aluminium foil. The foil will be catching melted leather later so make sure it won't leak onto your wife's fav. cookie sheet or you're busted! don't ask how I know!

    5. While the leather is warming up, heat a fat white dollar-store parraffin candle on the stove till it melts, in a pot you don't really care about. (I've heard this can be dangerous as molten parraffin is highly flammable. Don't heat it any more than necessary for a slow, gentle melt. Don't boil it! just melt it to a clear hot liquid.) remove the whick and the little metal thing that the whick anchors into.

    6. pull the leather out of the oven, and use a tablespoon to drip the molten parraffin onto the hot leather. It should soak in much like water at this point, since the leather is hot and dry. Drip it on there till the holster looks all dark, if there's blobs of parraffin building up on top, that's just fine.

    7. put the holster back in the oven, on the cookie sheet. The parraffin will melt and soak into the leather, fully saturating it. Any excess will drip onto the cookie sheet. leave for about 5 minutes is all.

    8. remove the holster from the oven, hold it so it can drip off for a few seconds. THEN put the gun back in! do it quickly before things cool too much. put it in fully, and press the leather around the gun as it cools, to make sure you get a good fit. It should take just a few minutes to cool enough to become stiff. If I'm feeling impatient I'll stick the whole mess into the freezer to cool it off quicker. I'm usually impatient by this point.

    9. use a clean, soft white rag. Buff and polish the exterior of the leather to a nice, rich brown shine.

    10. take the plastic bag off of the gun, then re-insert the gun into the holster. Admire your awesome handiwork. You may need to remove and insert the gun several times to smooth out the leather interior, some of the little leather 'fuzzies' will have become stiff little nubbins from the paraffin. This will smooth out and wax the inside of the holster, making for a smooth draw, much like tight, well-fitted Kydex.

    Your leather will be really dark compared to what it was, and will buff up to a really proffessional shine. It will also be really stiff and hard, enough to make for easy one-handed re-holstering.

    I would imagine other waxes get different results. beeswax would probably be softer, but i like the hardness of the parraffin.
    • Re: Hardening a holster

      Wed, February 11, 2009 - 9:33 PM
      Thanks for your reply. Sounds like something I need to do when the wife is away. The holster I made is for pocket carry and the rough side of the leather is out so I doubt it will buff out like the ones you are making. I am also concerned about the wax in my pants pocket with the body heat and staining pants. This is why I was thinking about the hot water treatment I have read about. I'm just not certain if I can do either method, without ruining the holster, since I glued the hoster and have already stitched it.
      • Unsu...

        Re: Hardening a holster

        Thu, February 12, 2009 - 5:47 PM
        One of my holsters is an IWB, and I never have problems with melting, or even softening, of the wax or holster. My IWB is shiny-side-out, rough-in, and somewhat of a copy of a milt-sparks 'Versamax II' which he does not make for revolvers, but i needed one for a GP100. having the belt-loops off to the sides does 2 really great things for me.... number one, it eliminates the unecessary thick 'bulge' of having the loop(s) directly over the gun. They are off to the side, so there is no added thickness beyond that of the cylinder diameter. Second advantage is that having two loops so widely spaced apart, makes for a VERY rigid and solid holster position during draw and reholstering. It's like night-and-day compared to any other IWB I've ever seen.

        A final advantage is that the stiffness of the 'wings' off the sides where the loops attach to, helps press the gun into my side, for added concealability. my brother-in-law just bought a mitch-rosen concealment rig, fancy and expensive, and he was quite jealous that I could hide a full-size service revolver better with my homerig, than he could conceal his little glock 19 with the mitch rosen.

        It also makes the leather waterproof (perspiration-proof) and that helps it keep shape in the long run.

        I've never liked the 'rough-out' designs, but they seem better suited to a soft-retention, just sort of a 'pocket for your gun' and not really a nicely boned little holster. In fact yours is the first example i've ever heard of where somebody boned a 'roughout' holster.

        My setup cost me a grand total of about $15.... 13 for a belly of horsehide from the local saddle repair shop, 1 for the parraffin candle, and I'm sure the thread I used counts for some change. It took just a few hours to finish. Now that I know what I'm doing, I could make another in about two hours I think.
        • Unsu...

          Re: Hardening a holster

          Thu, February 12, 2009 - 6:08 PM

          There's mine. I carry it frequently and it's comfortable. Now go back and re-read my post cause now you at least know what I'm talking about when I mention loop placement and 'wings' on the sides.
          • Re: Hardening a holster

            Fri, February 13, 2009 - 11:19 AM
            I decided to give your method a try. My wife was at work, I have my own cookie sheet (I use one when cleaning my pistols - contain my mess and parts), had a couple of candles like you described and melted the wax in an old can (figured it would be best to use stuff I could throw away before wife came home) just in case I messed up too bad. Everything worked just like you described and now I have a HARD holster. I had no idea it would get as hard as it did. I suspect it will soften with some wear but I don't think it will ever print like it did before. I like the color too. Thanks for the help.
            • Unsu...

              Re: Hardening a holster

              Fri, February 13, 2009 - 5:10 PM
              if it starts to break down, just heat it up enough to melt the wax again. Wax 'heals' pretty much indefinitely. Then you're just down to the life of the leather fibers, which will be several years of very gradual wear.

              Occasionally I've done something dumb that squished the leather, or scraped the surface of the holster and left a nasty white scar of damaged wax... just heat it up and cool it down...good as new, everything heals right up.

              Glad i could be of help.
              • Re: Hardening a holster

                Fri, September 28, 2012 - 7:52 AM
                I know this is a few years old, but does anyone else still use the wax method described? I've been working holsters for about a year now and this is the first time hearing about this.
      • Ken
        offline 0

        Re: Hardening a holster

        Sat, February 22, 2014 - 8:02 AM
        You can drip x-tra wax on all visable areas of rough side, then use a buffing wheel ( I use one in a drill press) and buff it. It will not be as shiny as the smooth side but it will make a difference and be smooth to the touch as to not drag on clothing

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