An avid bowhunter, my father got me interested in leather work at a young age. I’d often watch him repair or improvise his gear with scraps of leather and a crude stitching awl. I dabbled in it through the years as well, and enjoyed making my own knife sheaths, pouches, and other gear. In the last handful of years, I decided to spend more time expanding my tools, techniques, and knowledge. This project is the most ambitious I’ve taken on by far. Many methods in this project were a first for me, and over the nearly four months it took to complete, I learned a whole lot. As is etiquette, finished photos first, then the build, and some action shots to wrap it up.
The first piece I made was the body of the box pouch. I made a wooden form from a piece of 2×4 rounded with a rasp, and a couple scrap pieces of wood. The leather is soaked in water, then shaped around the mold before being clamped into place and allowed to dry. This creates a stiff box.
I spent a long time with this thick, heavy square of leather sitting in my kitchen while I tried to decide what shape I wanted to make the quiver. I got some inspiration online, and drew some curves and cut it out. Then began the stamping process. The leather is dampened with water, and each scale hammered into the soft surface. The scales are kept aligned by a very lightly scribed guide line down the middle. This line disappears by the time the item is finished.
The box pouch removed from the mold and trimmed, stitching groove cut, edges beveled. More stamping. I didn’t stamp the area that the pouch would cover, saved a bit of time.
More stamping, and a border done on the pouch.
Aaaand more stamping. Almost done now. I think this took me about a week, spending some time here and there in the evenings after work. My left thumb tip is still numb a month later, just from holding the stamp.
Stamping done, and the first round of dye applied. The color is oxblood.
Another couple applications of dye, some mahogany airbrushed around the edges, and leather sheen applied as a finish.
I was itching to try lacing for the first time, and decided I could go ahead and do the rim of the quiver at this point. I decided on the “Mexican round braid” technique, it looked the best to me, though was pretty tedious and difficult to get the lacing needle through that very thick leather, twice through each hole.
I also added a concho and leather backing to the pouch. I’m not thrilled with how that backing turned out, but that was the best try out of about half a dozen attempts. So be it.
Time to make the pouch lid. I hemmed and hawed about this one for a long time also, trying to think how to shape leather into a lid that would look the best. I decided I wanted to try combining leather and wood, something else I’d long been wanting to do. The wood is thuya burl, a Mediterranean cypress species. It is loaded with fragrant resin, which smells great but clogs the hell out of everything you use on it. I hadn’t worked with this before, and quickly learned to remember my respirator when using the belt sander on this stuff.
The wood is pretty hard and shaping and sanding took a while. At this point I’m cutting shallow notches in the back of the lid to allow room for the leather hinges I’ll make.
Thyua doesn’t polish up super shiny. I was happy with this result, after several applications and sanding of 50/50 boiled linseed oil and shellac.
Leather hinges cut out, dyed, edged, grooved, glued to lid. Tiny pilot holes were drilled and then the tacks driven in.
Rim of the lid cut out, edged, dyed, ready to be glued.
Gluing the rim to the lid proved to be more challenging than I first thought. It was tricky setting it just right to allow enough space for the tacks, and to prevent spaces between the leather and wood at the top.
I tried everything I could think of to clamp this properly. In the end, I did still get a couple tiny gaps that make my brain itch. Well, it happens I guess. I had thought about filling it in with something, then sanding and dyeing it, but it’s not really noticeable on the final piece. I might go back some time and fix it.
Glue dried, then pilot holes drilled and tacks driven.
The pouch is about done. I forgot to take a photo of riveting on the swing clasp.
The lid hinges are stitched to the quiver, now to stitch on the box. I first tried to cement it on, but the quiver was too flexible and it kept popping off.
So I ended up anchoring the four corners with temporary stitches, which worked well.
But it was still tricky stitching. I punched stitch holes slowly, and only a few at a time to make sure they stayed in alignment.
With the box pouch finished and stitched on, it’s time to close up the quiver. This had to be done in sections because the leather is so thick and stiff. Glue and clamp it together first….
Then get that edge looking nice. Sand, then bevel corners, burnish, dye, mark a groove for lacing, punch lacing slots, and lace it up.
So far so good.
Designing the hangers to attach the belt straps to the quiver. They ended up needing to be quite a bit larger than I thought.
Pattern transferred to leather, cut out, edges beveled, stitching groove cut. Funny thing, I forgot to measure the D rings before I made the hangers, and by some miracle they ended up fitting perfectly.
Stamped, dyed, burnished, stitch holes punched.
Stitched and D rings riveted in.
I attached the hangers to the quiver with Chicago screws, which will allow the hangers to pivot freely.
Making the straps to hang the quiver from the belt.
First strap done. Those eyelets look like garbage on the back. I later replaced them with much nicer ones that have a backing.
It took me a long time searching to find a buckle set for the belt that I thought would do the piece justice. I finally found the perfect one. Well, perfect except for that it only came in brass, which didn’t match the rest of the hardware. I first thought of painting it but decided that would look like crap and chip pretty quickly. So, I decided to electroplate the pieces in nickel. I definitely wasn’t going to spend $500 on an electroplating kit, or however much it would have cost to ship it to a professional. I was going to DIY this thing. I looked up a quick instructable and gave it a shot. Looked pretty simple and straightforward.
This was my first attempt. This was absolute garbage. The instructable left out a lot of important information and I think was meant more as a science fair curiosity than as a crafting technique.
Second attempt. Better, but definitely not acceptable. This just looks like paint.
Seventh attempt? Fourteenth? I lost count. This, I can be happy with.
Deciding to electroplate the belt hardware turned out to be an entire project by itself, which took several weeks of research and many failed experiments. Nickel electroplating techniques and recipes, as I would find, are actually kind of closely guarded secrets of the industry. The professionals I reached out to were reluctant to give me more than vague direction. But, I was determined, and in my determination I accidentally discovered and then improved upon a method to achieve….passable results at a fraction of the cost of a kit. You can find the final method here. I think I spent around $50, most of that going towards a jar of nickel sulfate and a pure nickel electrode. I haven’t seen this technique mentioned anywhere else. It is much cheaper, but more time and labor intensive. I also figured out a way to do a “nickel resist”, in the event you want certain details of your piece to remain un-plated. I wanted to try leaving the recessed area of the details on the buckle in brass, with the raised parts in nickel. It worked great, but I wasn’t a fan of how it looked, too much brass. So I just plated the whole thing.
This is the buckle set as I received it….
And the final result of electroplating after many hours of study and experiments.
Time to make the belt. The final, and biggest, stitch job.
It gets to be meditative, just sitting there and letting your hands go on autopilot and watching them work and make stuff.
Progress photo of the belt.
With the main part of the belt finished, the hardware is glued and then stitched on.
I wanted to dress the belt up a little more and decided to make these…..mmm I don’t even know what you call them. Darts? I’ll call them darts. Designed something simple, cut it out, cut a stitching groove, stamped, beveled edges, punched stitch holes….
Dyed, stitched, burnished, and finish applied. I really liked the saddle tan & mahogany combo above, unfortunately the leather sheen finish spoiled it. Oh well, still looks good.
The darts are cemented and then riveted on.
Adjustment holes punched, burnished, and dyed.
I ended up making a third dart, otherwise this end would have been too plain looking. Also I have the end of this dart folding over under the hooks, which gives a tight fit and helps them grip the other side of the belt better, preventing the hooks from wriggling out of the holes.
It wears well, and comfortably. The combination of Chicago screws and D rings on the hangers make a sort of universal joint, allowing the quiver to move easily.