• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 67: The Restoration Period

Updated: Aug 10

Or it could have been called, 'S.O.H' -- Save our Holster. There is quite a large difference between refinishing a holster, which is what I'll speak of here; and repairing a holster or truly restoring a holster. These last two I might leave for another time. And then there are the unsalvageable and mustn't be touched for any of that: those with 'red rot'; this began in the tannery and there is no cure.

This is the holster set that's had its pics sent along to me by my friend Mike Wood at RevolverGuy.Com

It's a Coupeville WA mark so made 1980 to 200 when the operation was shifted out of California, likely to escape the lawsuits that were prevalent against makers of police equipment because holsters aren't really 'riot proof' and shouldn't be, either.

VERY easy to make this nice again yet without addressing any underlying defects in the leather itself. It's just mold. A sponge, warm water and a bit of dishwashing soap or use saddle soap if your'e a purist -- and rub it off. Notice I didn't say 'wash it off' which implies one would use lots of water. Don't use lots of water :-). A wetted sponge, in the warm water which is for the soap not for the leather, then rub it off. Out in a desert somewhere? Just use a shoe brush on it, followed by a teeshirt.

If one were a pro then one would vat dye the holster again, in black dye by Fiebings. If you're not a pro don't bother with the dye, you won't need it. Using it just satisfies a tickle we makers have (those who vat dye that is). Sparks:

So buy a small bottle of Fiebing's 'Tan-Kote'. On the forums I've frequented over the last decade I've encountered many a 'home remedy' for refinishing leather and, fair enough, these chaps really, really believe in their method. But this is a FACTORY method so proven over millions of holsters, not the one old belt passed down from grampa. Who was a dear (mine were anyway).

Get, or use, a pad of real sheepskin, ideally not the electrified kind (where the wool is straightened). A low, curly pile is ideal. I've been known to sacrifice old Ugg boots to these projects! A bit of the TanKote on the pad, rub it in briskly but stop when you see it drying. It contains a lacquer so you will need to stop fairly quickly, and let it dry.

Give it an hour, while you pop down to your shoe repair shop (we have these here, but they don't sell what I'm going to tell you to buy at yours in America) for a can of spray lacquer in black color. This is NOT a paint and it is NOT what's used on upholstery especially vinyl. It dyes and colors at the same time; meaning it penetrates and it flex over time, too. The 'correct' such lacquer will smell quite like hair spray; if it smells disgustingly like something else then it is a paint for vinyl; don't use it.

Now that hour is over, ideally in a warm room, take the holster out to your two car garage or out on to the patio, and you'll spray the holster in a way that you don't now color your wife's sewing table. Or you're a dead man and I won't send flowers. It's not to be applied heavily, but neither is it to be fogged on like hair spray. Do the backside first so you can turn it over almost immediately because lacquer dries THAT fast, and you can spray the frontside. Pay attention to the edges, too?

How long does it need to dry? Well if you've put it on heavily then you'll get runs and you dare not touch the darned thing for hours. But if you've put it on to barely give you the black color and sheen you find acceptable, then you can handle it in 15 minutes and you can wear it in an hour. Ideally you just don't rush things and you wear it tomorrow :-).

The process for brown is the same except you'll use a clear (not a brown!) lacquer. With brown you're going to get, what you're going to get, in the way of an even, delightful color after applying the Tan Kote; but no better. Reapply the Tan Kote more than a second time at your peril.

The Hoyt above was refinished in just this way; it's a Costa Mesa make and has the weird basketweave pattern that Dick Hoyt himself used from Los Angeles onwards.

One can apply clear shoe polish in the future; NEVER use black or colored shoe polish, it rubs off on light colored clothing.

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