Category Archives: DIY

DIY – Leatherman ALX Sheath

2016-09-30-06-59-58I’ve been wanting to do this project for a while.  After my last factory sheath died a horrible death on my belt.  I decided I wanted to build one myself.  I didn’t like the sheaths that were available in other materials besides leather.  But the leather sheaths I found were either custom, and far too expensive for me (Even though I would LOVE to have some of them) but also, the factory sheath didn’t have the features I wanted.  So I set about and designed one of my own.

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This is what I came up with.  Unfortunately I didn’t document the process, I was just in a hurry to knock it out and get it back on my belt.  I had missed it for quite a few months.

The leather is not as heavy as I would like.  This is about 3oz leather.  A heavier 5 oz would be better.  But this is scrap I had laying around (Did I mention I’m a cheapskate LOL).

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The most important thing I wanted was to be able to carry the bit kit with it.  In my first Leatherman sheath the bit kit rode in the sheath in a similar manner, but was always getting stuck and difficult to pull out.  After that sheath broke, the canvas sheath had a stretch fabric to hold the bit kit and the corners of the bit kit tore it up really fast.

This is hand punched and hand stitched.  The snap was from a kit.  This is just the prototype and it has a tiny bit more play than I intended.  So the next will be a tad bit tighter.  I did wet-form it around the weatherman wrapped in a Ziploc bag to get some definition to the sheath, but it could stand to be a tad bit tighter.

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I didn’t have the bottom cut out as I intended to have it sealed, but once I started stitching I discovered that that would not work.  So I cut a half moon on the bottom and that corrected it.  Due to this modification, the Leatherman can be carried opened up in the pliers configuration.

The stitching is done with a waxed natural hemp cord.  This stuff is very strong for it’s size and has the more natural look than modern threading.  I died the leather with a Sedona Red stain.  Helps protect it and the deep redish color makes it fit in well with bot jeans and my dress clothes for work.

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I also extended the belt loop up  a bit. Both of the old sheaths rode high on the belt and would occasionally poke into my side sitting in chairs or in the car.  This longer loop allows it to dangle down a tad bit more and has a little more flexibility.  Much more comfortable to wear.

I did stamp my initials on it, but did not do it very deep.

I’m going to duplicate this sheath with some heavier leather.  This was just the practice and concept version.

It’s obviously nothing fancy.  None of the refinement you’ll see in leather goods produced by true craftsman.  But it gets the job done and as in life, everything is a learning process. You don’t have to be an expert.  You just have to make the effort.

This is also proof that anyone can do this.  A leather punch, some thread, a sharp knife (I use the Tibo from the previous review for all my leather work) a big needle and some cheap scrap leather and anyone can do it.  I learned a few things building this, and when I do the next one, it will be better, and each time I do something after that, it will be better.  So keep working on your projects, they will improve.  I have no talent when it  comes to crafts like this.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  Pick up some scrap leather and start playing with it.  Make a small bag, or a phone cover or something simply just to get started.  Before you know it, you’ll be making really useful stuff that will last a lifetime.

Hope this inspires you to get out there and build something.

Doc

 

 

 

 

 

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DIY Tarp Camping

I’ve spent a lot of time camping over the years, starting out tenting it with my parents as kids, with my friends when we were younger, then 8 years starting when I was 17 (Yeah, had to get parents’ permission to join LOL) 4 active Army, 4 National Guard) in mostly canvas, with 6 to 9 month of the year in the field.  I did a little hammock setup with a cover about a half dozen times back in 93 to 95 or so, but me and hammocks just don’t get along, I’m a belly sleeper, never could sleep a whole night in one.

Basic Configuration.  4 poles 6 stakes  (Can add two more guys to the front poles if really windy).

Basic Configuration. 4 poles 6 stakes (Can add two more guys to the front poles if really windy).

My first tarp camping experience was a week in Italy at Camp Darby.  I didn’t want to spend 7 bucks a day renting a tent when I could rent a tarp for $1 a day.  So my buddy and I grabbed this huge 12 x 18 tarp and made a makeshift tent out of it.  We got lucky it never rained or stormed as the setup was really flimsy, but it worked perfectly.  See the pic.  The front and back were both open to allow the air through.  But the makeshift poles (Stick with a shirt on top so it wouldn’t poke a hole in the tarp) kept falling down.

My first ever Tarp setup.  Circa 1991 or so.  Not pretty but the money I saved on a tent bought me lots of beer.

My first ever Tarp setup. Circa 1991 or so. Not pretty but the money I saved on a tent bought me lots of beer.

After getting out of the Army I had mostly tent camped (Heck even had my first son out camping when he was only 4 months old LOL).  I have tossed out on the ground many times over the years next to a fire and watched the stars, then crawled into a tent if it rained, but about 6 years ago I decide to do some tarp camping and try to come up with something that worked better for me.    I wanted to be able to enjoy the night without a cover, but have it available if I needed to get under cover for the weather but keep it as simple as possible.

The first couple tarp setups I used I didn’t care for.  Just too claustrophobic and were too much like tents, took too much effort to get back into and out of it if it rained.

For hot weather to increase air flow front to back, I add a small post to the rear.

For hot weather to increase air flow front to back, I add a small post to the rear.

So I settled on the classic lean-to style.  Then it was just a roll in, roll out.  Best of both worlds.  Over the years I tweaked the lean-to.  I salvaged 4 aluminum poles form an old tent set that are just about the right high. (I’d like them about 6 inches taller but they work well).   If I need to save weight, I can just cut sticks in the field.

I used 2 trekking poles for this configuration.  This is my typical lightweight version.

I used 2 trekking poles for this configuration. This is my typical lightweight version.

I use a 4 pole lean too, to give myself a little more “Working” room.  The long slope in the back is perfect for storing gear and this 10 x 10 tarp gives plenty of room.   My 8 year old has been sleeping under this thing with me since he was 2 also, he’ll cry and get upset if you try to make him sleep in a tent most of the time.  (He does have his own tent, but only used it twice.)

Left side down to give better wind rain protection.

Left side down to give better wind rain protection.

Both sides down to give a more cave/tent like protection. (Note, you could hang another tarp off the two front poles and seal the whole thing up pretty well.)

Both sides down to give a more cave/tent like protection. (Note, you could hang another tarp off the two front poles and seal the whole thing up pretty well.)

One of the tweaks I like about this tarp setup is, if the weather does get really heavy or the wind switches directions, it can push rain right in under the tarp.  (This has happened 4 or 5 times in the last 6 years).  If it’s heavy enough, I can just pull the 2 side poles from one end and move one of them to the middle, then push the corner steak into the ground and presto, a full wall from one side.  I can also do the same on the other side and have a nearly enclosed lean-to.  I do have to admit I’m lazy and have only folded the side down once.  Mostly because I’ve worked out a ground cover “Burrito Roll” that works so well I don’t have to reconfigure the tarp, even in some spectacularly nasty weather.

On the ground cover, fold the corner of the base in.  This allows overlap of the upper cover to prevent funneling water into your gear.

On the ground cover, fold the corner of the base in. This allows overlap of the upper cover to prevent funneling water into your gear.

There are a couple of little tricks to this setup.  First.  You need to fold the inside corners of the ground cover tarp in (Up or under, doesn’t really matter).  What this does is prevent under-lap of the burrito role tarp.  If you pull the tarp over you during the rain, if there is under-lap, it will funnel water into the burrito.   I don’t normally stake the far corner down unless the wind is blowing in from the foot area.  If it is, then I just sit up and put a stake in the far corner.  (I’ve never had to do it, but if it blows hard enough directly at the foot, I have a couple extra grommets I can put extra stakes in to really seal the foot down.  By the time a cyclone force winds are pushing rain up that, it’s time to seek out a cave anyway LOL.

I accordion fold the leading edge, this keeps it dry and when the rain starts blowin, it is easy to pull over me.

I accordion fold the leading edge, this keeps it dry and when the rain starts blowin, it is easy to pull over me.

I also have a “Boat Bag” I picked up brand spankin new at Goodwill for $3.88 a couple years ago. (One of the best buys of my life).    It’s my favorite camping bag, even more so than my backpacks.  I mostly use it when car camping, but even for short hikes under full gear, I can sling it and carry it if I need to.  But this bag acts like a barrier at the head of the burrito roll.  Then I can throw the top of the burrito roll over the bag and tuck it under to create a perfect water tight seal from the top.  Thus leaving the entire side facing the back of the lean-to open to breath.  I’ve been through 1 particularly nasty windy storm (not including the one I dropped the side for) but it lasted no more than an hour) and I stayed perfectly dry.

Yes poly is a bit noisier than other materials.  (I still love canvas. My absolute favorite sound in the world is the rain on canvas) Polly is 100% water proof and can be used for things like a water basin to hold water, it can even be used to make

When I'm not at the camp site, I can cover all my gear and stake the burrito down.  I know it will all be dry when I return later.

When I’m not at the camp site, I can cover all my gear and stake the burrito down. I know it will all be dry when I return later.

a boat so it has some really great side functions.   For me, the poly works wonders.  Properly tensioned it can take quite a bit of abuse.  I’ve taken good care of my cover tarp and its lasted 6 years, through a roughly estimated 200 days of camping including 4 or 5 good storms.  It is wearing out though, I’ve lost 3 grommet holes and it’s faded to a color of nearly robin egg blue from the original dark blue, but it’s still going.   I am going to retire it and replace it for this year’s Scout Summer camp in 2 months.   Not bad for an $8 tarp.

I've lost 3 grommets in 6 years so I'll be retiring it soon.

I’ve lost 3 grommets in 6 years so I’ll be retiring it soon.

My two older boys have been tarp camping about as long as I have now, and they still like the simplicity of the single pole design, but my oldest boy just tosses out on the ground his military sleep system most of the time.  Gortex cover keeps him dry.

It's getting a little thin from use and UV damage.

It’s getting a little thin from use and UV damage.

If you want an inexpensive way to test the waters of tarp camping, you can’t go wrong with a poly tarp.  $8 per tarp, $3 for a set of stakes, and a $3 roll of cordage and you’re in.  Hope you enjoy your experimenting as much as I have.  But above all else, get out there and camp and have fun.

Here are a bunch of pics from other styles we’ve used and the styles my boys still use over the years.

The quick and easy single pole.  This works very well in heavy weather.  Both boys have slept through storms in this configuration

The quick and easy single pole. This works very well in heavy weather. Both boys have slept through storms in this configuration

My oldest boy and one of his setups.  This was great util it stormed,  the rain shifted and came straight under the opening.

My oldest boy and one of his setups. This was great util it stormed, the rain shifted and came straight under the opening.

This was at -19.  I hung a sweater over the top end to help seal it up.  Got a good night sleep.

This was at -19. I hung a sweater over the top end to help seal it up. Got a good night sleep.

Scout camp a couple years ago.  The tent was just to store gear and change clothes.  All the scouts slept under tarps.

Scout camp a couple years ago. The tent was just to store gear and change clothes. All the scouts slept under tarps.

Middle boy used this pole-less configuration.  Worked great.  The ground cloth was pulled under when he was done setting up.

Middle boy used this pole-less configuration. Worked great. The ground cloth was pulled under when he was done setting up.

This is why I like this configuration.  My youngest boy and I can watch the starts, and if it rains.  I just climb under the lean-too and pull the whole kit under, kid and all. LOL

This is why I like this configuration. My youngest boy and I can watch the stars, and if it rains. I just climb under the lean-to and pull the whole kit under, kid and all. LOL

You can see the burrito roll.  When I'm not at camp this keeps the gear dry.  (There was no rain so I didn't pin the ends down.  Middle boy did a tie off to a tree again.

You can see the burrito roll. When I’m not at camp this keeps the gear dry. (There was no rain so I didn’t pin the ends down. Middle boy did a tie off to a tree again.