Hello, Tritium!

DISCLAIMER: I do not condone nor endorse installing parts or accessories on a firearm that were not specifically designed for it. If and when I do so, it is at my own risk. If you make a decision to do something similar, it is similarly at your own risk and has nothing to do with me.

The local gun range was clearancing out a bunch of their wares because apparently they had to make some extra space so they can do some construction. We’ve been taking The Kiddo up there on Monday evenings for air rifle training. Since we were there, we decided to check out what they had on clearance. The big clearance shin-dig happened last week sometime, and we deliberately didn’t go.

As both of you probably know, money has been tight recently. Sales on The Holster Site have been slow, which is normal for a brand-new business. Still, the rationalization of the facts unfortunately does not pay the bills. We didn’t really want to get tempted to blow our grocery money on the great deals, so we avoided the main sale event.

They had the dregs of the clearance items in one corner of the facility when we were there yesterday. Since this is like the ‘third-day-garage-sale’ stuff, we decided to give it a quick look. We probably shouldn’t have, but SCORE!!!!

Tritium pistol sights! We had been wanting to get some night sights for our S&W M&P’s! They didn’t have any to fit the M&P, but they had them to fit some of the older Smith pistols. I thought to myself (or possibly out loud – sometimes I get confused), “How many different dovetails could Smith & Wesson possibly cut into their slides?” I unloaded my M&P45c to compare. At a precursory glance, it looked darned close! It might be worth the gamble to get a couple sets! How much of a gamble though?

Not the $115.00 original price, not the $20.00 marked down price, but a mere $5.00! Worth the gamble? Oh hell yeah. Does it hurt the budget? Only nominally. So, we got the stuff home and I went about seeing if everything would fit right. Here’s what came in the kit:

The front sight is actually marked with the Trijicon logo and has the white ring around the tritium tube. The rear sight has the v-shaped sight groove highlighted with a trijicon ‘I’ to dot with the front sight. (I haven’t been crazy about the three-dot stock sights on my M&P anyway.) You can see the kit also came with an allen wrench to stake the rear down, some generic thread locker, and a plastic drift that feels and smells like Delrin. I know it’s weird to describe a polymer by its smell, but there you have it.

The front sight was slightly taller than the stock blade, but would slide into the end of the dovetail securely. Since it was taller though, if I tried to use it with my stock rear, it would make my POI low. We can’t have that! So, I decided the only rational thing to do was to pull my factory rear and see if I could get the XS on there. The M&P series pistols have a strange little block mechanism in the slide that is spring-loaded against the rear sight. So unless you are careful, it will come apart like a Chinese watch. The guy in this video shows us all about it except how to get the thing back together:

I didn’t need help taking it apart though! Once I had the stock sight removed, I compared the two. The one on the right with the one set screw is the stock sight. The one on the left with two set screws is the tritium.

Looks close enough to me! So I hammered the replacement sight into place and cranked down on the set screws. Then I proceeded to remove the front sight.

They look pretty close too!

This actually gave me more problems than I like to admit. It wanted to catch towards the middle of the dovetail slot on the slide. So, I’d have it almost tapped into the center and it would pop across to the other side. It was horribly frustrating. Eventually, after cussing and tossing my hammer and some deep breathing, it centered for me.

I went to reinstall the slide on the frame only to find that the little block dealy from the video that sits under the rear sight would not compress and allow the slide to clear. Apparently, the spring was bound up inside the hole. So, I pulled the rear sight back off, shot the spring into a mystery location until Jenni helped me find it, let her wrestle with the spring for a while and eventually put everything down. I was pretty well resolved that it wasn’t going to go together that evening. That’s okay.

Then we had to give it one more try. I pushed up on the thingie from the underside of the slide and used my finger to compress the spring completely into the hole. I then slid the disk over it, keeping pressure on the underside to hold the two pieces flush with the spring compressed. That allowed me to get the rear sight slid far enough on that I could let go and tap it into place. Then the slide went on and the pistol functioned almost normally. Almost.

Remember how the original rear sight had one set screw in the middle and the replacement has two? One of those set screws strikes the little disk that holds the little spring. With the set screw torqued down it was pushing the disk and distorting the spring so that the slide and trigger didn’t want to play nice with each other. But, I was undeterred for two reasons. 1 – The replacement was actually a far tighter fit than the original. 2 – The original only had one screw holding it down – I’m sure this one will be fine with just one screw too. I simply backed off the offending screw and checked everything else for tightness.

And, the results? Voila!

I wouldn’t believe they weren’t intended for that gun if I had to take someone else’s word for it.

Now, these had been sitting on a shelf for quite some time. So, a very valid question is do they still work? Let’s see that last sight picture with the lights off.

That ought to make it easier to sight the gun in near-dark conditions! We got two sets of these, one for Jenni and one for me. When I finally got the set installed on my pistol, it was far to late to think about doing the same thing to Jenni’s. Maybe I’ll install hers this evening.

DISCLAIMER REPRISE: Don’t try this at home! Just because I did it does not make it advisable or a good idea.

No, not here

Over there. It’s like this.

M.D. Creekmore at The Survivalist Blog – a survival blogdedicated to helping others prepare for and survive disaster – with articles on bug out bag contents, survival knife choices and a wealth of other survival information is giving away a 1,000 round case of 9mm – 124 Grain FMJ (a $200 value – donated byLuckyGunner)! To enter, you just have to post about it on your blog. This is my entry. Visit The Survivalist Blog for the details.

Sewing Machines & New Products

Some people (and you know who you are) have been bugging me to see the new, non-holster wares that I’ve been working up. I was kind of dragging my heels on this until I had a few examples of stuff that I’ve done for review. So, without further delay – Lady and Gentleman, the original prototype designs from Haute Couture Leather and Sac De Cuir by Michael…

Part 1: Sewing Machines

Well, maybe just a little delay… In all fairness, I have to give a little disclaimer/back-story before proceeding. When I got the sewing machine, I jumped right in and attempted to start making leather bags. I knew that the first one wouldn’t be perfect. Heck, I didn’t know anything about sewing! The ‘practice’ or ‘learning’ leather that I originally bought are four upholstery hides. These are not top-grain hides, mind you, but they are what is called a ‘finished split.’ This material is still attractive, but it is not nearly as tough as top-grain leather, which is the material from the top of the hide, as you might infer from the name. Split is more of an under layer of the skin. Usually split looks like a suede, but they will apply a finish to it which makes it look like grain, and that is an excellent, economical material for upholstery or other applications where you may want the beauty of leather, but it doesn’t need to be as tough as grain leather.

The first couple of ‘bags’ that I made were not ready for prime time. They were valuable classes in the School of Hard Knocks. Because I’ve been letting the creative juices flow freely, and unabashedly sewing away with all kinds of materials, I’ve quickly gone from not knowing beans about sewing all the way to producing viable products that have piqued the interest of those that see them.

I told you about the Juki industrial walking foot machine that I purchased. That machine is a brutal beast. At first, I kind of hated her. The machine stitches 1,800 stitches per minute and operates full-throttle on a clutch motor instead with a throttle-controlled foot pedal like a home machine. As in, it is either on or off. There is no slow going with it. It pulls like a horse. It will stitch through pretty much any material from light weight cloth all the way up to bone (I have heard stories). Imagine learning to drive on a supercar that runs either throttle open or throttle closed. Wrecks are inevitable. After using it for long enough, I have eventually learned how she works. Now, I’m beginning to enjoy stitching with this machine. That being said, I quickly learned that she shines on the heavier material. Although she is capable of stitching lighter fabrics with lighter threads, the settings to do so are touchy. It would be a major slow-down to go between light materials and heavy materials and back just because of all the setting adjustments and everything. It quickly became clear that I needed a light-duty machine.

Jenni and I have tended to be pack rats in the past. We don’t drag crap home like we used to anymore. Now, if we don’t have a clear and present need for whatever the object is, it’s not coming home with us. There was a point in time that we had three dining room tables. We don’t have a singular dining room to speak of. Jenni inherited her grandmother’s sewing machine – a Pfaff 130. I inherited my grandmother’s sewing machine – an Adler 589A. We still wound up picking up three other vintage sewing machines since then – two of which we believed to be a pair of Singers, but turned out to be a Singer model 66 made in 1926 and a similar vintage Japanese knock-off. The third machine was a Kenmore made by the White Sewing Machine Company in the thirties. This is a bizarre straight stitch sewing machine that actually spins backwards from anything else I’ve ever seen.

As far as I’m concerned, Jenni’s Pfaff is out of the question for my purposes. Although the Pfaff 130 is widely considered the toughest dressmaker machine ever made, I very simply will not risk breaking her grandma’s machine. When I got into my grandma’s Adler, I found that the timing belt has rotted out. Where we stand with it right now, I can order the belt out of Germany for some $35.00 (which I don’t really have right now), and anybody that can work on the thing is apparently dead. I’m hunting for a service manual for it to see if I can perform the replacement myself. I’m mechanically inclined and don’t see how it could possibly be all that complicated. If I had properly documented instructions, I ought to be able to git-er-dun. But, I can’t very well count on that for my upstart business either.

We douched out the old Kenmore with Gun Scrubber and reoiled it. The machine is strong. I need to rebuild the light, but it happily stitches through over 3/8-inch of calf or pig skin. Since I learned to hang on to my material tightly running the Juki, I wound up thinking that the Kenmore wouldn’t stitch a straight line, and concluded that the feed-dogs were worn out. So, I shelved it and got out the two ‘Singers.’

I quickly discovered that the one was a cheap, Japanese knock-off of a Singer and that the bottom end of it was rusted solid. So, I salvaged the motor off of it and threw the rest of the head in the dumpster. After a little research, I discovered the other to be a Singer Model 66 from 1926. I douched it out with Gun Scrubber and thoroughly oiled it. When I went to stitch with it, it reduced its motor wiring to a smoking, gooey mess. I replaced its motor with the one off the Japanese knock-off. It worked like a charm! We purchased extra bobbins and a light bulb for it. The check-out girl at the cash register asked us what we were working on. We told her a Singer 66. Even though the bobbin package was labeled ‘Singer 66’, the check-out girl seemed surprised. Apparently, this machine has been the benchmark for many machines in the last century. As I continued working with it, I found that it was skipping stitches. The hook is damaged. I can get a new hook for about $20.00, and replacement doesn’t look fun, but certainly more straight-forward than the timing belt on the Adler.

I started thinking that I needed to get a zig-zag machine going for some of my finer work. My mom has a Bernina 830 record that her mom bought for her in 1978. That has always been a fine, well-used machine. In fact, her mom purchased five copies of this machine at the same time in 1978. They were gifts to her daughters and daughters-in-law. Since this machine has a bit of a track record in my family, I decided to see what I could get one for. They seem to be selling on ebay for between $500 and $800. I found one that had been dropped and had some cosmetic damage for $200. I had just brought in some money for a job that I’d just completed, so after thorough investigation and research, I purchased the machine.

The Bernina 830 is a great machine, and will serve me well when I need a zig-zag. But, the model is really not capable of running some of the thread materials and weights that I want to with a light machine. So, although not exactly what I was hoping it would be, it promises to have a place in the industry that I’m currently setting up. Plus, it has a damaged hook, so it skips some stitches. The hook costs $70 and takes two seconds to install. I have used it on several of my projects, and will continue to use it, but I’m honestly looking forward to replacing it with better equipment.

I went back to the Kenmore for my light-heavy-duty (if that makes any sense at all.. medium duty?) work. Now, I’ve discovered that it stitches perfectly straight if you work with it instead of fighting it like you have to with a true industrial walking foot. The feed dogs are nice and sharp, but I was pulling the fabric and fighting the feed without realizing it. Frankly, I can see a place for all three – the Singer, Kenmore/White, and the Bernina. I still want to get my Adler fixed and Jenni will keep her Pfaff. Basically we have six goram sewing machines in this house that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’d really like to find one machine that will do what all three of these will. Until I can afford that, I’m stuck with the three. *Sigh…*

Part 2 – Goods

Alright! Here are the goodies! After fighting and cursing with my first few prototype bags, I got pissed off and made a realization. I get too elaborate. The first couple of concepts were simply too complicated for me to do right the first time around. After much cussing and throwing and hating the world, I decided to go back to basics. What’s more basic than anything else in the realm of a hand bag? How about a checkbook cover?

This one is made of red upholstery leather and lined in black pig skin. It is stitched together in Kevlar thread. We are actually using it for our checking account.

It’s possible that both of you have seen the picture of my trifold wallet on MyFace.

This one is lined in pigskin with pigskin pockets. But, the shell is in a carbon fiber/Kevlar twill cloth.

The entire thing is stitched together in Kevlar thread. This one is a promo piece for one of my buddies to take to his auto clubs. I’m sure they will want it badly.

Of course, I had to do a little testing on the concept for myself. Here’s a pic of the wallet that I’ve been carrying in the same materials:

I don’t carry a billfold. Here’s the interior of the wallet:

Behind the cards, there is a bill pocket on the left and another long pocket on the right. I have done a couple of hat bands as well. Here’s one that I did for a Marine friend of mine:

The hat is mine, and here’s the hat-band that’s normally on it. (Also made by me):

But, I know Falnfenix didn’t come here to read all about the sewing machines I’ve accumulated, or to look at pics of wallets and hat bands. She wants to see purses! Here is the first bag that I will reluctantly let see the light of day:

This one is lined in matching red wool under the red leather and red zipper (going for a theme):

The closed-end braided strap attaches to the bag with beautiful, round, nickel buckles:

Overall the bag is about 13-inches wide.

Next, I decided to design and sew a mini-messenger satchel. This is what Jenni is currently carrying, and it is incidentally my second prototype:

Much like the first, I attached the strap with nickle buckles.

The robin’s egg blue exterior is nicely balanced by the genuine silk fuchsia lining. Load-bearing side seams are stitched in heavy Kevlar thread and all the black top stitching is in top-quality, bonded nylon.

I attached pockets that hang from the top in the same leather as the shell.

There are three of them in there in different sizes.

This is the foreshadowing of what I’ve got up my sleeves. I can say with absolute certainty that these things will greatly improve quickly, but this is what I’ve got to offer right now. If there is anything that you specifically want in a top-of-the-line leather product, feel free to contact me.

Holster Update

I just posted a new entry on The Holster Site concerning feedback from the people that wear my holsters. Although I’ve been making holsters for a few years, right now sales are slow. I’m trying to remain realistic about it though. In any practical sense, I’ve only been in business for about five weeks. The fact that I’ve made any money at all is pretty fantastic, actually. But, it can be pretty easy to temporarily lose perspective and freak out.

I find it to be much like the attitude it takes to quit smoking. When someone is puffing away on a cancer stick, it’s really easy for them to say that they will quit. They can envision it – putting the pack down and never picking it up again. Sure, they would miss it, but it seems like it should be so easy when they are actually in the act of smoking. But, when they get an hour or two after when they normally would have had that last cigarette, the heart rate increases and they feel nervous. Ask them about quitting at that point and you may induce a full-on panic attack! When Jenni and I decided that I should pursue my own business full-time, we very realistically acknowledged that things could be tight for the first couple of years, and that we were willing to work through that. But, five weeks into that decision and I find it really easy to get twisted over the lack of sales.

Attempting to branch out into other products is starting to look like a successful endeavor. I am about to nail this handbag deal – I’ve actually come up with a couple of viable prototypes! I’m currently wearing my Surefire G2 in a leather belt holster that I made for it. I’ll be posting pics of that before long. the coolest part is that it would be incredibly easy to alter the design to carry a can of OC spray. I’m thinking of maybe setting up a rig that has two holes in it – one for your light and the other for your pepper. I’ve also been carrying one of my new carbon/Kevlar wallets and have been taking notes on making it a real full-production item. I’m figuring out where it wears and where it doesn’t. Where it does wear needs to be fixed before I can offer it.

As of yet, the carbon fiber and carbon Kevlar have far exceeded my expectations of their performance. For that matter, all of the new materials that I’ve been experimenting with have been fantastic! You have to have special cutting tools for some of the stronger composites, as if that’s any surprise. The surprising part is that it’s not necessarily what you would think. In anticipation of the cutting challenge presented by Kevlar cloth, I purchased Gingher’s G12 industrial Shears. Although they work really well on the carbon fiber cloth, they won’t cut the Kevlar. For the carbon Kevlar cloth, the two tools that I’ve discovered work are Ginger’s 4-inch embroidery scissors and an Olfa rotary cutter. So, the industrial shears wouldn’t cut the industrial material, but embroidery scissors and quilting cutters will. I need to look at more crafter’s tools. Apparently, they’re a lot tougher than I have given them credit for.

I still need to set up the website for the bags and stuff, but I’m having a hard enough time keeping up with my posting here and at The Holster Site. I’m going to need to really set up a hard schedule if I’m going to keep track of three websites! Besides that, I’ve got to make sure that I’ve got product to put on the website!

On a household note, the car needs tires and an exhaust and a little body work, and we’re still paying on it for another year. That’s got me a little freaked right now. We are long overdue for a range session but it’s really hard to justify the expense of the ammo and stuff at the moment. We’re also long overdue for a vacation, but without a decent laptop, we can’t even consider the old road-trip-to-family-in-the-next-state budget vacation. There are lots of things that I would like to be able to afford right now, but there’s just no way. I guess I should write down a list for when things aren’t so tight. This can’t last forever afterall.

I know that with one big break, things could radically change for the better. If I could outsource production and basically just be a designer, that would be wonderful! At that point in time, I imagine that I would think back on the present with fond nostalgia. Well, wish me luck and keep praying for me.

Whew! That was close!

If any of you have been following the news, you know that we in Central Oklahoma have spent the last couple of days getting drenched by several storm’s worth of rain. Fortunately, we’ve stayed relatively dry here in the Evyl Robot Empyre. It was A LOT of rain. The neighborhood streets were flowing yesterday, but it never did get over the top of the curbs on our street.

The sound of rain is relaxing. There’s no better sedative for me than a good downpour. Usually, when it’s raining while I’m in bed, I sleep harder than any other situation. On Sunday night, probably about one in the morning, there was a thunder crack that rattled the entire house for several seconds. Jenni and I both woke up and laid in the dark, listening.

I’m not sure specifically what we were listening for – just anything odd. We listened for any evidence that we needed to crawl out of the warm bed to patch a window, lash a tarp over the open corner of the living room, pry the car out of the front door, etc. Besides the dull roar of the falling rain, all was quiet. It certainly was an electrical storm, with cracks and growls of thunder all night. In fact, I keep hearing gentle thunder this morning even.

Yesterday morning, we made a more thorough assessment of the possible damage. Peeking out the back window, we could see that all the vegetation was intact, if not wading in a pond that didn’t belong there. Peeking out the front, we could see our unmolested Bradford pear tree, and beyond it, the river in the street. Jenni prepared to go to work, and I got ready for my day. When it was time for her to leave, I walked her out to the car. Once we got past the Bradford pear, we say this directly across the street:

DSCN1325

If that was the lightning we heard in the night, no wonder it was so loud in our house! On the up-side, I don’t think that the neighbor’s truck actually took any damage – I haven’t seen any dents on it anyway. And, the breakage on the tree looks like it will grow in well.

On a side note, after making my commitment to post here weekly, I apparently didn’t post last week. So, I owe you an extra this week. That’s okay though, because I think I know just what I’m going to tell you about…

I’ve made a commitment

To both my readers, I’m sorry. I’ve been a terrible blogger over the last few months. Towards the end of 2009 and even into the beginning of 2010 I got to the point that I was posting a new blog entry almost every day. Somewhere in the mess of life, I fell off and now you’re lucky to hear from me on a monthly basis. But, that’s all going to change.

I’ve made a personal commitment to update my personal blog at least once a week, and my business website at least twice a week.. Once I can get into that habit, I’d like to do even better than that. I’ve been busy, life has been a whirlwind, but that’s still no excuse. I know that both of you depend on my wit for your entertainment (or something like that), and I will let you down no longer!

Quick update –

1 – I’m finally beginning to learn how to really use the new sewing machine. She’s a brutal beast with a mind of her own, but I’m starting to actually feel comfortable!

2 – Not counting the above mentioned machine, I think that I’ve actually made more money than I’ve spent on my current self-employment venture over the last two weeks!

3 – I promised new and exciting products that push the envelope, and those products are coming together.

4 – Kevlar is a tough material to cut – even with the mightiest of shears!

5 – When I initially lost my job at the beginning of the year, at two weeks in I was freaking out. I gave up a good job opportunity two weeks ago and I’m feeling calm and confident. Making the choice makes a big difference.

So, thank you for your continued support. If you need leather goods, I need work to do. Give me a shout. You won’t be disappointed!