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Do It Yourself (DIY) Making and repairing of instruments, accessories, and more.

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Old 03-18-2005, 01:12 PM   #1
Sophia
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Default DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

Hi guys, this site has been a lot of help to me already. In fact the only DIY help I've found on the internet. I'd like to handmake an otter-with-head sporran as a wedding present for my future groom. A few months ago, I did not know what a Sporran was, and I have never worked leather.

I know the first step is to buy an otter pelt. Will one be enough? Any idea on where to buy one with the head prepared?

I've gathered from another thread here that the pelt needs some sort of lining. What is the order? Do I glue/stitch the pelt pieces to the leather, and then sew the leather pieces together. Or do I basically make a leather sporran and then glue/stitch the otter on?

How do you sew the pieces together?

I have this pattern bookmarked which is from another thread.
http://www.nwta.com/patterns/pdfs/291sporr.pdf
Would this basic pattern apply for a head-on sporran?

Is the head and the back of the Sporran one-piece?

How do you handle the gussets on a fur Sporran?

Also, we will be going to the Highland games in June. Are there any options I should ask my love about while we are there and I can bring it up subtly.

I'd like to include the two ring wedding symbol somewhere in the Sporran. Any ideas?

Any help y'll can provide will be greatly appreciated.
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Old 03-18-2005, 03:39 PM   #2
Emmet Bondurant
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Default Re: DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

"I know the first step is to buy an otter pelt. Will one be enough? Any idea on where to buy one with the head prepared? "

One will be plenty. I used a woman's red fox fur stole I got off of EBay for $20.00; the head was already taxidermied.

"I've gathered from another thread here that the pelt needs some sort of lining. What is the order? Do I glue/stitch the pelt pieces to the leather, and then sew the leather pieces together. Or do I basically make a leather sporran and then glue/stitch the otter on?"

Yes; the hide isn't tough enough, and needs a leather backing. I essentially made a leather sporran, and then glued the hide to it with Barge Cement. This way, the fur covered the welt. The flap I made, then attatched with rivets.

"How do you sew the pieces together?"

Tandy Leather Company sells a tool that marks a line 1/8" in from the edge, a ponce wheel (looks like a rowel from a cowboy's spur) which I run down that line, marking the holes for the stitching, then I take a hand awl and a big block of end-grain pine, and punch all those holes. I sew with a three-sided sailmaker's needle, a sailmaker's palm, and if necessary, pliers.

"I have this pattern bookmarked which is from another thread.
http://www.nwta.com/patterns/pdfs/291sporr.pdf
Would this basic pattern apply for a head-on sporran?"


The flap should be shaped to the profile of the head. I'd make the body longer, to show more of the fur, but that's largely a matter of personal taste. Do an Internet search for full face sporrans to see different examples.

"Is the head and the back of the Sporran one-piece? "

No; the back is smooth leather, with the flap with the fur and head attatched.

"How do you handle the gussets on a fur Sporran? "

I use garment leather, which doesn't need holes pre-punched in it.

"Also, we will be going to the Highland games in June. Are there any options I should ask my love about while we are there and I can bring it up subtly."

Just make sure he likes head-on sporrans befor you go to that much trouble.

"I'd like to include the two ring wedding symbol somewhere in the Sporran. Any ideas?"

I'd make it out of nickel silver or brass, soldered with silver solder, with tabs on the back that can be pushed through fur and leather and folded over, on the front of the sporran centered below the flap.

My home-made red fox sporran
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Old 03-18-2005, 07:30 PM   #3
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Default Re: DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

Thank you for the answers.

Tandy is still around? They were big in the DFW area, but I thought they went out of business in the 80's.

I know he wants a head-on Sporran, he said he wants an Otter. He has no idea I plan on making it for him. Or even getting one. They are awfully expensive. Maybe I could talk him into a fox or mink one though. I'd have an easier time getting the head that way.

What did you use to secure the flap. Is that a magnetic clasp, like on handbags? Somewhere I saw something about velcro, but that does not make sense for fur.

The rivets you used to attach the flap, that is those chrome circles seen on the back in the photo?

Otherwise, I think I's ready to get started, as soon as I get the otter.
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Old 03-18-2005, 09:23 PM   #4
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Default Re: DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

Heres a couple of places I found recently with skins, The first one has otter. Eidness Furs LEather Unltd.

For a head on sporran it is ideal to inspect/ hand pick the skin. Due to blemishes, and handling many faces are not in the best of shape.

There are a couple of Taxidermy supply places (I dont have links handy) that have the head forms (usualy a "Rug form" will suit the application), jaw sets, fake eyeballs etc.

Quote:
What did you use to secure the flap. Is that a magnetic clasp, like on handbags? Somewhere I saw something about velcro, but that does not make sense for fur.
I might be the dafty responsible for what you saw regarding velcro... Definitly not ideally suited for a fur sporran. Also out of respect for the animal, velcro is not a substance I would bring into the picture. Cow leather is one thing, but an animal skin complete with fur & head is quite another.

I suspect that the head will be heavy enough / have enough "hang" to it, that it will sort of keep things closed as is. My current sporran with the circle of metal spikes is perhaps an extreme example of that, it "hangs closed" just fine.

Magnets might be an option, Lee valley tools has super powerfull rare earth magnets.. unfortunatly credit card strips might not react well. Nor would a "Devil box" (cell phone)

Quote:
The rivets you used to attach the flap, that is those chrome circles seen on the back in the photo?
It looks like that section is riveted to the back. The purpose for that section is so that the strap with the D-rings is covered. Personaly, I simply sew webbing onto the back with my sewing machine.. a luxery one has when you can sew anything that fits under the presser foot.

"garment leather" might also be refered to as "upholstery leather". The upholstery hides I use are the same type leather that many Biker jackets are made from. That type of leather will run about $4 per square foot (if you buy the full hide) the Leather Boutique (Tandy) will charge God only knows what per square inch if you buy smaller qty.
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Old 03-19-2005, 07:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

More good information.

So, if I buy an Otter pelt from someplace like Eidness, I'll need to take it to a Taxidermist to get the head treatment? I live in Texas, Taxidermists we have. Eidness mentions dimensions in nose to tail, so I guess that means the head is there. Darn it, though, I used to travel to Idaho. Could have shopped in person.

In the photo of the fox sporran, there looks like a little circle on the underside of the head near the tip. Looks like a purse clasp. But it makes sense that it would not need a clasp. Also, doing anything to damage the expanse of fur on the front seems like a crime.

That fox sporran sure is beautiful. Unfortunately, it would clash with his favorite red/orangish kilt.

That's good news about the sewing machine. I have a Viking that can sew through two jean seams, so a little thick leather will be no problem. I didn't know if a sewing machine was 'allowed'. I still think I'll hand sew the sides.

On the leather, I can get the soft leather for the gosset at a premier fabric store near me. For the stiff leather, is this what y'll are talking about?

"Chap/Moc Splits Chocolate Brown #9110-01
Our best suede splits, without pinholes or brands, for long-lasting,good-looking chaps,aprons, moccasins and saddle seats. These 4 to 5 oz. splits are buffed to a buckskin-like suede. it is soft, supple, has remarkable wearability. Sold by the skin. Select splits average 11 sq. ft."

What do you do with the leftover fur?
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Old 03-19-2005, 08:22 AM   #6
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Default Re: DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

" What did you use to secure the flap. Is that a magnetic clasp, like on handbags? "

Precisely, available from Tandy Leather Company. The one on the flap must be installed before gluing the head to the leather.

" The rivets you used to attach the flap, that is those chrome circles seen on the back in the photo? "

Yes; With multiple layers of thick leather, sometimes rivets are easier to work with. You'll need a rivet setting tool, again available from Tandy Leather Company. As the sporran was already constructed before the flap was attatched, it was slid over a piece of 2X4 clamped to the bench, with the blade of a wide chisel acting as an anvil.

"On the leather, I can get the soft leather for the gosset at a premier fabric store near me. For the stiff leather, is this what ya'll are talking about?"

No, that probably wouldn't be stiff enough. I'd use heavy top-grain cowhide, about 10 oz. After I cut it to shape, I soak it thoroughly in water and lay it flat to air dry, which makes it even more stiff (the flap I pre-molded to shape while wet, then let it dry). I was fortunate enough to be able to make my patterns and take them to a leather shop where I could rummage through the bins of scraps. I used a "belly"; the piece trimmed off of the bottom of a side (1/2 of a hide). By laying out my pattern pieces on the scrap, I found one big enough to get all the pieces out of it. Got the leather for the gusset, D rings and magnetic catch on the same trip.
Another source you might consider is thrift stores; with patterns in hand, look for boots, handbags, etc. that could be "recycled".

"What do you do with the leftover fur?"

There should be enough for at least one more sporran, this time with a cantle. I've thought of just getting a cheap Pakistani semi-dress black leather sporran off of EBay with a chromed cantle, then gluing the fur to the front, possibly with a red felt welt under the cantle. The tip of a tail could make an interesting hackle (mine's white-tailed deer).
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Old 03-19-2005, 09:32 AM   #7
Rojellio
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Default Re: DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

Quote:
That's good news about the sewing machine. I have a Viking
Viking is definitly top shelf. I dont see a problem there. Its not cheating or anything like that.. Its more a matter of being creative with the tools you have. On just about any DIY project, the tools that are allowed are the ones that you decide will work for the project at hand.

Speaking of sewing, its not a bad idea to do a prototype/practice run on the pattern with some cheap fabric. Just to see how the pieces all fit, and give you an idea what it will look like. You might end up making a few adjustments. This is part of the thinking&measuring process in the golden shop rule "Dream 4 times, think 3 times, measure twice and cut once"

Quote:
On the leather, I can get the soft leather for the gosset at a premier fabric store near me. For the stiff leather, is this what y'll are talking about?
Definitly NO. The soft leather from the fabric store is likely Upholstery hide, it is perfect for the gusset. The heavy leather is about the same thickness, maybe slightly thicker than the leather used on standard trouser belts. Or as metioned by Emmet on Handbags/purses. If you are lucky... the scrap box at the fabric store might have this type of leather.. if you are lucky that day.

Quote:
So, if I buy an Otter pelt from someplace like Eidness, I'll need to take it to a Taxidermist to get the head treatment?
The head should be ready to work with. You could take it to a taxidermist to have them do the work (I think thats what you are asking) To Do it yourself.. the forms, teeth etc can really add up $$$ here is a place I found, to give you an idea on the taxidermy supplies McKenzie Taxidermy supply Basicly, you glue the face to the form (likely a "rug shell") some already have teeth and a nose. IT varies. Unfortunatly... the above place did not seem to have Otter. Of course I didnt look very deep, its still possible they do. The plot thickens... and Craigies pricing on finished product is becoming more clear.
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Old 03-19-2005, 09:35 AM   #8
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Default Re: DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

I'm successfully finishing up my fox-head sporran and, despite some trial and error, am almost finished.

What I did was to take a cheapie leather sporran (about $30 on Ebay), remove the cantle and decorative rivets, and glue the pelt directly to the sporran, effectively "refacing" it with fur instead of leather.

Emmet is quite correct in that the pelt flap, which I riveted to the sporran, needs to be reinforced with a leather flap.

The way I worked out to use velcro is to glue a small (1/2" or so) piece underneath the "chin" of the head where it's concealed. The corresponding piece is glued to a small piece of leather which is riveted on the front of the sporran. It is small enough to be hidden in the pelt, as was stated the weight of the flap mostly keeps it down.

There also needs to be some "training" of the leather flap to keep it in the default folded position.

As far as lining material, I'm using heavy (almost denim weight) cotton cloth fabric available at any fabric store.

The only thing I would do differently is to use less glue; not that it oozed out or anything like that but I used two full tubes of E6000 @ about $6 apiece.

Total cost, about $65:

Sporran $30
Pelt $20
Glue $12
Lining $1.25
Leather
Scraps $free (had some) but estimate less
than $10

I found this easier to do than "build" one from scratch, but if you have access to the leatherworking tools, go for it.

Good Luck,

-NHH
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Old 03-19-2005, 06:00 PM   #9
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Default Re: DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

I built my fox sporran from scratch rather than add the pelt to an already built sporran. I used Live Oak (oak tanned tooling leather from Tandy) for the back, craft leather to stiffen the front and garment leather for the gussets. I had all the other leather from years of making all sorts of craft goodies - moccasins, mukluks, shirts, jackets, belts, gun cases, holsters- the usual mountain man stuff. I got the fox as a lady's handwarmer in a yard sale.I carved a balsa wood Head to fit the face over. One glass eye was missing, so I replaced it with a wee black leather eyepatch- makes for a very rakish character. Picture :
One-Eyed Fergus
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Old 03-20-2005, 02:30 PM   #10
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Default Re: DIY otter head sporran - complete newbie

Goodness, Klondike -- if Joe Battle and Britspit see what you've done they'll be in a frenzy. Your black-patch fox sporran looks like just the thing for the Pipers of Pirate Speak!

Nancy
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