Considering a sewing machine for sheaths

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
For my entire career, I've always hand stitched all my leather sheaths..... I've spent the last week sewing sheaths for Blade Show knives, and between the amount of time I've spent, and the damage my hands have endured (my hands are so cut up and sore that I can't even hold onto a file), I'm considering a leather sewing machine.

Several time during my career, I've experimented with "farming out" my sheaths, but in ever case have been disappointed. The sheaths I've gotten have either been made out of overly light weight leather, been very generic in nature, or just plain didn't look like they belonged with the associated knife. Some say I'm overly anal, but then again, that's just me. I can't imagine being any other way when my name is on the products.

I've always been one to tell others to save up and buy the best equipment, so with that in mind, and after searching, it seems there is only on real option..... https://www.leathermachineco.com/products/cobra-machines/ I considered the Tippman Boss, but there isn't much comparison..... back to getting the best equipment for the job.

All that being said, I'm interested to hear the opinions of others, especially any who have had personal experience with leather sewing machines.
 
I had some experience many years ago with heavy duty sewing machines. The problem with the machines that sew what we used to call 6-cord is they worked fine on webbing, but the feed dogs and presser feet would mark leather.

Tandy sells a hand operated machine designed for heavy leather work. It looks good, they usually have a demonstrator set up in their stores. It is the USA made Tipman Boss Leather Sewing Machine. If you have the business pricing, the price is $1295.00.

You got to make a lot of sheaths to pay for it, but it is a tax deductable expense if you are doing this as a business. Figure about $200 over 6 years- probably worth it.
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
Ed for the exact same reasons I am in the process of buying a machine...(mine is diabetic neuropathy)

I have been talking with some sheath makers on the leather forum on FB. The cobra4 and cowboy, and others are all mfg in the same factory. they are a copy of an older proven machine. In fact the parts of the machine they were copied from (Juki...iirc) are interchangeable. The assembly and tuning is the big issue and from asking I've gathered from one very high end sheath maker that the Cowboy is the most reliable/accurate. The Cobra does not always reverse as well as the Cowboy requiring more care when backing up to lock in the stitches.(he has a Cobra and is planning on returning it after using his friends Cowboy...he says they are exactly the same in stitch quality)) There are a lot of vids on you tube n both.

cobra will take payments...cowboy doesn't.

Here's the one I plan on getting...if customers will send me money they owe...lol;


Hope this helps.
 
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Rick Otts

Well-Known Member
Well Ed I believe anyone who makes a lot of knifes like you should have one.Just look at the time you will save.
 

bladegrinder

Well-Known Member
Wow, that machine is sweet! I can see that might be in the future once I get my new shop built.
I was sold when he stiched thru that heavy stack. I can't ever see having to do that but if it came to be, your not pushing an awl thru it, and if you tried it wouldn't end up looking good.
 

mike miller

KNIFE MAKER
When I looked at machines, I came back and went with the Cobra3 machine. Same machine with a reduced throat. I will never do saddle work and think resale will almost be what you originally paid for it.
 

C Craft

Well-Known Member
One thing you may want to consider is repair and maintenance available for the machine you decide to go with. I have never sewn leather but have sewn heavy canvas and webbing together. When the machine is working properly it makes it child's play!!!

When a machine gets off, it is one of the most exasperating things you will ever do!!! The tension setting is absolutely key to getting a proper stitch. If the tension is off, you will snap needles, break stitches , and get a bad stitch in general. Also the bobbin is a pain when it doesn't function well. You get a perfect topstitch and when you roll it over their is a mess or no stitch period in the bottom, and the top stitch will pull right out!!

So you have to learn to be your own tech or the consider how far is the nearest tech from your machine! I will say that cowboy is impressive!! Not sure I want to know the price tag though!
 

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Well Cliff, if you wish to for the "top of line" Cowboy machine it's about $2900, unless you get the saddler's package which is extra: http://www.solar-leather.com/cowboy-cb4500-special-edition/

The bottom of line Cowboy machine is around $1300.
:eek:o_O Yep, there it is again Champagne taste, on a beer budget. Man you got to do a lot of sewing the justify the price!!

Ed, if price is any indication of quality meet your new baby!! Its a Cowboy! :)
 

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Ed, don't mind me! I am always picking at someone, don't mean anything off color by it! Your stuff has always looked great and I know a lot of folks don't like making sheaths.

Have you got a leather shop in the area? Stop by and tell them what you are looking for. They might just know someone sitting on one of the old machines that might give you a good price on one!! Or perhaps they could hook you up with a Leathersmith, that might make sheaths the way you want them made!!
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
here's what I discovered....I was drilling holes after marking positions...but to not have hand and wrist pain I was drilling big enough that the leather was not swelling shut on the thread like an awl would. Easier to stitch with a larger hole. So yes...it was a saddle stitch...was it better than a nice tight machine produced lock stitch? I don't think so. I am at a .070 drill so I can still pull a needle through with pliers. A year and a half ago I was using a .0465 drill...notice the trend...lol. When I got to .062 (1/16) I felt my stitches were not as tight.

I'm pretty sure that Cowboy stitcher makes a tighter stitch than my hand saddle stitch....though a correctly done saddle stitch is superior to a lockstitch...mine aren't. The issue isn't which stitch is better...it's...can a person with physical limitations produce a better sheath by hand or by sewing machine...If by machine...better start a nickle jar till you can get a machine.Lol... Otherwise you are not making the best sheath YOU PERSONALLY can make.

I am somewhat discouraged that my hand stitching is slowly getting worse...it's to be a machine in the future if I want to keep making my own sheaths (I do...). The slow demise of hand strength is not from sheath making(haven't made that many yet)...merely the slow ongoing lessening of strength from diabetic neuropathy. I imagine any repetitive motion damage is similar. Anyways...never a good feeling to not be able to do things the way you once could...sigh.

I think ED is correct...you buy the BEST machine you can and keep making YOUR style of sheath...you retain design, schedule, quality...and perhaps enjoyment
 
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EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
Keep the input coming! I've done some research on both the Cobra and Cowboy machines. Since the two are so close, I've been looking into the maintenance & service that each provides. Right now I am leaning towards the Cobra 3 machine, mainly because I've spoken with 3 individuals who own a Cobra 4....... 2 of those had owned a Cowboy machine, and found it difficult to get any customer service when they needed it, both ended up returning the Cowboy machines and going with the Cobra. Everyone I've spoke with so far tells me that the customer service with Cobra is outstanding, and that the Cowboy customer service is "non-existent" ...... and that any problems they've had, the folks who sell the Cobra machines will take the time to walk them through whatever needs doing.

This week I'm going to give the folks at Cobra a call, and feel them out for myself. It's always a tough decision when you drop that kind of money on anything, but on the other hand, I've always been the one to say "Save and get the best you can", or "Buy once, cry once" :)

One of my good friends who owns the Cobar 4 told me...... "I used to spend HOURS hand sewing a single sheath.....with this machine it takes MINUTES!" I've never been a clock watcher, but after hearing that, I kept tabs on hand sewing a simply hunter style pouch sheath..... I was busting as fast as I could go, and it was 2 hour 10 mins, counting the time it took to layout and drill all the holes, and completely saddle stitch it. If I could cut that time by 3/4 with a machine...... it would be well worth it. It's also hard to put a price on the aching, bloody hands after a day of hand stitching sheaths. A lot will depend on how well sales go at the Blade Show, and the "vibes" I get when I talk to the folks at Cobra...... but if it's God's will.... it'll happen. :)
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
I think the 3 is just a shallower throat? Same exact machine as far as strength and ability to pierce very thick leather. Since they use these for saddle making some guys need the deeper reach. I cannot imagine needing anything deeper than the 3. On the Cowboys it's the 3500 vs the 4500...and same thing...depth of reach is the only difference.

Hope you do real well at the Show!
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
As far as I can tell right now, the only difference between the Cobra 3 & 4 is the throat depth. 16+" on the Cobra 4, and 9" on the Cobra 3. I can't envision a situation where I'd need 16" of throat, so am looking closely at the Cobra 3.
I've tried a number of times to speak with a real person at Cobra.....but so far no luck. I've left 3 phone messages so far....but am yet to get a return call.
 
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EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
Thought I'd resurrect this old thread. Beings that it's end of year time, and it's either buy something, or give the money to Uncle Sugar in taxes, I ordered a Tippmann Boss yesterday. It took a lot of thought and consideration as to which machine to buy, but in the end, I don't sew all that much, and suspect the Tippman will do me for the rest of my life.
I also had a disappointing time trying to contact/talk to the folks at Cobra. I called several times, never got an answer, left several messages, and NEVER got a call back. Never did get any of my questions answered by Cobra.

Conversely, I spoke to an actual person at Tippman.... the very first time I called, and all the times afterward too. I was going to order a refurb machine, but shortly after placing the order, I got a phone call, stating that they would not have any refurbs available until late January.....but would be willing to send me a brand new machine for $50 above the refurb price...... so I did it. With the machine, thread, master craft accessory pak, and spare paks of needles, the cost ended up right at $1,500. Should be here sometime next week.... now to figure out a clever way to set it up/mount it in the general area of my leather bench.....where space is already very limited...... maybe some kind of fold out, or swing out stand, that can be out of the way when not in use.
 
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KenH

Well-Known Member
Congrats on the purchase Ed - You're going to enjoy that sewing machine. That walking foot is really NICE - I always wanted one when I was doing sail repair work.
 

C. Killgore

Well-Known Member
Nice purchase Ed. Somewhere down the line I had convinced my dad to make sheaths for my knives and he purchased himself a Cobra 4 and has been using it. He does run into problems sometimes and doesn't like to call them but I do believe he was able to get help when he did call. Hopefully the customer service hasn't gone down. It's been a while since he called.

A local knifemaker friend of mine has one of those tippmans. They look like great machines and, I would say, all a knifemaker would need. He is very happy with it (even though he really doesn't like making sheaths).

Either way, should be a whole lot better than hand stitching.
 

Kevin R. Cashen

Super Moderator
I think you did well there Ed. I have been using the hand Boss for around 15 years now and once you get it dialed in it will do up any sheath in about 5 minutes. It is capable of punching through over 3/4" of leather. I have found I like the control of the hand operation much more that I would the speed of the mistakes I could make with other machines.

My best advice: I believe many may not give this tool a glowing review because they didn't understand one important factor/quirk of this stitcher- it really needs to be dialed in to just the right tensions and settings. I cursed and regretted ever buying it for the first year or so, and then one day I quit being the typical guy and just read the dang directions. Once I had the top and bottom tensions adjusted correctly and the stitch length and foot pressure worked out, all my problems vanished and I was tickled to death with the Boss. So don't give up right away if the stiches aren't working as well as you want or the thing plugs or jams, it is just a matter of adjusting it. Once you find the sweet spot it will work like a charm from then on.
 
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