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hkriflenut

KYDEX HOLSTER & SHEATH MAKING

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Years ago I wrote the original Kydex holster and sheath making tutorial here on the Armory. Looking back, my early works were crude - servicable, but ugly. Like Glocks. I've been working on refining and redesigning my holsters in the interceding years, and now I feel it's time to change the tutorial a bit. Thanks for reading!

 

Part One

 

So you want to make a holster? Good! So you need to know some of the basics - what tools do you need, what supplies, where can you get the stuff to do it.

 

I began making my own holsters about six years ago. The original designs were ugly. But they worked. I started focusing on Outside the Waistband (OWB) holsters. Since then, I've made both IWB and OWB - one piece and two piece designs.

 

I've gotten to the point now where I've got a good, solid single clip, forward cant IWB tuckable design, OWB/IWB convertible, and most recently an AIWB (appendix IWB) design, and I am going to share how I do it, so that you - my fellow Armory members and readers - can do it yourself.

 

What do you need to get started?

 

Kydex sheets - obtain them in single-serve sizes or larger quantities from knifekits.com -- you can use Kydex, Boltaron, or Holstex - which are all forms of ABS plastic.

 

Kydex rivets - aka rolled flange eyelets - also obtainable from Knifekits.com. Get the 1/4 inch size for typical use.

 

Chicago screws - aka post-screws - find these at stores like Ace Hardware, Home Depot, or order from KnifeKits.com

 

Okay great, but what about tools?

 

KydexTutorialUpdates1_zps7872e363.jpg

 

You won't need *all* the tools shown above to build a single holster, but they sure make it easier.

 

What I use:

 

Heatgun - if you only have a single source of heat for kydex, a two-temp heatgun is it. The one pictured above came from Harbor Freight for about $10. One setting is 400 degrees, the other is 1600. I think the heat ratings are a bit optimistic, but I admit, on "high" I can't stand the thing pointed at my exposed skin for more than a split second before going "OUCH" but with more expletives.

 

Dremel Tool - from cutting to sanding to buffing to drilling - the one tool will do everything you need but heat up the kydex or flare rivets. Bits you will need - cutting discs (go for the heavy duty reinforced discs) , wool buffing wheels, sanding discs, and a 1/4 inch diameter drill bit. I use a variable speed dremel with 10 speed settings.

 

Soldering iron with pointed tip - this can be used in place of the drill bit, it can also be used to inscribe the holster with your name, the gun model, date of manufacture, whatever you want. I use it to burn 1/4 inch holes through my kydex because right now, I reside in an apartment, and try to be sound-conscience to keep nice with the neighbors.

 

Hand files - round and flat - help to debur kydex after cutting. Can be used to ream drilled holes, finish shaping work. Very handy to have, but not an absolute necessity.

 

Hammer - for obvious purposes

 

Hand setter for rivets - purchased through KnifeKits.com - OK if only doing a few holsters, but for a serious holster maker, a rivet press is far superior. And a lot less noisy. The rivet press will also produce cleaner, better rivet flares.

 

Clamps - clamps make life soooo much easier for a holster maker who doesn't have a foam press. I secure the gun or mold inside kydex after making the initial folding and use the heat gun to heat small areas at a time and hand-fit the kydex to the gun.

 

Sand paper - for hand sanding edges or knocking the shine off of a piece of kydex if you don't like shiny side out.

 

Utility knife - for scoring kydex and deburring edges.

 

Pencils - for marking lines for cutting, scoring, and sanding

 

Straight edge - I use a T-square (drafting tool - find 'em at Office Depot, Staples, or local art shops) mostly now

 

Leather gloves - an absolute must have unless you LIKE having 3rd degree burns. I don't know anyone who does. You like your hands and fingers, don't you? Use gloves.

 

Safety glasses - just like my hands, I like my eyes. Hot, jagged burrs of thermoplastic do NOT feel good in your eye. Neither does kydex dust. Use safety glasses.

 

Screw drivers - got to have something to tighten screws with - derp derp.

 

Wood blocks and strips - these I use to help form and mold the kydex to the gun, I use them to form belt loops and J-hooks. My favorite piece is a simple painter's stir stick I've cut into two pieces - one long piece, and one short piece. Painter's stir sticks are 1.25 inches wide, and about 3/16ths inch thick - which is exactly the dimension (thickness and width) of my Wilderness Tactical Frequent Flyer belt.

 

 

If you have access to other tools - like a bench grinder with buffing wheel, a drill press, a 1/2 ton press (for rivets), a scroll saw, belt sander or disc sander (bench mount, not hand sander) and an old-school toaster oven, certain steps will be a LOT easier for you. If you have access to the closed cell insulating foam used in kydex presses, you can make your own press as simply as two sheets of foam, a table, a piece of ply wood, and some sort of weight.

 

A scroll saw makes cutting shapes in the kydex a lot easier and quicker than the dremel. The buffing wheel is easier and quicker to polish up your edges. Same with the belt or disc sander. The toaster oven will more evenly heat kydex for the initial forming process. A 1/2 ton press will provide you with more consistent, better looking rivet joints than the hand tools allow. These tools make life easier and make for a better quality holster, but you can still do very good work, albiet slower, and with more hand-work with hand tools.

 

Check back soon for part Two:

Edited by hkriflenut

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Okay - so the person this holster was being made for wanted an apendix-IWB holster for his CZ-75 9mm.

 

The first step is figuring out just how much of your Kydex sheet you'll be using for your holster. In this case, we were gunning for minimalist to keep waste material and the amount of material surrounding the gun. So to determine material, I laid the gun against the kydex sheet. The CZ owner wanted the holster to extend high enough to prevent the hammer spur from digging his size, but didn't mind the beavertail poking up a bit. So I laid the pistol down so that there was about 1/8th an inch of Kydex beyond the hammer spur with the hammer down in DA mode, with the gun near the edge of the kydex. I made a mark on the kydex about 1/8th an inch past the muzzle using a pencil.

 

Next I carefully roll the gun onto the sights,

 

KydexTutorialUpdates6_zps8ec46119.jpg

 

Then roll the gun onto the side and make a mark an eighth of an inch beyond the trigger guard

 

KydexTutorialUpdates8_zps72a647ca.jpg

 

Then draw the lay out lines in pencil using a straight edge.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates9_zps9335c286.jpg

 

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Next up comes scoring the kydex, then snapping it to get our working piece.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates13_zpsd9062ef9.jpg

 

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KydexTutorialUpdates16_zps008473d4.jpg

 

After snapping the kydex, begin heating it. The kydex is at the proper working temperature when it is like a piece of wet leather. Take care not to get it too hot - if it start curling, getting shiny, or melting, it's too hot and you have probably ruined the piece. Take your time in heating! Also - USE YOUR GLOVES when working with the heat gun. Don't say I didn't warn you.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates17_zps1de2d34f.jpg

 

Once the kydex is nice and hot - quickly place the gun in the center of the kydex, fold the kydex over, and press hard for the initial forming.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates20_zps5ffe205c.jpg

 

After the initial forming has cooled a little (doesn't take long, you'll feel the kydex stiffen) - clamp the gun onto the kydex and begin the piece-meal heat-and-form work.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates22_zps41cb9a1d.jpg

Edited by hkriflenut

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Keep working the kydex, heating one small area at a time and pressing the kydex with your hands and fingers as tightly to the gun as you can get it - you're shooting for maximum definition here - you can always heat and soften the definition in areas if you need to, if the holster has too much retention.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates23_zpsa5b844f5.jpg

 

Keep moving your clamps around as needed to keep the gun stationary in the holster shell as you form it. Careful not to heat the clamps themselves - they are plastic, and will melt.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates24_zps95787a62.jpg

 

Once you are satisfied with the definition and initial retention:

 

KydexTutorialUpdates26_zps0d268f88.jpg

 

Decide where you're going to cut the holster shell to get the shape you want. In this case, we're opting for a full sweat shield that covers the slide, but not the frame. This allows the shooter to obtain a full firing grip on the gun, but keeps the cocking serrations from rubbing on skin or clothing. It also will keep sweat from pouring down the slide. Not a huge issue with the CZ - given the finish being very corrosion resistant.

 

Once I decided on the shape, I marked it with pencil.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates25_zps345fbd01.jpg

 

Then took to the cutting with the Dremel tool and the heavy duty cutting wheel

 

KydexTutorialUpdates27_zpsde45cddd.jpg

 

After the first cut, you should have something that looks like this:

 

KydexTutorialUpdates29_zps6b155b2f.jpg

 

KydexTutorialUpdates28_zps923791d2.jpg

 

KydexTutorialUpdates30_zps747050bf.jpg

 

The next step is deburring - using sand paper, the edge of a razor knife, files, or a buffing wheel on the dremel. After deburring, you can do some initial buffing or sanding - but I would continue shaping work, drill holes for the mounting hardware, then attach the rivets before doing the bulk of the edge polishing.

 

Sadly, I don't have any good pictures of those processes - they didn't turn out well.

 

But since you've gone this far - you know what those steps look like. I prefer to install the rivets and belt loop or j-hook before making my final shaping cut - because once I get the belt loop attached, I know where I can remove extra material, which makes for a more comfortable holster usually.

 

Also - make sure you test the mounting angle and attachment to ensure that they work for you and are comfortable. Redesign when necessary. Adapt, improvise, and overcome. Just remember that it's easy to take material off, but you can't add it once you have cut, so err on the long side.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates33_zps34cf53d3.jpg

 

KydexTutorialUpdates35_zps7e0df97e.jpg

 

After making the final cuts, I install the buffing wheel into the Dremel and polish up the edges, use a light touch here! That buffing wheel will melt the kydex and act like a sanding wheel or cutting wheel if you get too crazy with it. A light touch will knock down sharp jaggies and polish up the edge nice and shiny and smooth. Also take extra care - if you let the dremel get away from you, you can gouge or scratch up the kydex pretty easily. Might not ruin the holster functionally, but looks ugly. Just a warning.

 

KydexTutorialUpdates44_zps203b3ddd.jpg

 

Once you're polished up, tighten the screws on the mounting hardware, loctite them if you want, and enjoy.

Edited by hkriflenut

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Couple examples of other holsters I've made:

 

Glock 21 OWB / IWB convertible

 

KydexGlockHolsterJan20133_zps184498ac.jpg

 

KydexGlockHolsterJan201321_zpsef2e7dda.jpg

 

Glock 21 IWB tuckable

 

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Kahr TP-45 convertible prototype

 

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Glock 17 IWB tuckable

 

CustomizedGlock17andBushmasterAR15MPR44.jpg

 

Glock 9mm OWB simple magazine carrier

 

Guns-Glocks49.jpg

 

Guns-Glocks48.jpg

 

Glock 19 IWB tuckable

 

KydexTuckablePrototype25.jpg

 

1911 OWB simple magazine carrier

 

GearandGuns002.jpg

 

GearandGuns001.jpg

 

Glock 19 and Springfield XD9 Subcompact prototype IWB tuckables

 

GunsandGear014.jpg

 

FN FNP-40 DAO IWB prototype

 

GearandGuns014.jpg

Edited by hkriflenut

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Early works (including the POS from the original tutorial!)

 

You can certainly see a progression in quality and design from early stubmlings to the current approach.

 

The down side to hand-making these, versus using a foam press and machines like scroll saws, grinder/buffers, and bench sanders is that uniformity suffers from build to build - even going from a pattern. Little wobbles in the dremel cuts, little wobbles in polishing and sanding stages, plus the labor intensive hand-forming of the hot kydex, the constant reheating of the material, etc. Each unit is a one-off.

 

The real high volume pro shops have even gone to vacuum forming their kydex, so that every piece comes out identical. I wish I could afford a vacuum forming machine right now.

 

 

Early G17 tuckable IWB

 

Tuckable11_zps79719186.jpg

 

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Early light bearing right hand OWB or left hand IWB

 

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My first Kydex IWB holster

 

KydexCreations9_zpsea41c4af.jpg

 

Original tutorial holster

 

MKWTutorialPix23_zpsfffdd183.jpg

 

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MKWTutorialPix25_zps7ff56279.jpg

 

Glock 9mm simple magazine carrier

 

KydexCreations4_zpse1bfa397.jpg

 

KydexCreations2_zps9840d9af.jpg

Edited by hkriflenut

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Another of my early nightmares:

 

OWB right hand, IWB left hand light bearing camo holser

 

camokydex001sb9.jpg

 

camokydex003sf8.jpg

 

camokydex004gi3.jpg

Edited by hkriflenut

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This is a cool idea. My lousy internet will not let me see the pics though. Where did you get the sheet of Kydex from?

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This is a cool idea. My lousy internet will not let me see the pics though. Where did you get the sheet of Kydex from?

 

 

CKK Industries in Georgia. www.knifekits.com is their website - they're mostly knife making place, but they also sell sheath making materials - kydex, leather, and all the hardware needed. They also sell presses, grinders...anything you need to make knives and holsters.

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