From The Georgia Refugees Mail List—


Some Thoughts on Making Appropriate Use of  Leather and Fabric in Order to Present a Better Impression (whew!)


Mark Lewis-- “Most of the precut straps that you can buy are the wrong weight, and it cost so much to get a side or whole hide to make a few items. I really enjoy making gear but I have a hard time finding raw materials.”


Steve Brown-- “You know, Mark, in talking about difficulty in obtaining materials, this was also a very 18th Century problem. One thing I don't see enough of out there is the piecing of material to make a whole.  I would imagine this would apply to leather as well as cloth, which was quite dear during the period.”


Mark Lewis-- “At the risk of boring everyone, I thought I'd also mention a couple of more things about leather. Avoid the orangeish chrome-tanned deerskin for making items that require it. If you want leggins and can't afford brain-tanned, then there is some faux brain-tanned on the market that looks pretty nice. Of course, canvas gaiters and wool leggins are correct and good for our impressions.  Do not use the split cow hide for anything.  It looks bad and the machine for making it didn't exist during our time period.  Oak-tanned leather goes back a long time and is probably the best commercial leather for our use.  If you want to make shooting bags, I have seen some tooling-weight pig skin that I think might be pretty good.  I know most of you may already know this stuff but I thought I'd mention it.  We don't want to look like “Buckskinners.” We are townsmen and farmers. I think these guys went to war in their hunting clothes and perhaps shop/field clothes. These are simply suggestions. Use your small left over pieces to make ration bags and such. If you screw up try to think of a way to make it look like a period repair. If it breaks don't throw it away.  Fix it in “field expedient” manner.  I'll stop rambling now. . .”


Well, not so fast there, Mark.  Terry Oglesby asked if there were any suppliers of the proper leather who had websites. Mark responded with two, Tandy at and The Leather Factory at  Mark goes on to say:


“Most of the leather they sell is oak-tanned, which is fine.  As I said, don't get the cow hide splits.  Avoid the chrome-tanned deer hide.  I think the deer hide tanning kit [a home tanning kit sold by Tandy—ed.] could be used.  It is a lot of work and requires some research to learn how to prepare the hides.  Many hunters will give you raw hides, as will taxidermy shops. 


The biggest thing about leather working is learning what weight and type to use for various projects. I think like old time wood workers, old time leather workers knew which materials and tannage were best for different projects as well as which way the grain should go.  Mark Hubbs has a lot of leather working experience.  Perhaps he can give us some good tips to keep us from wasting our money.  I have wasted quite a bit on leather projects that didn't come out.  As they say, “Good Judgment Comes From Bad Judgment.”


Well said!


January 8, 2001

Reformatted July 12, 2001