Editor’s Note: MinLax.com‘s Brian Kimmell is the MAN when it comes to completely custom traditional pockets. His pockets are so custom he cuts his own leathers, and today he shows us all how to cut leathers, and create wide custom leathers for an enhanced traditional pocket. This is groundbreaking stuff right here!
If you are a minor, get your parents permission and help before trying this. If you are an adult, BE CAREFUL! All of the safety research burden is on you, so if you have questions, ASK and we’ll make sure Brian answers them!
If you string as many traditional pockets as I do (and for the sake of my business, I hope you don’t!) then at some point you get fed up at what you have to pay for the leather strips. Quickly that feeling boils over into rage and fortunately for me, it found a creative outlet.
I started seeking out pieces of leather wherever I could think of. I went to craft stores and bought scrap bags and salvaged what I could. I was saving money but there wasn’t any consistency and I had a lot of waste. I knew there had to be a better way.
I found a saddle/tack shop for horses and talked to their leather guy for a while. He had a cool workshop with old and well used tools everywhere and seemed to look like who I needed to talk to. He spent some time explaining to me the different cuts from the cowhide (and that I should use cowhide) and how to trim it down to useable sizes.
He walked me through the tools he would use and how to treat the leather to help preserve it. There’s no sense keeping this to myself so here’s a guide that can work for someone like me or just a new stringer coming up in the world. You don’t have to buy the big pieces that I do, it just helps reduce the cost even further.
I learned that I should be using leather cut from the shoulders of the cow. Shoulders are commonly sold by the DOUBLE or SINGLE shoulder and the double’s will be about 9-10 square feet while the single’s are around 4.5-5 square feet. A single shoulder is great for starting out; you can do the math on how many ¼” x 28” strips you can get out of 5 square feet. When you figure that most leather strips are sold for up to $1.99 each, you would only get around 15-20 of them for the price of a single shoulder of cowhide. Again, you do the math.
The next aspect I learned about was that leather is measured in weight. The definition I have written down is “Weight = the thickness of leather in ounces where one ounce equals 1/64” in thickness.” So since I like using the thicker 9 ounce leather, I’m going to assume it’s 9/64” thick. Precut leathers sold in lax shops are 8 ounce. This is fine but they are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. Now that we know what kind of leather to get, it’s time to start cutting.
The standard width for lacrosse leathers is ¼” and I like to cut mine about 28” long. You could cut them shorter but I like to have extra just in case. In addition to using thicker leather, I also cut the strips wider, sometimes going up to an inch! I’ve found that pairing two wide leathers with two more narrow leathers creates a lot of hold in the pocket without adding any extra whip at the release. In addition to enhanced performance, it looks really cool.
Before we go cutting our strips, we need to look at our piece of leather and see how we can get the most out of it. If you can cut it into halves or thirds, that will make it easier to work with. For this I use a heavy duty pair of scissors and a wheel/rolling knife. Once you have a smaller portion to work with, you’re ready to learn how to use the Strip Cutter.
The strip cutter is an old hand held tool that I assumed would have become incredibly modernized. This is not the case. My brand new strip cutter is identical to the ancient one I saw in the leather workshop except it’s new. The tool allows you to adjust widths and thickness and secure the settings so you can consistently cut the same size strip.
I start by feeding the leather sheet into the tool and adjust the screw to lock in the thickness. Once that is dialed in, it’s time to set the width. Loosen the top screw and slide the cutting part so that the correct amount of blade is exposed. Once it looks correct, tighten the top screw and you’re ready to go!
Push the leather piece through the cutting area until an inch or so of the freshly cut strip is exposed. Now you want to pull the strip and keep cutting.
Pull from the leather strip away from the tool, don’t pull with the tool. Be sure to keep the uncut portion firmly against the tool handle to ensure an even cut each time. If your leather piece has an uneven or rough edge, cut a few strips to even it out before you start cutting your usable strips.
After your leather strips are cut, you may need to treat them with a blend of oils to help keep them functioning in bad weather. There are several oils you can buy off the shelf(like Neat’s Foot Oil) or create your own blends like I do. Get some oil on a rag and rub it over the strips. Depending on how much oil you use, you will need to allow it to hang and get absorbed. This process will vary depending on oils chosen, amounts used and leather thickness.
Once your oil has been absorbed, I like to wipe them down with a paper towel before I cut my slit in one end. Most leathers sold in stores will have two slits and I’m not a fan of this because it can add too much whip. I leave at least 2.5” of leather on the end before I make my cut. I use the template I carved into my desk to help line everything up and keep things uniform.
After marking the ¾” space, I use the utility knife or rolling knife and lightly start cutting a line. Once the blade goes all the way through, pull the leather across the blade in both directions to make the slit ¾” long. For wider leathers, I make a longer slit.
And now you’ve got custom cut, homemade leathers!
Wow. Thanks Brian! That was informative, helpful and something we have never, ever, seen before! We appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge with everyone. This should DEFINITELY help Grow The Game!