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Today is May 30, 2020


Rewards of DIY

By Tony Kinton

Rewards of DIY

Kinton uses this haversack for 18th-century gatherings but also uses it practically every time he goes hunting, camping or hiking. Photo by Tony Kinton.

True craftsmanship is a magical endeavor, something to be admired and emulated – if that latter is an option. And it comes in multiple forms, the end result of whichever form chosen commonly terminates in a product of manifest superiority. The norm is always surpassed when a craftsman is at work. Pure art it is.

I admit to a pronounced lack of craftsmanship talent. Still, that doesn’t stop me from trying. I build and tinker and fabricate and visualize, but the final production never shares the same stage as that one set up for displays nurtured into being by the elite. Most projects don’t reach the hoped-for outcome I had imagined. However, I’m seldom dissuaded. I enjoy the effort and more often than not come up with something that will work as intended, will fit my misplaced sensitivity and fill a need.

Since my mind is near always focused on the out-of-doors and various activities found there, most creating is done for use in those outside settings. Something to do with camping or hiking or shooting or hunting. Things like that. Oh, I could have possibly purchased a product that would have filled a perceived need, but it would not have held the reverence of a like product that I actually made. Additionally, I am left-handed, and many things I need are made wrong! Then surfaces a craftsmanship experiment. Consider a little two-shell carrier I constructed for a rifle.

The rifle in question is a Ruger No. 1, a single shot. It is grand and thoroughly modern though built precariously close to an action type that is now more than 100 years old. There were options for the little rig when contemplating a shell holder, but I couldn’t find one made of leather that specifically fit the left-hand persuasion. I would make one. Some 5-ounce veg-tanned scraps were called into service.

A pattern cut from poster board was the first step. Following that was leather trimming to make those rough pieces match the pattern. Then came the loops and sewing and installation of grommets through which a leather thong would run. Few tools were required, but there was a great deal of stitching and sore fingers. Dyed in dark brown, it is most functional. It puts the rims of two cartridges at my left fingertips so that 

I can slip one from the holder and slide it into an open chamber two inches from my hand. Didn’t make me a skilled craftsman, but it did work perfectly.    

And there is an oversized haversack reminiscent of 18th century long hunters. Though it fits that timeframe supremely, its use is not limited to reenactments of antiquity. I use it on practically every outdoor excursion to carry a rain jacket, water bottle, small camera, cell phone, gloves, fire kit and whatever else I might poke in there. I made it from double layers of canvas, dyed in walnut hulls and waterproofed (fully waterproofed I must say) with beeswax. A heavy leather strap runs over the shoulder cross body for transport. I definitely could have bought a nylon bag to facilitate the same chores, but this one is far more special than any I could have purchased. 

Friend Brian Robinson and I attended the annual meeting of the Dallas Safari Club a month or so back. It was a grand gathering filled with outfitters from around the world, outdoor gear in untold amounts and a host of magazine/TV personalities. There was also a plethora of craftspeople. Leather, furniture, taxidermy, paintings, photography. We stopped by as many as time would allow, but one held us inextricably in its glorious grasp: leather goods. 

The one item that teased us unmercifully was a take-down shotgun case made of bison hide. It was magnificent with a price to match – $595! We passed; but we did, upon returning home, order two bison shoulders on sale for $40 or so. With the details of that high-dollar rig stuck in our minds, we shall soon be the proud owners of a bison-hide case each for our over/under shotguns.

So, if you find yourself as I do and without knowledge of a given project, never has there been a better time to learn. That marvelous invention of the internet has instructions for doing just about anything, and you will likely find some information about any project you choose to undertake. Even if you don’t aspire to progress to the state of expert craftsperson, you will probably enjoy the making and can take pride in what you do. Taking on a DIY project can be rewarding.


Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. His latest book is “Rambling Through Pleasant Memories.” Visit for more information.

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