How to make a Kydex holster Picture Tutorial
I posted this up on my favorite 1911 forum, but figured this might be of interest to a lot of folks here as well. I couldn't find anyone who make a kydex rig for my particular gun a Springfield Armory TRP full rail, so... I made my own. I have worked with Kydex before fabbing up knife sheaths so this wasn't exactly brand new to me.
To make a Kydex holster you are going to need several things:
The gun or a mold of your gun.
Kydex (I use .060" or .080" or a mix)
A kydex press (more on that later)
A custom knife to cut the kydex (this is mandatory! ) Mine is a Brad Southard!
Rivets I use #8-10 1/4" black coated brass rivets
A press or punch/die set to seat the rivets
Some sandpaper or fancy belt grinder
A punch (mine is spring loaded)
1/4" drill bit and press/drill
A cookie sheet that will never see baked goods again
One awesome an understanding wife (aka use of the oven)
I am sure there is more but that should get you started. You can buy everything kydex specific from knifekits.com the other stuff you ought to have around or perhaps just consider buying one
Im just saying!
To start you are going to want to heat up your oven to 350* and get the cookie sheet out. Now you are going to want to lay out your gun onto your Kydex and mark where you want to cut it.
I prefer the pancake style hoslters compared to the taco wrap as it makes a nicer finished product. This means you will need two seperate sheets of kydex to make this style holster. You will want to leave about 1.5"-2" on either side of the holster.
I use a larger piece on the body side of the holster as it allows me to cover more of the gun and keeps all the little bits from poking me. I like to leave enough material on the front side to fully cover the trigger with room to spare.
Once you measure it out, score the marks with a few passes of the knife, you don't need to cut all the way through it will bend and pop like sheetrock on the line you cut.
Did I mention this MUST be done with a custom knife? Thanks again Brad!
Last edited by Rezarf2; 10-16-10 at 00:26.
Once you get your Kydex cut to size you are going to want to start baking it. I see a lot of dudes using dedicated toaster ovens for this (probably a good idea) but I use an old cookie sheet and toss the kydex in for 10 minutes at 350*. If you don't use a cookie sheet you will run the risk of warping the edges to a point that they will not mold. Also, if you run no cookie sheet you will need significantly less time in the oven YMMV.
While your kydex is heating up (and thus becoming flexible enough to mold) you can start setting up your kydex press. You want everything laid out because the second the kydex comes out of the oven it will begin cooling rapidly so you want to make sure everything is laid out and ready.
Here is a few pictures of my kydex press. It is made from several layers of MDF and lagged together in a few spots. I used a few inexpensive gate hinges found at the local home improvement store. I have the press bolted through my workbench so it can't move around on me once I start the molding process. It is pretty simple but here is a tip, DON'T SKIMP ON THE FOAM! Quality foam is the key to getting nice detail on your holsters. It is expensive but lasts just about forever. I have seen a lot of guys use the blue camp mats from wally-world and they simply will not yield the highest quality holster... there my rant is over. :biglaugh:
Here is a shot of how and what I lay out before grabbing the kydex out of the oven (I actually will have the gloves on by the time I pull it). I like to lay out the gun on the foam so I can drop the body side (larger) piece down first layout the gun then add the outter piece of kydex.
Once you pull the kydex you do need to work fast. If I cannot get the gun into the press within about 90 seconds or so, I will throw it back into the oven and try again... the warmer your kydex is the better detail your holster will reveal when it is molded.
So throw the first side down (textured side down) place the gun on top of the kydex- NOW IS THE TIME TO SET YOUR DESIRED CANT OF DRAW. Then place the outter piece on top of the gun (textured side up).
Here is one more tip for this kind of press. The lid when pulled into position wants to "pull" the kydex towards the rear of the press. So I hold onto the top piece of kydex until I can't keep my fingers in there any more due to closing the press. This keeps the top piece from shifting positions. Crank down on the press with clamps... don't be gentle, you are going to hurt anything. I use the quick clamp kind as they clamp fast... again think about how fast your kydex is cooling off.
Let the foam do its thing now and press the gun. I leave the kydex on the gun in the press for about 8-10 minutes. Once you open the press your mold should look like this
At this point the kydex can still be shaped but just barely. You don't want to just pull it off the foam as it will tend to stick a bit. I let the foam pull away from the kydex on its own a bit, then remove it. It is important to try to make sure the area the two pieces are coming together remain flat. Tweek it by hand then give it a minute or so in the freezer to set the mold.
Once it has cooled off you should be able to pop the pieces apart and you will have a nice crisp mold of your gun... ain't it purdy. :rock:
Now you need to begin to decide how you want your holster to look. I use a pencil to begin to mark out where I want to trim and clean it up with a ruler. I was working on my Springfield Armory TRP full rail operator and a friend of mine was putting together one for his M&P 9mm. The only thing to consider at this point is leaving enough straight edge to creat your holes to mount your belt loops onto... more on that later.
Next it is time to cut the holster to shape. I use a knife again where ever possible as it takes off the material cleanly. For tight area's of kydex removal just use a pair of pliers to get the leverage you need to break the score lines.
Here is a picture of how I like the back of my 1911 holster to look. I like to just cover the safety so that it cannot be bumped off. We will relieve the other side of the mold so that it inserts and draws without touching the kydex at the end when we dial in the final fit.
Now you have two halves that have been rough shaped that should look something like this...
Now I take my halves over to my belt/disk combo sander. This makes fast work of cleaning up the edges. You don't need a dedicated machine like this to make a holster, you could use a dremel or even do it by hand but this tool makes this job a snap.
What may appear to be only a 3x5" index card is actually a high-tech template to locate the holes for my belt loops. I mark two sets of holes, about 3/4" apart to give me 3/4" of adjustment once on my belt. This also allows you to use IWB clips from one of the major players like Comp-tac.
I told you it was high-tech
I place a spring loaded punch into the holes and fire away at the edge of the holster. The first hole is set at a measured distance from the top and it is set in a specific distance from the edge, this makes it repeatable for both sides by simply flipping the card over to the opposite side. Here is what it allows me to do repeatedly and quickly...
Now it is time to drill out all the holes for the rivets. I like to keep the gun between the two halves and clamp them together using small clamps. NOTE: THIS IS NOT FOR THE SQUEEMISH... SHOULD YOU MESS UP HERE, YOU COULD SCRATCH YOUR PURDY GUN! That said, if your guns purdyness is that important to you- I bet your aren't looking for a kydex rig for it I mean come on folks... a Les Bear, Brown or Wilson may as well be an airsoft gun if it sits in the safe! woops, again rant over
Take your time, don't get distracted and move your nice hardware over to the power tool. Drill out 1/4" holes (or whatever size your rivets are) in the previously marked spaces. I move the clamps around as I go and no... I do not clamp anything down.
Ahhh, take a breath... your gun will not need to get near a power tool again in our process.
Now it is time to clean up the edges of the holster and begin to smooth everything out. I like to clamp the two halves together with some 1/4" bolts in at least three places to keep everything lined up. Then I take the holster over to my sander again and start to flush the edges up together on the disk. NOTE: This method will remove material FAST, this is kinda' like getting a haircut, you can always take more off but you can't put it back. Go slow, we are working on the details now.
You will be left with even but rough edges on your holster. Now it is time to give the edges a good hand sanding. I use either a sponge block sanding thingy or a piece of 220 grit wrapped around some stiff rubber pad.
Take your time, you want to get this right. Go over all the common edges when they are bolted together, then seperate the two halves and work the top edges of both pieces inside and out. Your edges will go from this...
...to this. This edge isn't totally done yet. I hit it with 400 after the pics were taken.
NOTE: I have heard using a scotch-brite pad "grinding" wheel cleans up these edges fast and leaves a clean finished edge. I haven't used one personally but maybe someone here can confirm it?
This is very important step: GIVE YOUR KYDEX A BATH!
You will want to get all the grit out of both sides of the holster. I use soap and water and scrub it down and dry it off to make sure there is no Kydex "dust" or particles anywhere as they are a sure fire way to scratch up your guns surface. And once the two halves are joined together it is hard to get in there to scrub it out. (unless you leave the muzzle end open).
Now it is time to set the rivets (I think the correct term is eyelet). I use an old school method with a hammer, punch and die. It is super simple to use, and even easier to mess up. Hit one time too many or too hard and the rivet will split everytime. It is simple physics... steel verses brass? Steel wins everytime!
Setting the die onto something like the anvil on your vice helps tremendously. Practice with a few scraps before boogering up your nice holster. I find several even light taps (checking every few) works great. Since I didn't mention it, the "mushroom" head of the rivet rests in the die, and you use the punch to roll over the top of the open rivet.
Now you have a nearly finished holster. I like to roll the edges over like Raven does on their terrific holsters. This is how I do it on mine. I made a jig out of nylon block (most anything would work here, wood etc.) with a groove cut into it the exact width of the Kydex plus the rivets.
I then slide the jig over the rivets on one edge and use a heat gun to warm up the Kydex just to the point where I can feel the Kydex going into the plastic state. Then I pull the heat and begin to use the jig as a sort of clamp/handle to bend the side over to the desired shape. NOTE: TOO MUCH HEAT HERE AND YOU WILL HAVE TO START OVER. If you have done well to this point your holster will be stiff and it will be hard to insert and draw your gun... this is GOOD. If you heat the sides up too much to get this bend, you will loosen the mold around the slide/trigger guard and loose most if not all of your retention. Go slow, use low heat and you will be fine.
Another quick trip to the freezer will set the bend at your desired spot. Repeat on the other side. How much should you bend it? Well, I just hold the holster at my hip and eyeball it. Pretty scientific huh?
Here is what you will end up with! (hopefully without the split rivet... gotta' redo that one, whoops)