2015-12-22

Cool link: Bankhar dog project

I've been obsessed with reading about overlanding recently and I just tripped over this wonderful story on Expedition Portal.

It's about the founding of the Bankhar dog project, attempting to maintain low-impact traditional nomadic lifestyles in balance with rare species. It's such a short overview, but there are so many things at work here, things this blog is about. Give it a read:

http://expeditionportal.com/the-mongolian-bankhar-dog/

2015-12-16

DYI: More shoe experiments/thoughts

I'm going to talk about several things in this part. A teardown of my Old shoes, and some new shoe ideas and thoughts.

Teardown of old shoesThese are the shoes I found I could actually backpack and hike in, the first (and only) success so far. Their primary flaw was that the heal stretched and I would step on the heal seam. This is a non-turn-shoe made as a simple 3-part moccasin:

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It's interesting that the barge cement was still holding parts of the leather very firmly.Looking closely you can see it tore the surface off some of the leather - I glued that leather shiny-side down, and it seems that the shiny bit (That is, the grain in leather terminology) tore off.

You can see very significant stretching in the toe-box. This was expected and is part of why the shoe worked, but it's fascinating to take the shoe apart and actually see it.

The stitching was holding a lot better than I expected. Pulling this apart took a while and was surprisingly difficult. It had torn out around the heal. That spot had been stitched too many times already so I couldn't repair it again... the leather was too perforated, but besides that the shoe was still pretty solid.

New ideas 
Jess went to england and came back excited about the idea of a roman boot. This is a welted lasted turn-shoe with a center-seam sewn after turning. This makes the turning process far easier, which is exciting itself. Here's my sketches of the concept:

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This is a lot to tackle and I wasn't confident I could get the toe to come out right at all. I wasn't sure how to last the boot either, so I decided to try mocking it out in canvas. Sadly I forgot to take photos before I disassembled it, but here's what I ended up with.

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Note the upturn near the toe of the boot. When I tried it without that it just seemed too pointy if I didn't do some serious stretching of the leather. The upturn helps you end up with a rounder toe. on the other hand, the shoe would look more like this when done:

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See how the sole pulls up on the toe? Given the shape of my demo fabric shoe above that would be a fairly sharp turn for the sole to make. It's already hard to get the conveyer soles I've been using to stay attached to the boot, and this makes it worse, so I tossed the idea out.

Jess is going to pursue this idea. I'm really curious to see how it goes, but I think I'm going to go back to something closer to my first design for a boot. I'm thinking of taking the design I had so much success with and

  • Adding an extended tongue to make it in to more of a boot
  • Flipping the two components of the upper, so the forefoot is on the inside like a modern shoe
  • Making it as a welted turnshoe. This makes for only *one* seam around the outside edge where I ran out of leather last time. Just the one that holds the sole on
  • Using an insole of leather to cover up the seam resulting from the turnshoe
The goal with this design is an edge-season shoe. Something tough and light that qualifies as a "boot" and handles mud and snow well.

Not sure when I'll get around to actually making them, but the first step to any project is to actually get the details solid in your head so you understand what you're trying to make and how it will go together... and I'm getting closer!

2015-12-08

DYI: Leather belt pouch

I've had the bag on the left for a long time. I used it as my wallet and "murse" ever since a generous friend of mine gave it to me back in 2006. It's been on my hip any time I've left the house, excepting only when I'm backpacking. In addition to money and cards it held my keys, albutorol inhaler, usually a knife or two, emergency whistle, and a pair of medical gloves. It lasted 10 years in this capacity... impressive!

Sadly though, even well made leather items eventually wear out. The stitching is STILL solid, but eventually the leather itself simple wore through. It's hard to see in the photos but there's a hole in the bottom of the bag, the straps have notches worn in to them going halfway across each strap, etc. In short, the bag is done. It is an ex bag.

What to do when one of your favorite items finally fails and you can't buy a new one (or even if you can)? Make one!

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Since I liked it so much I traced the original. My leather is thicker so I knew it wouldn't bend the same way. I'm also sewing with heavy linen by hand, rather than light thread with a machine, so I can't get as near the edge as they can. I also wanted it a bit bigger if everything. So given that I added a significant extra allowance.

I first sewed the front to the side piece, inside out. I of cut the side extra long, so I could just line up one side, and sew across, then trim off the extra. Next I sewed this to the back. This time right-side in so the leather against my hip would sit flat keeping the pouch tight to me instead of floppy and giving a similar look to the original. I missed slightly and it came out crooked, so before I finished the second seam I pulled out a couple of stitches from the first seam, trimmed the front and side so it'd line up flat on the back, and then tied off that first seam again.

Finally (because I forgot to do it sooner) I stitched the straps on. You can't see it here but I did a "Z" pattern on the first set of stitches, like a lazier version of the "X" you see on backpack straps. Then I flipped the strap down and sewed the bottom down.

Lastly I pulled the button off the front and moved it over.

I'm really happy with the result, it's just a tiny bit larger, making it the perfect size. It sits a little higher on my hip helping compensate for the extra size. Also, it took about half a day to make. I don't think it'll last as long as the first one because the stitching is much more exposed, but I'm very curious to find out how long it does last.

Another raincoat experiment

In my continuing quest to find the perfect cheap raincoat that never wears out. I decided to try another experiment. I took my old 5.11 shirt that's nearly worn out, and got some otter wax bar for ~$12.00. I tried heating the otter wax on the stove first and brushing it on. That worked *okay* but it wasn't melted in by any means.

(Final result)
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Next I tried folding it outside in, enclosing the shirt in a pillowcase (tied at the top), and running it through a dryer for 20 minutes. The dryer didn't get hot enough, so it didn't quite soak in, but it did do something.

Next I tried taking it to a laundromat, using their dryer (because the ones where I live now are pretty cruddy), and setting it on "hot". That worked better, but still not well enough.

Finally I used Angie's hairdryer with an air-director to get even more heat in one place. About 2 hours later I had it soaking in.

When I did it initially I ran out before making it to the back below the top flap, but I got the sleeves, the shoulders, the front almost to the waist, and the back down a little less than half-way. This should be enough to find out if it works. It's also not perfectly even. Otter wax sells a more liquid form, but I wanted to try the solid form first because, as I'd hoped, it didn't soak all the way through the fabric in most spots. This left the inside feeling less "waxy" and making it a little more wearable as a base-layer.

I'm excited to try it out. If it works there's a lot more experimentation to do. I'm sure it's possible to get the wax more even on the shirt, and in so doing probably use a bit less of it. Also, Otter was is supposedly made of all natural non-terrible stuff, which means there's a chance I can make something similar with some experimentation. I figure if their stuff doesn't do what I want, I can cut off a lot of that experimentation, and if
it does I have a clearer direction to go in.

Okay, so why am I exploring this? If you've been following this blog you know that I've gotten frustrated with commercial plastic jackets costing a fortune and then wearing out. In addition I've been working towards a gearset that doesn't really use much plastic. My last couple of experiments involved linseed oil, but I got frustrated with both the performance and the smell and moved on. http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2015/11/linseed-oil-for-homemade-oil-cloth.html

In addition to the general search and asthetics, more practically speaking I've been using this same 5.11 shirt as my "light rain" coat lately, usually layered over my marino sweater, and then using a plastic silnylon poncho in pouring rain over the top. So far this has worked well for me, but it does mean soaking wet arms if I'm doing things in pouring rain. I also have to wait for the rain to slow a bit sometimes to pitch my poncho-tarp as a shelter, since I can't be under it while I'm pitching it. So good, but I'd love to make it better.

There are basically 3 traditional solutions non-plastic rain-coat solutions. A stiff plant fiber coat, leather, or the most modern coated canvas. The first is very effective, but not very mobile for backpacking. Jess has extensive experience (2'nd hand, but still) with home bark-tanned leather as a raincoat... several people and 21 days of continuous pouring rain in fact. So that's one clear option. Even made with a thin leather it's a bit heavy though, and it's a lot of work to make, so I wanted to explore the other option further, just to understand the whole space.

My 5.11 shirt certainly is part plastic of course, but I wanted something to experiment on that was the right material. It's ancient and worn out and about to be thrown away, so by doing it this way the experiment only cost me the $12.00 for the otter wax (plus dryer fees and electricity).

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One more interesting bit of data if you're going to do this... It shrank quite a bit. It probably lost a half-inch to an inch across the shoulders. This shirt is already a very well worn garment. A 5.11 shirt near being thrown away, we're talking serious wear. It was well worn before Jess got it used in a park ~2010, she used it until we went on the road, then I got it and have used it very heavilly since since.. So, if you do this... make sure to start with an oversized garment. It's a lot of heat to melt in the was.

I haven't tried it in rain yet. I can't wait for a good rainstorm to give it a test.