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Sebastian Trapani has shot traditional at the range and on game for almost 40 years. He’s used back quivers, bow quivers, hip quivers and Lakota quivers. All have served their purpose, but this hardcore DIY-er wanted something different, something more complete, something that solved the hang-ups he found in more basic designs.

“I started with the three-point harness,” he told me. “It keeps the quiver secure, attaching to your belt buckle, so it won’t slip low on your back.” He added a loop for hanging the quiver at the range, Floyd Bennett Field in New York, where conditions are spare but the community runs deep. For months we heard about this Frankenstein project, and when he finally brought it out everyone—to state
it lightly—was impressed.

“Guys offered me money, asked me to make one for them, but they don’t realize the time that goes into a project like this,” the self-taught leathersmith said. “For what it would take me just in time and materials, they’re better off trying to
make it themselves.”

If you’ve made a few knife sheaths, or a tube-and-strap style quiver before, this one shouldn’t be too difficult. “All this stuff, the way I build it, is play as you go—on the run,” Trapani said. “It should fit the shooter perfectly, and every shooter is different, but this is the basically how it all goes together.”

Trapani uses simple, inexpensive
hand tools for most of his work. But outlets like tandyleatherfactory.com sell equipment that can make the work go faster. This is a large quiver that will easily hold 24 arrows. You’ll need one back section of 7-8 oz vegetable-tanned cow leather to complete it, with plenty to spare for a few extra knife sheaths.

  WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • 7-8 oz. vegetable tanned leather
  • 8×11-inch piece of horsehide
  • Utility knife or box cutter
  • Diamond awl or star awl
  • Metal ruler
  • Power drill
  • Jigsaw or scroll saw
  • Belt sander
  • 1×6 lumber, 3 feet in length
  • Clamps
  • Drafter’s compass
  • Fiebing’s Leather Dye and wool daubers
  • Contact cement
  • Spike antler
  • (3) Conway buckles
  • (2) Chicago buttons
  • (1) snap button and fastener
  • (1) box of 1-inch finishing nails
  • Water

Making The Form

Step 1. Trapani starts his quivers from the ground up, with a custom form mold to craft a raised bottom. With many quivers, the broadheads touch the leather and the leather touches the ground. Trapani’s design brings the “floor” of the quiver off the ground for better durability.

Start the project by building the bottom mold. With the drill and jig or scroll saw, cut a 3.25-by-6-inch oval in the center of the 3-foot 1×6 lumber. Take a belt sander and round the edges of the oval slug down by roughly 0.25 inches.

Step 2. Cut an 8-by-6-inch square of leather and wet it with water. This makes the cowhide pliable so it will fit your form. Press the wet leather face down over your oval slug, then press the 1×6 form over the top. If the fit isn’t extremely tight, shim it so. The leather should be proud of the form, sticking out around the edges, with the form and the slug flush. Let the whole thing dry. This generally takes about 36 hours.

Step 3. When the quiver bottom is dry, cut off the excess leather from the form. Next, measure the circumference of the leather oval to determine the dimensions of your arrow tube. With a sanded 3.25-by-6-inch mold, it will run approximately 16.75 inches around. This is the width of your main piece of leather that will make the quiver. For length, consider the arrows you shoot. Trapani does prefer full-length, 32-inch arrows, so he cuts his quiver around 22 inches long. He uses an L-shaped length of angle iron and a utility knife to make a straight cut, finishing with a 16.75-by-22-inch rectangle.

Step 4 (optional). For an open-topped quiver, Trapani made a paper template, borrowing from the curved lines of other quivers he’s seen over the years. He pencils this “wave” along the top of his leather rectangle before making the cut. It’s important to work slowly and to keep the blade parallel to the leather for a straight cut.

Step 5. It’s time to cut the harness straps. The three-point harness and buckle system requires:

  • (5) 8-by-1-inch leather strips
  • (2) 24-by-1-inch waist straps
  • (1) 7-by-1-inch handle strap
  • (1) 5-by-1-inch belt strap
  • (1) 5-inch-diameter circle for the buckle
  • Shoulder strap

For the fitted shoulder strap, Trapani cuts the leather 6 inches wide at the top and, over about 9 inches, he tapers it down to 1 inch. The full strap measures 23 inches long.

Step 6 (optional). Trapani builds a large, one-piece horsehide pocket on the front of all his quivers to hold an extra string, stringer glove and wax. To start, cut out a paper template based on the proper dimensions. Trace the template onto the backside of an 8-by-11-inch stretch of horsehide. (The vegetable-tanned leather used for the made body is generally too stiff for pockets.) When the horsehide is traced and cut, bend it around the square edge of your bottom form, dotting the seam with water. Use clamps to hold it in place and let dry. For the pocket cover, cut a 6-by-6-inch horsehide square.

Punch The Holes

Step 7. Now the real work begins. With the metal ruler, lightly score the long side of your main leather rectangle 0.25 inches in from the edge. Take a diamond or star awl and, starting from the top, punch stitching holes through the leather every 0.375 inches down the scored line. A leather punch makes the work faster, but Trapani prefers the old way. The awl makes for a tighter hole and tighter final product. When one side is complete, do the other side. Start from the top so the stitching lines up.

Step 8. Next, punch the holes for the quiver bottom. Start with your main rectangle, scoring one line 0.25 inches up from the edge. Score a second line 0.25 inches above the first line, so they run parallel along the bottom edge of the rectangle. Punch holes with your awl every 0.375 inches.

Step 9. Use two of your 8-by-1-inch leather strips for strap attachments. Starting on a 1-inch end, measure 0.25 inches up and score two lines across about 0.25 inches apart. Measure 1.5 inches from your top-most scored line and mark another set of parallel lines. Do this until you have four sets of lines, cutting the excess off the end of the leather strip, then punch holes along the lines 0.375 inches apart, starting 0.375 inches from the long side. When this is done on both straps, take a clamp and secure to the bottom cover of the main rectangle, squaring the 1.5 inches up and 1.5 inches over from the long edge. When the strip is clamped tight to the leather, re-punch the attachment strap holes, pushing into and through the main leather body. Repeat on the other side.

Step 10. Along the 6-inch top edge of the shoulder strap, score two lines 0.25 inches from the edge, keeping them 0.25 inches apart, and punch holes every 0.375 inches down the lines. Do the same on the 1-inch end of the shoulder strap, and along one 1-inch end of the three remaining 8-by-1 inch strips and the 5-inch buckle strap. On the leather circle at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock positions, measure and punch two 1-inch lines of 0.375-inch spaced holes. This is where your straps will attach to the buckle. 

Step 11 (optional). If you’re adding a pocket, lay your main leather rectangle flat and score a 6-inch line that’s 3 inches up from the bottom and centered left to right. Take your horsehide pocket, cut out and folded, and line it up, marking the left and right sides of the pocket on the rectangle.

Step 12 (optional). For a decorative look, Trapani punches and sews the edges of all his straps and the top of the quiver. He marks his lines 0.25 inches in from the edge of each strap, spacing the holes 0.375 inches apart. For the curved shoulder strap he uses a drafter’s compass to keep everything in line.

Staining & Burnishing

Step 13. Now that all your pieces are cut and punched, lightly wet the leather with water. A spray bottle works well here. Next, daub on the die with a piece of sponge or wool in an even coat. Let it soak in, and apply another coat until it reaches your desired level of darkness. When the last coat is dry, mist the leather again with water and burnish the surface with a spike horn or antler tine. Simply rub the smooth side of the antler up and down the leather. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it. Burnishing allows the stain to penetrate quickly and polishes the hide for a better-looking finished product.

Sewing

Step 14. With your leather stained and mostly punched, it’s time to put it all together. Trapani uses a double saddle stitch. (See American Frontiersman, Summer 2014, “Handcraft A Knife Sheath” for a good primer on saddle stitching.) He uses waxed artificial sinew thread, which is widely available online. Start by sewing in the attachment straps at the bottom corner of your main rectangle. Next, sew the corners of the pocket, then the pocket itself, into the main rectangle. You’ll need to punch down through the horsehide holes and into the quiver with your awl. Finally, sew the tube together, starting at the top, and tie off your stitch 1-inch short of the bottom.

Step 15. Next, take the quiver bottom with the wood oval slug in place and fit it into the tube. Punch the 1-inch finishing nails through your pre-punched holes on the bottom of the arrow tube, through the bottom leather and into the wood slug. Do this for all your holes, so the quiver bottom looks like a pin cushion. When all the holes are nailed, pull the nails and sew the bottom into the quiver.

Step 16. Hold the sewn quiver tube to your back at the angle that’s most comfortable. Ask a friend to pencil a straight line across the tube at the middle of your shoulder blade—where you will attach the top of the shoulder strap to the quiver. That line will be different from quiver to quiver, shooter to shooter, but generally Trapani’s shoulder straps connect at a 45-degree angle 4.5 to 5 inches down from the top of the quiver. Along the penciled line, use contact cement to attach the strap to the quiver. Then punch a row of holes 0.375 inches apart and sew it up with a saddle stitch.

Step 17. For the three buckle straps, start by rounding the unpunched belt ends with a utility knife. Next, sew the straight ends of the buckle straps to the leather circle in your 3, 6 and 9 and 12 o’clock positions. At the end of the 5-inch belt strap, secure a snap button. Place the fastener in the center of the circular leather buckle. Next, run the waist straps through the attachments on the back of your quiver, adjust them to length and then secure with the Chicago buttons. Trapani makes two sets of holes here: one for wearing the quiver in summer and one for winter over heavy clothes. Last, secure the buckle straps to your shoulder and the waist straps with Conway buckles. These allow for a finer fit.

Step 18. Finish the quiver by making four holes along the back-top of the arrow tube and sew on the handle strap. Cut a scrap piece of leather to the dimensions of the quiver bottom and drop it into the tube for extra broadhead protection. Styrofoam works, too. If you’d like the quiver to collapse into itself on your back—silencing arrows from knocking around—simply wet and clamp the arrow tube closed around the middle. Work the quiver over in your hand, and with clamps, for a flexible, huntable finished product.

Step 19 (optional). For a more comfortable (and quieter) carry, cut lengths of sheepskin or a fur pelt to the dimensions of the shoulder strap and inside diameter of the arrow tube. Affix the sheepskin with contact cement and let it dry. Cut two antler buttons and attach them to your pocket, securing it shut with a length of leather twine.

 

This article originally published in AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  Issue #191. Print and Digital Subscriptions to AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  magazine are available here.

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