How to Break in Leather Tool Pouches

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For a week or more, a new tool pouch is stiff and tight and hard to work with. But a leather tool pouch is just like a baseball glove, a saddle or a holster; use it, and it will adapt to you. That is the magic of leather, and it is a property that nylon and canvas simply don’t have. Use the same techniques for breaking in a baseball glove or a holster to adapt your tool belt to you.

Things You'll Need

  • Suspenders or braces
  • Lighter fluid
  • Glycerin soap
  • Neatsfoot oil or mink oil

Select nubuck or suede-surface tool pouches. Smooth-grain leather (the kind with a smooth outer surface) has a natural stiffness to it, while the nubuck or suede-surface tool pouches will loosen far more quickly.

Fill your pouches—overfill them—with nuts, bolts, socket wrenches, gravel or whatever it takes to stretch and break in the leather. Wear the pouches constantly.

When you first wear it, spray the leather with lighter fluid, or with a one-to-one mixture of water and rubbing alcohol. This will help the leather to stretch naturally.

Soap your tool belt with glycerin soap, which manufacturers recommend to condition and maintain pistol holsters (and which equestrians use to maintain their bridles and tack). This imparts moisture and flexibility to the leather, without drying it as soaking in water will do.

Oil your pouches with neatsfoot or mink oil. These soften the natural binding material of the leather (the collagen infrastructure), enabling it to stretch and mold itself. Do not soak the leather—a light touch of oil enables it to stretch, whereas a soaking in oil simply weakens it.

Wear your pouches on a separate tool belt, not on the belt you use to hold up your work pants. The tool belt is like a gunslinger’s gun belt; it is built for utility, not for dress. Wear a separate belt, carpenter’s suspenders or braces to hold up your pants.

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