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Title: Scientific American Supplement, No. 561, October 2, 1886
USEFUL BAGS, AND HOW TO MAKE THEM.
By JOHN T. HUMPHREY.
Since the papers on "Boot and Shoemaking," in vol. i. of Amateur Work, illustrated, I think nothing relating to the leather trades has appeared in it; and as there must be many among the readers of this magazine who have a desire to dive deeper into the art of manipulating leather into the various articles of utility made from that material, I will endeavor in the series of articles of which this is the commencement to furnish them with the necessary instructions which will enable them to do for themselves many things which now are left undone, or else have to be conveyed miles to some town where the particular business, or something akin to it, is carried on. To the colonist and those who live in out-of-the-way districts, it must be a matter of great regret to observe articles of use, where the material is in good condition, rapidly becoming useless owing to the inability of the possessor to do the necessary repairs. Again, it may be that the article is completely worn out, and the old proverb that "a stitch in time saves nine," will not be advantageously applied if carried out. In that case a knowledge of making new what we require, whether in order to replace something already worn out or as an addition to our store, must prove beneficial to the thrifty amateur. My object in writing these articles is not to deprive the mechanic of any portion of his legitimate occupation, but to assist those who live at a distance too great to be able to employ him, and who necessarily prefer any makeshift to the inconvenience of sending miles, and being without for days, an article which might possibly be set right in an hour or two.
HOW TO MAKE BAGS.
The old-fashioned carpet bag (Fig. 1) is still unsurpassed by any, where rough wear is the principal thing to be studied. Such a bag, if constructed of good Brussels carpeting and unquestionable workmanship, will last a lifetime, provided always that a substantial frame is used.
Next in order comes the brief bag (Fig. 2), more extensively used than any other. For business purposes it is in great favor with bag users, being made in a variety of shapes, but all belonging to the same class. Here we have the shallow brief, deep brief, eclipse wide mouth, imperial wide mouth, excelsior, courier, and many others; but to know how to make one will be sufficient for all, the only difference being in the cut or style in which they are constructed.
The cricket bat bag (represented in Fig. 3) is made on the same principle throughout as the carpet bag.
Frames and all necessary fittings required in making bags may be purchased of dealers.
Care must be observed in choosing all the pieces necessary for a bag from the same pattern carpet, otherwise it will present an unsightly appearance when completed. There may be some who would prefer American cloth; this is thoroughly waterproof, and has a good appearance for some time, but, like all articles of imitation, it has only cheapness to recommend it. If cloth is to be used (I mean American cloth), let it be the best that can be bought, that which is called "double-twill duck," if possible. As the making is the same whether cloth or carpet be used, it will be understood that the instructions for making apply to both.
The following tools, which are few and inexpensive, will be required: A pair of clams (Fig. 4), cost 1s. 6d.; knife (Fig. 5), 6d.; half dozen awl blades, ½d. each; three or four boxwood handles, 1½d. each; 3 foot rule, 1s.; hammer, 1s.; a packet of harness needles, size 4, cost 2½d. (these have blunt points); a bone (Fig. 6) will also be required for rubbing the stiffening into place, cost about 3d.; and a ball each of hemp and wax for making the sewing threads—hemp 2½d., wax ½d. For making holes in the bottom where the nails or studs are fixed, a large sewing-awl will be required; this will probably have to be bought at a saddler's; the other tools can all be obtained at any grindery and leather seller's.
FIG. 4—Pair of Clams. FIG. 5—Knife. FIG. 6—Bone Rubber. FIG. 7—Method of Measuring Registered Frame: A to A, Top of Sides; A to B, Top of Gussets. FIG. 8—Pattern of Bottom, Showing Place of Nails. FIG. 9—Side Pattern Folded. FIG. 10—Gusset Pattern Folded. FIG. 11—Pattern for Gusset Stiffening. FIG. 12—Handle, Showing Distance of Rings.
The awl blades mentioned above are of two kinds, and either may be used for this work. Those generally used are of a straight diagonal shape, making a perforation the shape of a diamond, <> ; the others are perfectly round, tapering gradually to a fine point. To fix them in the boxwood handles, place the blade in a vise, leaving the unpolished part above the jaws; hold the handle above this, and commence driving it down, taking care that the blade is penetrating the middle of the handle. Continue tapping the handle until the ferrule reaches the polished part of the blade; it will then be in far enough.
A good serviceable pair of clams may be made by taking two staves of a good-sized barrel, and cutting about 10 inches off the end of each. Screw together with three screws (as in Fig. 4), and shape the uppermost ends so that the outsides meet in a sharp ridge along the top; this will give a flat surface within the mouth, by which a hold of the work may be obtained. A two-inch screw will be long enough for the bottom, which must be turned in as tightly as possible; the others must not be less than 3 inches, as there will be a space of 1½ or two inches between the staves at the part where they are inserted. Screw these just tight enough to give a good sharp spring to the mouth of the clams when they are pressed open; this will insure the work being held firmly while being sewn. Sandpaper them over to give a smooth appearance, and these will be found as useful as bought ones.
A piece of basil leather will be required for the bottom and welts of the bag. This may be purchased at a leather seller's with the tools. Cut out the bottom first; the welts may be cut from any narrow pieces. These must be cut seven-eighths of an inch wide, then folded over, and lightly hammered down. This brings the two edges together, and when placed in position, they should lie evenly between the edges of the material. A piece of string may be laid in the welt to give it a fuller appearance if the leather is very thin.
The following dimensions of bags when made up will enable the maker to choose the most useful size:
No. 1, 16 by 14 inches; No. 2, 19 by 16 inches;
No. 3, 21 by 17 inches; No. 4, 24 by 18 inches.
The sizes of frames and parts when cut will be as follows:
|No. 1, 15 inches||16½ by 15½||16½ by 5½||15½ by 5½|
|No. 2, 18 inches||19½ by 17½||19½ by 6||17 by 6|
|No. 3, 20 inches||21½ by 18½||21½ by 6½||18½ by 6½|
|No. 4, 23 inches||24½ by 19½||24½ by 6½||19½ by 6½|
Taking No. 1, 16½ inches will be the length of sides and 15½ inches the depth. The gussets are also 15½ deep, the width being 5½, the same as the bottom. Take 1½ inches from the depth of these to allow for covering the frame, and ½ inch from the length to allow for the seams, and we have a bag 16 inches long by 14 inches deep.
And now to commence. Arrange the pieces of carpet on the board, and mark off the size of each part required with a piece of chalk or pipeclay. By cutting with the carpet, laying the right side up, we shall be able to see that the pattern of it will be in the same direction on both sides of the bag when made up. We next take the ball of hemp, and by pushing the finger through the hole in the center of it, drive out the end. To use the hemp from the inside is much the best way, because the ball will stand perfectly still, whereas, if started from the outside, it will be darting in all directions about the floor of the workroom, and entwining itself around any obstacle which lies there, unless it is placed securely in a box and drawn out through a hole in the center of lid.
A hook must be fixed in some convenient place to make the waxends on, or, as they are called in the trade, "threads," which term it will be as well to call them by here; thus a four-cord thread means a thread or waxend containing four strands of hemp, a six-cord contains six strands, and so on. One of the greatest difficulties for the amateur is to produce a well-formed thread. He generally finds it thicker a few inches from the point than at any other part. These are known in the trade as bull-necked threads; and as the mechanic finds it difficult to use them when his employer starts a new apprentice and gives him this job for the men, I must impress on the worker here the necessity of making them as perfect as possible. It would be as well if a little practice was given at breaking the hemp in the way which produces good points. Better waste a few yards of hemp than be compelled to abandon a thread after making only a few stitches with it.
Gripe the hemp firmly between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, leaving about eight or nine inches hanging loosely down; lay this over the thigh of the right leg, and with the right hand rub it in a downward direction, which will cause the twisted strand to loosen. One good stroke should be sufficient; if not, it must be repeated until the fibers forming the strand are quite loosened. By holding it close to the end with the right hand, and giving it a jerk with the left, the fibers will break, and the ends of the strands formed in this way are placed at a little distance one above another, which, when twisted, form a smooth, tapering point.
To cast off a thread the proper way is to stand at a distance of about three feet from the hook previously mentioned, and by holding the end of the hemp in the left hand, pass it over the hook and bring it down with the right, then holding with the left and breaking as above. When sufficient strands to form the thread have been broken off, carefully examine the points to see that they taper properly, and have no lumps in them. Rub the wax up and down a few times, so that the thread may be properly waxed on that portion which will be inside when twisted. Hold the two ends in the left hand, and with the right roll each end separately down the right leg a sufficient number of times to twist the thread throughout. Judgment will be required in this operation, or the thread will be a constant source of trouble if it is over-twisted. Wax it again, and then it is ready for use. See that the points are well waxed, then take a needle and pass the point of the thread through the eye until it nearly reaches that part which would stop its progress.
It must now be turned down on to the thicker portion and carefully twisted. Smooth it down, then take the other end of thread and another needle, and fasten it on in the same way. In selecting the awl to be used, do not take a very large one. The hole should be just large enough for the thread to require a slight pull to get it through.
To commence sewing take one side and a gusset and place them evenly together, the right side of the material being inside, and fix them in the clams. Slip the welt as previously described between the edges, and pass the awl through the lot. Drive it perfectly straight, as upon this chiefly depends a nice seam when turned. Draw out the awl, and by following the point, pass up the bottom needle with the left hand. This should be taken by the thumb and forefinger of the right hand and the thread pulled through half its length, so forming a thread of equal length on each side. Make another hole with the awl about one-third of an inch from the first. This gives the length of stitch. Pass up the bottom needle as before into the right hand, the top needle descending to the bottom immediately after. Take hold of this with the left hand and pull through the threads simultaneously top and bottom, until the extremity on each side lies on and forms the stitch. Be careful that in pulling in the latter part each thread closes at the same time, thereby preventing a crooked seam. Repeat until the seam is finished, then take the other gusset and place in position. Sew this, then take the other side of bag and sew to the gussets. You will then have something in the shape of a bag, minus the bottom. Take this next, and fix each corner to one of the seams previously made, and stitch it carefully round, placing a welt in as before. At the end of each seam a stitch or two back should be taken or the thread tied over to prevent it opening.
The outside of the bag being inward, it must now be turned previous to stiffening and framing. The turning is done by placing the bag over the left arm, and with the right hand commence pushing in one of the corners, then the opposite one until that end is reversed. Then serve the other end in a similar manner, and smooth each seam along.
We now take a piece of stout millboard (an old ledger book cover will do if large enough), or, if purchased with the frame, ask for a two pound board: this will cost about 4d., and be sufficient for several bags. Cut it quarter of an inch less than the bottom all round, and see that it fits before gluing it in. To do this, place one end within the seams at one end of the bag, and by lifting it in the middle press in the other, when the stiffening will lie within the four seams at the bottom. Having fitted it satisfactorily, take it out again and glue it well with some good hot glue. This must be neither too thick nor too thin. The best way to prepare it is to lay some glue in cold water for twelve hours. It will absorb sufficient water in that time, and can be boiled up without any further preparation. The quicker it is fixed after the glue is put on the better. A brush similar to a paint brush will be the best to apply it with, and need not cost more than 6d. After the gluing, lay it aside for a few hours to allow it to thoroughly set, during which time the making of the handles can be proceeded with. On some bought bags these are very common, and seldom last more than a few months; the usual plan being to take a piece of rope about the size of a clothes line and roll a piece of brown paper round it, covering it afterward with a piece of basil leather.
Procure two pieces of brown harness leather—the shoulder of the hide is most suitable—from a saddler, 11 inches long by 1-1/8 inches wide, round the four ends, and make a compass mark 1/8 of an inch from the edge all round for the stitching. Take a piece of line as above, and place within the leather, which most likely will have to be damped to make it draw round easier. Leave 1½ inches from each end for sewing to the bag, the line also being so much less than the full length of the handles. Having sewn them, flatten the ends and bend the handles into a semicircular shape, and leave them to dry.
By this time the glue holding the stiffening to the bottom of the bag will be set, so the next move will be to put in the studs or nails. Take the largest size awl and make five punctures through the bottom, about three-quarters of an inch from each corner and one in the center, as in Fig 8; push the nails through and turn down each of the two claws in an opposite direction, tap them with a hammer to make them lie closer, and also to prevent them from becoming loose. This done, we next take the frame and remove the key-plate from it.
Fold the sides of the bag well over the frame, so that the stitching will get a good hold of the part that goes inside. Put a stitch through at each corner to hold it, and see that it sets perfectly true on the frame. A space is left between the two plates of iron forming the frame, which allows of the bag being sewn through it. Fix the key-plate by riveting inside. Sew the bag from one corner of frame to the other corner on each side, leaving the gussets unstitched. It is now ready for the lining. Let this be good, as it will greatly add to the durability of the bag if strong. Coarse linen at 8d. to 10d. per yard is the best material for this purpose. The sides and bottom may be cut in one piece; the length of this will be twice the depth of one side of carpet (less the part which folds over the frame) and the width of the bottom. The width of this piece throughout to be a half inch less than the outsides were cut. The gusset lining will want to be the same width as the gusset, but an inch less in length will do. The seams of the lining may be stitched with an ordinary household sewing machine if good thread is used. When made, place the lining inside the bag, see that it is well down at the bottom, turn in the top edge all round to the required size, and fix in as follows: Take a long carpet needle and a length of thread, pass the needle through the lining at the folded ridge and bring it up again through the same at a distance of an inch or so. This forms a stitch within the lining; pass the needle through one of the stitches made in sewing in the frame and repeat as before, carefully observing that the lining falls into its proper place as it is being sewn in. Continue in this way until the two sides are done, leaving only the gussets and gusset lining to be united. This is done by folding the edges inward and sewing them together, the frame joints moving freely between the gussets and lining. We have now only the handles to put on and it is complete. Sew these on with a five cord thread well waxed. To protect the lock against being unduly strained when filled, a strap and buckle may be put on between the handles and each end of the frame, as in Fig. 3.
Next in order is the cricket bat bag, which should always be comprised in the outfit of the amateur cricketer, as well as of the professional. In making this we follow the instructions given for the carpet bag. It may be made either of carpet, tan-canvas, or leather, the latter, of course, being the strongest and most expensive. Carpet will not require to be described, but a brief description of tan-canvas and leather may be of service to the amateur in assisting him to choose something for himself.
Tan-canvas, as used for bags and portmanteaux, is a strong, coarse material of a brown color; it wears well, and has one advantage over carpet—it is thoroughly waterproof.
Leather is, of course, superior to carpet or canvas, but there are a few tricks in its manufacture which it may not be out of place here to mention as a caution to the amateur that the old saying, "There's nothing like leather," is a thing of the past where the general appearance of an article is meant. The genius of the inventor has produced machinery which gives to paper, linen, and other stuffs the appearance of the genuine article, whereas it does not contain one particle of it. At one time, when a hide of leather was required to be of the same thickness all over it, the currier would work at the flesh of the skin with a shaving knife, gradually scraping the thick parts away until it was reduced to the required substance. Now it is done in a few minutes. The hide is passed whole between the rollers of a splitting machine against the sharp edge of a knife, which reaches from one side of the machine to the other, a distance of 10 or 12 feet. This knife is so gauged that any thickness can be taken off at one operation, the part taken off resembling the hide in size and shape. The top or grain of the hide is then dressed and finished off brown, if for brown hides; or, if to be used for enameled hides, they are dyed and japanned. These are called either brown or enameled cow-hides, according as they are finished off, and are used for all the best class of Gladstone, brief, and other bags. The bottom or fleshing of the hide is also dyed and japanned, and when finished, exactly resembles in appearance the hide itself, and is very difficult for the novice to tell when made up into bags or any other article. These are called splits, and having had the best part of the skin taken from them, do not wear one-fourth the time the grain will. The black enamel soon chips off, which gives them a worn-out appearance.
To make a bag 36 inches by 12 inches by 8 inches requires a frame 36 inches long, the sides 36½ inches by 14 inches, gussets 14 inches by 8½ inches, bottom 36½ inches by 8 inches. The lining will be 36 inches by 12 inches for the sides, gussets 13 inches by 8 inches, bottom 36 inches by 8 inches. For the handles two pieces of leather 12 inches by 2 inches. The straps and chapes are sewn on quite close to the frame, straps 10 inches long by 1 inch, chapes 4½ inches by 1 inch. Cut a slit in the middle of the chape for the buckle tongue to go through, and pare the under side at the end so that it is not too lumpy when sewn on to the bag. Cut two loops 3 inches long by ¾ inch wide for the points of straps to go through.
The brief bag must be made of leather, and as there is the same amount of work in making it, whether it be of split or hide, it will be sure to give greater satisfaction if the latter is chosen. The manufacture of this bag differs considerably from the others. The sides and gussets in the carpet bag are cut straight from top to bottom, but in the brief bag they must be shaped to fit the frame, and give it a more comely appearance. The frame, as before described, is quite different. The way to commence with this bag is to open the frame as in Fig. 7, so that it will lie perfectly flat upon the bench. With the rule measure it carefully between the corners, A, A, and again at A, B. The distance between A and B being less when the frame is open than when closed, an additional ½ inch must be added to allow the gusset to bend freely round the hinge. Having correctly taken these measurements, get a sheet of brown paper and fold it in the middle; the reason for this is to allow of each side of the pattern taking the same curve at the swelled part. Cut the pattern for the sides first by ascertaining half the distance, A, A, and marking it on to the edge of the paper, measuring from the folded edge toward the ends. Next mark on the folded edge the depth you intend the bag to be, allowing in this, as in the carpet bag, 1½ inches for covering the frame. The depths of brief bags vary so much that I will give these only as a guide, leaving my readers to add or reduce as their fancy guides them; but if they should strictly adhere to these given below, I am certain they will find them very useful sizes.
For a 12 inch frame cut the sides and gussets 10½ inches in depth; when made up, these will be 9 inches from the frame to the bottom. For a 14 inch frame add 1 inch, and for a 16 inch add 2 inches. This will make these 10 inches and 11 inches in depth respectively when made up, and either of these will be found a very useful bag for many purposes. The width of the bottoms to be cut 5 inches, 5½ inches, and 6 inches, the 5 inch, of course, for the 12 inch bag, the 5½ inch for the 14 inch, and the 6 inch for the 16 inch. The depth having been decided upon, and marked on the folded edge of the paper, make another mark the same distance from the edge at the first mark, H. The bottom of the sides being 1 inch longer than the top, add ½ inch to the measurement of the top of pattern when the bottom part is marked off at J L. Draw a curved line between H L, as in Fig. 9, and cut through the two thicknesses of paper at one time, keeping them well together to insure them being alike. The gusset pattern may be cut in the same way, D to D, Fig. 10, being half the distance of A B, Fig. 7, and the ½ inch added for going round the joint; E E, the swelled part, which bends into the bag when the frame is closed, and also allows it to open perfectly square; F F is half the width of the bottom of gusset. A pattern for the bottom of the bag may be made by folding a piece of paper each way to get the length and width; make a small hole through the four thicknesses, open it and mark it from hole to hole, using the rule as a guide. This will be found to be perfectly accurate.
To cut out the bag, lay the leather on the bench, enameled side downward, and see that the patterns lie on it so the creases will run from the top to bottom of the bag when made. The sides must be taken first, and as they are more exposed than any other part, they should be taken from the best part of the hide. Take the gussets next, then the bottom. The welts are taken from the cuttings which are left. To make the handle, glue a lot of odd pieces together about 6½ inches long, ½ inch wide, and the same thickness, and when dry pare the edges away until it is perfectly round and slightly tapering toward each end. It is then divided and glued top and bottom to a strip of good leather cut to shape, Fig. 12, which is passed through the rings at each end, and turned back to form a shape. Put a few stitches through close to the rings before the fittings are glued on, and cover with a piece of cow-hide long enough to go through the two rings and along the under side, then stitch it. Trim and dye the edges, rubbing them afterward with a piece of cloth to produce a polish. Before making the handle, the plates must be on the rings, or it will prove a difficult job to get them on afterward.
The stiffening for the bottom will be cut as if for a carpet bag. Fig. 11 represents the stiffening for the gussets, and is cut from a board half the thickness of that used for the bottom.
The linings may be cut from the outside patterns by reducing them the 1½ inches, allowed for covering the frame, and 1/8 inch for each welt. A lining of scarlet or blue roan greatly adds to the appearance and durability of a bag. A skin large enough for a 14 inch or 16 inch will cost about 3s.
Cow-hide for the outside is sold at 1s. 8d. per square foot, but the leather sellers frequently have pieces large enough for making a bag which they will sell at a slight reduction, and which answers this purpose as well as cutting a hide. In seaming the bag, take care not to wrinkle it in the clams. The welts in this must reach only to the frame, the same as in the carpet bag; the rest of the seam must be neatly closed and rubbed down, so that it will not be lumpy on the frame. Before turning the bag warm it before the fire, especially if it is cold weather. Glue in the bottom stiffening first, and then the gussets, rubbing them well down with the bone. When these are set, prepare for the operation of framing. Fold one of the sides to get the middle of it, cut a hole for the lock barrel about 1¼ inches from the edge, and press it over. Be careful not to cut it too large or the hole will show. Pierce a hole through the leather for the lock plate, press this tightly on the frame, and clinch the clams underneath, to hold it securely. Make holes for the handle plates and fasten them on in a similar manner. Two slits must be cut near the middle of the other side of bag, about ¾ inch from the edge, for the hasp to go through. This bag must be sewn to the frame all round, and care must be taken that a sufficient fullness is allowed in the middle of the gusset to enable it to close easily round the joints of the frame. A thumbpiece must be sewn on the bag at the hasp to open it by. The lining of this bag is sewn through the frame all round in the same manner as the side linings of the carpet bag.
I hope my readers will not think that I have gone too much into details. It is in small things that so many failures take place. As it is much easier to do anything when you are shown than when so much has to be guessed, it is my desire to make the road for beginners as smooth as possible, which must be my excuse if any is required. It is as well that those who intend to turn their attention to working in leather should begin by making a bag; the experience gained in cutting, fitting, putting together, and finishing will be useful when larger and more difficult pieces of work are undertaken.—Amateur Mechanics.