finally, a herbivore.

I have a confession to make. I love food. I love tasting new things, experimenting with flavors and figuring out new ways to cook stuff. Too often when I see fluffy bunnies, cute cows or silly pigs I end up thinking of my favorite dishes. So naturally, it would follow that when I think of lower-of-the-foodchain dinosaurs, I really wish I knew what they tasted like.

I finally got to decorate a bag with one of my childhood favorites, Parasaurolophus walkeri. The idea was pretty cool, too.The bones that are present in the holotype get tooled in as they are. The parts that are not present appear as more of a silhouette style illustration.

Pardon the lack of ‘early on’ photos. I’m getting forgetful in my old age.

The holotype is pretty complete, nearly everything but the tail was recovered. Those parts got the fossil-bone texture and contours.

ornamented cranium

The illustrated parts were done shallow and flat.

I have recently fallen in love with Fiebings Mahogany oil dye. Now that I’m all fancy with an airbrush, I can put in on lightly, resulting in an ‘old copper’ color, or heavy saturation which goes deep reddish brown.

Here’s the skull, with that crazy crest. I had a dinosaur book growing up that still taught the ‘snorkel’ theory for the crest. Then there was that bunch over at the Sandia National Labs who 3D scanned the thing then modeled what sorts of sounds it could make….


Scapula detail:

It’s worth mentioning the holotype of P. walkeri shows some great pathologies. It seems this guy had a theropod of some sort kindly offer to massage those tight neck muscles. As we know, dinky arms were a HUGE issue for theropods, so clearly this P. wakleri’s buddy had to use his teeth to deliver said massage. Here’s the result:

a little to the left...OUCH

…and a close up of the parts that helped it run away!

Filling in the illustrated bits to get that silhouette look took a LOT of applications of thick stain. Here’s what it looked like after 2 coats.

I went with a 2-tone leather combo. I am really happy with how it turned out.

Not wanting to do anything halfway, I made the stitching 2 tone also with the pale thread matching the lighter colored leather.

Here’s the whole thing, after much fiddling, sewing, and riveting.

This was also the week I got OBSESSIVE about branding and packaging. I made this box from scratch. While I’m never going to do that again, the ‘crate’ look (with label) and the ‘specimen’ label tags are here to stay.

Brett-Surman, M. K. and J. R. Wagner. 2007. Discussion of character analysis of the appendicular anatomy in Campanian and Maastrichtian North American hadrosaurids–variation and ontogeny, pp. 135-169. In K. Carpenter (ed.), Horns and Beaks: Ceratopsian and Ornithopod Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Parks, W. A. 1922. Parasaurolophus walkeri: a new genus and species off crested Trachodont dinosaur. [Toronto]: The University Library, published by the Librarian.

Scott Hartman at

Miller, Chris. December 19, 1997. Digital paleontology: Producing the sound of the Parasaurolophus dinosaur. Sandia Lab News.

more Spring cleaning

There is a little detail I can’t reveal just yet, but here are the last of the Black Beauty images.

Smashing 80 grit sandpaper into wet leather really turns out nicely in the end!


She’s mounted in the classic death pose, with the slightest tilt to her skull. The end result is a nice bit of visual depth with the far side of her skull.

Leather is not quite as forgiving as sculpted matrix, so conveying the overlay here was difficult!

The detail came out nicely, just took some ‘doin!

The wet molded pockets are really durable, and are sewed in before the bag is lined so the backside of the stitches are hidden.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum hosted FPCS in 2013. It was a great event- we even got to hitch out to Dinosaur Provincial Park.

And here she is, all finished.

There will be one more post in this series- one little detail that I’ve not revealed to the young lady who commissioned the work. All in good time!

ah, spring!

While my absence from this virtual world is slightly less dramatic than that of, say, Henry Anthony Wilcox, I’m still sorry for being so absent. I’ve been swamped.

Enough gibbering, here’s some pictures.

She really has a pretty face….

and sexy legs…

As a matter of fact, she’s the whole package….

The tooling finished, it’s time to bring in the background to those rich marcasite bones! This calls for an airbrush, a lot of dye and some serious time in the sun.

One of the things that make Black Beauty so cool is the amazing mounting job they’ve done up at the Tyrrell. If you ever have a chance to go, TAKE IT. The Fossil Prep and Collections Symposium was held there in 2013, and I was just blown away by the sheer awesomeness. Canadian bowling is also something that need to be experienced….

Then started the balance of keeping true to the grey ‘matrix’ and the black bones. Without flattening the tooling. Highlight with blue, deepen with purple black. Then repaint. Again. Once more for good measure. Now fiddle with it a bit. Ok, done. well, done? yes. Done.

Pictures to come, maybe tomorrow, now that I’ve arisen from my deep slumber….(for all 3 weeks of Winter we get here in this part of the US.)

look at those sexy legs…

Because, for a T Rex, you really are better served digging on some strange pelvic boot and cool femur morphology than those silly little arms…

*whistles* hey there, cutie

With such a nice backside, you’d think the face wouldn’t really matter. You’d be wrong.

and a pretty face, too!

The first time you hold a tooth of one of these beasties, it’s damn intense. I remember when I was a volunteer at the Field Museum working in the fossil mammals collection. This annoying creature busted into our lives, took over our collection space and generally was a nuisance and a trip hazard. But it was all worthwhile the first time I felt those serrations on those honkin’ huge teeth. Shocking how, even though I was familiar with SUE, feeling the teeth made it so much more real.

OK, maybe it was that I took WAY too much cough syrup that day and had a slight robo-max hallucination/ disassociation with reality going on.

Anyhow. Serrations. Of course.

Steak Knives

And finally, the tooling is complete.

such a pretty specimen!

I know I’ve been a total slacker and not keeping this project updated enough, but I have a TON more pictures and will be posting them every couple of days. There is one little detail of a surprise that I don’t want to post until the customer has this bag. Oh, and maybe I’ll even talk about the Leatherworkers trade show I went too, and the 8 hour class on hand sewing I attended!

Black Beauty, the story begins….

Oh English leather, how do I love thee?

And no, I’m not talking about the cologne for men. Although that is kinda sexy too, on the right guy…

Leather hides imported from England are things of rare beauty- so soft, so un-marred, so…blank. I horde the English hides I have, taking them out only for special occasions. The Jubilee party we had was AMAZING.

oh hey-look, pictures!

the small barrel Chuck Smith swivel knife with a carbide tip is perfect for this!
At the start, its all moist hides and high quality knives.

Look at those adorable teeth. Also notice the awesome Chuck Smith swivel knife with a carbide tip!

Now most of the images of the Black Beauty mount are kind of…lacking in serious skull detail. Except that hard core one with all the welding sparks. Thats just fierce! Again with the Chuck Smith swivel knife, I know, I know. My leatherworking tools are the only thing I’m a brand whore about, so…that makes it all better.
mmmmmm....brand whore for sharp things, and I don't mean heels!

Now the skull does need a lot of detail cutting- I’m going to have to pull a SVP memoir from a few years ago to help flesh out…er, I mean bone out? That sounds really inappropriate.

Where was I. Oh yeah,


IT’S ALIVE!!!!!!

Oh, sorry. Wrong project. Here’s nice pictures of an amazingly cool project- geology bag with a lovely Microraptor gracing the front.


Stainless steel trigger snaps and D rings, 7-8 oz leather body saddle stitched for durability. Strap is adjustable by 5″, made of 6-7 oz leather, lined with suede. Guts of the bag are lined with glazed pig skin. Front pocket 5 oz leather wet molded and lined. Coloration done with Tandy water stain in Light Brown with Smoke Black Hi-lite. Sealed with Resolene and a lot of patience and swearing. Microraptor tooled and hand painted with acrylic artists paint.

Design references:
New Specimens of Microraptor zhaoianus (Theropoda: Dromaeosauridae) from Northeastern China
Sunny H. Hwang, Mark A. Norell, Ji Qiang, and Gao Keqin
American Museum Novitates Aug 2002 : Number 3381, pg(s) 1-44

Four-winged dinosaurs from China
Xing Xu, Zhonghe Zhou, Xiaolin Wang, Xuewen Kuang, Fucheng Zhang & Xiangke Du
Nature January 23, 2003 : v. 421, pgs 335-340

Preserved Feathers on the Four-Winged Dinosaur Microraptor gui under Ultraviolet Light.
Hone DWE, Tischlinger H, Xu X, Zhang F (2010)
PLoS ONE February 15, 2010 : 5(2)

Sew Maria! Sew like the wind!

If you can guess the movie that came from, please don’t let anyone else know. It’s just embarrassing.

I hand sew a lot of my leather goods. This is for two reasons- first and foremost, the 2 needle saddle stitch is tough as hell. Every stitch is like a figure 8 over and over again. If it gets damaged, it just sits there. It won’t run like a machine seam will. Second, and this is very selfish- sewing time is really my only time to watch TV. Supernatural (don’t judge me), Dr. Who and Dexter have all played integral parts in my ritual of assembly and sewing.

First things first, it takes a long time to prepare the thread. So I usually do a whole projects worth and leave them lying around the house hang them carefully so they don’t fall into the carpet.

Saddle Stitching!!!

Then comes time to assemble the parts. This takes place in a small room with no ventilation. Leather needs to be seam-glued into place before it can be sewn. As this is leather, and not some wimpy cotton pinafore, the glue of choice is contact cement or barge cement. After careful masking, a nice liberal layer is spread on.

Love the smell of napalm in the morning

It was at this point I decided to try and take a picture of my sealant. This is important because the usual stuff I use does not work well with the new formulation of dyes. By ‘not work well’ I mean cause panic and scream-y terror. Pardon the bad photo, the fumes were kinda thick at this point and my hands a wee bit unsteady.

Good think I went outside to switch over laundry at this point. My neighbors dog had a contact buzz from the fumes, and I still had not even gotten it all assembled! Once my limbs got their strength back, I was ready to battle my mortal enemy- the leather gusset. Nails, pliers, bulldog clips and finally twist ties all go into bending 6 oz leather across a curve while maintaining a fold at the sewing line.

Sew we meet again, Mr. Bond

Ah, finally. Ready to start a Dexter marathon and sew this baby up!

Sorry, no more photos until this is in the hands of its rightful owner!

OK, one photo.