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!

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.


Yesterday morning I set off to my local (and awesome!) Tech Shop for a bit of recreational leather working. After a bit of frustration with the laser cutter, I finally had things all ready for my latest custom order, a field bag with everyones favorite quadra-winged raptor, Microraptor zhaoianus.

Specific tooling designs call for scribbles and notes. I prefer to do mine in as obnixous color as I can find.

I decided I wanted to keep the cracks in the slab as part of the design. This can be accomplished with tooling, but also picking a piece of leather that has some natural marks and scars.

The pale lines visible at this stage will take up dye differently than the other parts.

Then there’s the not so subtle approach where you just beat the texture into the leather with a pointy metal stick.

Once that is done, its off to adding depth and texture. Most people call this stage ‘beveling’. I call it the ugly stage. But it’s necessary, because in the final dyeing steps, those little checkerboard textures get filled with a deep stain, adding another layer of depth to the tooling.

Part of what makes these dinos so fascinating are how well the feather imprints get preserved. Grain size of the sediment that buried it millions of years ago is one factor that allows for this incredible preservation. I wanted to carry that into this design, but really was at a bit of a loss for how to do it. In the end, I grabbed some 80 grit sandpaper and a 4 lb deadblow mallet. The little pock marks in the image below are the result. It feels really cool, too. It actually feels a bit like limestone. I’m thinking it will look really great when the stain gets into those little divots.

At last, it was time to clean up the epic mess I made and go home.

(it’s not ALL my mess. Only about 7/8th of it…)

I still have a bit of the uglies to beat out of it, and the areas that I want super detail in still have some work that needs doing. A lot of the detail for the bones will be taken from the Hwang et al 2002 paper. And the feathers- I can’t wait to see how those will turn out. I have a feeling there are some really good images to work from for those.

For the record, I don’t really know what’s going on with that toe…

With strange aeons

I’m tweaking the design of the Geo bags. This is the same one I had on display at the Maker Faire. I made me swell with joy to see people pick up the Lovecraft Ornaments and make happy sounds.
This would be my que to pull out some of the darker things, including the beautiful design of Cthulhu and the Sigil of the Gateway designed by Albino Dragon.

Ah fossils. Strange aeons and worlds past, death dies in finding immortatity in the imagination of children and a few singularly constructed adults. (If you don’t know what quote that is a riff from, I have a reading list for you….)

This still has some work left to be done on it- the gusset and the top/back are one color, and the bag front and pouch still have some coloration that needs to be added. The stitches have not been hammered flat yet, because I’m not done sewing just yet. Strap will be made last. I’m thinking of playing around with how I do it- something to match the detail on the pouch, I think.
Oh, and a closure. Still torn between just leaving like that and doing a button or something….

Now for more dinos.

Swivel Cut

Cut the design in
This lighting shows the texture of the hide really nicely.

Bone Machine

Tooled and Colored
I’m very happy with how the coloring turned out. The fossil is a very pale bone/burgandy color

For Books
Field notebook pouch, on the outside for easier access. The pencil holder is not yet sewn in. The pouch has not had the burgandy top coat yet, so its still plain tan.