2 questions...

1) where is a good source for the leather bottle canteens?

2) can I etch a design into my tin or copper kidney shaped canteen? Perhaps some sort of acid etching like you do on glassware....

Have a project in my head I want to do with a kidney shaped canteen

Thank you for all of your advice

St. Michael
Posts: 12 | Location: Delphi, Indiana | Registered: 17 October 2015Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Well Godwin Inc sells one. It's a bit pricey.

Here is the Jas. Townsend & Son Water Bottle.

Here is a leather bottle from Samson Cordwaining. The cost is about that of a tin canteen, but you do get what you pay for.

Here is a set of instructions for a DIY Leather Bottle for you. There are some changes that I'd make..., I wouldn't use cement of any kind. I'd put a gusset at the seams between the two outside parts of the water bottle. I'd use sand to hold the leather to shape and clamp it along the seam until it was dry and hard..., then stitch it and seal it. Finally, I'd use Brewer's Pitch, NOT BEESWAX .

It really is important to use Brewer's Pitch, which has a higher melting point than beeswax, ESPECIALLY if you are dying your bottle dark brown or black. You can buy Brewer's Pitch from Jas. Townsend & Son, and there is a video on using it.

Acid Etched canteen? Well there is no precedent for it as far as I know. The reason for this is that a tin canteen was pretty much a military thing, especially in North America. So it's not going to be embellished. You don't read about civilians carrying canteens when not on militia duty, and you don't find them for sale in civilian trading post inventories (and those inventories often have an amazing array of goods - and the trader often employed professional hunters)

Now in Europe, where the populations had pretty much ground-water wells, which were often quite foul, they carried wine, which is really what some of the folks carrying water in leather bottles are using...wine carriers. The tin they use on the repro canteens is pretty thin, so perhaps not a good idea, but they do make faux tin canteens out of stainless steel.

So if I wanted a leather water bottle and I wanted a water carrier that was embellished, I'd make one and embellish the leather.


It's not what you know, it's what you can prove
Posts: 3843 | Location: People's Republic of Maryland | Registered: 10 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I agree with Dave on all but one issue... You will need to use at least spot application of a decent cement every few inches around the edge of the leather... either rubber cement or a good leather cement. The reason is that especially when using a gusset (which I agree is the way to go) trying to punch or drill out holes (use a 3/32" bit if you do this) you will absolutely go nuts trying to keep the three pieces (front, gusset, back) lined up. They like to migrate when not glued or clamped. Of course, if you have about 20 really strong (1-2") clamps you can probably keep them together while you punch or drill.
Next item that hasn't been discussed is leather weight. I would recommend 7-8 oz vegetable tanned leather available from any number of sources including eBay. Anything lighter would bend at the neck, and heavier leather (9 oz and above) might not give you the expansion to carry any water.

Like Dave suggested, once the canteen is stitched, wet it really good and I mean really saturated with warm water. That seems to let the cells in the leather expand, then fill with sand and slap it against a hard object so that it takes the shape and expands to the point that it will hold more than a sip of water.

Start carving the plug BEFORE you wet the leather, and try to make it sort of cone shaped. Here's why... you will find that it's easier to have a slightly larger plug starting out. The wet leather will form around the plug, with the cone shape forming and expanding the neck, but only so far. You can make adjustments to the diameter of the plug as you go with a rasp, carving knife or (ick, a sander).

I have no suggestion or even an opinion about carving some sort or design on your canteen. If you want to try it, do it before you form it (stitched, but flat). You'll need to have your design drawn out on a pattern exactly the same shape as the canteen, then wet the leather, trace the design which will form on the wet leather, then use a blunt, wide blade, gently carve. If you have a tandy leather carving set this will give you the tools you need. Otherwise, once you have carved the design, bevel with the edge of a screwdriver or even a piece of wood with a nice round tip.

Good luck. I'd sure like to see a pic of the completed project. I actually considered doing this, but once I really thought about it, I decided to stick with making ball bags (have pics of my work under accoutrements) and just bought a copper canteen and braided some thick hemp cord for a strap. Looks nice.

Sua Sponte
Posts: 460 | Location: SW Virginia (New River Valley) | Registered: 13 August 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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