I’ve been working with Kydex for a while now, and from time to time I help out a friend and make a holster, or magazine pouch, or something for them. I don’t do it as a business (filling orders sucks) however, its a lot of fun, and once you have all the tools, you can really save a lot of money on holsters if you buy new guns a lot.
Where to get it?
I used to recommend some different vendors for getting Kydex or Boltaron sheets, but these days Amazon seems to have the best prices, especially when you buy more than just a sheet or two (and you’ll want more than a sheet or two…)
What size works best?
For general all around usage, the .08 kydex works best. I’ve made holsters, mag pouches, shotgun shell caddies, and just about everything else from this thickness. It is a goid compromise of workability, and stiffness.
I find the .06 to be a little too thin for most jobs, but I do know a lot of guys like it for IWB holsters because it is so thin, but know that it does not have the stiffness of the thicker stuff, and with an OWB holster, you may find it a bit floppy, of lacking on retention, and it has a tendency to crack over time.
.093 is a nice thickness for OWB holsters, as it is very stiff, however for more intricate pieces like magazine pouches, you may find it too stiff for getting good bends.
.125 makes a great dropped and offset holster, but being that it is so thick, you will not get that nice defined look that you do with the thinner stuff. I used this for a DOH holster for my Glock 24, and it works great. This stuff is really hard to work with, and you have to get the temperature just right or you will burn the outside of the kydex before the inside is pliable.
How do I work with this stuff?
Obviously, being a thermoplastic, you have to heat the kydex up, mold it around something, and be able to keep it in place without shifting while it cools. I use a couple different tools for heating the kydex. The first is an old crusty toaster oven, and the second is a cheap heat gun. To do much with kydex, you really need both tools. I have a few others that aren’t required, but make things a lot easier.
With the toaster oven, I generally set it to just a hair over 250* and vary the time in the oven anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes. If you go hotter you run the risk of burning the kydex, making the edges get all funky, or turning the textured side of the sheet all shiny and weird looking. I’ve read online where people say they use a 300* or hotter oven, but in my experience, that is too hot. Also, if you are thinking of using the oven in your kitchen, don’t. Kydex tends to smell a little when getting hot, and it lingers in the oven. Your wife will be pissed, and it probably isn’t safe to cook food in the same oven you are melting plastic in. Check Craigslist for a cheap toaster oven.
Heat Gun. As with the oven, don’t be tempted to borrow the wifes blow dryer in place of a heat gun. Blow dryers don’t get hot enough, or move enough air to really do a good job with kydex. Find a local Harbor Freight store and grab a cheap heat gun, or order one on Amazon (I have this heat gun, and it’s been working great for casual use for several years). Obviously an 1100* heat gun is a lot hotter than a 250* oven, so exercise some caution when using it, and always, always, keep it moving. If you leave it in one spot too long, it will scorch the plastic. If you get a dual mode heat gun, the lower setting will be a lot more forgiving.
Dremel. Get one, and get the big set of sanding drums, cut off wheels, etc that go with it. I also like to use a felt wheel, and some turtle wax for polishing edges, etc.
Utility knife. The best way that I have found to cut kydex is to score it with a sharp utility knife, then bend it, and it will break along the scored line. In order to do this, you really need a utility knife, and a bunch of blades, as the tips tend to break off if you aren’t really careful.
Press. For molding the kydex around a pistol, you need some sort of press. When I first got started I built a nice press out of some plywood and a hinge. I found that I wasn’t able to get enough pressure on it they way I had it set up, and ended up standing on it. Well, now I just use some foam and a piece of 2×12 and it works great.
For the foam, I like to use a blue closed cell camping mat from Wal-Mart that I picked up for about $5. I cut it into pieces, and its worked great. Knife Kits does sell some foam specifically for molding kydex, but I don’t feel its necessary.
That’s about all you need to get started. You can get fancy and add rivets, belt attachments, and about anything you can think of.