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Most people who know me know that I have a handicap. Because I have grown very tired of reciting the long version, let's just say that some years ago I crushed my spine. Don't worry; it had nothing to do with motorcycles.
But it did have an effect on my use of motorcycles. After all, I could really only ride out and back. I needed my cane if I was going to stop and spend time anywhere. Sure, I would occasionally strap a cane to the backrest, but I had to get off the bike to get it, and getting on and off without it could be problematic to say the least.
So I set about solving that problem, and I hatched an idea. Sadly, I did not hatch any diagrams, but my leather crafter was pretty talented, and he sussed out what it was that I was trying to create. And I was twice blessed on this occasion: First, he was most excited to try to make something like I was needing, and he had never done anything quite like it before! Why was I excited? Because he had no real idea what to charge! Now that was a rare bit of luck.
So what was it I wanted? Well oddly enough I was at an archery range, watching kids practice (thanks to the accident, I can no longer pull a bow or throw a knife. But I miss both something fierce, and sometimes I get stupid and decide to go watch kids do it. Always a mistake. If you're ever in a position to never again be able to do something you really enjoyed, don't go watch other people do it. Just take my word on it.)
At any rate, I was watching some kids on the archery range. If you've been around bows, you will notice that the bulk of shooters-at least in this area-prefer compound bows. And most compound bow shooters will have an arrow rack mounted to the bow. Well on this particular day there was a group of small children shooting--- far too small for any compound bow on the market. They were sharing a pair of simple recurve bows between the four of them, each child either taking his turn shooting or holding a handful of targeting arrows for the boy ahead of him.
I began to visualize the children of aboriginal tribes on their first hunt, learning how to shoot the bow and bring meat to the tribe. And I laughed inside at the thought that each hunt might have two boys, so that one could carry the arrows!
Of course, that's just silly; real aboriginals would have some sort of quiver on their backs to carry the arrows, much like the swordsmen of old. It was simply a convenient way to carry a long bulky item-----
Wait! What was that thought? Some sort of sheath across the back as a convenient way to carry a long bulky item; a way to both carry it within easy reach and still leave the hands unencumbered? Now that was the idea I was looking for! (For what it's worth, that was still not worth the agony of watching people immensely enjoy themselves doing something that you never will again.)
So I set to work getting some ideas running through my mind. I even hit up the flea markets (always a great place of really pretty complete crap quality swords at third-world prices, but they do tend to come with sheaths) hoping to stumble across something that would fit the bill. No dice. While I found several sheaths, they were of thick hard leather. Not that this meant they were unusable, but when walking around, they were extremely annoying; they were also too bulky to really stow securely on the bike.
So I designed something on my own that should do what I wanted and still be no trouble to care for in and of itself.
I got with a leather crafter, and we hammered out some ideas. This is what we came up with:
When taking a picture of something over your shoulder,
try to get a taller photographer than I had available.
This gives a much better idea as to how it wears.
Unfortunately, the cane that is currently in it is not the one it was designed for,
so it hangs a bit more horizontally than it should.
More on that in the text...
This was the first (and at the moment, only) cane sheath designed specifically with bikers in mind. While you can't really see it in the pictures (as the "correct" cane is no more), it really does hang very much like a sword sheath.
The cane that I was using at the time I had this made was extremely light (and strong, and very pretty). Sadly, it only survived about three years of being smashed about at work before the handle finally broke, rendering it inoperable until I can have it brazed back together.
The cane that I currently use has a much heavier handle-nearly three pounds of just the stainless steel handle. The wooden shaft is extremely light, so the whole thing is off kilter a good bit. It bothers me in one way (actually, in most ways), but in another way I am happy about it: it gives me ideas on how I can make the next one better.
First, a few shots of the construction of it. Keep in mind that I have been using it for several years now, so it is pretty beat up. But it's still just as handy as ever.
Both ends of the strap are riveted to the sheath.
I insisted on four rivets per end, though the leathersmith felt this was excessive.
As you can see, the entire thing is made of 'garment grade' leather; that means that it is leather, but it is the buttery soft and very supple leather that a lot of today's jackets are made of. Not tough enough for a good set of riding gear, but plenty strong for holding a cane.
The strap (made from folded and stitched garment grade leather, triple thickness) is fastened at each end of the sheath itself. The crafter used some kind of leather adhesive under the mounting tab as well. In his own words, this held it in place while he worked the rivets, and was good to have "just in case." He also felt that two rivets on each end would be enough, but as he didn't ride, I don't think he really appreciates the wind stress this thing is under. In fact (though it doesn't show up in the picture), there is a great deal of puckering around the ends where the leather of the sheath has stretched from the wind beating that this thing takes! I stand by my decision to use four rivets, particularly since it has so obviously worked well that way.
You can see the puckering I mentioned more at the top strap, as it catches the most wind.
You can also see the 'cap snap' clearly in this shot.
The original cane that I had this thing made for had a much smaller round head. While that cane poked out of this sheath as much or perhaps more than the current one does, there was a small cap to close the entire thing up. There are two snaps at the top, one on each side. The cap was maybe six or eight inches long and made much like the sheath. It fit over the top of the cane and snapped down to the sheath.
The idea was that it would prevent the cane from accidentally falling out or even just creeping out of the sheath while I was going down the road. It was also to prevent anyone from assuming that I was some nut running around with a sword stuck to my back. Well that didn't work.
First off, the cap was just miserable. It was a severe pain in the butt to use, as I had to reach over my shoulder and behind my head to snap or unsnap it, and if I got rained on, opening the snaps became a real chore. As the garment grade leather is soft, it was difficult to fit the cap to the sheath; by the time I had wrestled it over the cane, the sheath had crept down too low to snap. Then I had to pull the sheath up a bit and work the cap over it. It was just miserable. And of course there was the issue of keeping up with the cap! I have untold hours involved in spending time looking for it so that I could go somewhere, and I have lost count of the number of times I'd be ten miles down the road before I realized that I didn't have it anymore. Time to go back and hunt it up again. Finally I got tired of it. The last time I left without it, I never went back to look for it.
But even that was a learning experience. Because I learned that the cane will not fall out of it, making it unnecessary in the first place. In fact, it was the inspiration for the next generation of cane sling.
A rough diagram of the current design for the cane sheath.
The body of the sheath is cut from a single piece of leather-the dimensions of which do not matter, as they will vary to suit your cane anyway. The 'top' and 'bottom' edges are rolled under over an inch each and hemmed for strength and a nice finished look. Then the strap is riveted, and the snaps for the top are installed. Remember to install the snaps (if you decide to use them) so that they end up on opposite sides of the cane.
Once the prep work is done, simply fold the sheet of leather in half (making sure to fold the 'show' side in) and stitch the edge securely to create a cylinder. Turn the cylinder inside out and your almost done.
If you look closely in the outlined area, you can see the seam that runs the length of the cylinder.
The plug is made of two or three layers cemented and screwed together.
The width of the piece of leather that you need to start with is determined by the girth of your cane and whether or not you are going to use a separate cap (I really recommend against this, if you're keeping score). Once you have decided how big around the sheath should be, you need a hard leather something to provide form and to help keep the lowest portion of the sheath open enough that the cane goes in and out easily.
The plug is formed from thick hard leather, like tool leather or saddle leather. Mine was formed from three layers of saddle leather. They were sandwiched together with adhesive and pressed until dry. As each layer was added, tiny cobbler's screws were run in from each new layer to the ones before it, to help give strength.
Work the sheath over the base plug (If you use a cap, you will need one in the cap as well). It should be a frustratingly tight fit. Add a bit more adhesive between the sheath and the plug, and a few brass (brass doesn't rust) counter sunk wood screws help to both hold the leather in place on the plug and distribute the weight of the cane. While my leather crafter felt that four such screws were enough, mine has six, equidistant around the circumference. After all, he admitted that he had never done anything like this before! Besides, there is no kill like overkill.
Repeat this procedure (without the strap and with the appropriate measurements) to make the cap (if you just insist on having one).
And that is pretty much the entire thing. The strap is easy enough to either make or buy, so I don't see any reason to go into it's construction. Though I will offer a couple of suggestions in regards to the strap:
To ensure strength in the attachments, I had the mounting points folded back on themselves
and the actual strap attached with square rings.
If the need arises, I can change the strap without having to redo the rivets.
You'll want to tie the excess strap up.
If it gets in the wind, it will beat you like a British Nanny.
I can't say this enough :
Make sure that the strap is way longer than you think you will ever need it to be!
The strap should be very long, and it should be plumb shot through with buckle holes, even to the point that you can adjust completely flat to the sheath itself.
While it probably makes more sense to most folks to just cut the strap to a 'serviceable' length, give yourself at least an extra foot. Mine has an extra 18 inches. This is because (and you think that this would be more obvious) the sheath will not fit under your winter riding gear! It will not fit under your rain gear! If you are like me and ride all year round (you think that sixty pound duster is just for looks?!), you might find that after adding a few shirts and jackets, you need few more inches of strap for the sheath. It doesn't take many layers to really add on the inches, either.
Also, the strap should be perforated far enough into its length to allow people smaller than you to wear it. I have found that when riding a passenger, the sheath is awkward to them, and often it their way. It is much easier to let the person on the back seat wear it and hand it to you when you need to get off the bike than it is to let it catch wind and bop them in the knees, chin, or whatever they might otherwise not wish to be bopped in.
Fashion two smaller straps, about long enough to wrap twice around the sheath. The sheath catches wind. This means that at highway speeds, it will bobble and bounce and tug at your shoulders at the most inopportune times. On long highway runs-more than two or three hours-I prefer to simply wrap the strap up tightly around the sheath and use two smaller straps to fasten it to the handlebars. While it is less convenient than wearing it on the back, it is still accessible from a seated position. The fact of the matter is that on a really long ride, I am not going to need the cane till I get to where I am going anyway, so there is no real need to put up with the fatigue that it can add to a lengthy journey.
* CHANGES FOR THE NEXT ONE *
If I ever do get around to making a second sheath, there are a few things that I intend to change in the design:
First, I would change the shape of the first piece of leather. I would use a piece that featured a 'flap' of sorts, much longer than the finished product would be.
The plans for the next sheath include a one-piece sheath and cover design.
This longer section would serve as a cover flap in the finished product. A series of three or four snaps down its length would allow it to fit a variety of canes. There would be only one snap to bother with, and the 'open' design of the edges would allow the use of the flap even with more traditional curved or long-handled canes, something the original cap would not allow.
This design change should allow the sheath to hang properly with any weight cane.
The sheath hung perfectly with the old very light cane. The problem is that all my other canes (when you get crippled, everyone you know will buy you a cane!) have extremely heavy and very fancy handles on them. This puts the bulk of the weight at the top of the sheath, which creates a healthy droop in the top end. Thus, the sling will hang a bit more horizontally than is comfortable (though you can get used to it).
There are two possible solutions to this, one of which I am tinkering with right now. That is to weight the bottom end of the sheath to compensate. The problems with this are that the sheath becomes heavier (and the original idea behind this was convenience) and that by the time you add a substantial amount of weight, the cane sticks out a bit more. That is not a real big problem; like I said, I haven't lost a cane yet. The bigger nuisance with this idea is that you will reduce one of the more useful functions of my original design:
When not in use, the sheath can be stowed anywhere.
I went with the garment grade leather for two reasons. The first, as I said, was that lugging around a hard leather scabbard was a nuisance and securing it was unwieldly (and asking for a theft). The soft leather sheath was easier to wear empty. But the real benefit to the soft leather is that it is extremely supple. It can be wadded up (as the picture shows) into a fist-sized bundle when empty. It can be stowed in a saddle bag, under a seat, or even in a coat pocket. When you are traveling by bike, storage space is at a premium, and portability is everything. Adding a large chunk of something heavy takes up space, and that robs some of that scrunchability.
So I have in mind for the next one a slightly variant design. Actually, it was what I wanted the first time around, but I let my leather crafter talk me out of it. He said that I wouldn't need it anyway. To give him credit, I really didn't need it for the cane he had to work around, but I wish I had it now.
The next one will have either a re-mounted strap, or some kind of strap management system.
Originally, I wanted the top of the strap to be mounted where it currently is, but I wanted the lower on to be mounted only about two thirds of the way toward the bottom of the sheath. I felt that this would give the bottom of the cane more 'leverage' to hold the sheath in position on my back, placing the head of the cane perfectly over my shoulder. After all, this is the ideal position from which to grab it. I let the leather guy talk me out of it, but now that I am running a top-heavy cane, the sheath is less vertical, and grabbing the cane is a bit more awkward. Even if I still had to weight the bottom of the sheath with the straps in this new mounting position, I feel that I wouldn't have to add as much.
I might also add two or three 'belt loops" along the length of the sheath, with the highest being at the mid point. That would give me the freedom change the hang of the sheath and more perfectly tailor it for whatever cane I happened to be using. If I go this rout (and it does seem to give me the most options), I will probably make sure that I have at least two feet of 'excess' strap, as sometimes the strap may have to go up and then back down around me to hang properly.
And that's really about all there is.
I don't manufacture these (yet) as I don't have the tools or the suppliers to really make it worthwhile (yet), but I put it out here because I know that I am not the only biker who ever got smashed up. I see guys all the time fighting with those wobbly (and ugly and noisy) folding canes, or doing like I was and trying to just tie a cane somewhere on the bike.
This is here for you guys. Maybe you don't want one anything like I've got laid out here, but it's possible that there is some info or an idea or two that will help you make yours more suitable to your needs. If nothing else, it is a heads up on a few things to keep in mind.
If you want to use this idea to make something for yourself, by all means do so. You don't have to write to me to ask permission. But I would appreciate it if you tell people where you got the idea, if they ask.
And if you do make one, drop me a line to let me know how it worked for you, and what you did the same or different. I can be reached by PM through either of these forums:
You'll have to join to PM me, so if you don't want to join a forum, contact me through the first one. I moderate and admin that one. You will still have to join, but if you include the phrase 'cancel my membership,' I can wipe you off the list pronto. At least give me your e-mail address so we can compare notes.
I hope something here helps you, even if in only a tiny way.
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