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The Gopher Project: How to Break in Leathers

Welcome to The Gopher Project!  My name is Kevin aka Gopherlax.  

Every Thursday here on LaxAllStars, we’re going to take a look at one aspect of stringing.  Unlike Traditional Thursday’s in the past, I will not be focused solely on traditional stringing.  I envision this space having a collection of tutorials, new twists on pockets and spotlights from the stringing community. 

Spotlights you say? Yes, as I scan social media and what I see on the field, I plan on selecting string ups that I think deserve recognition.  The stringer selected will provide details on the how and why, and I’ll try my own variant of that pocket.  

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How do you participate?  Excellent question, just tag your work with #thegopherproject.

For the first article, I decided on something very important to me.  Leathers!  Now, the first and most important factor in using leathers is to select good quality leathers.  Of course, I am biased to my Gopher Leathers but there are several great vendors out there. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “How do I tell the difference between good and bad leathers?”  This is easier than you think:

The Gopher Project: Selecting Good Leathers

the gopher project leathers

Step 1: Feel the leather. If there is a hard sheen or almost patent leather feel, they are garbage and a waste of your time and money.  If you cannot see the “grain” of the leather, don’t bother using.  Not only will they not break in properly, they’ll stay slick and have the ball spin in the pocket (as if the ball was a greaser). Nothing is more frustrating than taking the time to string and break in a pocket to realize the leathers are not up to par.

the gopher project leathers
the gopher project leathers

Step 2: Stretch the leathers.  This is the most critical step in using leathers.  Yes, this applies to both Men’s and Women’s pockets.  Stretching the leathers accomplishes several objectives.   One, in the chance the leather has a defect (remote but it will happen) it’ll snap or tear at this point.  It is better to happen now as opposed to after you’ve strung up the pocket and dialed it in.  Two, it allows the leathers to stretch and break in prior to string up.  You do not want your leathers breaking in after you’ve strung up the pocket.  Why?  It’s simple, if you have all the leathers pre-stretched and broken in, they’ve been all worked to the same consistency.  If you allow the leathers to break in with the pocket, tension will cause the leathers to break in at different intervals. This will cause your pocket to become asymmetrical and inconsistent.   Take the 5 minutes or so to do this, and you’ll have a better pocket and greatly reduce the break in time.

the gopher project leathers
leathers
leathers

Step 3: let’s break in those leathers!  Here’s the great thing about stringing – just because I break in leathers with my method, does not make it the best way.   For example, I could give leathers to the top stringers in the community and everyone would have their own technique. Experiment, you may find a method you like better.  Here’s my approach: First, I take the leathers and wrap one end around my left hand.  I wrap my right hand about 2-3 inches from my left and pull with equal pressure.   As I feel the leather stretch and relax, I move my right hand further down the leather (same interval).  I do this until I’ve got both hands at opposite ends.  If you do this properly, you’ll notice that the leather is already about an inch or so longer than the unstretched pieces.  If the leather still fits “tight” or looks like there are spots that need to revisited, simple focus back on those.  After I’ve done this to all the leathers, I’ll do the pigtail method (trademarked by @coachlaxrat).  Starting with the leather in my left hand again, I’ll grip it firmly and again grab with my right about 2-3 inches from my left. Here, I am corkscrewing the leather to further break it in.  With this step, every time I move my right hand, I am moving my left an equal distance down the leather.  I feel this step allows the pocket to break in quicker since you’ve now stretched the length and width of the leather.  Taking a few minutes to stretch and break in your pocket will lead to a higher functional and consistent pocket. 

Recap

  • Select high quality leathers
  • Take the time to stretch and break in leathers prior to stringing
  • Whatever method you use, make sure you are consistent with all 2 to 4 leathers

Thank you for reading, see you next week!

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