JTL Leather Works

By Smith n’ Jones

Published in Shoot! Magazine, May/June 2006

One of the great things about my job is getting to meet some very interesting people, often in very interesting ways. One such individual is Travis Luz, owner and operator of JTL Leather Works Company in Hesperus, Colo. And before you say to yourself, “Here we go again, another gunleather article,” let me assure you that this guy and the way he got into the business is quite out of the ordinary and a story worth telling.

As many of you will remember, I was afforded the opportunity to interview Harry Carey, Jr., one of the few remaining great horse opera actors from the old John Ford Stock Company, the name given to a group of actors who made some of the best Westerns to ever come out of Hollywood. Such notable films as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Eldorado, and The Searchers all came from Mr. Ford and his group of actors which included, among others, Ward Bond, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey, Jr., and John Wayne.

Soon after I had returned from my stay at the Carey home and before the article for SHOOT? MAGAZINE was even written, I received a phone call from Mr. Travis Luz stating that he had heard that I had interviewed Mr. Carey and that he was interested in making a one-of-a-kind gunrig to give to Dobe to help kick start his new leather business. This created several issues that needed to be addressed, not the least of which was to obtain permission from the Careys to begin the project and of course to find out just who Travis Luz was and what he knew about leather making.

shoot-magazine-may2006After a call to Dobe and obtaining permission to have Travis build the rig and finding out that Dobe did not own a suitable sixgun, I returned to the task of investigating JTL Leather and Travis. I believe the best route to take is the most direct one, so I called Travis and made an appointment to meet with him in Montrose, Colo. to take a look at his work and find out a little about him. The Montrose location was chosen due to the fact that Marshal’s Lady and I could go through there on our way to Mule Camp without going very far out of our way and it was close to Travis’ home.

As we sat in a local burger joint, we looked at some work that Travis had brought with him and photos of a number of rigs that he had assembled in his shop. The real key to my deciding to go with Travis on his proposed Dobe project was not the quality of his work, though it was very good, but rather in the discussion we had over the next hour and hearing of his personal history and how he got into the leather making business.

From the personal history side, I learned that Travis had recently retired from the Navy where he served for nearly 30 years as a naval aviator retiring with the rank of Captain, which is the equivalent of full Colonel in the other branches of the U.S. military service. This in itself said a lot about this man who has over 280 carrier landings under his belt without losing an aircraft.

Next, and perhaps of more importance, was how he came to the leather making business and who his teacher and mentor was. It seems that prior to his retirement Travis had been able to meet with one of the best leather makers in the country, John Bianchi who owns John Bianchi Frontier Leather. After several meetings Travis was able to convince Mr. Bianchi to allow him to learn the holster making trade as John’s apprentice. This was no small feat considering that John had never taken anyone on as an apprentice before and had a well-earned reputation to protect.

Well, Travis went through the entire training program and earned his apprentice, journeyman, and master leather maker certificates from Mr. Bianchi and started doing some leather work for John Bianchi Frontier Leather. I figured if Travis’ work was good enough for John, it was no doubt good enough for this project.

After several phone calls and emails we worked out the details for the rig while I worked on getting a Cimarron SAA donated by Mike Harvey and engraved by DR Engraving. With new grips fitted by Raj Sangh at Eagle Grips, the gun was completed and when I received the holster rig from JTL Leather Works, Travis and I presented Dobe with his new rig at the dedication of the old Carey Ranch in Santa Clarita, Calif, last November.

I have since received my own JTL rig as well as a beautiful dress belt very similar to the one that Travis gave to Dobe earlier in the year. The quality of each of these items is excellent. Deep set stitching, excellent edge finishing with unique stamping really sets these leather goods apart.

As with any quality product, Travis’ rigs are not cheap, but again, high quality never is and indeed they are priced very reasonably. The fact that Travis learned from one of the best is evident in the high quality that is seen in Travis’ work, even though he has not been in the leather making business very long.

When you are looking for another rig, or perhaps for your first one and you want something that you can really be proud of, take a look at JTL Leather’s website and give Travis a call. By the way, the fine sterling silver used on his work is provided by Roy Stokes owner of Coast Silver in Big Bear City, Calif. He can be contacted at (909) 584-8700.