Saturday, July 15, 2006

Leather Collar Replacement on Deben Mark I

I have been pretty good about maintaining the leather on my Deben collars (keeping them oiled and dry), and have never had a strap break until last weekend. It was bound to happen some time, though. I am happy to report that due to the fact I had some leather scraps in the garage, the cost of a replacement collar was just 89 cents for a small pack of copper split rivets from the local hardware store.

Replacing the leather on a Deben Mark I collar begins with cutting off the leather on each side of the locator, and then drilling out the leather that remains embedded in the plastic slot. Go slow, and it should come out easy enough. There is no reason to cut through the plastic slot -- just drill out the leather.

Once you have the leather off the locator, it's time to salvage the buckle and the two metal "safety rings" that were on your old Deben collar. The safety rings are the little bits of metal that hold the tongue of the collar down after it goes through the buckle. If you have lost these safety rings, you can make-do with a small slice of rubber tubing slipped up over the leather. The metal safety rings that came with your original Deben collar are far superior, however, and you will want to re-use these if you can. One of the metal pieces (the tie-out ring) looks a bit like a horse stirrup, and the other is a rectangular piece that does nothing but keep the leather tongue of the collar down after it goes through the buckle pin. The rectangular bit fits next to the buckle, and the tie-out stirrup fit farther back, between the two rivets.

Finding the right thickness and width of leather for your collar strap may require a small search. I was lucky -- a perfect leather strap was already on hand in a "farmer's bundle" of leather thongs and small scraps that I had acquired at the local hardware store a few years back. Most old-fashioned hardware stores will have a similar "farmers bundle" of leather scraps for sale. So too will most cobblers.

Trim the leather strap at least 6 inches longer than you will need it. Now slip one end of the strap through the buckle and fold over the leather to get an idea of where you will want to cut the slot for the buckle pin.

The slot for the buckle pin can be made by drilling two or three small holes right next to each other. If you need to, you can tidy up the slot with a hobby knife, but keep the cutting to an absolute minimum.

Next dry-fit the buckle with the leather folded over into a bite. The buckle pin should move pretty freely.

You now want to put on the two metal safety rings and see where they fit. The rectangular metal piece will be fitted in the same folded-over bight of leather that the buckle is in. A rivet will hold those two pieces next to each other.

The metal tie-out stirrup will go between the first rivet and the second rivet.

In truth, you should NEVER use a Deben collar as a tie-out collar; they are simply not made for that task. If you use a Deben collar as a tie-out collar, the leather WILL break. In fact that is exactly how this leather collar broke last week.

Once you know where all the pieces go on your new collar, you will need to drill two holes at the proper location for the rivets. Use a drill bit the same size as the rivet or a tiny bit smaller.

You will be drilling two holes which will each go through two pieces of leather, as the leather will be doubled over.

Once you have the holes drilled, fit all the pieces onto the collar as shown in the top picture. Remember, the rectangular metal piece will be in the same bight as the buckle, while the metal tie-out stirrup piece will be afixed between the two rivets.

In the picture on the top of this post, the leather tongue to the right of the buckle is the part that is folded over to afix the buckle and rings in place.

You are now ready to rivet the collar together. This is actually the easiest part, as it can be done with copper split rivets, which require no tools other than a hammer and a flat screw driver.

Take a small copper split rivet and push it through the double collar hole next to the buckle. The rounded copper head of the rivet should be on the outside of the collar, facing away from the dog. Use a flat screw driver to split the rivet wider, and then hammer the two rivet flanges over so they are pointed away from each other down the length of the collar. The two pieces of leather should be tight against each other and holding the buckle and rectangular safety ring in place.

Once the first rivet is afixed slip on the tie-out stirrup and afix the second copper rivet behind it.

To finish, trim the collar to length. Use a razor blade to cut a blunt point on the tongue end of the collar, and use a small drill bit to put holes in the collar to accept the buckle pin. The hole closest to the Deben transmitter should be the hole that fits the neck of your smallest dog.

The completed replacement collar is shown below.

Note that all of my Deben Mark I locators are coated with a thin layer of PC-7 epoxy in order to cover the wires that are very near the surface. If the thin plastic on a Deben Mark I collar wears away, water will get in the electronics, and the collar will fail permanently.

Along with the tough epoxy coating on the transmitter, also note the rubber O-ring between the cap and the body of the transmitter. This too is a small addition that will help keep your Deben Mark I collar running longer -- along with proper taping.

Finally, note the brass slide tag on the collar. This is a 3/4" slide tag (the smallest I could find at the time). It lies flush with the collar and, unlike a riveted tag, puts no unecessary holes in the collar. This tag will slide a bit under pressure, and though my dogs have been in hundreds and hundreds of very tight holes, they have never gotten hung up. Unlike a riveted collar tag, a slide tag can move from collar to collar. Put both a phone number and your name and address on the collar. A brass tag, unlike an aluminum tag, will not scratch easily.

For slide tags, see here (brass 1/2 and 3/4 inch) or here (brass 3/4 inch) or here (brass 3/4 inch). If you want to make your own collars entirely, small metal buckles can be bought at local craft shops

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