Try And Try Again…

Had a customer come to me with a request to build two panels, one 13″ x 9.5″, the second  15″ x 5″. He wanted a PALS grid on the face with a velcro backing and snaps on all four corners and down the sides. The idea was to build a panel that could be securely attached to the interior of an Eagle Industries pack to organize the internal load. He’ll be looking into having velcro with a matching set of snaps sewn to the interior of the bag locally.

So I built ’em. Easy enough to do until it came to placing the snaps. Sometimes it’s difficult to visualize a project and see how all the pieces fit together until it’s done. I couldn’t see how to place the snaps where they needed to be while having to try to sew over/ around them (sewing machine needle + solid brass snap = trouble.)

With the panel complete, I emailed the customer and told him he would have to sacrifice a few PALS grids in order for me to drive the snaps where he wanted them. On a project like this I’d bore a hole through the material with a hot knife and then drive the snaps through by hand.

He wasn’t happy to hear that significant parts of the panel would be unusable because snaps had been driven through the webbing, so I had a closer look at the panel and decided to move the snaps as close as possible to the edges of the panel. I bored the holes and set the snaps into place. They overlapped the webbing about 1/4″,  still allowing a healthy clearance for attaching pouches.

Mission accomplished. I set the panels aside for shipping and pushed onto other projects.

Except that wasn’t the end of it. In the back of my mind, the stupid thing was eating away at me. The sewing was solid and the workmanship was good, but it didn’t look right. It didn’t look the way a well finished, professionally built piece of gear should look because of those damned snaps.

I hate the idea that someone is going to be running around out there with a piece of kit I built that looks like junk. I’m embarrassed to admit that there are a few of those out there, but damned few. Because customer referrals and word of mouth are a major source of growth, it’s particularly bad for business. And my conscience wouldn’t shut up about it.

So I had another look at the panels. The crappy thing about hindsight is that it doesn’t come until you’ve messed something up. I folded the panel so that the PALS webbing bowed out away from the backing. Then I bored the backing with a hot knife so that I had a hole under the PALS webbing but not through it. I put the stud post through the hole, hammered it into the snap socket and had something that worked and looked good enough to put my name on.

The only problem was that there was no way to retrofit the two existing panels. You can pry the snaps out with a set of pliers but once you burn a hole through the material, that’s it, there’s no way to dress it up, even if it is serviceable. So two new panels got built. The snaps were added when they were done and this is what they looked like:

In the end, it cost me twice as much in materials and took twice as long. There are guys out there that do this a lot better than I can and would never have made a mess of it in the first place. I wish I had the skill or aptitude for this but I’m just an 0311 with a sewing machine. Doing one off work, custom designs and prototyping is not an efficient process, and it’s not even a particularly good way to make a living, but I know I won’t be embarrassed about this particular piece of gear.

UPDATE 20100628:

It’s always good to get feedback from a customer or find out how a piece of gear or project worked out. To that end, the following pictures were forwarded with the panels from this blog post installed in the pack.

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