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The Factory

Yes, we really have our own place. We don't work out of Mom's basement...

I started out in this business unintentionally. All I wanted a good and, in 1988, there were no remotely decent reproductions to be had. So, like many reenactors, I decided to make my own. What a grand scheme that turned out to be.

Fast forward 28+ years and now I make a few things besides A-frames- albeit with some help. (Yes, I can sew.) In 1999 we decided to expand into clothing manufacture- a move that nearly tanked us. Many of the other vendors who tried this did fail. I claim no particular savvy or great business skill- I think it's simply a case of having made fewer mistakes than the other guys. I can also attest that this entire process has been a serious course in global economics.

Most companies in this business either cannot afford to do this or consider it impractical due to the cost of manufacturing in the US. Several are evidently envious (they probably shouldn't be- this is a major pain in the ass) and imply that they have the same source as we do and can offer the identical item for x% less than us. Others claim that their bargain-barn knock off is the closest thing to an original made since the War- but never offer an original to compare it to. A few suggest that we are lying about making anything while a few colorful characters have even claimed to be "ATF's source". Yawn.

So, this page is intended both for general information- to give some idea of what it takes to make WWII junk, and secondly, as my salute to the blowhards. I'm tired of the guys who work out of their basement crowing that they sell thousands of this or that and about all their "containers" coming and going. We actually do sell that many of some things and get containers (40ft ones- not plastic totes) periodically- but I've never considered it part of my identity.

Since the most God-awful garment to manufacture in the history of the universe has got to be a WWII German Feldbluse, I'll use it as an illustration. We were making M43 caps and US cartridge belts in the same run, so there are some shots of them as well.

Making the Pattern:
1. Obtain an original of whatever it is you wish to copy.

At the moment we have about 20 original tunics. I know this pales in comparison to the 100's used by other guys...but it's all we got. Three of the SS tunics are real, and others are Heer with SS insignia. Caps to complete the look and helmet covers for a splash of color. We have several trousers, greatcoats, etc, etc.Yes, all this junk is original.

2. Figure out what the parts look like, and how it goes together. (Dis-assembly is the best means.) Merely having an original tunic does not mean you can automatically determine how the other sizes are graded- meaning how and where it grows and shrinks as the sizes increase and decrease. So, I've made an effort to acquire a range of sizes over the years. Currently, we have originals in sizes from 34-46, as well as several longs and shorts, in the "library".

That is a real M40 being dissected.Picture proof that our stuff is cut like the originals. End of discussion. One size of a garment does not give a good idea of the grade rules. Having a range of sizes does.

Cutting: This is the best demonstration of why doing a custom uniform (of any garment) is so much more expensive- time. Many people do not know how cloth is cut in a factory. It's not done with scissors and a hobby knife...
First, a "marker" is made. The patterns are laid out on a sheet of marking paper, organized in the most efficient layout to conserve cloth, and traced with a pen. The patterns can be traced directly onto the cloth with chalk, but we prefer the paper.

Tracing the patterns to make a marker. The original is kept nearby to check details.
Ready to cut. This batch is 40 M42 tunics, size 106 if you're wondering.
Staring into the material. A good cut can make or break the entire garment.
One set of chest panel is done. Small holes are drilled to locate pocket corners and dart positions.

Assembly: After cutting, parts are double checked, then sorted and distributed to different sewers for assembly. They are made by component, not one complete garment at a time. Thus, one person sews all of the pockets and pocket flaps, another the sleeves, another the collars, etc.. Once the sub-assemblies are done, the parts are joined.

Checking the cut parts.
40 Tunics ready to start.
250+ M43 Caps.
500 Cartridge belts
Assembling back panels.

Finishing the flaps.
Making buttonholes with the Reece.
Installing hardware on US cartridge belts.
Installing the bias tape.

Finishing: After each item is assembled, it's inspected for screw-ups and flaws, the markings and size stamps are applied, threads trimmed off and it's ready to go.

The whole process can range from being a blast, to a bit of a nuisance, to an outright nightmare. Yes, it gives us the freedom to make what we wish or need and the ability to have products available nowhere else. But it's not easy, and never will be. With the dramatic increase in the costs of manufacturing overseas, it is now becoming viable to make some products in this country again. We strive to make the best stuff possible, the delivery time short, and to keep the price realistic.

For those skeptics who think we're too expensive and that it can't possibly be that hard to make a tunic, a cap, a pack, etc, etc, you're welcome to visit anytime and try it out yourself.