This Leatherman is Nobody’s Tool

March 31, 2018

Francesco Thompson is a man torn between eras. For eleven years he lived the turbulent life of a Coast Guard flight mechanic, operating the hoist of an HH65 Dolphin on rescue missions in the waters off SoCal. Today, he uses the focus he acquired as a helicopter mechanic to craft custom leather goods, each piece a handmade labor of love.

“Sometimes,” relates Francesco, “I feel like I should have been born in an earlier era.”

Starting in his garage, Francesco learned leathercraft first as a hobby, as something to just relieve a little stress. Belts were the easiest, so he started with those. He eventually moved on to tactical gun belts. These belts have been a favorite of LAPD detectives who enjoy the personalized, custom belts for their shoulder holsters and other concealed carries.

When you step into his San Pedro shop today, the mild, easy scent of the leather, the massive work bench and the vintage fixtures all create an inviting, calming atmosphere. “Leather for me has always been therapeutic,” says Francesco. “It has power over me that just calms me.”

But make no mistake though, he is hard at work every day. When a few guys from the local fire companies learned of the quality of his custom turnout suspenders, the word quickly spread. Someone put in a good word for him with Jason Knight, and now Francesco makes all of the scabbards for Fire Axe, Inc. In addition, he makes the J.P. Special scabbards for San Francisco Fire.

Francesco always asks his firefighter customers for their input. He adapts his products to this feedback, and feels that these improvements make his work second to none. As an example, he now triples the elastic on the suspenders and measures all of his die cuts on the scabbards to the 16th of an inch.

“I think it’s important to take care of one customer at a time and focus on relationships,” said Francesco. That is one of the reasons that he conditions all of the products that he sells, free for life. “That includes oiling, cleaning, new holes punched – for the most part, while you wait.”

The Leather Shop is located at 915 S Grand Ave in San Pedro. More info at or call (310) 982-3290

By Dave Wagner

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