Stuart, the founder and owner of ThermaPress,LLC made his first leather holster over 25 years ago. He was always making special holsters, slings, and different types of carriers to suit his own needs. Stuart began his career in law enforcement in 1992. The limited choices of holsters available to plain clothes law enforcement for concealed, on and off duty carry, left him frustrated. It was as if the people making the holsters had never actually worn or tested them. Since then, Stuart has made many holsters and methods of concealment for his own needs. He would often purchase another brand of holster and modify it to suit his own requirements. Most of these were made right at his kitchen table with basic tools. In 2011, He began making his first holsters out of thermo formable plastic, also known as Kydex. The tools were rather crude and still did not meet the level of craftmanship he strived for. Stuart had always been an avid woodworker and in 2012 moved his holster making into a corner of his woodshop where he began making holsters for himself, friends, and co-workers. He called his endeavor Blue Light Tactical.
In early 2012, Stuart began experimenting with vacuum forming to make some of his holsters. His goal was to make a curved, thermoformed holster that hugged the human body as tight as possible for the utmost in concealment. Stuart did not like the method of making the holster and then bending the holster to make it conform to the human body. He concluded the curve of the holster needed to be done while the holster was being formed. There was only one solution to this problem and it was with vacuum forming. There were no commercially available vacuum formers he could purchase that would allow him to do what he wanted. So Stuart set out to design a vacuum former that was designed to work with kydex. Very few kydex holster makers were using vacuum forming. Those that were, used home made equipment that leaked and did not work very well or they used huge commercially available vacuum formers costing thousands of dollars that used huge pieces of kydex. Stuart’s first attempts at building a leak free vacuum former were total failures. His goal was to build a vacuum former that would work with jigs and a curved jig fixture with which to make curved holsters. Stuart invented the curved jig and then started developing a vacuum former that would work around the curved jig. Thousands of dollars and almost 30 prototypes later, Stuart finally created a bench top vacuum former to work with kydex and his curved jig. He documented his progress on videos posted to Youtube. It took several months for the cottage kydex holster community to catch on to the vacuum former design and have faith in its ability. Blue Light Tactical then suddenly found itself in the vacuum former business. Other holster makers quickly began referring to Blue Light Tactical as BLT. Demand skyrocketed and Stuart found himself overwhelmed with orders and not enough hours in the day to keep up or have time with family, all while working a full time job and another part time job. The vacuum formers were hand crafted out of oak, melamine, polyester resin, polyurethane, and silicone membrane. Each one had to be built by hand and tested and they were extremely time consuming to build. Stuart sold his vacuum formers and curved jigs all over the country. BLT vacuum formers are still in operation in all 50 of the United States today. Pretty soon there after, several other holster companies decided they wanted to also be in the vacuum former business and began copying Stuart’s curved jig and his vacuum former design. These “copy cats” did so without fully understanding “the why” and reasoning behind Stuart’s designs, and without all the experience gained from testing multiple methods and prototypes.
Kydex has to be heated first in order to thermo-form it into the shape of a holster. All of the cottage industry holster makers were using small toaster ovens to heat the kydex. It was time consuming and the small ovens gave less than satisfactory results. A year earlier, Stuart had re-purposed an old t-shirt heat press and began using it to heat kydex. It was a game changer in terms of speed in making holsters. The combination of Stuart’s vacuum former, his use of the heat press, and the curved jig turned the kydex community on its ear and completely changed how everyone had been making their holsters. Stuart could not continue working the 20 hours a day, nights, and weekends any longer. He tried outsourcing some of the parts needed for his vacuum formers and it created even more problems. Stuart walked away from building the oak vacuum formers so he could spend more time with family and go back to making holsters even though he had already designed a new vacuum former out of plastic and other materials that he called the ThermaPress. The ThermaPress was born but it would take several years before bringing it to market. Stuart decided to go ahead and start a new company called ThermaPress to continue making holsters and in preparation for releasing the ThermaPress design at a later time.
Meanwhile, Stuart then published a video teaching everyone how to build a much more simplified version of his ThermaPress out of PVC lumber and he continued making holsters. Stuart also developed a newer, improved version of his original curved jig. In late 2016, after almost three years of testing the ThermaPress and the new curved jig in an actual holster production setting, Stuart decided to release the ThermaPress for sale to other holster makers. Stuart also decided to separate the vacuum former business from the holster business and ThermaPress Holsters are now sold under other branding.
While ThermaPress, LLC has only been around since 2014, we have been in the business of helping other holster makers and making holsters for even longer. We have more experience and expertise in the bench top vacuum forming of kydex holsters than anyone. We are the inventors of the first commercially available bench top kydex membrane vacuum former, inventors of the curved holster jig, and it was our idea to use the heat press for heating kydex. We are also the inventors of the ThermaPress, the first ever vacuum former to employ dual seal technology, diamond flow technology, the first vacuum former to use both membrane and direct forming methods, the first modular vacuum former, the first bench top former with built in vacuum storage, and many other innovative ideas.