Making leather jesses is so easy, there is no reason not to have plenty on hand. Start with a good leather. The thickness is important. Too thick and they are too heavy and hard to work with. Too thin and your bird will easily break them. It’s important that the leather isn’t too stretchy as well. Some falconers like to use kangaroo. I’m sure it’s a good leather to use, I have a psychological problem with it. It’s so thin, I don’t trust it. That’s not to say it’s not good leather. I would just rather use something thicker. It’s going to be a bit of trial and error until you find the thickness you like. I’ve been using the 4oz tooling kip I use for making the hoods. I’ve found them to be just right for female Harris Hawks. I’ve been using the same jesses for over 5 years. I slather them with jess grease every now and again and they come back soft as new.
1. Cut two pieces 7/16″ x 12″
2. Roll one end three times. (If you are using a thicker leather, rolling it twice will be enough) Using a marker, mark across the roll. This will be where you punch your holes.
3. Unroll the jess and transfer the marks from the side to the middle of the jess. Using a large hole punch, punch at these points. Be careful not to go to large, It will make the leather weak at the sides.
4. Taper the other end to a point.
5. Use a generous amount of jess grease on the leather to make it slip through the holes easier. Re-roll the jess and align the holes. Using a pair of forceps or needle nose pliers, insert through the holes and grab the other end of the jess. Carefully work the end through all the holes and pull the end through until the knot is tight. It might take a bit of work and you might need to add more jesse grease.
6. Using your swivel, mark the length of the slit at the other end. Use the smallest hole on your hole punch and punch a hole at both ends of this mark. With an exacto knife, cut the slit from hole to hole. The tiny holes at the ends of the slit prevent the leather from tearing.
This will make a pair of jesses 9″ long.
If you are making flying jesses simply eliminate the slit at the end.
Parachute cord jesses
Parachute cord jesses are incredibly strong. My daughter used them with her red-tail for 7 years and never had any problems with them. My only complaint about them was they tend to be a little slippery. But other than that I had no problems with them. For about $3.00 you can pick up around 20′ of cord. This is enough to make about 6 pairs of jesses.
You can get paracahute cord from any Army surplus store. Or you can order them on line. Vermont’s Barre Army Navy store online is where I get mine. It comes in a wide variety of colors. It’s handy to have a couple of colors if you are flying more than one bird. I fly two female Harris Hawks and have different color jesses so I can identify them from a distance.
Cut two pieces 18″ long. Remove all but one of the inner cords. If you accidentally remove them all, don’t worry, it’s pretty easy to thread one back in. With a hot exacto blade, melt the ends to prevent any fraying. Be careful not to melt the ends shut.
Make two marks measuring 10″ and 10 1/2″ from one end. (Fig 1.) With a hot blade, cut a slit between the marks. The hot blade melts the edges to prevent fraying.
Pull the small inner cord up through the slit, leaving it inside the short end. Tie this to the long end very tightly. Now, this is the only tricky part, pull the cord through and work the end into the slit and out the other end (Fig 2.) This takes some work as the end does not want to thread into the slit easily.
Cut a button from a thick piece of leather and slide it on. Tie a knot at the end and melt it together. (Fig. 4). The size of the button depends on the size of the grommet you are using on the anklets. This is an extra precaution to prevent the knot from working its way through the grommet.
Parachute jesses are extremely strong, yet very light. They can be used for the smallest bird up to the largest red-tail. They don’t become hard and brittle like leather and they can be washed. They are so cheap to make you can have several extra pair on hand.
This is a buttonless style jess.
Just like you braid leases, you can also braid jesses as well. Follow the instructions for braiding the buttonless leases. The braided mason line or the 130# Dacron are perfect for jesses.
4. Continue braiding with the 4 strand round braid for 71/2″ – 8″.
5. Separate the strand into two bundles of 4.
6. Braid each bundle 1 1/2″
7. Bring the strands back together again and again and pair up for 4 double strands.
8. Braid for 1″. Start dropping one single strand at a time like you did for the tapered end of the leash. When you are down to 4 single strands, braid a few more times and then cut the ends even and melt. Go back and cut the loose ends and melt them into the jess.
What you end up with is a loop at each end. One end has a small tab. This end goes through the grommet on the anklet. The tab will help you grab it when you want to remove the jesses. The other end then goes through this loop like the leash. The other end goes though the swivel. If you are making flying jesses, simply finish off with a braid to the end with no split.