Why are your prices so much higher than similar items on Amazon, eBay and other sites?
All my leather work is performed by hand. Every cut, every prick of the chisel, every stitch and all the edge work. Virtually all leather goods purchased through Amazon, eBay and other online vendors as well as retail stores are produced with sewing machines, pattern stampers and other automated methods. In addition, this work is typically performed in low cost labor markets such as China, Vietnam, and India.
Secondly, most manufacturers use highly cost effective (less expensive) materials for their goods. The surfaces you see and touch can be high quality leather, but look at the materials used inside your wallets and purses. Quite often this is not leather but a much cheaper alternative material.
How long does it take to produce your work?
Hand work takes a substantial amount of time. Craftsmanship is a marathon, not a sprint as I often remind myself. I will often have well over 24 hours of labor in a medium sized purse and over 12 hours of labor in a wallet.
What are the basic steps for creating a leather project?
Most leather projects follow the same general set of steps:
Create or update a design. I use computer design tools to produce some patterns, others I design in a notebook.
Confirm the design with the customer. Most of my work is done on commission, meaning a customer requests an item. We’ll either start with an existing design / pattern I have or the customer may have pictures or drawings of their own. I believe it’s important to review with the customer the key design elements such as dimensions, hardware, hardware finish, leather type and color before cutting any leather or wood.
Transfer the design to the leather. This transfer process could be tracing a pattern outline onto leather or transferring the design with a straight edge ruler and French curves.
Cut the leather. Leather is commonly cut using ultra sharp knives such as head or round knives, hand rotary cutters, craft knives, leather shears, and skiving knives (used to shave leather).
Crease the leather. Edge creasing is the creation of the indented lines near the edges of leather elements that make up the project. There are special tools used to make these creases such as a fileteuse.
Prick the leather. This is the process of making the marks, or often the holes in the leather for the stitching needles to pass through using special chisels with sharp pronged forks and a mallet to drive the chisel partially or fully through the leather.
Perform edge work. Beveling, sanding, burnishing, and edge painting are the primary steps for edge work. It is very common for sanding, burnishing, and edge painting to occur iteratively. First at 220 grit, then 400 and on up to 1000 grit. Sand, edge paint, sand again until you have a very smooth surface. For elements of a project such as the attachment points for a handle or a strap, the edge work is performed before the elements are stitched together.
Stitch the leather. All my leather work is stitched by hand. Most commonly I use a two needle technique called a saddle stitch. A saddle stitch is incredibly strong and durable. A cut of a single loop in a saddle stitch will not cause the seam to fail. Hand stitching is relatively easy to identify. With most leather chisels this will result in a beautifully angled stitch, particularly when using French style chisels.
Perform edge work. See description above. This edge work step finishes the exposed edges of the item.
Add hardware. Things get exciting at this point as the project is nearing completion. In this step buckles, clasps and similar hardware items are installed.
Complete final edge work. Final touches on the exposed edges to get everything just right.
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