Hand-tooled, Hand-crafted Leather

What is it??

If you haven't ever seen a hand-tooled, hand-crafted leather article. You might just be in for a nice suprise.

Tooling leather is much heavier and thicker that garment leather. The thickness of the tooling leather can vary from 1/16" to more than 1/4". This makes it much more durable and longer lasting than the machine sewn leathers used to make today's leather purses and wallets. As a matter of fact alot of the modern wallets and purses on the market today are made from what I affectionaltely call "pressed leather". Leather fibers pressed with adhesives to make a new sheet of leather, much the same as today's cheaper brand of "pressed wood" or better known as particle board which is nothing more than wood shavings and saw dust pressed together with glue. Pressed leather and pressed wood react much the same to moisture, be it rain or sweat. Separation occurs and the product falls apart. HMMMM - GO FIGURE!

Hand-tooling requires the use of vegetable tanned cowhide tooling leather. The thicker leather is used on the outside of the bible cover, purse, billfold, etc. The design is carved and tooled permantely into the surface using knives, and tools designed specifically for this purpose. The interior is made from a thinner (yet thicker than what you find in garment leathers) lining leather. Thus these articles are more durable and will last for years of hard use with minimal care.

The pieces are assembled using one or more of three techniques. The interior pieces are sewn using a professional leather sewing machine (used for chap making or shoe repair). This is always used for the thinner interior pieces. For the thicker pieces we use a saddle stitch. The same one used for assembling saddles. So you know it's a good strong stitch. The Saddle Stitch is done by hand, using a waxed thread and two needles. Weaving back and forth from side to side each needle through the same hole once. This results in a tight, strong stitch between two or more pieces of leather, no matter the thickness. The third is the most decorative, popular and possibly the strongest method of assembly: Leather Lacing. In this shop, we use the Single, Double and Triple Cordovan Stitch methods most often. Depending on the thickness of leathers that we are assembling. Lacing can be as simple as a Running Stitch or Whip Stitch to a complex Round Braid or Mexican Basket Weave. We do this with short pieces of lace to keep from causing premature wear to the lace, thus extending it's life.

I have seen a lot of really old (20 - 90 year old pieces) hand-carved, hand-tooled leather articles. Even when the lace is worn and tattered (results of extreme wear) they are still holding together and quite durable. I recently replaced a "No-Stitch billfold" (see our catalog or examples), that I had built for an over-the-road trucker more than 19 years ago. Was it worn...? Thoroughly!!! But he got his money's worth out of it! He said that the hole in the outer side and the tear on one corner didn't actually develope until 2 years ago. HA! So you just MIGHT get 15 - 18 years of service out of one of these billfolds!!! Well...All things are possible....

Really, the only way a good leather bible cover, purse or wallet will come apart is with a sharp knife and your persistence.

Extending the life of any leather laced piece is a simple matter of keeping the leather and lace properly nourished and having it re-laced before the leather gets to thin or tears on the edges. This will occur only if the lace becomes worn out and gives up completely, usually occuring on the corners or in the bends first, some 8 - 15 years into daily use of the article. Depending on how you handle the article.

Page content updated 02:04:17 2005-04-13

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