Friday, February 29, 2008

The Function of Fringe

In fashion Fringe comes and goes.
On a jacket or a bag, sometimes adorned with beads, it brings to mind images of hippies or frontier folk and Native Americans. Since people have been wearing leather, leather has been wearing fringe. The reason is more than decorative, it's elemental; fringe wicks water. It will pull moisture away from the wearer and facilitate drying.

In modern times this has become less critical. Most of us, if caught in a downpour, will open an umbrella or dash for shelter. Most of us would go to great lengths to protect our leather from getting wet enough to require wicking.

Personal preference is the determining factor now -- my preference is fringe and lots of it! The fuller and more flowing, the better!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Deciphering Leather Terms

With so many different terms floating around in the leather business, it's easy to understand why many of my customers get confused. Full-grain, top-grain, bonded and split -- which is best for which applications? Let's remove some of the mystery.

Leather is measured in ounces per square foot; the higher the oz, the thicker the leather.

"Grain" refers to the layers of the hide.

Full-Grain (pictured here) is the entire thickness of the hide and is the best choice for belts if durability is important to you. A good full-grain cowhide belt of 8 oz or more will last years beyond anything else. Wallets made of 4-5 oz full-grain leather will give similarly long wear, but will require a bit of a break-in period before they lose their stiffness.

Top-Grain is the top layer of the hide, shaved off with machines called splitters. It works well for wallets and small items, but will not last as long as the full-grain. (no picture, as I rarely use top-grain leather)

Split Leather (pictured below) is what is left after the top-grain has been removed. It has a suede surface on both sides and is often used to make moccasins and chaps.

Here comes the part where I don't mince words; Bonded Leather. Sounds good, doesn't it? Like it's certified or guaranteed. Such impressions are deceiving. Bonded, in this case, refers to the bonding properties of glue. Bonded leather is not "grain" leather, rather it is bits and pieces of leather ground up, then mixed with a bonding material and molded into a flattened product -- sort of the leather equivalent of particle-board. In my opinion Bonded Leather is a sub-standard product and should be avoided. It will not stand up to wear. I have no samples to show. Products made with this mock-hide are usually clearly marked.

There are other terms -- Vegetable tanned, chrome tanned, latigo and so on -- we'll cover those in another post. I'll close today with a picture of a hand-painted traditional Ojibwe pattern custom-carved belt made of 10 oz Full-Grain Vegetable-Tanned Cowhide. Happy Day!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Too Much Snow

A picture being worth a thousand words, I thought I'd share the veiw out my back window this morning.
This is a color picture, not black & white...
I'm so ready for spring.

Process Leads to Product

One of the questions I hear most often is, "How long did it take to make that?"

Not an easy question to answer. Every project has its own demands, and each is a creation unto itself. I rarely work a piece from start to finish in one burst; there are waiting periods for drying at different stages along the way, and I usually have several pieces going at the same time. Work on one while another is drying... First is drawing and cutting.

Next I add texture.

Then it is carved in...

Final steps are painting by hand for brilliant color, then several different steps of finishing products to enhance detail and add protection and background color.
The whole process took many hours, but I think it was worth every minute!