Let's get behind the scenes into our leather working studio to see how we actually make our much loved wallets. From the feedback we get from our customers, we know we are doing something right. So I want to share how we are able to do what we do.
We make handmade leather wallets using no machines. And when we say no machines, we mean that if we have a power outage, our production can still go on.
Full grain leather tanned using natural tannins from tree bark
When you hold one of our wallets in your hand, you will feel the difference. The way the material interacts with you, how substantial it feels and yet how refined it looks - it is all a result of us choosing the perfect materials suited for this object d art. This leather maintains its own structure, can stand on its own.
This is a pivotal importance to us - we refuse to work with synthetic or paper based fillers - the strength, body and form in all our products is achieved by the careful selection of the right leather i.e. vegetable tanned full grain leather.
This is also the most durable and long lasting leather, that only looks better with continuous daily handling in regular conditions. If you put it away in a locker, it might actually look sad and in need of some TLC.
Top grade hand tools
Having the right tool for the job can make a huge difference to the quality of the outcome; and by huge, I mean a massive, enormous, earth-shattering difference! And I say this only because the importance of the right tools cannot be stressed enough in the fine art of leather working.
We go to great lengths to source quality tools - every little step along the way needs different tools. Most of these are imported from other parts of the world, as sadly, there is a dearth of high quality tools in India.
The picture here shows only a vital few tools, notice the prongs of some of them have broken off...professional hazard!
Practice and more practice every day!
All right, so we have some really great leather, we got the right tools. To put them to good use, we need to make sure we are using the right technique for cutting, marking, stitching, gluing and a whole other host of little things.
And the right technique knows no bounds of time. You always need to keep improving on your craft!
A closer look at how a handmade wallet is...er...made!
It all starts with selecting the appropriate sections of the hide to cut from.
We use the least processed form of leather. Full grain leather has beautiful markings. After tanning, it has not undergone any chemical treatments so, there are many scars, a few natural wrinkles and sometimes an occasional crack. Selection involves checking that the entire piece of leather has no quality defects, and tastefully using the rest of the hide to suit a particular product.
Beautiful markings - use use use!
Any defects in leather are carefully left out during the making process. Occasionally, there might be some areas that have some scarring or 'freckles', caused by insect bites or other skin issues during the life of the animal. We usually hide these away by using on inside section of wallets. There's absolutely nothing lacking in these pieces and many leather makers proudly use these pieces even on the the main visible parts of a product.
We could make our life much easier by simply opting for processed top grain leather, with zero imperfections and much better yield; but we just love the beautiful natural markings on full grain leather, and we love doing things the right way.
Onward to Leather cutting!
The selected leather is then cut to size, using a sharp knife. The right sharpness is crucial in getting crisp, straight edges.
Step 3: Assembly & Stitching
Next, the wallet assembly begins! Parts need to be glued together before stitching. The glue only serves to hold wallet together during the stitching. It has no importance in maintaining structure after stitching is done.
Holes are punched with a punching iron before stitching to execute perfectly aligned stitch lines.
The geometry of the product needs to be taken into account. The number of stitching holes need to align with the length/width curvature of the panels being stitched.
Stitching and Monogramming:
A seasoned craftsperson with a bit of math, has the art and skill to achieve near perfect hand stitching. Also, if you want your name stamped on the wallet, this is the stage when we do it.
Saddle stitching is a traditional stitching technique used in leatherworking. Every stitch is made by forming a tiny knot with two needles. It is a very strong stitch, also looking much more distinctive than a machine stitch.
Step 4: Burnishing
Burnishing does not get as much limelight as saddle-stitching. But in reality, this is THE final process that adds finesse to the final product. It is a very important step that gives a smooth, water resistant edge to our leather wallets.
This picture here show an edge before and after burnishing - involves sanding it down with multiple grits of emery paper and finishing it with a burnisher.
A finished wallet - all dressed up and ready to go!
Shown here is a coin pocket wallet with two cash pockets. This client had also chosen to have their initials stamped onto the wallet front.
The Classic Wallet take 8-10 hours to make. So that's literally all in a day's work at Godbolé Gear!