Friday, November 25, 2011

Messograf by Cleo Skribent

I used to own this pen. But I lost it and never found it again. Somehow I never missed, but when I look at it, I really want to get one again. It was such a fun -and well-made- conversation piece because of the confusion: What is it? Is it a calliper? A ballpoint pen? A ruler? I guess, it's all, but I have to admit, it isn't that functional, but it is beautiful. 

And made in Germany.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Something Big Is In the Making

Picture is courtesy of Paul Trynka

All I'm saying is, that something great is happening and I'll let you all know a bit more, once I feel that it is appropriate to share more insight. But boots are being made in England of some very special leather.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Friendly Fire - Dad Rocks!

I know quite a lot of musicians. Some more talented than others. And at first I was quite set on not promoting any music made by friends or people I know, as it would be nepotism in a way. However some of the musicians, I know, are actually very talented and make great music, so I feel, that I'm obliged to use this platform to spread the word.

This is the case with the Icelandic/Danish band called Dad Rocks! It was formed as a solo project by Snævar Njáll Albertsson, but on stage it turns into a group, when friends chip in with all kinds of instruments. So it doesn't get boring, and you should definitely experience them live, if you get the chance. 

I'm not going to say much more about the music, I'll just let you know, that the first full-length album, Mount Modern has just been released.

Now to clear up any confusion I don't know Snævar personally, but I do know one extremely talented musician called Nikolaj, that plays in the band. Nikolaj actually made this video all by himself basically at the cost of a Happy Meal, a R2-D2 figurine and some fake blood.
I'm not going to interpret on the meaning of the video, as I have absolutely no idea, what it means, however it is nice seeing a very old and dear friend and the song is very good as well. 

Plus you should notice that parka he is wearing, as it is quite an icon in Denmark - and probably also in the rest of Scandinavia. Unfortunately it isn't being made anymore, but you can find them in thrift stores, if you have some luck.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tricker's x The Bureau - Orange Cordovan Toe Cap Super Boot

I think the title says it all: Super Boots.

If you have £555 to spare and you are in dire need of a pair of boots, you shouldn't hesitate.

Buy them here

But I'm I the only one, that is just slightly hesitant about all of the collaborations and special make-ups, that Tricker's are doing right now? I like Tricker's a lot and I have a massive amount of respect for the brand itself. And I of course understand, that they are using the momentum, but I'm just concerned, that they are abusing it on behalf of their brand and the quality. 
I have seen some Tricker's recently, where the welt was scratched - going wrecked - and not as well-polished and sewn, as it should have been, which probably should have deemed them as seconds, but they weren't.
On top of these issues I feel, that there are still some very good English maker's, that are getting very little attention compared to Tricker's. I'll try to do more on English shoe manufacturing at some point, but I can of course reveal, that I'm thinking of brands like Cheaney, Crockett&Jones and for instance William Lennon. Loake could also be included, but I can't believe, that they are moving production away from England. This is also why, I don't much attention to Grenson anymore. Grenson is marketed as being very British, but everything is assembled in Pakistan or Portugal, if I remember correctly and the quality has taken a hit.

This is of course just my ranting, but if you have any ideas, views or insight to the subject, feel free to share them.

Concerning the Care of Natural Vegetable Tanned Leather Goods

If there is one person on the Internet, that has proven to have quite a lot of knowledge on leathers, it has to be Mike of Indigoshrimp. I know Mike from a long, long correspondence on leather, leather crafts and shoes and I have to say, that I'm constantly impressed by the wealth of his knowledge. This is why, I immediately asked him, if I could re-post his in-depth guide on caring for natural veg tan leather and I got permission to do so and here is the result. If you have any questions on caring for your leathers, please do ask, and I'm sure, that Mike will gladly help answering questions, and I'll do my best to keep up.

Hopefully Mike and I can present some future projects, but there are no deadline and we are both of the idea, that good things can take a very long time.

Revisiting an old topic this time, but less opinion and more practical pointers for newcomers to natural vegetable tanned leathers.
A common question I am often asked is “How do I care for my new leatherxxxxx?”
It is a huge topic due to the many types of leather available which differ in origin, tannage, finishing processes, etc…most of the common stuff, such as chrome-tanned leathers on hand-bags or the re-tanned leathers on men’s shoes aren’t too difficult to care for, and as long as you pay reasonable attention to the maintenance of the leather, it would look more or less the same regardless of the finer points of care – such is modernised leather, an uniform appearance on different hides and at different times
Our focus will be natural vegetable tanned cattlehide here, with most points applicable to natural horsehide too, as this is perhaps the defining leather of our hobby…and the leather on which your method of care produces very visible results.
^ Vegetable tanned cattlehide, hand-stuffed, in natural
^ Pure oak-bark tanned cattlehide, in natural
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^ Vegetable tanned horsehide, soft-rolled, in natural

I will say that there is no “correct” way of maintenance, and as such I won’t comment on the frequency of care (which is usually the subject of debate.)
There are, however, basic principles which I think folks starting out in this hobby would benefit from.
Firstly, when is the right time to care for your natural veg. tanned leather?
Too often, beginners would care for their veg. tanned leather goods like they’d care for their footwear…this is usually no good.
It is important to keep in mind that vegetable tanned leather that is “unfinished” is not as water resistant as other tannages, loose it’s oil content faster and show the signs of wear and tear more dramatically.
Unlike heavily dyed and coated footwear leathers, you can’t cover-up or polish-over natural veg. tanned leathers – and therefore maintenance at the right time is key for the development and health of the leather.
I would strongly recommend the development of a maintenance schedule; for example, a natural vegetable tanned belt might receive some care for every month of effective wear.
Otherwise, there are a few signs which warns you to imminent and irreversible damage to the leather (usually to the grain and the junction layers), and these should spur you into action!
1. The grain feels dry to the finger tips
2. Superficial cracking or flaking
3. Development of ridging which are not the result of usage creasing
4. The leather has been submerged in, or come into prolonged contact with, water
5. Recent application of cleaning agents such as ethanol, etc
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^ Magnifier, pig-hair brush, horse oil & neatsfoot/wax mix
^ Fuller horsehair brush from the (?) 1970s
So what do we need for basic maintenance?
There are just a few essential tools, none too expensive:
1. Applicator
2. Brush
3. Cloth
4. Conditioner
The applicator is used for introducing the oil or cream conditioner onto the leather.
When covering larger areas, such as a long strip of belt or a bag, I’d recommend using your thumb, in a circular motion, to work the conditioner into the grain.
Although, believe it or not, the use of your thumbs and fingers actually takes a great deal of practice when it comes to applying pure oils – it is easy for the untrained hand to saturate an area of the leather, causing unnatural looking dark stains to appear.
Thus, use a broad brush (around 3 cm in width) for the application of oils until you get the feel of how veg. tanned leathers react to oils, as they help to distribute the oil more evenly over the grain.
To get to hard to reach places or stitched areas, I would strongly recommend using a smaller brush (around 1 cm in width), preferably one made out of animal hair (which remain soft and pliable.)
The choice of brush also needs consideration – do not use synthetics nor boar bristle brushes for shoe polishing, as vegetable tanned leathers which have just soaked up oils are very susceptible to abrasion.
What you need is a horsehair brush!
A good quality horsehair brush is perhaps the single most worthwhile investment if you plan on using or collecting good quality leather-crafts.
Having a cloth is optional, unless you plan on using a conditioner with a heavy wax base, which I would not recommend for natural veg. tanned leathers.
Look for a fine-fibred cloth which won’t shed all over the leather – keep in mind that wax-based conditioners easily trap dust and fibres until they are polished off or smoothed over.
Purists may disagree, but I find cleaning cloths used for TV screens or computer monitors quite suitable for the job!
To complete your tool kit, you’ll of course need a leather conditioner.
Leather food is usually either oil-based or wax-based, but most (hopefully) will contain both.
For vegetable tanned leathers, I would recommend a conditioner which contains at least 50% distilled animal oil.
^ Pure emu fat
^ My home-made conditioner
Avoid anything with wax as the main ingredient (these aren’t food so much as a protective coating) or anything which calls itself a shoe/boot oil.
Remember that the “food” is the oil, wax serves as a surface dressing which do not usually penetrate very deeply unless heat is applied.
Together with water and some stabilising compounds, the oils and waxes are the essential components.
Read the labels, avoid anything with too much commercial “fillers”.
Further, when it comes to wax, always choose beeswax. Keep in mind that a high wax content or raw beeswax will darken your leather more dramatically, as will the application of heat during the conditioning process.
^ Raw beeswax from a bee farm
There is a difference between the darkening with beeswax and the darkening with over-oiling…the former gives you a nice golden or amber hue, the later results in a mottled, dark brown.
I can’t emphasise enough the importance of a good conditioner – don’t cheap out, source it from overseas if you must, or even make your own – the long term health and appearance of your leather depends on it!
Other optional equipment include a magnifier, a burnishing tool made of wood/bone/stone, and a small metal pick (to remove debris from stitch holes and around hardware.)
Altogether, a basic kit might cost you around $50…a very small price to pay if you plan on owning a good collection of leathers.
Once your tools are assembled, you can start the feeding process…

let me share with you some basic maintenance methods.
For simplicity, I like to differentiate between leather cleaning and leather conditioning.
Let’s start with cleaning…
Regular cleaning is essential to the health and appearance of your leather, and at it’s most basic is really a quick & easy process!
Basic cleaning is done fairly regularly – with every wear for items such as shoes, or with every couple of  weeks of wear for items such as belts and wallets.
It really is an easy process: simply brush over the item with your horsehair brush, and wipe it down with a damp (not wet) cloth.

^ The leather on footwear is happiest if brushed before and after every wear!
The stroke of the brush is firm and smooth – the point is not to polish, but to remove dust & debris. The wiping with the damp cloth, on the other hand, is done very gently to avoid excess moisture soaking into the grain.
Leather soap and similar cleaning agents are used sparingly and only when necessary, keeping in mind that part of wearing natural vegetable tanned leathers involves the leather reacting to stains, dyes, etc. A bit of indigo staining on your wallet or belt doesn’t warrant scrubbing with cleaning agents…being too obsessive-compulsive or having too much of a perfectionist trait will make your life very difficult if you pursue this hobby 
With practice, the weekly cleaning of your leathers will take no more than a few minutes!
The feeding of leather, though, is much more time consuming if done properly.
Before any conditioning is to occur, you must first make sure the leather is clean!
This ensures better penetration of nourishing oils, as well as helping to prevent clogging of the pores.
It is preferable if the room temperature (or the leather at least) is relatively warm…this is no problem on a Summer day here in Australia, but use a blow-dryer if the temperature is too low.
If required, gently heat up the leather and/or conditioner with the blow-dryer – be very gentle, and remember the leather just needs to be mildly warm.
Then, using the applicator/brush, gently cover the grain with a small amount of conditioner (no more than a pea sized amount) and quickly smooth it over to cover a larger area; be extra careful when using oils, it is probably a better idea to use a wide brush to begin with, painting very thin layers of oil.
When using a pure oil, caution is needed to prevent saturating a particular area of the leather.
When using a cream or wax-based conditioner, you’ll need to work the conditioner into the leather with your thumb using a firm, circular motion.
For hard to reach areas, or where there is stitching/hardware, you’ll need to use a small brush to apply the conditioner and a small metal pick to remove clogged or excess conditioner if necessary.
^ Temporary darkening with the application of oil
Don’t be alarmed if you notice the conditioned areas of the leather becoming darker…this is only a temporary effect which disappears as the oils sink deeper down into the leather.
If the leather is very thick (e.g. on a 15 oz belt) you may need to apply the feeding process to the back-side of the leather as well – though I find this is generally not required after the first feeding unless you’ve neglected the leather for a long period of time.
Of course, the coating of veg. tanned leathers for use in inclement weather or rough-handling is a whole other topic unto itself, but this is more esoteric than practical nowadays.
This is more or less covers the basics of care. There’s no big secret to great looking natural vegetable tanned leather goods - enjoy using & wearing your leathers, take care of them properly, and they will serve you well for years to come, not to mention the develop beautiful patinas along the way.
Keeping vegetable tanned leathers really is a fantastic little hobby, and makes for a very nice side-project as you break in your denims and ducks. I’d strongly recommend every denim-nerd to give it a go.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Last Swordsmith

I have long been wanting to update my kitchen knives with some proper Japanese knives, but now I feel more like acquiring a Japanese sword because of the craft and absolute beauty of the product. Etsy put this video out, and I think it is 4 of the best minutes I spent today.

This man, Korehira Watanabe, represents true craft, I mean, just look at that sword. Stunning. And he is one of the last swordsmiths in Japan.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Archival Clothing Rucksack

I think there is a subject, that is yet to be completely covered, and it will probably take a lot of more posts on the subject for it to be fully covered, but that isn't the intention either. I'm - of course - referring to the subject of backpacks.

I still haven't decided on one for myself, so hopefully I'll be able to figure out what to buy, once I have covered some of the options, that I have been thinking about. If you have any suggestions, then please share them.

Archival Clothing has been mentioned, and you need to be familiar with the blog and their shop now. If not pay them a visit, please. They make beautiful objects with the same recipe basically. Waxed cotton + Mil-spec + Solid brass + Leather + Made in USA - Something good and durable.

I'm not going to say much about their rucksack. I think, it is a great product by great people, that has been very well thought through.

Just have a look at this

1 - Lightly padded back panel provides overall structure andprotection from awkward cargo. Pack rides closely and load does not sag.
2 - Shoulder straps attach into side seam, curving straps around body for comfort.
3 - Twin outer bellows pockets are easy to access and are nicely sized for smaller personal items.
4 - Single Horween Chromexcel leather strap is light, durable, and convenient.
5 - Dimension is taller and narrower. Loads carry best in this configuration.
6 - Drawstring around top opening keeps load secure and further prevents bag flopping.
7 - Two inch wide webbing shoulder straps are perfectly comfortable for loads up to 25 or 30 pounds.
8 - Convenient locker loop.
9 - Double-layered bottom ensures a long life.
10 - Fully finished inside and out. Seams fully bound in our own waxed canvas bias tape. Stress points are bar-tacked or riveted. Snaps and rivets are reinforced with leather washers.

In terms of style I don't think much of a backpack, but in terms of practicality I can't seem to think of a replacement. A tote/shopper is not always handy and a messenger creates shoulder fatigue sometimes. That's why I need a backpack for school and possibly travel as well.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

This Is Happening - A Lasting Impression

When it comes to putting stuff out there in the world, I always feel very self-conscious. This happens, when I write here and when I try to create something out of leather - or fabrics But somehow I'm getting more and more acquainted with the feeling, so I took what to me felt like a massive step and I had a maker's stamp made or actually two. This I something I never really thought about doing, but now that I have had it made, I can't believe everyone doesn't have one. It just feels good putting your name on stuff. I don't know why. I decided to have one made for my leather work, as I feel, that I'm quite proud of what I make - most of the time - and I want people to know, that I don't mind putting my name on it, as some sort of guarantee.

With a little help from the very helpful, patient and kind Brenda at Laser Gift Creations I had two stamps made to my specifications. I wanted something very minimal and small, so it doesn't draw too much attention away from the actual product. I'm not really fond of logos myself, so why should I make one myself. And I also wanted the Futura font, as it is my favourite. I had two made because I wanted one for really small objects and one for medium-large sized objects. But please keep in mind, that both stamps are very small, which you of course can't tell from the picture.

I hope you like it.