I take great pride in knowing that from the founding of Red Leaf Leather my products have always been handmade. All leather products are made by myself – not one other person touches your order from beginning to end! Continue reading to learn more about the process of making your handmade product.
INSPECTION & SELECTION
The process of crafting a handmade product begins with the roll of leather. Because I allow for custom text or designs to be hand-stamped into the leather, I have to purchase “raw” leather, which is undyed and untreated. Finished leather does not hold stamping well, if at all, so it’s very important to purchase it in the raw state. Before purchasing any leather, I select multiple rolls of full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather, lay them out and inspect every roll. If a particular roll has too many major markings, feels low quality, or is too stiff, I move on to the next roll. I only purchase leather I know you will love and which has the potential to last a lifetime.
HAND STAMPING & PERSONALIZATION
Once I return to my shop, I unroll the leather, examine it one more time to make sure I still love it, and then begin the cutting process. Each piece is measured, down to the millimeter, and cut using a set of sharp knives and cutting tools. Whether it be for a wallet, a passport holder, or a leather bag, this process is the same. Every cut is measured. Every piece is precise. I then take the freshly cut pieces to my work table and lightly spray with water. This allows the leather to become soft and impressionable for the text or design to be stamped into it. I use a leather stamping kit to stamp the leather, which allows me to apply one letter at a time to a stamping tool. After attaching the letter to the tool, I carefully align the tool and letter on the leather. I quickly tap the tool with a mallet, leaving the letter freshly imprinted into the leather. This process is repeated over and over until the full text is stamped. Hand stamping text into leather is not quick, but I love being able to customize the product with meaningful text!
If you requested a custom design on the product, such as an animal silhouette or a logo, I use a transfer paper. I print the design provided and then trace that design onto the transfer paper. The leather is then moistened, and the transfer paper is placed on top of the leather and a pen is used to trace the design on the transfer paper. Because the leather is soft from the water, this tracing shows up on the leather. A sharp knife, called a Swivel Knife, is used to hand-cut the design into the leather. This allows for dye, during the dyeing process, to fall into the cuts and give the appearance of the cut lines being black.
If you request for the design to be “stamped”, or beveled, a leather Beveler tool is used which allows me to gently tap the leather around the design using a mallet. This forces the leather all around the design to become depressed, giving the appearance of the design as elevated. This stamping process also allows for the dye to fall into the depressed outline and can give the image an appearance of almost being branded. Keep in mind the beveler is only about 3/16″ wide, so to complete a design, I have to tap anywhere from 100-300+ times!
After stamping any text and designs that have been requested, the next process is to hand dye the leather. The dyeing process must be done in one sitting or the dye will look uneven, which leaves some pieces darker or lighter than others. The back is dyed first and then the front and edges of each piece before allowing it to sit and dry. Once the drying process is completed, a sealant is applied. Leather sealer helps protect the colors and keep them looking as bright as the moment they dried. The sealer also protects leather from wear and moisture (though keep in mind that doesn’t mean they are completely waterproof). This process also rubs off any excess dye to minimize any dye to clothing transfer.
GLUING & SEWING
Each product is glued together and clamped using clips to hold it in place while drying. This is the last step before sewing the product and ensures that the pieces will not shift during the sewing process. I watch with great care as the machine creates each stitch to make sure those stitch lines are as straight as I can get them. Once the sewing is completed, if the product has rounded edges, an edge rounding tool is used to round off the edges. Because cutting the edges leaves the raw leather color exposed, the edges are dyed and sealed again.
The very last steps to the product being completed is to hand-burnish the edges, making them smooth, and then hand-buffing each product to leave it with a little glow. Once those last steps are completed, the custom leather product is packaged up (with a little handwritten note!) and dropped off at the post office. Each order contains a Care Instruction card, which explains how to best take care of the product to ensure it will last for years to come!
WHAT IS THE QUALITY OF YOUR LEATHER PRODUCT?
Now that you know how much love and care goes into making my leather goods, click HERE to learn more about the quality of materials I use.