The Quality of Handcrafted – Making a Bridle Leather Belt the traditional way
How to Make a Belt that will last a lifetime
At the Worcestershire Leather Company, we create top quality, bespoke, handmade and hand stitched men’s and ladies leather belts. Available in all waist sizes, we combine English Bridle Leather and traditional hand skills that have been learned and developed over the past 30 years.
Good quality materials are essential for a durable belt, so best bridle leather from the world renowned firm of J & E Sedgwick or Oak Bark Tanned bridle leather from Bakers of Colyton is carefully selected for quality and colour before starting the first of sixteen or more separate processes. All of these processes are carefully done by hand, which leads to the finished article being made to ‘last a lifetime’.
Made by hand from start to finish
Our dedicated hand processes encompass how to make belt that is not only truly unique, but also withstands the test of time. We begin by pushing a Plough Gauge or Drawing a Strap Cutter, set to the required belt width, along the straightened edge of the bridle leather, to produce the belt length, which now has one end shaped to a ‘church window’ or ‘blunt dagger’ style before it is cut to the required bespoke waist size. Marking out will denote the positions for holes, crews and stitching before the edges are ‘shaved’ which ‘rounds’ them for a smooth contour. Creasing along all the ‘grain side’ edges follows using a hot iron which not only compresses the fibres to add longevity but also gives a decorative line to enhance the belt.
Stain, made from a long established recipe, is now applied to the edges prior to being slicked by hand with a bone or hardwood rubbing stick (Lignum Vitae or similar) to produce a high sheen, which is shortly sealed to preserve the shine and protect the edge. Punching the ‘crew’ hole (the slot for the buckle pin) is next, followed by the five or more equally spaced oval holes that the pin will go through when the belt is eventually fastened up only by the customer for the first time. This is usually on the second tightest to give a balanced look to the belt as well as allowing for expansion, a fact of life for most we find.
Stitch marking is done next with a ‘pricking iron’ which makes indentations and ‘lay’ for the hand stitching, which will usually be 7 stitches to the inch but can often also be 6 or 8 according to the design of the belt and type of leather. Branding with our makers marks proceeds with a little ‘skiving off’ (removing surplus unwanted leather to reduce the bulkiness – yes that’s where the expression came from!) before needles are threaded in readiness for hand stitching the belt buckle attachment.
British Buckles from the foundry
Solid brass or Nickel plated solid brass buckles and fittings are now chosen from the selection, which are still made here in England by the long established firm of B.B. Stanley Brothers, based in the saddlery town of Walsall. These are sewn on to the belt by hand – sewing with the traditional double hand stitch well known and practised by every saddler. This is arguably the strongest form of stitching known which, from experience, will stand up to most of the daily challenges (some of which can include towing a broken down Jeep across Texas one customer tells us!)
Once completed, to give this beautiful looking stitch which is cast off in such a way as not to undo or fray like most machine stitching does, the penultimate job is blocking out the leather keepers to allow easy passage of the belt end when fastening up.
Handmade to last a lifetime
A final buff with a linen cloth and dry bristle brush before wrapping lovingly in tissue, then into its’ presentation box it goes before wending its way to you to be admired and enjoyed for many, many years to come.
The occasional sparing treatment with hide food or a good proprietary leather treatment when it looks as though it’s needed will enhance the belts longevity and should help it last for a good 20 years – many people come back within a year or two to buy another style, colour or to gift to a favourite friend as resisting the draw of a best quality bridle leather belt is not only difficult but often futile.
With a combination of the best bridle leather and traditional handcrafted expertise, at the Worcestershire Leather Company, we know how to make a belt that will exude longevity, class and sophistication.
For further details on how to make a belt, here at The Worcestershire Leather Company, or to let us know your requirements, please contact us today on: 01386 861572 or 07977 093913 (mobile). Alternatively you could send us an email with any enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.