Years ago, in a small workshop in the Desert Southwest, I stamped the first leather wallet to go out the door with the number 001. It may have ended up with a friend or a customer, it’s so long ago I can’t quite say for certain, but odds are it’s still out there doing it’s job just like on day one. The number stamp was and still is a way for me to keep track of every piece I have ever made. I hand stamp every single piece that is made in the shop with a unique and sequentially increasing number. It tells my customer and me the order in which that item was made in the history of all of my leather goods. A lucky few still have some of the first hundred to go out.
Several months ago my girlfriend’s father stopped in the workshop wanting me to spiff up his belt with some more conditioner and give the edges some polishing…it was #062. Kind of surprising for me to see these older pieces and remember where I was when I made them! Above is a prime example of what most wallet stamps look like nowadays.
I keep track of every number and the item that bears it in a small notebook. I think that’s important, it gives me a sense of fulfillment knowing that each piece is made one by one here in the workshop. It’s how I need to do things if I want something made well…piece by piece.
Here’s a look at the stamping process in action. I use an old American made number wheel with a rawhide mallet. First I cut out the wallet shape and punch the holes (after dyeing the entire hide), then I wet the leather right where the stamping is done – this helps to keep the impression in the leather for its lifetime, next I stamp away in an even line. One by one each style gets its stamp.
The block everything sits on is a giant slab of polished granite. It makes it easy to stamp on top of because of the incredible amount of inertia…keeps things from vibrating when you hit the hammer onto the number wheel and into the leather. It also dampens the noise in the workshop quite a bit! I used to hammer things on an old wood table and my eardrums certainly regretted it!
A finished stamped number, the number wheel, and rawhide mallet. This wallet is ready for the next stage – oiling and waxing. Do you have one of the Mr. Lentz original numbers in the low hundreds? Leave a comment – I’d love to get a photo of your wallet!