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Category Archives: Leather

How to Store Leather and Keep it Dry

dry cabinet for leather

As it turns out the Pacific Northwest is a damp place! When you are in the leather goods business, the top priority is keeping those hides in good shape and in an environment that is temperate and dry. After moving up to Washington state last June we put the leather workshop into a steel building on the property. The building was pretty bare bones, just a large open space and your standard steel sheeting for walls. The priority once we got up here was to get the place insulated and heated – both for comfort and to help control the very humid air up here. Living in a forest probably makes that problem a bit harder to solve. It’s just always wet here and will be for 8 months out of the year. As time went by, the insulation went in, and heating was installed but the humidity remained…inside the building. Heating air will reduce the relative humidity but in this temperate environment in the PNW, you can have days in the fall where it’s mid sixties and 95% humid. What happens is that the damp air slowly makes its way inside to the slightly warmer dryer air. Over time I would see the humidity levels increase a few percent each day hovering close to 70%. You can’t keep unwaxed leather for a prolonged period of time at that level so a solution was needed.leather shelves

Since I started leatherwork I have been storing my rolled up hides on these steel and fiberboard shelves. It worked great in the Southwest, where it was dry enough to keep things in good shape. They also offered a portable solution for the numerous times the shop has moved (4 times in 5 years !). Up here in WA, this shelving style was not going to cut it. One of the main problems with it is airflow. Up here the damp air can just sit there undisturbed. simple leather shelves

So, looking at these old shelves I decided to come up with a better solution to help protect my investment. The first thing to do was to get the whole shop dehumidified. I purchased a large ‘whole house’ dehumidifier and had it installed into the heating system. Now when the humidity in the shop hits 42%, it kicks on with the blower and blows dry air out the ducts. The dry air measures around 20% humidity and it mixes with the more humid shop air to bring things down a bit. It’ll drop to 38% and the system shuts off. So far so good on that end…but I needed something a bit more stable and I am not sure how well the system will hold up come warmer weather and high humidity (it’s winter now so the air is relatively dry). under stairway

I have this space under the stairway that is kind of a dead area. Can’t do too much there except store things…so why not build the shelves into that space.

plywood for shelves

Since completing the walls in the shop, I still had a fair amount of plywood and lumber so I got to work framing things up. By the way – that foam insulation on the floor works great as a backstop for cutting plywood with the circular saw on the ground.

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Customer Photo Winners

two wallets by mr lentz photographed by a customer

Every year I put on a little contest of sorts with all of my customers. The idea is to photograph your Mr. Lentz leather goods purchase and show how it’s ageing over time. This year we had quite a few submissions and I decided to hand out a free luggage tag to those who participated, plus – I wanted to pick the five best shots to receive a free new wallet of their choice. Well… here are this years winners. Above is a great shot of a nicely aged card wallet on the left and a fairly new one (different style) on the right. The patina that develops on this leather is quite amazing. Thanks Mrs. SPO! I cut no corners here and only buy the best Full-Grain Vegetable Tanned leather produced in the U.S.

customer photo of his wallet

I love the manliness of this shot above – can’t beat showing off your wallet with a bunch of socket wrenches! Thanks WL !

a mr lentz wallet from a customer

This wallet above apparently took quite a bit of abuse in combat training…but it still looks to be in great shape. Thanks Liam! Perhaps it’s the fact that I don’t use stitching in my wallets…there’s really nothing to wear out.

Customer shot of mr lentz wallet

Here’s a nice close-up where you can really see the grain of the leather. When you use Full-Grain wallets a lot the become polished smooth and can become a little shiny. Thanks Ben!

Mr Lentz Customer photo of wallet and belt

Here’s a nice ‘pocket dump’ from Andrew, plus a belt he’s been using for a few years now. Looks like things are working well for ya – thanks Andrew!

All winners will be announced daily on Instagram. If you have purchased something from my shop and would like to submit a photo, just post it to Instagram, tag @MrLentzShop and #MrLentzCustomer   and write about something you liked about the item.

Cheers to everyone and have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Photos from our Customers

Every year I ask my customers to send in photos of their wallets to see how they are doing. This will be the third year running the submission and it’s arguably something I look forward to quite a bit. Below are some shots from last year’s submission. It’s great to see how the leather is ageing in very unique ways for everyone. The type of leather I use is called Full-Grain Vegetable-Tanned and it develops a very rich patina with time. Some things that affect this patina are: exposure to sunlight, oils in your hand, rubbing in the pocket, and any surfaces it touches along the way. Over time the wallet can get rubbed into a very shiny looking leather. It’s tough stuff and only looks better with time.

From Andy KB // 42 months of use on that lower left one
William J. // 24 months // Sun Tanned Natural
Tom L. // 4 months // Sun Tanned Natural
Rustam A. // 24 Months // Western Brown
Peyton H. // 16 months // Sun Tanned Natural
Jeff S. // 26 months // Sun Tanned Natural
Jeff H. // 23 months // Desert Night Dark
Greg B. // 36 months // Sun Tanned Natural
Glenn F. // 6 months // Sun Tanned Natural
David S. // 6 months // Western Brown
David D. // 12 months // Western Brown
C. Grantham // 23 months of use // Western Brown

New Leather Belt Designs

aged leather belt example

All new belt designs have hit the shop. By late spring this year I had finished up the re-design of my belt line. I did a number of things to make these belts the last you will ever need. They are now all cut from 12 oz leather, and for those of you that aren’t familiar…it’s thick. It’s the real deal stuff – no need to sew two thin pieces of leather together to make it either (as most manufacturers do). There is basically nothing on this belt that can wear out. All buckles are solid brass and come with two finish options – polished brass or nickel plated. Even the snaps used on them are solid brass, yep we don’t mess around here! I hand cut them on a per order basis, so once you get your measurement (use the chart instructions on the product page) and place your order, I get working at cutting the strap from a large roll of leather. The image above shows how the leather will develop a patina over time. Pretty nice!

leather belt color choices

As always I offer three color options, the Sun Tanned Natural and Western Brown will darken with time and show a beautiful patina. Both sunlight and handling will affect the patina.

thick leather belt

To help get a better idea of how thick the leather I use is – it’s about 3 quarters stacked. What most people don’t realize about belts you purchase at large department stores is that they are typically two thin pieces of ‘bonded leather’ (scrap leather ground into bits and re-glued into sheets), sewn together and sandwiching a thin piece of cardboard in between for bulk. Yes…cardboard! It will appear shiny and bulky at first glance, but trust me you don’t want a belt with cardboard inside. My belts are one piece only and without stitching…there’s no stitching to break!

back of leather belt

The back side gets my company logo and unique sequential number stamp. Above the stamp is where your personalization will go if you choose to add one.

leather belt buckle options

On the single hole designs I have added several buckle options for all types. It’s hard to tell from the photo – but the Miner option is a roller bar buckle.

double tongue leather belt color options

One of the new designs is a double hole belt. I make these in two width options, 1.5 inches and 1.75 inches.

brown double tongue belt

change out belt buckle

All belt buckles are secured with solid brass snaps so you can change yours out at any point or use your own.

hole extension for double tongue belts

On the double hole belts – you can opt to have the holes extend for the length of the belt. Just let me know in the order comment section at checkout.

brown wide leather belt on pants

Above is a shot of the larger width belt. It’s a beefy 1.75 inches wide and looks nice on a pair of jeans.

leather belt conditioner

Every belt ships with a free tin of my shop made leather conditioner. It’s all natural and you can use it from time to time to keep those leather fibers in good shape. Check out all belt options in the shop right here.

Leather Moccasins Tutorial (Part 3 of 3)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

It’s now time to complete the final steps in this 3 stage DIY Moccasins Tutorial. I had to put off this last blog post for several weeks since we ended up moving the workshop out of state. You wouldn’t imagine the work that goes into moving a leather goods workshop. If you are interested in taking a look at that here’s a link to the first moving post here, and the second post here. Now back to Moccasin making! In Part 2 we glued up the Upper and stitched it together, then we glued up the back of the moccasin and stitched that together too.

Now the fun really begins. It’s time to lace the upper to the main body and in doing so we will also be securing the liner on that end just by running the lace through it. I chose to cut my own lace out of about 9/10 oz. full-grain vegetable tanned cowhide. I cut it down to size using a series of lace cutting and skiving tools. For the average person…I’d just recommend buying some pre-cut lace at 1/8 inch width and about 3/32 thickness or so. Not thicker though – as it will be hard to pull through all of the layers. I took a length of about 6 feet of lace and tied a knot in one end. I know this seems like a lot of lace, but the first time I did it I used a few feet less and ended up running out of lace a few inches from the end! One of my moccasins is now jimmy-rigged with another lace piece tied onto it on the inside. You can’t see it, but my little toe knows it’s there. I guess it’s part of the handmade world of imperfection.

I cut the other end of the lace to a point and even shaved off some thickness to the back. This will help you attach it to the lacing needle.

I attached the lacing needle and used pliers to crimp it onto the lace.

Starting on the side, (either is fine, but make sure to mirror it when you make your second moccasin) I folded the deer skin over the liner and pushed the lacing needle through all three layers.

Here you can see the liner is sandwiched in between the deer skin. Go slowly and make sure the needle goes through the holes in every layer.

You do the same technique on the Upper, lace goes down through the top hole, liner, then folded over deer skin. Then the lace is fed out the body (inner deer skin, liner and outer deer skin). I slowly made my way around the entire moccasin, trying as best as I could to keep the lace tight. Inevitably I had a few loose spots, but this can be fixed with a lacing Fid at the end of the project. Basically you insert the fid under the lace and work it around to pull the loose lace into tighter areas to even it out.

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Leather Moccasins Tutorial (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

In Part 1 of this tutorial, we did a lot of cutting, shaving, hole punching and generally prepping the leather for the next stage. Here in Part 2 of this tutorial we are going to glue things together and stitch them up. Above I have taken the deer skin and the shearling of the upper and put glue between them only on the part just underneath those clips. I chose not to glue the whole piece together as the glue may wear over time and it could be visible on large flat surfaces. By only gluing at the top – we are just securing the pieces together long enough to punch the stitching holes and stitch them together. the other edges with the holes punched in them will be laced together and do not need glue.

 

On the body of the moccasin I clipped both the deer skin and the shearling together first to line things up. Then I carefully glued between the pieces on the back end of the leather and replaced the clips. Make sure to wipe off any glue that seeps out after replacing the clips.

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New Keychains Ready

leather keychains

These past two months I’ve been hard at work creating an entire new line of leather keychains. The two original keychain designs have been updated with my thicker bag leather and now have 7 different hardware options to choose from. All keychains feature a mix of stainless steel hardware, solid brass rivets or snaps and my finest U.S. Full Grain leather.

In addition I have added several new designs to hold your keys in every possible way. I’ll take a few words and go through each of them below with y’all:

First and foremost here’s one of the original designs – the belt loop keychain. Shown above with all 7 current hardware options. This style was meant to clip around your belt, but you can attach it to a water bottle, bag, or whatever else is convenient.

The Key Pocket comes in two sizes – the small will hold several regular keys and the large was made to hold most electronic car keys plus a couple of regular ones too.

The Adjustable keychain easily fits over any sized belt and has a bit of classy Western Style infused into the buckle system. You can adjust it up or down as needed. The stainless steel clip at the end makes it easy to attach your keyring as needed.

The Leather Wrist Keychain keeps those keys conveniently close at hand and also includes the 7 hardware options. Slide your hand through the loop and walk off, or drop it into a bag – it’ll be easy to find later on.

leather key wrap colors key wrap

Here’s a modern take on a classic key holder design. The leather Key Wrap holds around 6 regular keys and the cover snaps in place to keep them from jingling around too much. You may be able to fit a smaller electronic car key in there…or if you’re unsure, just ask us to install another split ring and it’ll work just fine on the outside.

keychain tag color options

The Keychain Tag is the simplest one yet – put a name or initials on it for a simple gift, or add a word on there to remind you what the keys are for in the first place! This keychain is made from my ultra thick belt leather, just about 3 U.S. quarters in thickness.

Some of us have just a bit too many keys to manage…that’s where the Jailer’s Keyring comes in. A very large stainless steel ring will hold hundreds of keys on the attached smaller stainless steel keyrings. Some choose to use this the other way around and use the clip to attach their keyring, then use the large ring to wear on the wrist.

Go on and check out the entire selection here. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section below.

How to Make Leather Moccasins (Part 1 of 3)

tutorial for moccasin making

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

 

This past Winter break, as the holiday leatherworking season was coming to a close, I set off on the interesting and challenging journey of making my own fur lined moccasins. I like to dive into projects where I lack certain skills, just so I can learn them along the way – this project is actually great for that. It’s not so hard that a beginner shouldn’t try it and by the end you will have a pretty clear understanding of several skills including patterns, cutting, punching, skiving, sewing, lining, and lacing. Plus, you get even warmer feet for the next winter! I put together this fully photographed step by step tutorial on how to make leather moccasins to help everyone out there that’s interested in making more than just a keychain. Projects like this typically take me several months to photograph, record and put into a blog, so I have broken things up into three separate posts, this being the first. The others will follow soon, but there’s a fair amount here to get started!

Above is the first moccasin I made…we actually it’s the second, I completely screwed up the first one I made in several ways…gave up the project for 1 full year, then decided I would not accept defeat and gave it another shot this past winter. Below are a few photos of the first failed attempt:

Above, my first attempt sits next to my original pair of Minnetonka’s. I struggled through every single step of this first try…hours and hours of work…only to find that the finished result was a hair too small due to excess fur in the inside, as well it didn’t feel durable on the outside as this is just a shearling’s skin exposed as the ‘flesh’ side out. It’s very brittle and tears easily. I worried about stepping on a rock and the thing splitting in half!

Above is a close up of that failed attempt, the fur was a big problem for all of the stitching work and lacing. Causing stitching holes to be way off and making it nearly impossible to pull lacing through at the end. I gave up and started anew below. Read on to see how my second attempt (and your first) will be a success.

TOOLS

tools for making moccasins

So you’re going to need a few tools to get this project completed. Above from left to right: Paper towels, small exacto knife, rolling blade, leather scissors, utility knife, pen, pencil, ruler, rotary hole punch.

more tools for moccasins

The above tools apply more on the stitching and lacing end: Electric Pet Shaver (yep mine’s a cheap one by Wahl designed for grooming pets), pliers, maybe 30 rubber coated mini clips to aid in gluing, Fieblings leathercraft cement or other PVA glue, stitching pricking iron, lacing needles x 6, harness hand sewing needles x 6 with blunt tips, single stitching awl, waxed stitching thread, mallet. (not shown here: stitching cutter – used to take your own store bought moccasins apart for pattern making, and poster paper used for tracing the pattern onto)

LEATHER

For this project I use a Top Grain deer hide bought on ebay, it has a thickness of 3 to 4 oz. Look for one with minimal holes and tears. I also purchased a shearling hide for the liner, also available on many online stores. You don’t necessarily need the liner, but this tutorial shows how with one, so modify at your own risk!

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A Look Back at 2017

I kind of like this time of year. The holiday order rush has dwindled, the New Year is upon us, and there’s finally a bit of time to sit back and reflect over the happenings of this past year. It’s interesting how the feeling of today will vastly differentiate itself from that of tomorrow, Jan. 1 2018. A single day change, and suddenly we will all be off to the races to improve, modify and hopefully make our lives better in more ways. I too am like this, and admittedly I too also falter on quite a few of those changes after a few weeks! That said, I think change should be thought of more as a continual process that has no beginning date or end date. Just a constant modification to improve our lives and those of others as well.

Alright – that’s enough philosophical rambling for now, so here’s a peek at the actual changes in the workshop this past year:

New Designs

The most obvious thing to start with are the new leather goods designs created this past year. I initially spent a significant amount of time looking into stitching a line of bags, even came out with one design for a few weeks as a test sale. Alas – I decided I am not quite yet ready to stray from my trusty rivets.

I still do like that design above, perhaps it’ll reappear at some point in the future. After that bag, came a whole slew of new ones here:

A few new wallets and accessories were built:

Even a few updated designs for the ladies, with a snap closure for the Tote, and anew handbag:

Then I decided to make an entire line for gear suited for all your doggies. This involved months of research into the best type of leather and hardware to be used on items that will undoubtedly see extremely rough treatment. It turns out, U.S. Latigo leather (highly resistant to weather and wear) and a new style of solid drilled brass rivet (near impossible to separate without ungodly amounts of force), and stainless steel hardware (the toughest you can get), all make for fine quality collars and leashes built to last:

A lot was learned in running my small workshop as a business this year. Namely – you really can’t sit back and just enjoy the spot you’re at too much. I mean you can, but as a business owner you really need to keep innovating and pushing the load uphill. If you relax too much, that load will push back on you and run ya over! Each year I learn little lessons like that, this year the lesson was, simply put, today’s world changes incredibly fast. Marketplaces can change from one month to the next so you got to be on your toes and change with it!

Another thing I learned is that running a business can be all-consuming. It’ll eat up all your time if you let it. Truth is, there is always something to be doing or working on next. For the next year I aim to come to peace with that and know that at the same time, it all doesn’t have to be done right now. Perhaps some gets done after a nice long walk, or after a full weekend has been spent with the computer off, or maybe sometimes that work will wait until after a short trip through the desert with my backpack.

Trips and R&R

Speaking of which, quite a few fun trips were made this year:

Backpacking into the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho for the Total Eclipse

A bit of Oregon and its endless beauty.

And a lot of Desert, to quench the soul’s need for some peace and quiet.

Tutorials

The year before I may have over-promised on my ability to post many more tutorials for y’all. As it turns out it takes a long time to build a tutorial for the site that I feel merits sharing with everyone. Ever notice how on other tutorial sites here and there, the stuff is shoddily built, corners are cut, or it’s just not a product made to last? Well, I only post techniques and builds that I am proud of and of sufficient quality. This means that for some things it can take over a month for me to finish. Heck, I don’t usually have all the skills myself to complete the project, but it is certainly worth taking the time to learn the new skill and build it the right way, so that you can have a handmade item for a long time to come. Here are a few from this year:

Well, ok this one above was technically from the very end of last year, but it’s worth posting up here. The Leather Keychain Tutorial.

I’m not sure this one above counts completely, but there’s some good info in there. I hand stamped a leather belt with a scene from the desert. I have worn it every day since. Stamped Leather Belt.

I know there wont be too many people with a need to make the above western style gun holster, but for me I have been working on some items to use as decoration in the shop. In the above tutorial quite a few new skills are passed on to you the reader. In-depth saddle stitching included. Leather Gun Holster Tutorial.

Sneak Peak

Coming into the new year I am working on some new moccasins to keep my feet warm. Now, technically I started these an entire year ago and gave up due to several technical complications. Well, I am happy to say that I finally figure out a way around those issues and have the right foot down below. I am photographing the entire process of making the left foot, so it will be a tutorial on the site within a few weeks time.

As for a look into what’s to come next year, well a lot really! I am planning a ton of new items for the shop. Look forward to several new wallets and accessories and perhaps even a few more bags too. I have quite a few in the works, so keep an eye out. Also – for those who enjoy the tutorial section of my blog, I will have a couple more scattered throughout the year depending on the time I have for it. Something even bigger may be happening this year, as once again I am looking into moving the workshop. Greener pastures await!

Thank you to all my readers out there and those of you who spent your hard earned cash on my leather goods. As a very very small business I truly appreciate you and your support, I wouldn’t be able to do it without ya!

Cheers to all of you in the New Year and good luck to you in your endeavors!

Sincerely,

Mr. Lentz

Something for the ladies

womens leather handbag

Over the past few weeks I had the urge to update a few designs in the shop. One popular request was for a simple Women’s Handbag with straps on either side. Above is my take on that idea, a simple and elegant bag made with high quality Full-Grain Leather and no stitching to break! The leather gives it a rustic feel as you can see some imperfections on the surface – basically it retains a lot of unique character (full grain has not been sanded down to remove blemishes).

womens handbag

The Handbag measures approximately 13 inches wide x 9.5 inches tall x 2.5 inches deep on the exterior (330mm x 241mm x 64mm). The hand straps measure 9.5 inches from the top of the bag to the top of the straps. The inside is wide open to throw all your daily needs in there. I don’t line the insides of my bags for one simple reason – I use high-end leather that holds up really well over time. Typically bags are lined to hide imperfections and tears in the leather, or protect low grade leather from rubbing through.

All solid brass rivets with a nickel plating mean this bag will stay strong for a lifetime a use. Available in time for the holiday season here.

handmade leather tote bag

The design above is just a simple tweak on my original tote bag. I have updated all totes with a simple snap closure on the top – a much requested feature over the past year. The snap helps keep the top nicely cinched closed while you shop.

The shoulder strap is fully adjustable and cut to wear high up or lower near your waist.

tote bag with snap closure

Just like the handbag above, the tote is also unlined because of the high-end leather. It is extremely durable and simply does not need it. The tote measures approximately 13 inches wide x 9.5 inches tall x 2.5 inches deep on the exterior (330mm x 241mm x 64mm).

riveted tote bag

All you ladies out there, make sure to treat yourself this holiday season (and dudes, this is a very simple and well received gift if you are stumped!).  You can find the Women’s Handbag here and if you are looking for the tote, just click here.

 

New Addition to Large Bags

holding the large handmade leather briefcase

Over the past few weeks I have been working on new versions of all of my larger work bags. They now each have an alternate style with strapped exteriors. This gives more of the briefcase style of look and adds the capacity to handle even heavier loads. So, if you’re looking for an over-built workbag made to last 100 years…you should checkout my current designs in the shop.

mens large leather briefcase by Mr. Lentz

This is the largest of the bags I make, and I currently use it myself on a daily basis. It fits my food for the day, a large water bottle, jacket, and miscellaneous supplies and packages I need to bring to the workshop. It’s available in the pictured Western Brown as well as Sun Tanned Natural and Desert Night Dark. The Tan and brown both develop rich patinas over time and the color will continue to darken.

carrying the mens leather duffel

The Men’s Duffel Bag does the trick for overnighters, and general carry. It’s a bit deeper than the large work bag, but not as tall. Of course – each come with the optional interior storage.

mens leather duffel bag

 

carrying mens leather work bag

Finally, here’s the Men’s Work Bag. I know, I know – they all have similar names! They may change at some point too, but let’s just keep it at that for now. This bag works great for the average guy carrying his goods to work. It can be built with an optional shoulder strap as well (not pictured).

mens work bag leather brown bag

As with all of my goods int he shop, these come with my 100 Year Guarantee against defects. Basically – I will repair it if something needs it. All are handmade per order.

7 Tips on Finding the Best Leather Wallet

how to find the best leather wallet

For seven years now I have been working with leather and creating rustic and durable leather wallets. I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t and I’m about to impart some of that information on you my friend! In the world of wallet making you should know that there are a lot of corners manufacturers can cut to save on cost, I’ll point out the most obvious ones for you here.

Type of Leather

If you follow my blog, or have read a lot of my product descriptions you will see that I push the term Full-Grain Vegetable-Tanned leather a lot. I cannot stress how important it is to buy a leather wallet that is made from this style of leather tanning. It is undoubtedly the strongest form of leather a wallet maker can use for at least two reasons.

First, Full-Grain means that the section of leather being used is the outermost layer of the cow’s hide. This is the surface layer and is extremely densely packed with fibers, so much so – that it is practically indestructible. This is the only layer of leather that will still contain original scars from the cow’s lifetime. It’s the layer that helped that cow weather storms and lay on tough ground its whole life. This is the most expensive layer of leather a maker can buy due to its toughness. A lot of manufacturers will go down a grade to ‘Top-Grain’ for two reasons: it is much cheaper, and all of those imperfections and scars have been sandblasted smooth. What the buyer should know, is that ‘Top-Grain’ leather has much looser fibers and will shed, deteriorate and wear through fairly quickly.  Here’s another post I wrote on leather types.

Second, Vegetable-Tanned leather is the way in which the hide has been treated and preserved for use in leather goods. Vegetable Tanning is an ancient natural process of soaking hides in pools of water with tree barks. The natural tannins help to preserve the leather without compromising the strength of the leather fibers. That basically means that your leather product may start out slightly firmer, but will break-in very quickly and soften up as the fibers relax and stretch. Vegetable Tanning takes quite a bit longer than other chemically induced processes and as such…costs more. A lot of manufacturers will choose to use a much cheaper tanned leather instead called ‘Chrome Tanned’ or even ‘Genuine Leather’ or ‘Bonded Leather’. It’s as bad as it sounds, harsh chemicals and all! The chemicals in chrome tanning actually help to break down the fibers in the hide allowing the leather a softer supple feel from the beginning. While customers love that feeling of soft leather, what they don’t realize is that since the fibers were broken down unnaturally…the product will not last that long and tend to wear through much more quickly – as well it’s fairly bad for the environment! Plus – chrome tanned leather will not patina nicely and age with use. Genuine Leather or Bonded Leather, is basically just finely ground up scraps of leather pressed into large industrial sheets using glue. Again, it’s cheap and it’ll fall apart!

finding the best leather wallets

Style of Construction

The vast majority of wallets out there are stitched together. I will admit, I do like the look of a nice stitch job. There are two things to note about that though: how was it stitched, and well…stitching always wears out at some point. Most stitch wallets are manufactured using leather sewing machines and this can be a big hidden problem for the customer. Sewing machines use what is called a ‘Lock Stitch’ and without getting too technical I will just say this: if one thread breaks on a lock stitched wallet…the entire wallet will unravel quickly. Hand stitching is much better than a machine but you still have to consider the tragic flaw of thread being used on a leather item that gets heavily abused. Have you ever had a wallet where the thread broke? So have I and pretty much everyone else I have ever encountered. That’s why I started designing riveted wallets. By the time that rivet wears through… you’d probably be 450 years old! Seriously though, a wallet is the most worn and beaten up leather item a person will own. It needs to be built with  materials that wont wear out. So, you decide – would you like metal or thread to hold it together?

Quality of Materials

We already touched on the types of leather, but how about where that leather came from? And how about any hardware used with it like rivets, snaps, grommets, chains, clips? Where the leather comes from plays in as a huge factor as far as quality goes. There are thousands of tanning companies across the globe…and most of them are not doing such a great job. The local cows could be malnourished and produce poor hides, local regulation might be too loose for environmentally sound tanning, the cuts of leather and coatings on it will vary drastically from batch to batch…it’s a giant crapshoot. I personally only source from one U.S. tannery that’s been in the business for more than a century now. It costs quite a bit more but they make very well tanned hides from U.S. cattle.

The hardware used on wallets is very important too. Leather does not respond well to rusting items and as such you should only choose wallets made with solid brass or stainless steel hardware. Solid brass currently is a bit pricey, but well worth it in the longrun. Many other manufacturers will cut corners there and use cheap metal alloys. It might look nice for the first few months….

made in the USA

Location of Construction

In general I like to always push people to support their local makers from their own country. I mean why not? The money stays in the local economy and benefits everyone. There’s another reason though and I will admit that I am a bit biased here – for most countries in the world it is hard to get their hands on American materials and hardware, which are known to cost more and be of a higher standard in general. Also – who is making that wallet anyways? In today’s world it’s easy to pass off a wallet as being made from a local maker in another country…but if you dig into their site, blog, social media…is that really the case? Large manufacturers are using marketing techniques to pass off mass produced items as being handmade by small shops, surprise surprise!

Maker Warranty

Does the maker behind the wallet you want offer a good warranty for fixing it down the road? Lots of things can happen to that wallet, and sometimes there’s a defective piece of leather or hardware – will they replace or repair it? You want to find a maker that stands behind their work and is in it for the longrun. All warranties are not created equal though – keep in mind how big or small the shop is. Some makers that are very small and treat wallet making as a hobby can give great personalized customer service in cases like this…but will they still be around 5 to 10 years from now if you need some repair work done?

Small Shops vs. Big Box Stores

Kind of a continuation of the last section, you will need to keep in mind how little or big the shop is that you are buying from. The pertains to the warranty, but also to the customer service you are likely to receive. Very large stores typically have great 30 day + return policies, but after that you are on your own. They also tend to only sell mass produced items that have many corners cut to save on cost. Buyer beware! Then you have the very little guys just making as a hobby. Again – great customer service, probably good warranties, but will they be around to help you out in the next 5 to 10 years? A small to medium sized maker will be more established to follow through on their warranty and typically they still have the time to offer great customer service.

How Minimal Can You Go

It comes down to what do you really need to carry? Over the years I have pared down the items in my wallet to only the cards I actually use, a small stack of cash and a few random receipts that tend to float around for months at a time. For me – I found that carrying too much was very uncomfortable. I used to put my old wallet in my back pocket and sit on it with lots of cards, ID cards, cash, etc.. I think chiropractors love meeting patients like that. When you slim the contents of your wallet down, you can also use a simpler wallet…and you can put that wallet in your front pocket without the bulge. Most of my wallets are designed to do this quite easily. I reduced the number of ‘pockets’ and put in card slots to help save on thickness. In the end everyone is different, but make sure to make that decision of which style you need after you have pared down your own items.

Summary

In the end there are a million manufacturers of wallets, most of them cutting corners to provide a dirt cheap piece of leather that will ultimately wear out and break on you after a year or two. Usually cheap ain’t the best option, and in the longrun it usually isn’t cheap since you tend to have to re-purchase more often. Make sure to choose a wallet from a maker who knows how to find good quality Full-Grain Vegetable-Tanned leather, solid brass hardware and a construction technique that will last through the beating a wallet takes. Find a maker who stands behind their work with a warranty for repair and make sure to find one that will be in it for the longrun. Lastly, pare down what you actually need to carry, and then you can use a better designed wallet that will be much slimmer and easier to carry.

If you need a starting point, you can take a look at my online shop here, and please feel free to ask questions in the comment section below, or email me!

New Stainless Steel Chain for Leather Wallets

 

 

It’s been several years since I first introduced the chain versions of many of my leather wallet designs, and now I am adding a new option. If you are looking for something bigger, stronger and made of stainless steel, well – I found the perfect chain for you. The original version ‘Option A’ was picked for its minimal and light nature. It serves its purpose quite well and suits the needs of most chain wallet wearers. After some time and a few special requests for another option, I found this stainless steel version. It’s slightly heavier, but includes a solid stainless steel clip at the end. I am always looking to improve my leather goods and generally add things to the shop when y’all start asking for the same things. That’s the beauty of being a small U.S. leather workshop I guess!

Above shows you the two options in action to give you a better idea of how they compare. These two options are now available on all wallets that have a chain option.

Concealed Wallet

concealed carry walletThe newest design to hit the shop this past weekend: The Concealed Wallet. It’s exactly that, concealed and safe from pickpockets. Designed with a simple strap that snaps around your belt with two solid brass snaps, the wallet then drops behind your pants keeping your cash and cards safe from prying hands. The idea for this came about after I found myself traveling in different cities with a higher likelihood of being in large crowds. Another perfect use for this security travel wallet would be during a night out at the bar or concert.

concealed travel wallet

The exterior of the Full-Grain Leather concealed wallet was made so that there are no edges to catch while slipping into your pants. Double brass snaps also help to secure the contents inside.

This concealed travel wallet can hold around 7 cards, or 5 to 6 with some cash.

 

concealed carry wallets

Available in three natural colors, I also have a version without the strap if you prefer to use this just as a regular card wallet.

concealed wallet steps

Aged Leather Holster

Aged leather gun holster

I do like experimenting with leather projects in my free time. Sometimes it can take a little kick in the butt for me to get a project started at home after a long day’s work in the leather workshop. What this does for me, creating things that aren’t for sale and just for fun, it gives me a bit more artistic freedom. It allows me to challenge myself with new leatherworking techniques and processes. My latest thing has been to keep creating the same leather gun holster over and over, but each time my goal is to improve some things about it.

western aged gun holster

On this holster I wanted to improve my stamping ability, as well as leather dyeing techniques, and the ageing process. I’ve made three holsters so far and each time the stamps come out just a little better than the last time. I picked a simple pattern to re-create and certainly helps a lot.  When dyeing, I decided to try a spray gun technique and layer on different amounts of light dye overlapped with darker dyes. I think I still have a ways to go to get the effect I was aiming for. As for ageing, there’s a lot of fun ways to do that to a leather item. You can use hot water, sandpaper, nails, concrete, oils, and much more to make the piece look like it has had a full life. I think my next project will be an aged looking gun belt to match the holster, then…repeat!

 

cowboy gun holster aged leather

If you’re making something out of leather at home, let me know in the comments below, and feel free to ask any questions.

Cheers!

Mr. Lentz