Traditional tools and techniques. We like to do things the old-fashioned way at Colville Leather. And we’d like to take you behind the scenes of this leathercraft business to show you some of the tools and methods we use to hand-craft leather accessories.
Based in Totnes, in a rustic workshop built by Toby’s Sheds, Matt Nesbitt uses his leathercraft skills to make beautiful wallets, bags, belts and other accessories. Matt takes great pride in honouring the ancient craft of leather making. So you won’t find any machines in his workshop.
Faithful to tradition
Remaining faithful to tradition is something of a duty when it comes to the conversation about sustainability in the fashion industry. ‘Reintroducing people to the longevity and beauty of traditionally made leather accessories’ is Colville Leather’s mantra. We have grown so accustomed to buying more and cheaply and more frequently. And we’re also largely unaware of the negative effect this is having on the environment.
Owning an entirely handmade leather accessory that can grow old with you and even be passed on to the next generation is supportive of this authentic, wholesome process. Even if it does take time!
Bark to belt
We’d like to share this little video with you again. In a world where fast fashion and mass-production reigns, it is good to be reminded of the skill and passion that goes into individually crafted accessories. This is a real behind-the-scenes moment celebrating artisanal craftsmanship.
We hope this video provides somewhat of a connection to the products you can see in our collections. As consumers, we are often so disconnected to the processes and products that are involved in what we buy.
In this video, Matt Nesbitt is crafting an oak bark tanned leather belt in his Totnes workshop. It really brings home the craftsmanship, dedication and effort that goes into one single leather belt. Oak bark, stream water and time are the three key ingredients to this particular tanning process. The hides are turned into leather using this ancient, traditional, English method.
You can see a step by step account of the process here. The level of skill and attention to detail can be seen in the artisanal techniques Matt uses to craft the belt. We’ll walk you through some of the tools of the trade now.
What you’ll find in the workshop
This implement is primarily used to cut strips of leather for belt lengths and bag straps. The hide is marked and lightly cut to mark out a clean, straight edge for the belt cutter to work along.
Osbourne Oval Punch
This is used to punch holes in the leather belt ready for the tongue of the belt buckle can pass through.
The cutting process can often leave the edges of the prepared leather piece quite sharp. So edge bevelers are used to round off the edges, to improve the look and feel of the finished product. Colville Leather stocks many different sizes of edge bevelers to account for the varying thicknesses of leather.
Beeswax is a very versatile product for a leathercraft business. It is most often used to seal the edges of a piece of leather. In the video above, it is used to seal the edges of the leather belt Matt is crafting.
It also acts as a water resistant coating for sewing thread. Just cut a groove into the beeswax block and pull the thread across the groove three or four times. It can also make the thread slide more smoothly through the stitching holes in your leather accessory.
Some leather craftsman have suggested pushing chisels and punches through the beeswax block. It protects the sharpness of the tools and can enable them to punch through the leather with greater ease.
This hand-operated tool is used in the Totnes workshop for stamping the Colville Leather marker into the leather belt, bag or wallet. A unique way to brand and sign the leather accessory. It helps convey the bespoke, unique methods with which the leather is crafted.
The stitching pony is effectively a third hand. Employed to clamp two pieces of leather together, it is an invaluable tool for leather stitching. For a more detailed piece on our hand-stitched approach to crafting leather accessories, take a look here.
Something else Colville Leather is passionate about is transparency. We always want to be clear about where everything is sourced, and who our suppliers are. We’ve been careful to show the details about our brassware source (which received a Royal Warrant), our leather suppliers Horween Derby and J and FJ Baker, and our tanning processes.
As well as exceptional craftsmanship, we want Colville Leather to be renowned for its superior materials. Quality and attention to detail are paramount when it comes to creating handmade leather goods.
Supporting our leathercraft business
When you choose to buy handcrafted products over mass-produced high-street products, you are supporting true creatives who are passionate about what they do. You are purchasing products that have been carefully and lovingly created from scratch. Products that have been meticulously designed and sourced. Products that tell a story.