There was a lot of construction going on walking to and from my leather teacher’s house in Japan.
I went to Japan this most recent time to learn how to make an English style men’s briefcase. I was most interested in learning the construction of a particular type of handle. This handle is constructed from many layers of leather sculpted to form the shape and provide structure. It is then wrapped in leather.
Things have been pretty crazy around here and I haven’t had much time to post. Here’s a photo that best illustrates how the days have been going by.
While studying in Japan, I was lucky enough to be present for my teacher’s cat, あられ’s birthday. She turned 12 years old.
It would seem this blog may devolve into photos of delicious things I eat instead of leathercraft, but I will try to reign it in. Having said that, my buddies wife, for his birthday, got our favorite sushi chef to make a house call. What followed was one of the greatest meals of my life - not only the food, but the company as well.
Delicious seared mackerel
In preparation of my trip, I decided to give my camera a makeover. It is in fine mechanical condition, but the original Vulcanite covering was cracking and needed to be replaced. I decided to replace the leather with an Italian camouflage leather, one of my favorites. The pattern making and cutting was a difficult task, but I think the result was definitely worth it.
I happened to arrive in Japan the day Typhoon No.24 was projected to make landfall. It hit during the night. Due to the howling winds, rain, and jet-lag, sleep was minimal. I awoke to find these umbrellas strewn about the walkway of my apartment building. Hopefully they have found peace with PVC Jesus now.
I use a a special method of construction to make wallets. This method is very time consuming, tedious and rarely done. It is required however to make a wallet that will be beautiful and luxurious.
I line all surfaces of my wallets so that there is no scruffy flesh side of the leather present. This requires leather to be split very thin and strategically skived. I am most proud of the construction of my card slots.
These card slots are made from 1 piece of folded leather. This allows for the grain side of the leather to make up both the outside and inside of the card slot, as well as the top edge to remain beautiful with use. If the card slot edges were painted or burnished, they would become ragged with use. To further enhance the appearance of the card slot banks, I carefully carve out the backside of the leather where card slots will overlap. Through this technique, there will be no unsightly gaps between slots and the edge of the wallet will be flush, not lumpy. Below is an image showing the indention created where the second card slot will be affixed:
Last year I traveled to Japan to learn how to make a ladies round zipper clutch. After three long weeks, my clutch was completed and I returned brimming with new leather craft knowledge. Below is a recent Alligator and French Goat zipper clutch:
My skills progressed so quickly in such a short amount of time, I decided to study in Japan for 3 weeks every year with my leather teacher. I am off to Japan again, and will be studying how to make an English style men’s briefcase. Goodbye USA!
Preparing to cut out the pieces for a vertical card wallet. They are first cut 5mm oversized, split down to the appropriate thicknesses, then cut to their final dimensions.
The two vegetable tanned leathers pictured are Conceria Walpier Buttero (Brown) and Badalassi Carlo Pueblo (Green).
It is important to have a sharp knife for cutting leathers. I prefer Japanese leather knives. They are chisel ground with a slight concavity on the backside or "Ura" (裏) in Japanese. The front side or "Omote" (表) must be a perfectly flat bevel in order not to push the knife away from your scribed line while cutting. Sadly, there is no real shortcut to achieving a flat bevel on water stones aside from practice and muscle memory. Thankfully, after a year of focused sharpening efforts with the intention of flat bevels, they are easily achieved.
Awls come in many shapes and sizes and the end result is often the same. I enjoy using finely crafted tools as they allow for a more pleasant and thoughtful crafting experience. I place Okada-san's awls at the top in regards to build quality, beauty and usability. For scribing cutting lines, I use a round handled round blade awl. Hand shape is an important decision. Care must be taken with a round handled awl as it can easily roll off the work surface. The trade off is, since the blade is round, the awl can be grabbed in any orientation and be used. Awls with two flat surfaces, as I prefer diamond blade awls, must be grabbed in a particular way. This allows for proper indexing of the diamond blade in relation to your workpiece. It also prevents the awl from rolling off the work surface.