A couple of months ago I promised myself not to acquire more belts until the New Year… indeed I already have a small armoury of thick leather belts that will last 3 lifetimes.
Then came Charlie of Equus Leather, Northumberland, UK.
Traditional hand-made belt, said he, with Baker’s russet bridle butt leather.
My will was instantly broken.
And today it arrived…
It is the Baker Belt, a Style Forum limited edition, hand-made with a very special leather from J & FJ Baker & Co. – my favourite oak-bark tannery, Baker’s of Colyton.
Let’s have a look at Charlie’s work:
There was something instantly recognisable and familiar to me as I took the belt out of it’s carefully wrapped packaging.
It’s the astringent smell, that mellow yellow…
It’s the growth of the grain, the density of the leather, the way it bends…
There is no mistaking it for any other, this is an English oak-bark tanned leather!
The type I consider to be the finest natural vegetable tanned leather in the world 🙂
This is bridle butt leather, left undyed in a natural russet colour.
It is slightly thinner, but more “wet”, than the special oak-bark leather from Baker’s from my previous group project with Terry Dear.
The growth on the grain is just incredible; the ageing potential can only be rivalled by it’s kindred leathers from Baker’s.
Newcomers to this long but gentle English oak-bark tannage will be surprised by how soft this belt is right out of the packaging, without treatment.
Keeping in mind that this bridle butt is incredibly dense and sits at 4.9 mm (12.25 oz) in thickness – raw vegetable tanned leather from other tanneries will be very unyielding and stiff at this weight.
Upon examining this belt, I find Charlie’s hand craft is incredibly detailed & precise.
The buckle fold construct is flawless, with the solid brass West End roller buckle complementing the leather very nicely.
The brass has been left unpolished so as to age with the leather, and the tongue has been swapped out for a solid brass one.
The tongue moves smoothly without catching, and the buckle sits securely as no extra room has been left for vertical movements.
The considered construction extends to the thick linen stitch-work too:
Equus’ heritage in traditional British leather works really shines through in the saddle stitching, which has been executed with precision.
The stitches do not sit in a channel, which cuts grain & thus introduces weakness into the leather, but instead they sit almost parallel to the grain – pulled with the right amount of tension, not so light as to result in loose threading, but not so tight for the thread to cut into the leather.
Notice too, the blocked and creased holding loop.
Very clean work, clearly that of an experienced professional.
The ovoid buckle holes and the crease lines makes this a very English belt to me.
Perhaps not a style which fans & followers of Americana will be familiar with, but for an Aussie like me, nothing rubs off quite as well as a bit of British styling.
The edges of this belt has been cut and left untouched thereafter.
No burnishing, no staining.
This lays bare the cross section of the leather fibres, revealing it’s monstrous density.
I’m very glad that Charlie has left the raw edges as they are – it complements the russet leather quite nicely, and works well with denim.
I see many belts which have the raw cut edges simply rubbed off (but not fully burnished) with beeswax, a short-cut which I dislike.
No matter how clean the cut is, I reckon the edges should either be left alone or fully burnished to a smooth, rounded surface.
Charlie has done a great job here and given the thickness and density of this bridle butt leather, whatever blade he used, it is a very sharp one!
Overall, I am very impressed by this belt from Charlie at Equus Leather.
The price tag is reasonable too, especially coming from the denim/indigo hobby where the big brands either have a big asking price for quality work, or push out “bargain” products with unconsidered designs & so-so leathers.
It is a breath of fresh air, and I’m very happy that more traditional, small-scale leather crafters like Equus are finally starting to develop leather goods which work well with denim/casual wear.
To read more about Equus Leather, go here!
I’d highly recommend having a look at their products, especially when scouting for dressier belts.
Oh, and before I forget, Charlie also sent this along – leather food from J & E Sedgwick & Co.:
Who better to make a leather conditioner than a professional leather currier?
The ingredients list is simple, but reads like a dream for me – less is more here, and it is what your leathers should be eating- from lanolin to citronella oil, it’s all good.
Not as complex as my home-made conditioner, but a very good substitute when I get too busy to make my emu cream (time is something I have less and less nowadays).
Works very well – penetrates deeply, and does not stain or leave a sticky residue.