Benjamin Bott – “Seagull” wallet

Welcome back to the blog.

Today we’ll take a look at the only review for this month of May!

You’ll remember the Double Wren wallet from last month, with a clever design and some of the slickest edges we’ve seen, being one of the best minimalist wallets crafted in the Americas.

Benjamin Bott is back again, and today we’ll have a look at one of Ben’s full-sized wallets – the Seagull bifold.

 

Design

Benjamin Bott is perhaps a workshop known for smaller, minimalist wallets, yet Ben does craft some larger wallet styles too.

The Seagull bifold wallet is one of Ben’s top three designs in terms of complexity and size.

It measures 8 cm x 11 cm folded, and comes in at 1.5 cm thick when loaded.

The standard Seagull features three compartments: a notes compartment on the left, a card compartment on the right, and holster slot also on the right side.

The wallet you see here, however, could be thought of as a “Seagull plus” design, modified to include two extra quick-access slots on the left hand side, making a total of five compartments.

A dozen cards may be easily carried in this Seagull wallet, despite its smaller dimensions compared with a full-sized bifold.

 

Leather

Badalassi Carlo tannery’s Pueblo leather feature again – Pueblo seems to be flavor of the month at Ben’s workshop indeed.

And, why not? This is a lovely veggie leather to be sure.

Pueblo is a top grain leather from the prolific Italian tannery: cut from the shoulder of cattle, being fully vegetable tanned, dyed through and stuffed.

The interesting grain texture is created using metal balls for superficial distressing. Variegation in texture is maximized despite minimal grain growth.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog previously, this sand-blasted appearance disappears rapidly on the Bone (natural) version of Pueblo leather with wear.

In comparison to many other Italian “saddle” style of leathers, Pueblo and Minerva from Badalassi Carlo has a softer temper and more luxurious hand-feel.

The smell is light and sweet, with very little astringency.

This undyed Pueblo is an extremely reactive leather, I would rate it right next to Shonan’s glazed saddle as far as the rate of patina development is considered. This leather transitions from a pale tan colour to caramel rather quickly, and within less than a month, toasty brown tones begin to appear.

In fact, over the two weeks during which I photographed this Seagull wallet, the colour had already deepened appreciably to give an aged look.

Ben has cleverly utilized three different thicknesses of the Pueblo leather, with the outshell being 2.4 mm (6 oz), the holster panel being 1.8 mm (4.5 oz) and the inner panels being 1.2 mm (3 oz).

 

Construct

Despite its minimalist styling, the Seagull is a rather complicated construct.

Firstly, the panels are hand-cut and perfectly stacked.

Through clever stacking, and despite the relatively thick leathers, the wallet itself averages  5mm in leather thickness.

The left side consists of 4 panels, stacked into 3 layers.

The right side consists of 3 panels, stacked in 2 or 3 layers, with the holster-piece floating on top of the base panel.

This wallet is hand-stitched, of course, at 7 SPI.

The saddle-stitching is done with lark coloured Vinymo thread.

Ben’s sewing is spot-on, the tension pulled just right and the threads looking great on both sides.

Every edge on this wallet has been shaved, beveled, sanded and burnished.

The finish and presentation of the gum-polished edges are flawless.

The rounded corners are, in particular, delightful.

So slick and smooth.

The Benjamin Bott logo is stamped on the outershell, bottom right corner.

The full logo in ink is pressed on the back of the outshell, hidden under the left side.

 

Thoughts

Despite the Seagull’s small size, I must say that it is one of the best bifold wallets I’ve come across in the last year. This opinion stems from Ben’s expert and, almost, flawless construct on this wallet and the fact that the Seagull’s design is not only useful, but rugged and clever.

The bifold is my favourite form of wallet, as I believe it to be the best balance of carriage, ease of use, & capacity at this time.

As things stand in 2019, long wallets are definitely impractical, and are more a show-case of style. Middle-wallets are heading the way towards costume as well, given the advances in smart phone payment technologies. Smaller card wallets, however, limited by space, are more difficult to use – the insertion and retrieval of cards or notes are much more fidgety.

I anticipate that in the next decade, as our reliance of cards progressively decreases, even full sized bifolds will be considered too cumbersome for everyday carry.

As such, the new standard of optimal carry could be smaller bifold designs. The Seagull is approximately 2/3 the size of a full bifold, yet it packs a similar carrying capacity, the only drawback being notes needing to be folded before storage.

In an era of progressively diminished utilization of cash and cards – indeed, here in Australia, you’d mostly get by with just an well-app’d phone – smaller form-factor wallets are becoming the norm. The Seagull, then, is very much on trend.

Evidenced by my own version of the Seagull, the inner design is quite versatile, and may be customised to suite your needs. My 5-pocket Seagull is definitely geared to compete with a full sized bifold in terms of carrying capacity, though the default 3-pocket design slims down this bifold even further if you don’t need to carry more than half-dozen cards.

Depending on how the Seagull’s internal panels are spec’d, it will suit the demands of almost any style of carry. Factor in the ability to choose leathers and threads, the possibilities for customisation are endless.

With regards to practically, I really enjoy the holster-style quick-access compartment. It’s fun to look at but also easy to use, allowing for contact-less scanning of the card being held, which has proved useful for both my credit card and my travel pass.

Ben’s hand-craft on the wallet is expert-level, most certainly. I must say that Ben’s paneling is top notch, and his edge-work is one of the nicest I’ve seen, ever.

In fact, Ben’s edges are competitive at any price point.

More than simply being a thorough job of burnishing, several time-intensive and detailed steps are involved in creating the rounded, sleek, almost liquid edges you see on this Seagull wallet. The result of Ben’s many layers of work lends itself to the minimalist styling – the Seagull is clean but not boring, detailed but not busy.

Ben’s saddle-stitching is well executed too, and I especially appreciate how the threads cross over each panel with doubled reinforcement, without cutting into the leather. This detail, which normally would go unnoticed to the non-hobbyist, shows just how much attention has been paid to this wallet in its crafting.

Certainly, in the price range which Ben’s wallets are being sold, I would not expect such meticulous attention to detail. Keep in mind, too, that Ben uses the best leathers from Italy and the USA, and sews with Japanese Vinymo – top quality materials for sure. Therefore, I strongly believe that the standard Seagull at $95 USD is perhaps somewhat under-priced, and represents tremendous value.

Finally, in terms of aesthetics, I would consider the Seagull bifold to be rugged Americana in style, with my wallet being spec’d as a reflection of the Japanese style of Americana. The Seagull’s aesthetic is a blend of rustic masculinity and sleek craftsmanship – a juxtaposition which is a perfect companion to Japanese jeans and work-wear. The use of natural vegetable tanned leathers allow synergistic aging with heritage-style fabrics too, whether it be sashiko or denim.

The Seagull is, indeed, a versatile and comfortable carry, providing a good example in demonstrating that rugged-style wallets can showcase craftsmanship that is comparable with up-market European-style carry goods.

All in all, the Seagull bifold is one of my favourite wallets to have been reviewed on this blog. I do look forward to more opportunities to check out Ben’s crafts in the future.

Make sure to check out the Benjamin Bott website, and see how you might customize a Seagull wallet too.

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