Monday, August 2, 2010

Tender Belts

Our buddy William at Tender did some incredible accessories next to his natural dyed denim products lately. One of the most remarkable products he developed was a 7 mm thick leather belt with a unique brass buckle. We asked William to introduce his second chapter of British craftsmanship personally. This is what he wanted to share.

William’s metalwork, for buttons and buckles, is hand-cast in solid brass, in Devon. Lost-wax brass casting requires several stages: first the design is moulded by hand from clay, to check the size and proportions. Next a working hard wax version is made from the clay sketch. This must be perfectly accurate, as the finished brass will follow this model exactly. Before a mould can be made from the wax however, risers have to be added to allow the molten wax to escape- these look like sticks of wax that jut out from all over the original piece.

After the first mould has been made and the molten wax has run off, a first brass ‘master’ is cast, by pouring brass melted down from ingots into the mould. When it has hardened, the master has rough edges and large sticks of brass coming out at the risers. This is called sprue, and must be cut off and filed before the final casting can be made.

Tender belts and bags are cut from oak bark leather, tanned in East Devon on the banks of the river Coly, where leather has been made, by largely unchanged methods, since Roman times. This traditional oak bark tannage takes up to 18 months. After liming the raw hides, they are initially soaked in very weak tanliquors in pits called handlers, because for the first two or three months they must be handled regularly to allow the tan to strike evenly all over the hide. Next the hides are layered in very deep pits filled with a stronger oak bark liquor, where they will stay for about a year until they are ready to come out for drying and rolling.

The currying and dressing of the leather, with fish oils and mutton tallow, is done using the traditional hand tools. The hides are heavily dressed giving the fibers a good coating of oil and greases, which not only gives a softer, suppler leather, but also improves its waterproofing and strength.
Now this was the short version of his breath taking story so you can probably imagine why we are such big fans. We will meet William for his Spring-Summer collection in London next Thursday, so more Tender news shortly.

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