When we use the terms "Hand Tooled" or "Hand Carved", we mean them very literally. Most retailers advertising and selling "hand tooled belts" are actually selling a machined belt that has the appearance of a "hand tooled belt" when in reality, there is no hand tooling involved at all. Their machine has a big steel wheel with the pattern on it and they feed a blank belt strip through it and in twenty seconds they have a "hand tooled belt". If you want to know if a belt has been hand tooled, or hand crafted, it is as simple as looking at the quality and the price tag. Any complicated floral pattern that is priced below seventy-five dollars is likely machined. From start to finish, depending of course on how many options are included, all of or our floral patterns require well over six hours to complete. So you can see, very few people would be willing to spend six hours or more at a leather bench for $40.00 in wages.
Why is it so important that the belt actually be hand tooled? - you might be asking. Well, good question. Simply put, finely tooled leather is a work of art. "Artistry in leather" we like to call it. The process might accurately be compared with sculpture work or some forms of painting. Really good leather tooling requires artistic talent and months of practice and experimentation.
Take it one step further - all of our floral patterns are drawn or designed on paper by Bill Briggs and Roland Briggs so they are in every sense, a work of art. Some people place great value in fine art and are willing to pay for good work. Another value that is inherent in a finely hand tooled belt lies in the fact that each one is actually unique in character.
Because the design is first traced or drawn into the damp leather and then that same design is carved deeply into the leather itself, try as you might, you will never be able to do it exactly the same way every time; its like a fingerprint or a snowflake, no two are identical. Machined belts are most definitely identical and are not unique to the owner.
A personalized, custom leather belt from Lone Tree Leather Works starts out as a blank strip of the best veg tanned leather we can find.
Water is applied to begin the "casing" process of causing the fibers within the tanned leather to expand and become ideal for knife carving and tooling.
The belt blank is then tipped and edged.
A nice edge border is then hand cut with a swivel knife.
Next comes the tracing and transfer of the pattern to be carved in with a swivel knife.
The actual tooling of the pattern is the next and most time consuming, but also the most enjoyable phase.
Once the belt is completely tooled, it is allowed to dry for several hours before the final touch of edging, hole punching, and finishing is complete. This is also the stage where we paint colored backgrounds and do other add-on features.
Good edges require a lot of rubbing and elbow grease. We use a product to bind the fibers on the edge of the belt. It works a bit like glue to seal everything tight - then add a little heat and friction and the belt is ready for the finish to be put on.
The custom belt is almost ready at this point! We apply whatever finish the customer orders - a process including leather stain and water with some time to let the finish set. No matter what finish you order, we always complete the process with Blackrock Leather 'N' Rich. We love this conditioner because it really enhances the color tone and tooling on the belt while protecting the leather - leaving a beautiful semi-gloss finish. To learn more about their product, please click HERE.
Here you can see the finished product!
Thanks for reading - we appreciate your interest in our step-by-step process on how we create your custom hand-tooled leather belt.
The Lone Tree Leather Works Crew