Welcome to SLC Research and Development

Look at how to tool leather

Here at SLC there are many people who work very hard day to day to make sure our business runs smoothly. One of those amazing departments here at SLC is our Research and Development team. This team is full of creative and hard working folks. Though they are a fairly small team they are very important to the innovative aspect of our company. Each day they are faced with new possibilities of what to create or design for our customers to enjoy and maybe even dare to duplicate on their own.

Denny tooling leather

On a normal day here at SLC you can walk over to the R & D Department, right next to one of our biggest windows here at our store location, where the sun shines in on a sunny day to find our R & D Department hard at work.

You would see Larissa at her table working on and creating various different products from unique acessories like folding camp chairs and hats to trendy bags, or sturdy holsters, to patterns and templates for our customers to follow. Not only does she create these products but she simultaneously researches new and innovative ideas for future projects.

Larissa working on a new hat pattern

Next you’ll find Denny over at his work table tooling a saddle bag or some Sheridan style belts that are sure to inspire our western style leather creators. Denny teaches leather tooling classes a couple of times a month and has a lifetime full of knowledge when it comes to his craft, he is definitely someone you would go if you had questions about tooling leather or saddle construction.

Check out Denny’s handiwork

Across from Denny you’ll see Brenna putting together the instructions, diagrams and packaging for completed developments and products that go into our customers’ hands. Brenna translates the process from the original crafters’ perspective into an easy to read and follow step by step process. When asked what she likes about working in R & D she said, “We get to create new and exciting products that set us apart from our competitors. Since I design the kits, the best part for me is working with master crafters and breaking down their process for others to learn from. It’s fun seeing new designs made every day.” 

Brenna cheerfully displaying a project diagram she’s been working on

Now we can’t forget Clayton, who oversees the department. Clayton has made many debuts in our SLC Live videos as one of SLC’s craftsmen. One of his most recent being a “How To” on making an Aussie Hat! Clayton doubles as a Director over a couple areas including the Shop and R & D. He oversees current and future products that need to be finalized, fine-tuned, observed or tested before moving forward into the hands of the craftsmen and women who purchase our products. There is always something new to be done in their department and they are quite the creative and open-minded bunch; always ready for something new.

Clayton doing some product analysis on some thread Andrew brought by

Individually this team is extremely talented and open-minded when it comes to creating and crafting new designs and taking on new projects. Often a fellow employee will go over to the R & D Department with an idea for a new template or product and the R & D Department will turn it into a handcrafted and well-made reality while inputing their own spin on it! This team has to stay ahead of the leather trends curve and they work hard to produce and oversee products that our customers will love and use. We are thankful for such a great group of creative hard working folks in our R & D Department and we would definitely not be the same with out them!

Brenna and Larissa teaming up on product constructing

Welcome to Leather Gathering!

In our last couple of Newsletters we explained how we measure leather here at Springfield Leather in square footage. Typically when you receive a piece of leather from us, there will be natural edges included in your “cut” as it is a piece of a whole hide. Our Gathering Team is who makes sure that the square footage you receive in the mail is to your order’s specifications.

Here at Springfield Leather we have an amazing group of folks who make up our Leather Gathering Team. They do just that, gather your leather to fulfill your order right here at our shop. They check your order and customer notes, walk right over to our huge leather storage area, and grab your leather. Sometimes they have to climb a tall rolling ladder to reach the leather they need because our leather storage area is just as tall as it is wide. Next, they carry your leather over to their cutting table to measure and cut. The cutting table has a square footage graph on top for measuring each piece. The graph on top of the table really comes in handy when you’re working with, and measuring, the leather’s natural edges (which are most likely distressed and curved). After measuring the square footage of the piece, they make one single cut to the leather to finish up and fulfill the order. After making the final cut they take the remaining leather back to storage area for future orders.

Janna grabbing some leather from storage

Cori, one of our Leather Gathering veterans, says, “Once the gatherer makes the cut and finishes the order, the leather is rolled up in a specific way depending on what type of leather it is.  Some are rolled with the grain side out, and some with the grain side in. Our leather team is very knowledgeable about each leather – and packing orders is very important for us to get correct!”

Cori working on finishing up an order

Watching them roll leather orders up to be shipped, the Leather Gathering Team is very efficient and mindful of every order that they are fulfilling. You walk in the back of the shop where they are constantly busy and they always have great attitudes! The team is very knowledgeable about the leather that passes through their department’s hands every day and are always willing to share their knowledge and answer any questions about measuring leather.

Many people have bragged about how quickly they get their leather orders and we owe a lot of that praise to our amazing Leather Gathering Team here at SLC. We would not be the company we are today without each working part of our team – and our Leather Gathering Department is a great team player!

Success Through a Time Honored Relationship!

hermann oak and SLC

The relationship between Springfield Leather and Hermann Oak actually started many years before SLC even existed. Back in the day, when Kevin was playing in the band and tooling leather for extra money, Hermann Oak and any number of other veg leathers were available to buy at various leather stores. Kevin says that, “I may have fallen off the turnip truck, but I didn’t land on my head, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I could do better work using Hermann Oak Leather for my leather projects.”

Years passed, and the leather world has changed a lot. Tanneries have come and gone…mostly gone. But Hermann Oak has remained for the past 139 years, and for good reason. Kevin believes that it’s because they make the best tooling leather on the planet. So immediately after Kevin started SLC, he arranged a meeting with Shep Hermann and the Hermann Oak management team. 

Kevin and Shep shared two common interests: 

1. They wanted to do everything in their power to make their leathercraft customers successful.  

2. They both loved leather, and they cared about the industry.

Kevin and Shep strongly believed that by using Hermann Oak tooling leather, it would enable many leather crafters to improve their skills and produce more professional products, leading to better sales and profits and give people potential to grow the small businesses that so many were trying to start.

One of Kevin’s strategies was to provide leather to customers in any size piece that they wanted, and not require the customer to purchase a full side (unheard of back then).

To achieve this Kevin reached out to Shep to become a distributor of Hermann Oak Leather.

Strangely enough, to the utter amazement of Kevin, Shep agreed!!! That was the beginning of a beautiful partnership that has lasted over 20 years. Through the years, Hermann Oak Leather and SLC have worked together closely to develop leathers that mainly benefit the customers of both companies, thereby bringing success to both companies along the way. And the relationship has grown even stronger through the years.

What this means moving forward! 

As a result, SLC has agreed to steadily bring in and stock the complete line of Hermann Oak leathers. This would make SLC the ONLY distributor to carry the ENTIRE LINE of Hermann Oak Leathers in the U.S.! Both SLC and Hermann Oak agree that the benefits to professional and part time leathercraft customers will be tremendous! 

Now customers will be able to buy many Hermann Oak leathers in affordable quantities.  There will of course be certain leathers that SLC cannot cut, but there will be many that can be cut, allowing the customer to save money, and at the same time use premium leather that was previously out of reach cost wise.

Ask Kevin- How Many Rabbits?

Another customer question for Kevin!

I plan on making my grandfather a pair of rabbit fur mittens. I was wondering if the rabbit hides you sell are real and if they are the same color as wild rabbit? Also I’m not sure how many hides I’ll need for this job. I know how to do this, but any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Here’s what Kevin had to say:

Hello Aaron,

Our rabbit hides are indeed real, and we have ones called “natural” which are the color of a rabbit in the wild.                

Keep in mind that the actual skin of the rabbit is very thin, and not tough at all.  It might be difficult to make a durable pair of mittens from it.  You might have to make the mittens out of cowhide that are lined with rabbit…. In any case, you’d need no more than 4 at the most.

Thanks,

Kevin

Ask Kevin- Which Sewing Machine??

Here’s another great customer question for Kevin!

I am wanting to purchase a sewing machine and am not sure which would be best. I make some totes, shoulder bags, and smaller leather goods (pocket knife slips and journal covers) using leather that rarely exceeds 4/5 oz. (thus the sewing thickness is usually two layers of 4/5 oz leather). I will probably put only five hours of time on the machine per week.

Do you have a suggested machine that would do the trick?

Thanks so much!

Mike

Here’s what Kevin had to say:

Hi Mike,

For me, it would be either a Cobra Class 20 or a Class 26.  The 26 is a a bit more versatile because of the cylinder arm, and if I could have only one machine, that would be the one that I’d have in my shop.  The class 20 is a small bit less expensive, but in my opinion the 26 is it! 

If you need more info, let me know and I’ll get it to you.

Thanks,

Kevin

Ask Kevin- Edges Be Slicked?

Often we get great questions from customers. The web based questions are directly from customers to Kevin, he’s always happy to answer! Check out one of the most recent inquiries below:

Hi Kevin!

I would like to have this cleared up so I want to know if the crazy horse leather edges be slicked? I have seen some debate whether this is possible or not. Some say only Horween Chrome XL can be burnished.

I would love your expert opinion

Thanks,
Kelly

Here’s what Kevin had to say:

Hello Kelly,

Yes, it can be slicked, but only with the right stuff.  Various paints can work, and there are other products as well, but they’re not commonly available as yet.  We have several shipments on the way to us from Japan and China  that we intend to add too our line for that very purpose.  I’m expecting to have things in hand within about 10 days.  But as I said, the answer to the question is yes, it can be slicked.

Thanks,

 Kevin

Leatherworking with Phil at Finley Farms

SLC and Mr. Phil Hedlund are teaming up! We met Phil awhile back and decided to help supply some of the materials needed for his upcoming leatherwork class at the Ozark Mill Finley Farms.

In this class, on December 20th at 6:30pm, Leatherworker Phil Hedlund will take you through the steps of crafting a leather key chain from a natural leather. He will introduce you to the basic tools you need to begin your leatherworking craft and explain the characteristics of working with different types of leather. Conquer your tools with ease with the guidance of Phil Hedlund and go home with a customized accessory or a thoughtful gift for someone special this holiday season!

SLC and Phil are also working together to create a new YouTube video series. This series will highlight the creation of high-end leather products and how they are built by Phil himself! We’re very excited to work with Phil and have some fun while sharing the experience with all of you! Be sure to signup soon for his class- spots are limited and selling fast! You can sign up by clicking HERE!

Springfield Leather Company and Glowforge are Teaming up!

First thing you might ask yourself is: What is Glowforge? Well, we’re so happy you asked! Glowforge is a 3D Laser Printer. For you scientific folks- Glowforge uses subtractive manufacturing while traditional 3D printers use additive manufacturing. A 3D printer builds up material, like plastic filament, layer by layer. With Glowforge, you’ll put a piece of material like leather, wood, or acrylic in the machine and it carves out your product using laser light. The technical name for the category of tools that includes Glowforge is a CNC laser cutter engraver, but that’s a mouthful, so we call it a 3D laser printer.  


With Glowforge, you can bring your vision to life at the speed of light.

With sophisticated onboard cameras, a powerful laser and intuitive software, you can print endless designs on hundreds of different materials – like leather, hardwood, metal or even glass. Glowforge cuts and engraves your designs directly on your favorite materials with such precision that you can lace up leather like a shoe. Whether you create a design with programs like Illustrator or InkScape – or with even just a pen – Glowforge turns your ideas into reality at the push of a button.

Some key features that make the Glowforge great are the cutting capabilities, personalization, affordability, and quality. The quality is superb due to its amazing auto focus. This machine also has an excellent camera, which makes it easy to position artwork to be engraved and cut.

Okay, so what’s that mean to you leathercrafting fools? Well, it means you can elevate your leathercraft with Glowforge! But before we get into upping your leather game, let’s chat about what this partnership between SLC and Glowforge means to you. Simply put this means discounts, and saving you your hard earned money! With our special referral link you can save hundreds of dollars on your very own Glowforge.

Here’s a breakdown of the savings:

$500 off a Glowforge Pro
$250 off a Glowforge Plus
$100 off a Glowforge Basic

About each machine:

Glowforge Pro
Unlimited printing power with endless possibilities. The Glowforge Pro is the ultimate option for home, business, or school. It prints truly enormous objects like furniture with the exclusive Pro Passthrough, allowing you to use infinitely long materials. Upgraded solid-state cooling allows nonstop printing all day long. The powerful 45 watt laser cuts up to 20% faster, and the top engraving speed is up to three times as fast as the Glowforge Basic. Class 4 laser product; place near a window for ventilation.

Glowforge Plus
The premium printing experience. The Glowforge Plus has the power to bring your vision to life at the speed of light. The Plus offers upgraded components and a top engraving speed that’s up to twice as fast as the Glowforge Basic. A double warranty offers yearlong peace of mind. Class 1 laser product; place near a window for ventilation.

Glowforge Basic
An introduction to the power and simplicity of Glowforge. The Glowforge Basic creates beautiful prints on dozens of materials right at home. Like all Glowforge printers, the Glowforge Basic uses onboard cameras and a powerful laser to make it easy to create beautiful products at home. You’ll be showing off your first print in under 30 minutes. Class 1 laser product; place near a window for ventilation.

Learn more about those offers here: glowforge.com/springfieldleather  


Here’s the top 6 ways this can up your leather game!

1. Your cutting tools, awls, and pricking irons will soon be gathering dust Use Glowforge to cut your project pieces with laser precision. Add holes for snaps and buckles, in exactly the right spot, and cut every stitch hole so you can lace your projects together like a shoe. Engrave the surface of your material to provide a key for glues, add decorative lines to border your edges, and even skive away material for folds and creases!

2. Prototyping has never been so easy Quickly cut prototypes from cardstock before breaking out your expensive leathers and check your sizing, test your flaps and pockets, and ensure your snaps and buckles are all positioned correctly. After your pre-flight checks are complete, use the same digital files to cut your final parts and start stitching!

3. Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on debossing stamps anymore! Engrave custom debossing stamps from thick acrylic or delrin to add detail to your projects. Save hundreds of dollars and weeks of lead time, and offer embossing services to more of your customers. And of course, now your studio has a Glowforge printer, you print directly onto your leathers and skip the arbor press altogether.

4. Create every template and guide you’ll ever need Prefer to cut your parts by hand? With Glowforge, cut precision templates with ease, and even label them with text and diagrams. Making a bespoke briefcase for a customer? Use cardstock to create detailed but temporary guides for your scratch awl. Developed a core piece for your collection? Print a permanent template from acrylic with positioning marks for every stitch, crease and snap.

5. Make one. Or one hundred. When one of your incredible products inevitably sells out, load up your design, press print, and restock your shelves in hours, not days. Whether you print something bespoke for a special customer, or a hundred of your best seller, you can be sure that every one will be perfect, every time.

6. Glowforge is your favorite employee. Once your press the magic button, Glowforge takes care of the rest. So while Glowforge works hard to bring your most ambitious ideas to life, you can be working on your next best seller.

So what are you waiting for? Start creating today! Unlock the offers here: glowforge.com/springfieldleather

Winter Is Coming

Winter is coming! For some it’s coming faster than for others. Here at SLC we have many products which cannot be frozen (well, actually they can freeze- but it could possibly ruin the product).

So, as we do every year around this time, we’d like to send out a friendly reminder that if you order items which should not be frozen, we will hold off on shipping that product until the risk of freeze is over.

Most of these products will note “do not freeze” in the description, but if you have any questions or concerns- please do not hesitate to give us a call!

1-800-668-8518
Stay warm out there!

An Interview with Kevin Hopkins & Rusty Darnell

We sat down with Kevin and Rusty recently for a new YouTube video, but if you’re the reading type check out the interview below!

The second the camera blinks red to record, Kevin Hopkins and Rusty Darnell are off to their antics as natural as they would be if talking to a customer they’d known for years. Always trying to get two birds with one stone, we conducted our interview in our happy little YouTube recording studio, surrounded by cameras and past works of leather created in previous videos by many of our staff. The video crew behind the cameras work silently as I (a happy little marketing associate) try to write as quietly as possible. Rusty and Kevin shine like stars in front of the camera, starting off with Rusty making jokes about Kevin’s non-descript branded iced tea and his ink pen that they spent several weeks digging out of the scrap bin “that one time.” 

Knowing our fearless leaders, we do the interview a little differently than others might, just like how we do business. Kevin and Rusty have our list of questions and talk for over 30 minutes about the business. Bouncing off of each other is much more entertaining to watch than simply talking to an employee making notes. The questions cover everything from their meager beginnings, to their philosophies on life and business, to what is to come for Springfield Leather in the future after its impressive 20-year milestone.  

When asking how both of them got into leatherworking, Kevin replies first. 

“In the early 70’s, I was a Hippie,” Kevin begins. “I was playin’ music in a Rock n’ Roll band, I needed a Leather Guitar Strap. So, I took a hundred bucks, I went to a leather store, and I spent it all on all the wrong stuff! Came home, made a guitar strap that was really lousy, but it held my guitar–it worked, and one of the guys in the band, the base player, said: ‘Hey! I’d like to have one of those straps too!’ So, okay. I made him one, and one thing lead to another… As time went on, I realized I was not gonna be the next Bruce Springsteen. So, I got a job working for the leather company that I bought supplies from.” Which, at the time, was Tandy Leather; “I worked for them for 24 years, and when they closed, I took the plunge. I bought the store here in Springfield, MO. and the rest is history, sorta.”  
 
As Kevin ends, he turns and smiles at Rusty, putting the question back onto him, in which Rusty replies, fondly: “Like many of you,” He points to Kevin. “Him. Believe it or not, Kevin and I have managed to be friends for over 25 years.” They both laugh over the fact that Rusty managed to say that aloud, considering how often they rib each other. “I have a background in construction. That’s what I’ve done 99% of my life. I have worked in many, many different fields of construction. I was working on Springfield Leather, the building, and I got t’ noticin’…I’m out here and it’s cold…I’m lookin’ in the window, and those people are warm!” 

“I think you got tired of me asking you when you were gonna be done!” Kevin interjects 

“So I decided to get a job here and tell him I would never be done!” 
 
“Well,” They both begin to laugh. “…that part worked out.” 
 
Next, SLC asks their two leaders to share their overall philosophies for life and business, as well as how they educate their employees and keep them in the know: both one of many keys to success. 

“As far as Philosophy for life and business.” Kevin appears thoughtful at first before answering with enthusiasm: “Mine personally…I wanna treat others like I wanna be treated, and I wanna be fair in business, and I wanna sell something to everybody!! I wanna have something for everybody, and I want it to be a win-win deal.”  

The excitement in his voice is infectious as Rusty answers back: “Y’know the thing is I like to sleep at night, and I like to do so and know that I did what I could do. I wanna be sure we’ve done everything we can to make sure we give a fair deal and to do the best we can to make someone successful at what they’re doing. I do think that contributes to the success of Springfield Leather.” 
 
They go on to talk about their employees, and how Kevin, back when he wasn’t our fearless leader, but a fearless employee of another place and time, it was difficult for him to have all the answers to everything he wanted to know, and it ended up affecting his work. Because of this, Rusty and Kevin both strive to have an educational environment for their employees, and one way they do that is with weekly meetings with all the employees, which Rusty roughly counts to be at about “90-ish, 93-94-ish, give or take? …are we countin’ dogs or we just countin’ people?” Just the people, Rusty. 
 

Kevin explains the weekly meeting best: “We try to make it so that everybody has the opportunity to know what all the various departments are doing, what they need, what’s going to be happening in the future…We just feel that’s the best way to go about it.” 

Rusty comments that perhaps their employees enjoy the meeting because of the free biscuits they receive. This employee pleads the 5th.  

“That probably has somethin’ to do with it.” Kevin jokes. 

When it comes to growth and keeping up with it, Kevin and Rusty both concede that it’s not easy. “Now, growth is extreeemely challenging!” Rusty admits. 

“And expensive!” Kevin interjects. 

And expensive…and it can be painful. And I’m sure that we have done our fair share of sharing the pain with those through growth because it causes you to work fast and furious and possibly make mistakes. 

 
“But y’know I’m glad you mentioned that,” Kevin holds up his index finger like he normally does when making an important point. “…because, this is the leather business. I don’t care who you are, if you’re involved in the leather business, in any way shape or form, whether you’re making something, selling something, buying something…you’re gonna make mistakes. And when we do, we want to try and make it so that everyone in our meetings understands what those mistakes are, how they came to be, and what we can do in the future to not make those same mistakes again.” 

In discussing the future of SLC and its 20-year milestone, Kevin and Rusty both acknowledge the congratulations given to them by Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal. 

“Well, we thank you very much for that, and we thank you for the 20 years!”  

Rusty gives a big smile as he watches Kevin eagerly begin to elaborate on the most he can about SLC’s future.“We have expansion plans! SLC is going to get larger. I hope we get better. There is a little room for improvement…and we’re workin’ on that constantly. There’s gonna be a lot of changes and we’re excited about that!” 

“The good thing that we’ve both come to appreciate is that growth is a must, but you can also control the growth, and that’s key, I think. Controlling the growth to be at the right time, when the opportunity is there. So that’s what we’re hopin’ to take advantage of and we’ll give you more on that later!” Rusty adds. 

Finally, Kevin and Rusty address some of the more…interesting questions, including where Kevin does his lacing, how they find each other in SLC’s huge space, and if they have any ‘juicy tidbits’ to share with the reader. 
 
Rusty grins as he describes the hand-laced wallets we sell here at SLC, (all done by Kevin!) and how we sell some to people who wish to resell them…and Kevin describes the only economic way to get them done, since they take so much time: “…so I lace on the way home when I’m driving.” Kevin sheepishly admits. 

“You heard it, you heard it right here!” Rusty exclaims with a cackle. 

As for when one man needs to talk to the other and has to search through over 3300 sq. ft. of warehouse and retail, Kevin has it down to a science. “I can tell ya, when I’ve got something important that I need to talk to Rusty about, I know exactly where he is, and that place is somewhere else! That’s a fact!”  

“That’s exactly where Kevin is when you need him too!” Rusty laughs. 

As for “juicy tidbits” Kevin seems to struggle to come up with something for once, in which Rusty ‘helpfully’ interjects: “What kind of tea do you drink, Kevin?” 
 
Kevin picks up his non-branded tea before setting it back down. “I go to a place that has two kinds. I get traditional unsweetened tea, and I mix it with something called citrus green which is orange stuff…or! Sometimes, I’ll celebrate and put some raspberry stuff in it, and it’s always unswee–” 

Rusty looks straight into one of our cameras, pointing and interrupting with a laugh, saying that, “If you ever want to bring Kevin anything, bring him a glass of sweet tea!” To which Kevin immediately responds by gagging. There’s laughter in the recording room as Kevin continues to contemplate the horrors of sweet tea, and the recording equipment catches Rusty saying “cya!” just before being shut off.  

Our fearless leaders ask if that’s what we were after, and of course, it was. These guys are just as good on video as they are with leather! Now, we’d kept them for 30 minutes of their time, so they had to quickly book it back to their day job. (The one off the camera.) They leave the studio, Kevin with tea and ink pen in hand, ready to help the next employee or customer, ready to give someone that win-win deal. 

If you like what you read here and want to see the video in its entirety, with more questions and funny ‘juicy tidbits’, there is an interview now posted on our happy little YouTube channel called SpringfieldLeatherCo. We thank Leather Crafters for the opportunity to tell our story. Be sure to keep an eye on us, because Kevin and Rusty weren’t pulling your leg about our future plans, they’re big!