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.

Jenna 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.

How to Make a Journal Cover

Why not slip your journal into something more durable? Get a leather covered journal, or any book for that matter, by following this simple guide to journal making. If you’re familiar with our YouTube channel, then you’ve likely seen the video we posted a few days ago about making one. Tonya, the star of the video, makes all of the covers for SLC and can make one in as little as 30 minutes. That’s why she is sharing with you the simplest way to make a cover with the most basic supplies. 

Keep reading to check out Tonya’s instructional video and a text version of the instructions below! 

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As gift giving season approaches, lots of crafters are looking for good items to sell and journal covers are one of our favorites. These covers are the perfect project for those looking to make something simple, practical and unique. If you have minimal leather crafting supplies, this is the project for you! 

What you’ll need: 
Please note that links will be SLC products that are recommended, but that doesn’t mean it’s the one you have to use! For example: if we link to white thread, that doesn’t mean you can’t use thread of another color. Or maybe we linked to a different brand of contact cement than you prefer. Take a look arounf the site, we tend to have more than one variety of each item. Links are meant to be a guide! What your project looks like in the end should always be up to you.  

  • Journal – whatever style or size you prefer is fine. Just consider the stiffness of the covers when you work on the leather pockets. 
  • Leather – we recommend light to midweight leather (2.5 – 6 oz.) 
  • Shears or a utility knife – you want to make sure your scissors will cut through the leather without messing up your edges. If you’re unsure about your scissors, test them out on a scrap piece first. 
  • Wing Divider 
  • Contact Cement 
  • Ruler/Square – a square is optional but will make your job easier
  • Pen – we used a gel pen, but you can use anything that will show up on leather
  • Sewing supplies: 
    • Awl/Waxed thread and needle
    • Leather sewing machine with nylon thread – you don’t want to use a standard sewing machine on leather. It will not go well. 

Let’s get started: 

Watch the video below for instructions, tips on sewing and to watch Tonya make one herself! Check below the video for written instructions. 


Step One – Laying Out the Leather 

Lay your leather onto a flat surface with the finished side down. Place your journal onto your leather and ensure you have enough material to cover both sides of the book and the spine. If your leather has a pattern or grain, now is the time to consider how you would like it to look on your cover. If you plan to do any decorating on the leather, save that part for later.

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Step Two – Create a Pattern

You have your piece and now it’s time to create guides to cut. Use a winged divider or other tool that will create a clear indentation in the leather. A winged divider is ideal as you can trace the shape while creating space between the journal and your markings. You’ll need some extra space around the journal, so if you plan to use something aside from a divider, keep that in mind. Something less than a centimeter will work fine for a journal with thin covers like ours.

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Step Three – Cut it Out 

You can use leather shears or a utility knife to cut out the cover. If you decide to use scissors that are not shears, test them by cutting a scrap piece of leather to ensure it won’t fray your edges. An x-acto knife is an acceptable utility knife to use. Just be sure the blades are sharp! You can always clean up your cutting later and you’ll likely have to do a bit of trimming when we get to the pockets so don’t worrying about it too much. Get it as clean as you can in one go and move on.

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Step Four – Create Pockets & Strip

After testing the fit of your journal and the leather you’ve just cut out, it’s time to make the pockets that will secure the cover to the journal. Measure the covers of your journal and subtract at least one inch from the width. The amount you will need to take from the width will be dependent upon how stiff your journal covers are. Covers that won’t bend much will likely require more space. Try clamping the leather together to test it out. 

Once you have your dimensions, grab another piece of leather and a ruler. 

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Use a pen to mark the dimensions off on your leather. If you have a square, it will help you make sure that all of your lines are straight as they relate to each other. You don’t have to use a square, but it will save you some time. 

Once you have your pockets drawn out, cut them using the same shears or utility knife from step three.  

While you’re in the cutting mood, find a piece of leather that is long enough to wrap around the journal and tie! We used a piece that was six inches longer than the width of our journal. Our strip was one inch wide. You can also skip this step if you don’t want a strip to keep your journal closed. 

Test your pockets out by placing them on your cover. Make sure they’re inside the lines you have marked and that they’re as even as possible. If you have any trimming to do, now is the time. 

Step Five – Secure your pockets 

Use contact cement on three edges of each pocket, leaving one log edge open for the journal to slide in. Apply contact cement to the journal as well for extra hold. This will be especially important for those who are hand-stitching. Try not to go too wild with the glue so that it’s still easy for you to push a needle through. 

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Place your pockets on the cover. Be sure to have the finished side of the leather facing you. We used a ruler to make sure that the pockets are resting on the cover evenly.

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Step Six – Add your strip 

If you’d like to have a strip of leather secure your journal, it is time to add it to the cover. Apply glue to one end of the strip on both the finished and unfinished sides. Create a small hole between one of your pockets and the cover and place the strip inside. Have the unfinished side facing up. 

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Step Seven – Time to sew! 

Now it’s time to put it all together. As we’ve mentioned before, you can do this with a machine or by hand. Please note that using a regular sewing machine on leather will likely cause damage to your needle, if not the entire machine. We do not recommend using standard machines on leather, especially thicker leather. The same goes for hand stitching – using a normal fabric needle and thread are not your best options. 

As far as leather sewing machines, the machine you should use depends on your leather and sewing needs, but just about any leather machine will do as you will not likely be using very heavy weight leather. We used a Cobra Class 20 and #69 nylon thread

For additional sewing tips, we recommend checking out the video at this time stamp. Tonya talks you through testing your machine settings, getting around corners and securing your strip. 

For hand-stitching, we recommend waxed thread and leather needles. Sizes to be determined by you! If you’ve never stitched before, we offer detailed hand-stitching instructions for purchase or Denny will show you how for free on our YouTube channel. 

Step Eight – Try it out! 

Your journal cover is complete. Slide your journal in and see how it’s fitting! Make your final snips, burns and adjustments. 

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Making a Saddle with Denny Lowe

Purchasing a new saddle is expensive! Still, riders of all of ages will shell out what they need to get a quality saddle. That’s because saddles require a lot of time, energy and material to be made. Our resident master craftsman, Denny Lowe, spent a month making a saddle and we documented his process in a video! We realize that you might have some questions, so this post is a companion for that video with information on jargon used. Whether you are looking to make a saddle yourself or just educate yourself on saddles in general, we’ve got you covered! 

Think of this has an active FAQ.

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Please note that this is not intended to be a complete guide on making a saddle, but it can help you get started, refresh your memory on some aspects or at least familiarize yourself with the lingo well enough to get what you want out of a saddle commission. 


First, if you’ve not watched the video, you can do that below. This roughly 30-minute video takes you through all of the basic steps of putting the saddle together. So, you won’t see any tooling or shape cutting. Just tacking, minimal sewing, shaping and trimming.  

Now that you’ve seen the video, below you’ll find some additional information on vocabulary and what was used including the saddle tree, the materials and the tools. 

Saddle Tree

A saddle tree is the foundation of the saddle. It is what guides the basic shape of the saddle and is the structure upon which the entire thing is built. SLC does not sell saddle trees. This is one of the more common questions we get. While we cannot endorse any one vendor over another, for this particular saddle, Denny used a 15.5 inch Wade Saddle Tree from Bowden Saddle Tree Company.  

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Oh and if you’re wondering what that saddle tree is sitting on, it’s called a Drawdown Stand. Denny says that many people make their own, but you can also easily find one for purchase online.

Tools

Many tools are used in the process of making a saddle. Here is a list of the essentials. Of course, every tool is not included and we have not listed stamps used for tooling. Denny does a lot of tooling with an adjustable swivel knife. With that basic tool and some patterns, the possibilities are endless. 

Denny has an instructional video about getting started with tooling patterns. You can view our huge selection of stamping tools here for some ideas! 

He also has custom tools he came up with by using his imagination. Test some things out on scrap leather you have – you just might surprise yourself! 

Now, onto the list: 

Leather

Perhaps the most essential part of a saddle is the material. Well, saddles are made from leather, but that’s not quite enough to get you started is it?

Denny exclusively uses Hermann Oak leather as the base for his saddles because of its superior quality, graceful aging and because it is ideal for tooling.

For this saddle, Denny used two sides of 11-13 oz. Hermann Oak Saddle Skirting, a full skin of Veg Tan Shearling Wool and ¼ – ½ side of Latigo leather in burgundy.

Hardware

The leather has to be held together somehow and sewing only goes so far. While many parts are put together with a needle and thread, there is plenty that is nailed down and some things are held together by hardware, like buckles.

For this saddle, Denny used standard one inch nails and nearly all stainless steel hardware because of its superior resistance to rust and its natural shine.

Finishing Supplies 

Give your saddle color and shine with this simple duo. Denny finished his saddle using Fiebing’s Antique Finish in Sheridan Brown and Master’s Quick Shine

Parts of a Saddle 

Below is a graphic pointing out all of the parts of Denny’s saddle. Keep scrolling for a bit of information on each part. 

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Horn — Culminating point of the fork; originally used for roping, but can be used as a grip.

Fork (Swell) —Provides a base for the horn and shapes the front of the saddle.

Jockeys —Placed on top of the saddle skirts; protects the rider’s legs from the friction of the rigging and the horse’s body.

Saddle Strings —Leather ties that can be used to secure additions to the saddle.

Fender —Positioned underneath the rider’s legs to protect the rider from the horse’s sweat.

Stirrup Hobble Strap —Positioned at the bottom of the fender and just before the stirrups, the hobble straps ensure that the rider does not catch their foot in the fender extension. The hobble straps also assist in holding the stirrups at the proper angle for ease and comfort of mounting and riding. 

Saddle Tree —Frame and foundation for the saddle.

Stirrup— Hanging frame that holds the foot of the rider, supporting the rider in mounting and riding the horse.

Cinch Connecting Strap —Connects the front and flank cinches.

Flank Cinch —Assists in holding the back end of the saddle down.

Flank Billet —Connects the flank cinch to the rigging hardware.

Skirts —Large pieces secured underneath the saddle that protect the horse from the saddle hardware and protect the rider from the horse’s sweat.

Cantle —Portion that slopes up at the back of the seat; provides comfort and extra security for seated rider.

Seat —Holds and positions a sitting rider on the horse.

Gullet —"Tunnel" underneath the fork that provides space for the horse’s withers.


We hope that helped! If you have any questions that you didn’t see here (that isn’t about a step-by-step guide), feel free to “ask” us here or visit the contact page on our website! 

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