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!

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! 

Meet Our Newest Addition to the Shop!

Here at SLC our jobs just keep getting bigger and bigger! This demands even more equipment so we can meet your needs, and our newest edition to our not-so-little machine family is a Camoga industrial splitter! This gorgeous beauty comes from Campbell-Randall Leather Machine Company, and Rusty and the rest of us are very excited about how much more splitting we can get done for you!  

So why a new Splitter? Well, we here at SLC have a large splitter and two small ones, which is amazing, but when it comes to medium-sized leather we have to put them through the large splitter, which puts that much more of a load on the big ol’ guy. So, our Camoga solves this problem by being a medium-sized splitter: Taking some of the work off of our large splitter and splitting medium-sized leather at a higher quality! It’s a win-win!

Check out the images below of our exciting unboxing and the sight of our new Camoga’s home: 

How to Care for Your Hair-on Hide Rug

You did it, you pulled the trigger and purchased that beautiful hair-on hide rug you’d been eyeing for months! They’re gorgeous, and a great centerpiece to any room in the household. But…like anything we walk on in our house, cowhide rugs demand general maintenance to keep them in tip-top shape. Not only is this a pricey investment, but if taken care of correctly it’s something you can pass on to your kids and grandkids. These rugs are very durable and have a lot of misconceptions about their care. They really aren’t that needy, and no you won’t have to run your lint roller over it every night. Here’s a few tips and tricks for your new hairy friend.

image

How do I clean my hair-on cowhide rug?

If you wish to vacuum your rug, we suggest either using a robotic vacuum (like a Roomba) or putting your traditional vacuum on the lowest setting, and then gently vacuuming from the center out, careful not to get the ends of the rug caught in the brush. An alternative to vacuuming is to take the rug outside and beat it to clear dust and dirt the old-fashioned way.  

But, what about spills? While hair-on cowhide rugs are naturally resistant to stains, it is important to act quickly if you spill something that can risk leaving a permanent mark. If the stain is liquid, carefully clean it with a little water and a damp paper towel or sponge, being careful not to rub the stain or water into the rug, as liquids can get trapped underneath and cause problems later. For pet stains, follow this procedure but add an additional step of taking some vinegar or mild soap to the stain. Most methods that you use to clean your own hair will work on these rugs as long as you care to not let the water seep in. If the stain is oily and the above process does not work, you can also use eucalyptus oil to help lift the stain before rinsing it again. And finally…for food stains or stains that have particles in them, it’s important to scrape up the particles first, going with the grain of the hair as you do. Then you follow the previous steps to finish the cleaning.  

If none of the above helps remove stains from your rug, it’s best to look into a professional cleaning service to come to the rescue!

Now that basic cleaning is done, what do I do if my cowhide rug is curling on the sides? This usually tends to happen when the thinner sides of the hide have been exposed to too much heat. In this case, it’s best to remove it and store it in a cooler room or remove it from direct sunlight to give it time to uncurl. When you need to store your rug away for a time, it’s best to roll it up instead of folding to avoid creasing, and to store it in a box in a cool, dark place that stays dry.

Now you know how to care for your gorgeous rug!  

Stuck on Renia Glue

image

When a customer sees a beautiful leather purse, they may not notice much beyond the craftsmanship and leather. There are parts of the item that are unseen, unnoticed by the untrained eye, but we know that the products you use behind the scenes to put your amazing projects together are just as important as the leather itself! That’s why we pride ourselves not only on leather, but on things like glue. We want the best for your projects, which is why we’ve brought in a new line of glue that is eco-and shop-friendly!

Sir Clayton, in our latest YouTube video, tells us all about our new, non-smelly, water-based glues from Renia. Gone are the days where everyone suffers the smells of a glue! The earth, and everyone else in your shop, will thank you for it!

First up is Klebfest. Simply apply Klebfest to the flesh side of oil tan leather. You can use our Silicone Flat Brush to achieve a thin layer of glue (you don’t need a lot!). Apply to both sides of the leather you are adhering together and then let dry. After it’s dried, you’ll find a tight and strong bond! This also works for veg tan leathers. Our Klebfest is available here on our website.

image

Next, is the Aquilim 315, which we offer in three sizes: gallon, 32 ounces, and 8 ounces. This glue is fantastic for veg tans! Clayton likes to use the Renia Small Glue Brush to apply Aquilim. Most of the time you’ll want to place the glue on the flesh side of veg tan leather. If you need to place it on the grain side, rough it up a bit before placing the glue on. Spread this glue on your leather thinly and then wait for it to clear before adhering to another leather. Get Aquilim on our website: available in 1 Gallon, 32 oz., and 8 oz bottles.

image

Clayton has also tried out the Atom Superglue, which stays flexible when dry. This works great for even oil tan leathers! This product is FLAMMABLE and NOT water-based! All you have to do is simply place the glue on leather and apply pressure for about a minute. This creates a strong, yet flexible bond which is great for leather working! Atom Superglue is here on our website.

image

Last in our line is a new glue accessory called the TS Boy Glue Pot. This is a handy auto feed glue pot that can hold your glue and brush inside. Once sealed, the glue in the pot and even on your brush will stay wet until you need to use it again! Awesome! Get the TS Boy Glue Pot here.

image

To see this amazing new line in action, join Clayton in our newest video!

Wrinkles Be Gone

Sometimes a little elbow grease is just want is needed to create usable products from something seemingly useless. Take this leather for instance. Just take a look at it. See all these ugly wrinkles? Looks pretty bad, huh? Some might call this total junk and pitch it, but here at Springfield Leather we like a challenge!

Turns out when you ask Sir Clayton to help figure out how to “fix” wrinkled leather, he can work things out in a jiffy and make a problem just disappear! Who would have thought you could simply iron leather…well maybe it’s not that simple. Let me explain.

Clayton discovered and demonstrates two methods (essentially the same method, but with two different working solutions) of removing wrinkles from leather using a basic household iron.

Method 1) Using straight water in a spray bottle. Spray the water on the back side of a chrome tanned, upholstery leather. Brush the back of the leather, where you sprayed it, to get the water to soak into the leather. Then you simply iron it from the backside. Take a few minutes to let it sit and cool, then turn it over and see the perfectly flat leather!

Method 2) Using 1 part water and 1 part 90% isopropyl alcohol mixed together in a spray bottle. Spray the water on the back side of a chrome tanned, upholstery leather. No need to brush the back to get the water to soak in because the alcohol will help the water absorb faster (it will also evaporate faster, so act fairly fast). Then you simply iron it from the backside. Finish it off the same as Method 1) by allowing it to cool for a few minutes then turn it over and see your handy work!

It’s really that easy and we thank Clayton so much for showing us how! We bring this up because we might have purchased TONS of very wrinkled leather recently, and we’d like to sell it VERY cheap…but it will need to be ironed. So get those irons hot and ready folks- the wrinkled leather is coming.

See the video by clicking below! 

https://youtu.be/XtjIsETwT6c