Here at SLC we’ve got a sharp team of 4 in our laser engraving department. Each team member brings something specific and unique to the department. We’ve got Holly, who does a lot of the graphic design work for the laser engraving department and the marketing department. She is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to helping SLC out; from creating logos and stamps to creating new ads for Springfield Leather. Our next team member, Zach, runs our laser engraving machines, of which we have 5! He does a lot of customer relation work with folks that call in inquiring about work they need done or if they are interested in purchasing a Glowforge laser engraver. Our laser engravers carve out acrylic templates, both single templates and in bulk for products like bags, wallets, purses and more! Our laser engraving machines also engrave hat patches, weight-lifting belts, large-scale maps, and almost anything you can imagine from patterns, to intricate designs on select leathers and thin wood materials. There are endless options when it comes to laser engraving. We welcome you to give us a call to ask about something you need done or if you are interested in purchasing a laser engraver for yourself! (Watch an SLC live video featuring the Glowforge here) We also have one in our store, so come on by to see how one works in real time!
Next we’ve got Cole who runs our CNC machine, which stands for Computerized Numerical Control. Our CNC machine is a giant piece of equipment that has major possibilities. It’s main course of action is carving away excess pieces to leave pre-designed works of art. It can carve out signs, parts for retail displays that go in our store or shop, and even every day use items like decorative pieces that can be filled or covered in resin, which is a clear plastic mold that can have color added if you want to fill the shape of almost anything! The CNC machine is capable of cutting through even stone, granite and agate opening up many possibilities.
Last but certainly not least, we’ve got the laser engraving department’s outstanding leader, Matt! Matt has been working with SLC for quite some time and has really made the laser engraving department special. He goes out of his way to help customers and teach coworkers more about the laser engraving machines. Matt is very talented, and creates new and creative leather projects on his own during his spare time. He was even on an SLC live video where he showcased his geometric stamping skills (view video here). Matt communicates with customers who want custom stamps done and he stays very busy. Most folks that Matt works with are wanting a unique mark made so that they can stamp their projects with it. Around here we call this a “maker’s mark”, it is typically a customer’s personal business logo or unique “mark” they use to identify with their personal brand. Matt takes care of the process from thought to completed stamp to make sure that our customer’s are getting exactly what they envision. These stamps look great on completed projects and can be used for foil-stamping a mark as well. When I asked Matt what he loves most about working in the laser engraving department, this is what he said.
We are very thankful here at SLC for such a great department like the laser engraving team. They are a very important and innovative department that is making strides to go above and beyond for our customers and company!
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.
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!”
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!
As you know, we love working together with our longstanding Hermann Oak and Kevin has a message regarding our latest collaborative effort in this open letter shared on Kevin’s Storytime!
When great companies work together, great things happen!!! And they happen for their customers as well. Those things are known as win-win situations, and the main beneficiary of these win-win situations is always the customer. The benefit to the companies comes later as it flows from happy customers to innovative companies. It’s well known that “Customer First” has been the long-standing policy of great companies like Springfield Leather Company and Hermann Oak Leather.
Having said that, leathercrafters across the board have long-desired a HERMANN OAK DOUBLE SHOULDER. And SLC and Hermann Oak feel that this would be a tremendous addition to the leather industry in this country for manufacturers, hobbyists, belt makers and all sorts of other leathercrafters. But confronting the production problems that came along with creating this seemingly simple cut of leather were far more daunting than the average person would realize. It would require a small book to explain them!
So…recently, Hermann Oak and SLC have teamed up, and worked together extensively to try to solve these difficulties. And, (amazingly enough) we feel that between us, we think we have it whipped!!! Another benefit of this production has been realized. Not only will we have a Hermann Oak double shoulder, but we’ll also have a double culatta!!! Initial research has shown that using double shoulders and double culattas can result in AS MUCH AS 40% YIELD INCREASES FOR VARIOUS END USERS!
With all of these things having been said, production samples are in hand! Testing is in place. Grading and pricing are being discussed. We’re very excited to have a part in bringing this wonderful new product to our customers! And certainly want to express our gratitude and thanks to Hermann Oak for being willing to not only change the way that they think, but for taking the time and effort required to make this colossal project a success.
Denny is such a gracious teacher and this time, he’s helping our office staff train to understand customer concerns with a bit of practical application. Today’s lesson was in tooling a passport cover – here are a few images from the class!
Denny teaches by showing first and supervising later. He’s allowing for students to make mistakes happy accidents. It’s the best way to learn a craft
Students tape the back of their projects to minimize stretching
They trace the pattern onto their leather diligently.
Now they’re ready to begin carving and stamping
Of course, everyone works at their own pace.
Eventually they’ll end up with something like this.
Tours are just one of the ways we like to connect with our customers. Leather is a niche industry and every business does things differently. Our tours allow us to show customers our dedicated staff and all of the changes we are making to our work space. As the traveling season is winding down, we wanted to give those who are far away a chance to see the store. We missed a few spots, but we hope you’ll get to see those parts for yourself when you come visit!
We are so excited to finally announce the launch of our CarveRite craftaids! These poly patterns will make an impression on your leather and your customers. These handy aids make hand tooling your work a breeze with raised designs that work like a pattern in a convenient two-step process! Durable and reusable, they’re a crafter’s dream and now available from Springfield Leather Company.
Today, we’ll be showing you the quick and easy process of getting started, plus all of the things you’ll need to get your finished product. Each CarveRite comes with a page of instructions very similar to the ones you see here.
Lay your leather flat and use a spray bottle to moisten the surface. The amount of water you’ll need to add depends on your leather among other things. It takes some practice to figure out how much water you need – just be careful to not get the leather soaking wet! You can always add more water later.
Step 2 – Line up the CarveRite
Place the CarveRite on your leather ensuring that the textured side is facing the leather.
Step 3 – Make an impression
Rub a modeling spoon or another burnishing tool evenly across the back of the CarveRite, making sure to cover all of the design’s lines. This will press the design into the leather.
Step 4 – Trace Your Design
Remove the CarveRite and use your swivel knife to carve the lines imprinted on the leather. Finish up with standard tooling magic methods.
The ability to serve a global audience is something that we take pride in, so we’ve changed the way we serve our customers from afar.
We are still taking international orders big and small, but we want your experience to be custom, just like you!
To ensure that you get the best service available, we ask that you place your orders by email or over the phone with one of our representatives to make sure that you’re getting the best shipping rates and you’re not ordering something that we can’t mail to your country.
We have a toll free number that won’t run up your phone bill and an online form for you to fill out if the phone just isn’t your speed.
You’ll corresponding with people like Monique, a member of our customer service team. Our team will help you find the items that you’re looking for and find the lowest shipping rate available for you.
Here are some things you need to know for international orders.
We don’t have a definitive list of these things as they vary by country. Here are a few things that are commonly not allowed:
Flammables – flammable chemicals generally cannot be mailed internationally. Many shipments are sent via airplane, where chemicals are not allowed on board.
If you’re not sure if the chemical you’re looking for is flammable, check the product listing or check out our catalog. There is a digital version available.
Exotic Leathers – this one varies quite a bit by country, but exotic animals include reptiles (snakes, alligators, etc.), kangaroos (including lace), ostrich, elephant, warthog, camel, giraffe and other specialty leathers.
Most countries have restrictions on animals that are not farmed there. For example: kangaroo would not be considered an exotic leather in Australia, but is considered exotic for nearly ever other country.
If you are interested in any items like these, be sure to check your country’s postal service guidelines. If, for some reason, we ship an item to you that is not allowed in your country, that package will likely not be returned to us and we will be unable to issue a refund.
We must declare the full price of the items you are ordering
Some countries apply a tax, tariff, or customs/duties fee to packages that are shipped into the country. The cost of those fees are the responsibility of the recipient of a package (you) and are often based on the value of the package. We must declare the full value of the package as dictated by the invoice included or we could face serious legal consequences. That means we cannot declare your shipment as a gift. We cannot estimate the cost of any of these fees for you. We encourage you to look into your country’s postal service guidelines for more information on additional fees for receiving international packages.
Payments are primarily processed through PayPal
PayPal is the simplest and most secure way for us to process payments from customers. We will always send a full itemized quote before sending an invoice (or payment request) via PayPal. Of course, there are always exceptions. If you have questions, be sure to mention that in your email or over the phone.
Shipments are primarily sent through DHL
Most of our international shipments are shipped via DHL as they offer good rates and allow more detailed tracking information. Other services often don’t offer tracking outside of the US and make it harder for us to help you with your order once it reaches your country. If, for some reason, DHL is not a good option for you, please be sure to mention that in your email or over the phone.
If you’re in a rush, pick up the phone
If you need your order submitted as quickly as possible, give us a call instead of ordering through our online form. Email correspondence takes time, especially when you consider time differences and availability. Your ordering process will go much more quickly over the phone. Be sure to give us a call between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. CST Monday – Friday (take note that phone lines may not be available on Wednesdays until 9:30 a.m.).
This statement does not mean that ordering over the phone will cause your items to be shipped faster – only that placing your order will be quicker.
Please note that nearly everyone in our office only speaks English, so if you know that you will have trouble communicating in English over the phone, email is a better option for you.
Ordering more might save you money in the long run
Shipping internationally is expensive because vehicles have to travel very long distances. So, whether you order $50 worth of merchandise or $5 worth of merchandise, your shipping fee will cost more than the domestic average. If you are ordering less than $20 worth of merchandise, there is a strong chance that the shipping fees will cost more than the items you are ordering. You may consider waiting to order more items at one time to cut down on shipping costs.
If you have additional questions, be sure ask them! You can either ask your questions while you’re placing your order or you can contact us here. We have answers to more general questions like buying leather by the square foot, leather types and much more on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Part of the Springfield Leather Company philosophy has always been to learn through projects. When you’re getting started, you often need to follow the instruction of someone more seasoned through a pattern or a kit. Denny Lowe is our resident master craftsman and, with a little help, he creates nearly all of our new patterns and kits. His latest project is making a guitar case, a project he’s never tried before. Here’s a peek into his process.
Planning, pattern making, and cutting
To make a pattern, you first need a product. Denny finds it easiest to choose from what he’s most passionate about. “Most of the time my projects are picked for me,” Denny says. “[The rest of my projects] are things I have always wanted to do.”
He began the project by making a case for his own guitar. “I wanted to make sure I made one big enough to take almost any size guitar. I have a pretty big guitar myself so I made one to fit it.”
Once he had his base settled, it was time to begin the actual pattern. Using a pencil and Bontex, he begins tracing the guitar. After tracing, he factors in the amount of space needed between the guitar and the case and what materials he might use between the guitar and the leather. “I decided I wanted about a half an inch of foam rubber on each side of it – all around it, so I added another half inch for that. Then I added another half inch for incidentals.”
Denny glues the gusset to the base
Of course, the guitar has to fit inside of something, so there’s the matter of the gusset – the piece of the case that connects the top and bottom. “I had to measure how deep the guitar was and I was also gonna have some foam above and below it so I added [the guitar depth] plus a little bit for good measure.” Denny opted to use foam from our store – all of which are about 1/4″ thick.
After getting patterns for both traced, he cut them out of Bontex and set to work. He opted to make the pattern for the lid of the case after he got the structure of the bottom complete – he originally thought this would improve the fit, but later found that this method made things harder. Next time, he says, he’ll fashion the lid by reusing the pattern from the bottom of the case and simply add more space all around.
After getting all of the patterns made, Denny cuts the shapes out of leather – just like you’d do with a purchased pattern. Denny knew he wanted to tool his piece, so the leather was easy to choose: Hermann Oak veg tan in 6-7 oz. He also made choices about other materials during this time. He would use Kydex as a stiffener for the top and bottom and line the case with velvet.
Designing the Case
Tooling, fitting and alterations
Once Denny has his leather cut out and tested for fit, he begins tooling. For this project that element was, by far, the most time consuming part.
His design approach for tooling is more spontaneous than the rest of the pattern. “I just start drawing flowers on it. There are no patterns for that, so I make something from scratch. I just make something that pleases the eye.” He says that this project put him to the test because of its size. “This was the biggest piece of leather I ever tooled. A saddle has a lot of pieces of leather but none of them are that big. A lot of design had to go into this case – there was a lot of space to fill.” He says that moisture wasn’t an issue for this piece, he just added water as needed and made sure to tape the pieces to prevent stretching.
Once the pieces are fully designed, Denny tests things out once more before permanently bringing them together with adhesives and sewing.
For this guitar case, Denny realized he made a mistake cutting out a piece and had to rethink his sewing approach. “I originally started out with a French box stitch which is an angled stitch that goes through both pieces of leather. I made a mistake when I was cutting it so I couldn’t do that.”
Denny said that misstep doubled his stitching time. “I would have had to hand stitch all the way around to begin with but I would have just had to do it once.” To put that into perspective, instead of hand stitching for 56 inches per piece (both lid and base), Denny had to stitch 224 inches. That upped his band-aid budget.
Still, he wouldn’t call it a mistake. “I never make mistakes, I just make more expensive products. That’s kinda what it turns into. It’s the same cost for the customer but it’s more expensive for me. To make or to do things that are mis-engineered and have to redo them or just make them work costs time and money.”
Denny had to weigh his options when it came to the hand stitching fiasco. He estimates that he put about 150-200 hours into this guitar case and that over half of that time was spent tooling. His choices were to redo the tooling or suck it up and stitch some more.
“I put a lot of time into tooling and I made a mistake cutting an edge to stitch [the case] together, so was I supposed to scrap that deal that I worked a week and a half tooling? Or do whatever it took to make it work? Every crafter is going to run into that situation. It’s like a carpenter or any kind of a craft or skilled laborer. You have to make things work because theory is different than practice every time.”
He says that pattern makers aren’t the only ones who must face this reality. “Patterns help but even that doesn’t solve every problem because materials are inconsistent. Especially a natural material like leather. It’s not like plastic poured into a mold. Some parts are soft, firm, stretchy, some are stiff – so you run into a lot of problems and you can’t match everything perfectly. You have to make them match. ’Course sometimes, you have to scrap it, but most of the time, you can salvage it.”
Once Denny had his strategy settled, he began stitching his days away. Once he had everything stitched and all of the materials put into place, he just had a few more tests to do. During this time, he made a few adjustments like changing the velvet interior color. In the end, he ended up with a pretty satisfactory product, but it wasn’t pattern-ready.
New methods, materials, and plans for the future
While Denny feels that his guitar case is good enough, he doesn’t think it’s refined enough for people to emulate- plus, he has a few bones to pick with his material choices.
The guitar case he produced was heavy. He estimates it’s about 20-25 pounds as it’s essentially made from two sides of leather. Still, he says, the weight isn’t his main motivation behind giving this project another go. “The one I made is usable and I love it, but the pattern needs to be refined.”
He says that his current pattern is too difficult to make decent instructions for. Hand stitching aside, he says that some of his design choices like making the top of the case last and using Kydex as a stiffener for the gusset cost him a lot of time. This was especially true when it came to shaping the top of the case as there was nothing solid to easily mold the shape from.
“I ran into a problem when I was shaping the gusset [trying] to get it to look the same on both edges. The top was just loose. I had to hand shape that and I ran into some problems. I’m thinking next time I’ll build a form. Then I can shape the Kydex around it.” Though, he admitted, he wasn’t exactly sure how he would pull that part off. The Kydex, he added, didn’t turn out as stiff as he thought it should.
For his second case, he’ll opt for a thin plywood instead. He says that this should give him the strength and flexibility that he was looking for while also cutting down on the overall weight.
He also wants to reduce the production time for his second attempt. Skipping the tooling will cut his project time nearly in half, but he’s thinking of more ways to get his time down. To do that, he’s focusing on the second most labor intensive step: stitching. “For the next case, I can machine stitch half of it. I don’t want to cut a corner, but I want to do something that’s a little simpler.” He says he isn’t quite sure how he’ll machine stitch some parts, but he’s putting some thought into it.
He also plans to cut the top of the case out using the pattern from the base. “Biggest challenge is getting the top to fit the bottom. I worried about that all the way through, because I built the top last. Next time I’ll build them at the same time.”
Turning a finished product into a pattern
We mentioned earlier that Denny doesn’t do these patterns alone! Though he designs them and even cuts out the original pieces himself, someone has to convert those lovely ideas in a cohesive product for our customers. Elizabeth, a member of our Research and Development team, checks in with Denny throughout the process and documents each step with photos and notes. Denny keeps track of the process in his head, so it’s up to Elizabeth to put everything on paper. After that, Elizabeth matches up photos and notes to develop instructions. Sometimes she even converts the photos into drawings for clarity. During this time, she checks back in with Denny to make sure that the instructions work. This is often when, she says, they add optional steps so that customers can make something unique. The Bontex patterns that Denny cuts out are scanned and converted into convenient outlines that are later specially printed so that they come out the actual size of the product. Once all of that is done, Elizabeth creates the packaging, names product variations, writes the product descriptions and makes it available online.
Denny’s thoughts on making patterns and pricing his work
After explaining his process, Denny had a few more thoughts to share. He says that his favorite part of developing a new pattern is seeing how it turns out. “When you’re making a brand new pattern, when you’re thinking about it and it’s a lot of fun. Then you start trying to make it work and it’s not much fun. But, when you get to where you can start putting the pieces together and see what it actually looks like, it’s pretty fun! ‘Cause sometimes it comes out pretty good – it never comes out like I think it’s gonna come out, but it always comes out pretty well.”
Though Denny doesn’t sell many products himself these days, he does like to think about what price he might charge for it. “If you ask me how much money I’m gonna make on it, the answer is $0. Considering the amount of time that’s in it and it’s sort of a unique product, I would say about $7,000 is what it oughta sell for. Without tooling, [the price] would decrease by more than half. If someone with a big name made that and not necessarily any better, I would say $10,000-$15,000 is what it would go for. It’s like a Louis Vuitton purse, the unknown craftsman’s is worth $1000 and [Louis Vuitton] is worth $3000.”
Finishing the pattern
Even though his case is done, the pattern process hasn’t ended. All that Denny can do is get cracking on the next iteration! He already started and he’s using some of our brand new shrunken bison! You can check out Denny’s progress by following us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.
If you’d like to see more of Denny’s patterns, check out our website. You can also see some of Denny’s work in our retail showroom!
Springfield, Missouri is known as the birthplace of Route 66. That’s why this year’s catalog features a Route 66 theme of travel and excitement! One of the finest examples of Americana, Route 66 touts a signature style comprised of 50s nostalgia, road and motor memorabilia, and knickknaks.
Aside from the thrill of travel, what draws folks from around the world are the souvenirs. As the birthplace for the mother road, there is no shortage of catchpenny items reminiscent of the route’s heyday. So, we did a little digging around our hometown to find a bit of kitsch.
Founded in 2013, Mother Road Antiques and Uniques went from an abandoned building to a premier Springfield hot spot for Route 66 nostalgia. The store is full of branded keepsakes like magnets, snow globes, t-shirts and shot glasses. It’s also brimming with antique toys, photos, postcards and license plates.
But we’re here to talk about kitsch, so let’s get to it!
Figurines like these adorable porcelain kittens and their mom are ones you may have seen gracing the end tables and China cabinets of your grandmother’s house. Kitsch items circa 1950 were often made from delicate material like porcelain, but painted to be bold, bright and shiny!
Made from glass or metal, one can easily find a dog or rooster in shops like these. While you can likely find any animal, knickknacks tend to feature domestic animals commonly found in the US. Of course, there are plenty of less-furry figurines, like these clowns.
Consumerism, convenience and corporations all permeate the culture of kitsch. This inflatable Ronald McDonald is a prime example. While McDonald’s began as a humble one-off establishment, the convenience it offered to roadtrippers was truly groundbreaking. While the original location along the route is no longer a restaurant, it is home to the McDonald’s museum.. The drive-in and eventually, the drive thru, are still a major part of American identity.
Bright mascots used as spokespeople became beloved characters, much like the Fred Flinstone figurine standing in front of Ronald. Fred went from cartoon star to a symbol of consumerism himself, with his popular line of sugary cereals called Fruity Pebbles.
Some souvenirs are little less vibrant. On the other end of things, Route 66 memorabilia is all about the core of the trip: the car.
The grungy look of these vintage oil cans is part of the appeal.
Classic cars, vintage gas pumps and license plates are a core part of the Route 66 aesthetic. Getting into the spirit of nostalgia is a major facet of Americana.
No matter where your license plate is from, you can get your kitsch with ease on Route 66! Grab your own piece of the mother road SLC style by picking up our 2018 supply guide. This catalog is packed with thousands of products and it’s free!