Answers to frequently asked questions for Custom Leather and Pen.
Let's cover the basics
Who makes Custom Leather and Pen products?
Custom Leather and Pen is a Houston, TX based boutique specializing in bespoke creations made with leather and wood. All products are made in our small shop. Leather items are hand cut, hand stitched and hand finished.
Can you customize products?
Yes. CL&P specializes in custom leather goods. Most of my work is bespoke where a customer chooses a pattern and then makes adjustments to features, dimensions, leather types and colors to fully personalize their purchase.
Where is Custom Leather and Pen based?
CL&P is an American company residing in Houston, TX. All goods are made and shipped from Houston.
Do you offer a warranty?
Yes. All Custom Leather and Pen products are backed with a Lifetime Warranty.
What grade of leather is used for your products?
All CL&P products are made with some of the best leathers in the world. These leathers are not only Top Grain, often considered the premium grade, but most often the highest quality leathers produced by some of the most famous Tanneries in the world including:
Alran (France), Badalassi Carlo (Italy), Herman Oak (USA), Ilcea (Italy), Sedgwick (UK), La Bretagne (Italy), La Perla Azzura (Italy), Rocado (Italy), Shinki Hikaku (Japan), Tanniers Hass (France), and Wickett & Craig (USA)
How should I care for my product?
A favorite leather conditioner used by CL&P is Aussie Leather Conditioner available on Amazon.
Why doesn’t my wallet lay flat?
Some CL&P wallets require a break in period during which they will soften and lay flat.
What is the difference between fully lined, semi-lined and unlined leather goods?
Lining leather is attaching a second piece of leather to the inside of the item, grain side out. Most CL&P leather goods are lined with an occasional exception when the leather used has a very high quality flesh side.
Many low cost competitors use unlined or semi lined leather in an effort to save cost at the expense of long term durability and aesthetics.
What type of stitching is used by CL&P? Is it hand or machine stitching?
CL&P goods are hand stitched using Saddle stitching. Saddle stitching is far superior to machine stitching. Saddle stitching is a technique that employs two needles and results in two interlocking stitches. Using this technique, a single thread can break without compromising the seam. The finest, most expensive boutiques in the world sew their goods using Saddle stitching.
Do you offer monogramming?
Yes. I can emboss initials, your full name, or phrases in your leather goods. This can be performed with and without color.
Why are your prices so much higher than items on Amazon, eBay and other sites?
All my leather work is performed by hand. Every cut, every prick of the chisel, every stitch and all the finishing work. Most leather goods purchased through Amazon, eBay and online vendors as well as retail stores are produced with sewing machines, pattern stampers and other automated methods. In addition, this work is typically performed in low cost labor markets such as China, Vietnam, and India.
Secondly, most manufacturers use highly cost effective (less expensive) materials for their goods. The surfaces you see and touch can be high quality leather, but look at the materials used inside your wallets and purses. Quite often this is not leather but a much cheaper alternative material.
How long does it take to produce your work?
Hand work takes a substantial amount of time. Craftsmanship is a marathon, not a sprint as I often remind myself. From start to finish, a wallet can easily take a week when things are going well. Twice that when there are challenges. Handbags can take 50% longer.
What are the basic steps for creating a leather project?
Most leather projects follow the same general set of steps:
Create or update a design. I use computer design tools to produce some patterns, others I design in a notebook.
Confirm the design with the customer. Most of my work is done on commission, meaning a customer requests an item. We’ll either start with an existing design / pattern I have or the customer may have pictures or drawings of their own. I believe it’s important to review with the customer the key design elements such as dimensions, hardware, hardware finish, leather type and color before cutting any leather or wood.
Transfer the design to the leather. This transfer process could be tracing a pattern outline onto leather or transferring the design with a straight edge ruler and French curves.
Cut the leather. Leather is commonly cut using ultra sharp knives such as head or round knives, hand rotary cutters, craft knives, leather shears, and skiving knives (used to shave leather).
Crease the leather. Edge creasing is the creation of the indented lines near the edges of leather elements that make up the project. There are special tools used to make these creases such as a fileteuse.
Prick the leather. This is the process of making the marks, or often the holes in the leather for the stitching needles to pass through using special chisels with sharp pronged forks and a mallet to drive the chisel partially or fully through the leather.
Perform edge work. Beveling, sanding, burnishing, and edge painting are the primary steps for edge work. It is very common for sanding, burnishing, and edge painting to occur iteratively. First at 220 grit, then 400 and on up to 1000 grit. Sand, edge paint, sand again until you have a very smooth surface. For elements of a project such as the attachment points for a handle or a strap, the edge work is performed before the elements are stitched together.
Stitch the leather. All my leather work is stitched by hand. Most commonly I use a two needle technique called a saddle stitch. A saddle stitch is incredibly strong and durable. A cut of a single loop in a saddle stitch will not cause the seam to fail. Hand stitching is relatively easy to identify. With most leather chisels this will result in a beautifully angled stitch, particularly when using French style chisels.
Perform edge work. See description above. This edge work step finishes the exposed edges of the item.
Add hardware. Things get exciting at this point as the project is nearing completion. In this step buckles, clasps and similar hardware items are installed.
Complete final edge work and finishing. Final touches on the exposed edges to get everything just right and then polishing and conditioning of the leather.