Lessons in making and humility

I am learning the hard way that when working with natural products like wood and leather you sometimes have to work organically.  You need to seeing or feel where the stock wants to go as opposed to forcing it.  This is a particular lesson I am having a difficult time really coming to grips with.  The core of the problem in this instance is that I think I let early success get to my head. It started when we dropped off our wooden diamonds and got talking to Gareth, the owner of Maker House.  During the discussion it came to our attention that there is a need for well made leather carriers for items such as yoga mats and blankets.  I put together a rough prototype which met with everyone’s approval and I was off.

I saw a new challenge and I found myself at Zelikovitz trying to buy everything.  I settled on two products: A black oiled buffalo leather; and natural veg tan leather that I would dye a nice mahogany using an antiquing paste, a new product for me.  I also picked up some lovely nickel hardware that would complement both colors nicely.  With materials in hand I promptly cut and punched the holes for 6 carriers, 3 of each color. Testing you say?  Small batches you say?  Pssshhhh!


As the buffalo was a pre-dyed and treated leather I started the final assemble with these.  I ran into a few minor issues with the application of the top coat (too many bubbles) and learning to properly set the rivets (needed a hard surface) but otherwise everything went off without a hitch.  I completed the water testing to ensure no color transfer and I dropped them off feeling like a million bucks.


Little did I know that I was in for a challenge when attempting to complete the remaining tan models.  While the finish looks amazing I rapidly ran into a major issue of surface chemistry between the antiquing paste and the resolene.  Resolene is an acrylic top coat product that I am using to seal in the dye to ensure that there is no colour transfer.  The results were less than satisfactory when it came time to test them for colour transfer when wet.

I have spent the last week conducting small tests and attempting to reseal the 3 carriers.  Regardless of what I do the small tests work flawlessly and yet the already finished product will not adhere properly.  There appears to be some contamination on the 3 carriers that I have been unable to identify or remove.  I have been forced to accept that I just do not know how to correct this.  For now the use of the antiquing paste is going to be put on hold; while the straps have not been deposited in the trash I suspect that is their most likely fate. We are now going with the Fiebing’s oil based dyes which I have more experience with.  The colour we went with is the saddle tan which is a nice light colour though lacks some of the richness of the mahogany antiquing paste.  There have been requests for the tan carriers so I need to get this process up and going.

Even here I have run into issues, though this goes back to my original musings on accepting the nature of the product as opposed to forcing it to your will.  In my mind I saw these straps as a uniform brown, which has been my experience with the oil based dyes.  Whether it is the result of this being a natural product or my method they are coming out with a more organic look. Dana likes it but if it was up to me I would likely keep trying to dye these until they were uniform getting darker and darker every time, eventually ruining yet another carrier. I will defer to Dana as she has the better artistic eye and proceed.  Here is hoping these play nice with the resolene and I can get them into Maker House soon.