Leathercraft · Watches

Slowly but surely

So an update on my new little hobby: leathercrafting. Making watch straps, as I’ve discovered is not as easy as it looks. There are tight tolerances and a few millimetres off here or there makes for an unco-looking strap! Slowly but surely I am making progress.

My biggest challenge so far has been my choice of leather. I bought a piece of black chromexcel offcut from eBay and I thought “sweet!”. But it turned out to be too thick for watch straps.

Now I could go out and buy a professional leather splitter to thin the leather down but I don’t have a spare $300 lying around to spend on a one (well I do, but don’t wanna).

So I’ve been making my own leather splitter prototypes. The first models involved some bevelled wood and razor blades but the blades were just too thin. They would warp halfway through the job and either cut the strip of leather in half or make a curvy bit of leather where the middle was thicker or thinner than the edge. I wasted alot of leather this way. What I needed was a DIY splitter that is reliable. My latest model consists of a few layers of metal washers with a Stanley blade sandwiched in the middle. This allowed the grain side and suede side to pass through the gaps in a consistent manner. I clamp a bit of wood on top to keep the leather in place and bobs your uncle. I still waste a bit of leather because I need to use a knife to start the splitting job before putting it in the splitter and then pulling it through with a pair of pliers which ruins that part of the strip. But otherwise, it works pretty well with a bit of blade sharpening every so often.

With this splitter I was able to turn 8oz leather to about 2-3oz, which was thin enough to make double layer straps. I also bought my own rotary cutter tool which is great for cutting in a straight line (thanks to a tip from my textile-loving co-worker). I’ve since made a single layer nato-style strap, a double layer two piece and a two piece padded strap.

I’m particularly proud of my latest effort. I used some offcut suede for the padding (just had to cut them to length and shave the edges to make them rounded) and stitched closer to the edge. I think the results look pretty professional. I’ll need to invest in some edge paint (since chromexcel edge is too soft and does not burnish well) but otherwise, I’m pretty happy.

I’m running out of chromexcel so I think Il be paying a visit to Birdsall in the near future. I’m thinking some 2-3oz veg tan calf next for some more refined looking projects. Keep posted!

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