WE ARE MAKERS

WE ARE MAKERS

At the Buffalo Billfold Company it is our confidence in the Craftsman way of life, command over materials, tools and processes that keep alive the spirit of American Cottage industry.

At an early age I left the Univ. of S.D. and sought an apprenticeship as a shoe repairman, my specialty was filling orthopedic prescriptions for a Podiatry School.
And this is what happens to you when you pursue a career borne in the middle ages.

The tools of our trade vary greatly from die cutting presses to assorted hand tools.
As a leathersmith each tool has a purpose and personality of its own. It becomes part of the craftsmans hand as it is used daily over the decades.
Years go by and the tool develops a patina and a life of its own.
My tools are my friends, my tools are my work mates, my tools share the adventure.

My tools were acquired over the years, never were they purchased all at one time.

You deliberate who you want as friends and with tools it is exactly the same.
If you make a mistake and buy a tool that doesn’t fit your hand or is ill balanced you set it aside. No matter the price of the tool, if it doesn’t fit, it isn’t part of your family.

Years have gone by in a blink and I now look around at family,
Any particular tool was never my friend to begin with, it had to earn its place on my workbench and tool shelf.

Over the years I gambled at buying a box of antique tools in hopes of finding one or two that were worthy. Old leather tools are passed down from generation to generation. They often are time tested and you can readily see which ones have proper use and which ones were a poorly executed and spent a life of abuse.

Each tool represents a sacrifice of time, effort and money. Each tool represents hopes and aspirations that the owner was making the right choice.

The tools that didn’t pass muster were discarded or sold or placed in a drawer out of reach for fear of using them on a leather project that was ill suited.

When I look back on the products that I’ve made I can see and feel that the tools I used were the right match and blend. I can look at a purse that I handcrafted years ago and tell you by the twist of the thread, the number of fibers in the thread and color of the thread which year it was made.

I recently came across a case that was made in 1977. I know this because it was an oak tanned leather that we embossed(debossed) with a filigree design. It was kindred to me because I spent my last dollar on purchasing an entire mill run (2,500 sq. ft.) of leather from a tannery in Danvers, Mass. I could write an essay on the qualities of that particular leather.

I was the lone hippy that went to the Saint Louis Leather Trade Shows. Everyone was in Black Suit and Ties, smoking cigars and buying 10,000’s of feet of leather for the U.S. Shoe industry. I was the long haired unassuming hippy that wanted to make an appointment to meet with the tannery exec’s. Danvers allowed me that privilege.
100’s of thousands of Square feet of leather..later, I still appreciate them letting me place such a small order. (today most of those tanneries are gone)

With great excitement I headed back home to give my wife the news. Leaving St. Louis on a heavily traveled interstate I was driven off the road at 65 or 70 miles an hour by a “dozy driver”. It seems that the semi driver hadn’t had enough sleep and was driving without any sense of what was around him. I took the ditch at a high rate of speed and cars all around me couldn’t believe what had just happened.  I continued on my way averting death by one bridge abutment.

After all these years I survived…….and so did my tools.

If you have followed me this far I salute you! and I will describe the tools that are depicted in this picture.

#1. Perimeter-Scissors and shears are common place in our shop. These are brand new and mostly made in Italy.

#2.From the bottom-A Rosehandled Drawknife, made by Osborne Tool. It was purchased used 40 years ago and it was 40 years old at the time of purchase. Aprox. 80 years old. I used this to cut the Oak Tanned leather belts we used to tool and stain during the Hippy era of the 1970 and 80’s. I suspect I cut 10 miles of belts with this tool.

#3. This tool is a hole punch that is really, really old. Most hole punches were just that…they punched holes, this particular tool is a circle punch and I believe it to be used pre- civil war to cut the “patches” for flint lock ball and patch. (more research required) . However it is a very early production tool.
#4. This is a Rosehandled Head Knife that I use very seldom now that I have newer electric skiving machines dating from the 1930’s to the current. This tool is still used by saddlers and hobbyists.  Initials-H.M. or W.H.  we may never know?

#5.Lined edger by Osborne. It was used daily for decades both as a edging tool and also as a “lining” tool that gives you an estimate of distance when you are sewing.

#6. Double headed saddlers lining tool- I seldom use this but it remains in my family of tools because it is an Osborne and has qualities unmatched.

#7. Lastly bone / antler tools that I bought decades ago in a large box of tools. These pre-date anything else on this page. I use them occasionally and they are of high quality. They fit and conform to the hand perfectly (right handed) they surely have been past down many generations. One of the tools on the left is a “creaser or line edger”and bone folder. Creaser just like #5 only before Osborne was available to its original owner.

#7-Right On the right hand side is a “groover” and is used to create a “below surface stitching groove in the saddlery trade.

With a great deal of thought and research I’ve come to the conclusion these may well be colonial artifacts. Tools/artifacts that found their way out onto the prairies of the Midwest.  I still use them.

Carbon dating would give me a definitive answer and I would only have to spend a few hundred dollars per tool to find the answer.

Hand crafting leathergoods is a labor of love and an expenditure of time and effort.

I want to leave these tools in the care of another generation of leather smiths, another generation that has the intimate knowledge of what craftmanship is all about.

It is my hope that they will be successful enough that they can afford to have the luxury of spending the money to find out the age and origin of these hand tools.
www.billkeitel.com

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