The Art of Leather Making
There are a number of different stages in leather goods making, however the first stage is to use only the finest leather. We buy our leather, which is tanned and finished, from a number of tanneries in the UK and overseas. The leather arrives in our factory from the tanneries in whole skins, which can be any size from 6 to 60 square feet. As they arrive from the tanneries the skins are ready to be cut up and be made into finished products.
Prior to making any leather item, samples have to be made which serve as the templates for factory production. Sample making is a skilled art and patterns are first produced on card and the leather hand cut until the sample is perfect. To go from a two dimensional design to a three dimensional functional object might consist of 20 or more different processes and requires many years of experience. Once the sample is perfect the product can be transferred into the factory.
Cutting the Leather
The leather is cut into specific shapes ready for assembling the various pieces. For small runs, products are often hand cut using special razor sharp knives. For larger runs a clicking press is used which presses specially made shaped knives into the leather.
The entire piece of leather is thinned down to a uniform thickness using a special splitting machine. This basically has a razor-sharp blade rotating against a small opening, which can be adjusted to several fractions of a millimetre.
Often the edges of the leather need to be thinned prior to turning or working. This is carried out on a special splitting machine, which can make the leather edges thinner than paper.
The company logo and any other special markings are blocked onto the leather before the item is made. This is done using a hand-operated machine, which heats up a metal blocking die. This die is then lowered onto the leather with a lever and it is the combination of heat, time and pressure which applies the logo onto the leather. This requires great fealing and dexterity to get the blocking absolutely right each time.
Once all the leather is cut and skived, it is ready for assembly and stitching. A special bone is used to work the leather without damaging it and the whole process is carried out on flat stones.
Where necessary the leather is glued to the linings, backings or simply to itself after being folded over.
Turning and Creasing
Pocket edges can be turned over by hand (good for curves) or using a special crank that turns over the leather in a straight line and applies pressure to ensure the parts stick well together, without bubbles or wrinkles. Another crank then applies a straight crease line to the edge of the pockets. This is for aesthetic reasons but also adds that little extra pressure to glue the pieces together firmly on the edges.
Some edges, as well as corners can be hammered down to ensure that they are flat and that the glue sticks well.
Each item is stitched using special sewing machines which are strong enough to work leather. Only highly skilled operators can manage to get a set number of stiches per inch and go round corners perfectly.
The edges are pared back to give a more refined look. This is done by cutting back the excess leather with a sharp blade.
Finishing and Checking
Finally the finished piece is checked and polished prior to packing.
All Ettinger products are carefully packed in hand made branded boxes together with a small leaflet explaining how to look after your Ettinger product. They are then sent around the world!