I first met Crispin Bending 2 and a half years ago whilst shopping at Camden Lock. I walked in looking to purchase a nice leather belt for not too much money. Little did I know it was a gem I discovered, tucked away in Camden Lock, unknown to the world. I was looking for a full grain belt in London tan, fortunately for me, he had a sheet of New Market bridle pit leather. London tan is of a paler and yellowish shade, whereas New Market is more of a vibrant orange. The leather looked of superb quality, and he fashioned a custom belt from that sheet for me in 20 minutes! That belt has been my pride and joy for the past 2 and a half years and it’s still in great shape! Here’s how it looks today.
So I decided to pay him a visit since I’m back in town, to see how the years have treated him. He’s a young strapping gentleman with an elephant’s memory! He instantly remembered who I was and even what belt he’d made for me. Quite remarkable indeed. After a bit of catching up, he showed me 4 different bridle hides he’d recently purchased all from the same pit tannery.
For those who aren’t familiar with pit leathers, here’s a brief introduction. Hides are first shaved of their hair, then for 4 weeks, they are dipped daily into a number of pits, each containing a different concentration of tanning solution. After a month of initial tanning, the hides are then dipped into pits that are half filled with tanning fluids for the next 6-12 weeks. The last stage, involves dipping the hides in oak lined pits filled with tanning solutions and agents for roughly 9 months. This whole process is very costly as hides take up to a year to mature, compare that to the usual month or so of tanning.
Looking at the 4 hides displayed before me, I was immediately drawn to the purplish patina from the Australian Nut bridle leather. It was beautiful with subtle shades that looked almost magical. So I asked if he could make me a new belt in the exact same style he’d done for me before. Before leather work could begin, I needed to pick a buckle, and that’s something he knows I’m very particular about. I have a non-negotiable preference for low profile, slim, buckles. Since I wanted a slim buckle in brass, he went to the back and pulled out a vintage pre-owned solid brass buckle he’d kept for 8 years! I know people generally prefer new things, but I prefer vintage when it’s available.
So the following series of photos demonstrate the process he goes through in making a new belt (well my new belt). Apologies for the occasionally blurred photo.
First, he cuts a strip off a sheet of leather.
Next, he snips away at the strip to shape it into a belt.
After he’s happy with the shape, he marks the edges then proceeds to bevel them.
Once the edges are done, he has to work on the edges. This includes cleaning up the edge and applying a finish, then wiping down any excess.
I didn’t feel like the riveting and buckle attachment needed illustration so lets skip to the finished product. What a beauty! I couldn’t stop staring at it for a good 5 minutes after he’d finished. It wasn’t just the patina that grabbed me, it was the workmanship as well!
If you’re in London, look him up for all your leather essentials. He’s certainly my go-to-guy for all my belts.
His address as follows:
Custom Leather, Unit 72, Camden Lock, London, NW1 8AF.
If you’re outside the UK, you could reach him at this email address:
Crispin Leathers will be available at Rivet and Hide in the very near future! Look out for his products in the coming weeks!