All Robert Christopher products are produced using traditional skills that have been chosen solely for their quality of result, never for time or cost efficiency.
The tools I use such as my skiving knife, pricking iron, edge beveller and diamond awl would not be unfamiliar to a leatherworker working 150 years ago.
The first step is to cut out all the components needed from the hide and to identify which areas will work best with my design.
Each hide has its own unique set of variations thanks to the natural vegetable tanning process that is consistent across all leathers I use.
Variations may include a difference in rigidity, texture of the natural suede underside or there may be an interesting section of pattern I wish to include.
To prepare any components used for pockets, a small section at the edge needs to be skived.
Skiving is the term given to gradually thinning the leather in a diagonal line. For this I use a Vergez Blanchard skiving knife.
The majority of the leather I use is approximately 1mm thick and so getting an accurate line 10mm in length that does not end prematurely requires great care.
The purpose of doing this is so that when the skived edge of one pocket meets another, the overall thickness running along the wallet remains the same. This creates a neat and uniform line ready for sewing.
All components are very lightly glued together to hold them in place until sewing.
The stitching line is first marked by hand using a pricking iron. This makes small cuts in the leather at 3.8mm diagonal intervals ready for sewing.
The saddle stitch technique is used in all Robert Christopher products and can only be done by hand.
This involves a single line of waxed linen thread being passed simultaneously through opposite sides of the leather creating a double helix structure inside and beautiful diagonal pattern on the outside.
This method is superior in strength compared to machine sewing as it allows more control and accuracy enabling areas exposed to increased wear and tear to be reinforced.
The next step is to crease the leather with an edge creaser. Creasing gives an indented line 1mm in from the perimeter that frames the stitching beautifully.
The edge creaser is heated over a flame and slowly pressed along the edge. The natural oils in the leather come to the surface and allow an indented line to be made with a deep natural shine.
Bevel and Burnish
With an edge beveller I shave away the pointed edges of the leather that have been made more pronounced after creasing. Once these edges have been shaved away and lightly sanded a neat rounded edge is created ready for burnishing.
Burnishing is the process whereby a naturally sealed edge is created through friction between the either a wooden ‘slicker’ or a canvas cloth and the fibres of the leather. The natural oils in the leather combine with these fibres through heat and form a smooth protective layer with a deep shine.
This is only possible with vegetable tanned leather due to the level of natural oils retained in the slow tanning process. It is a natural alternative to painting and avoids any unwanted deterioration of the edges over time.