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  1. Definitely not the first on this board to visit, and probably not the first to post about it, but today I visited the semi-legendary tannery J & FJ Baker's of Colyton, Devon. For the uninitiated they are the last oak-bark pit tannery in England, and possibly Europe. This isn't some rediscovered or retro skill -- the company has been operating essentially unchanged since there was a tan yard in every village. Apologies in advance for the limited and low quality photos. I'm not much of a photographer, I only had my phone with me and we were on a time-scale so I didn't fancy looking like a complete tourist and only took a few snaps as we went round trying really hard not to fall into the liming tank. Baker's has been owned and run by the same family for about 140 years. Today's company director is the 5th Mr Parr. However nobody knows how long the tannery has been here. (There was a tan-yard on this site in Roman times. That's nearly 2000 years, history fans.) The tannery operates in a maze of buildings on the banks of the River Coly, from which it draws water and motive power. (The hides are are agitated in the tan pits by the water wheel which runs in a leat off the river.) These range everything from ancient stone and brick to wriggly tin sheds you might find on a dairy farm. The site has clearly been built and evolved over time, as needs changed to meet a fickle market. One thing that is constant is the impression of age -- a combination of wear from centuries of honest, hard graft and grease which covers every surface. This is what "vintage" dealers aim at and completely miss. Nothing around this site looks old because it's had orange paint daubed on it, been hit with a hammer or rubbed with wire wool -- it's simply been doing its job since it was new. If you've spent time at an industrial site you'll probably know what I'm talking about. Hides arrive as "wet blues" from the slaughterhouse-- just as the got sliced off the cow, except they're covered in salt so they don't rot before they get tanned. They're still hairy and bloody, but that won't last long. First they go into the liming pits. This is an alkali bath which dissolves the fat and little scraps of flesh, loosens the hair, and plumps up the skin. The limed hides go through a couple of machines which dehair and deflesh them, then they're passed to a man who removes any stubborn bits that shouldn't be there. He uses a large knife in a scraping motion. Before machines came about all flesh and hair was removed on the fleshing beam in this way, which was tedious. At this stage it's all still rawhide. After dehairing the leather goes to the tanyard, which is the heart of the operation. Hides are hung in the pits by hand, strung from the oak beams you can see. the beams each hold two hides and fit into wooden frames, which are rocked back and forth by the vertical rods you can see, which in turn are moved by the water wheel. Hides start out in the oldest tanliquor, which is changed by pump each week for a stronger liquor until it's been through the strongest, newest liquor. Talking of tanliquor, Baker's primarily uses oak bark. They have used standard bought-in veg-tannin in the past, and still sometimes do, but these days mostly run oak bark because that's what Baker's is famous for. It's prepared separately in a series of pits underneath the tanyard, with shredded bark left to steep in water for "a while". It's encouraged to ferment before it's ready to be pumped up to the tanyard and the smell is... well let's just say it doesn't smell like a forest. Once the liquor is drained the remaining mulch is sold on as fertiliser. Tanning takes many months and exactly how long I don't know. However the average is 18 months from coming in to being ready for sale. It's this tanning which turns rawhide into leather. Freshly tanned hides are hung to dry in naturally moving air. Once dried, hides are dipped in hot grease and folded in half before they go hard. Later they are put through a hot water bath, laid flat, graded and cut. At this stage their fate is decided -- will it become shoe leather or equestrian leather? Shoulders, backs or butts? Grading is a skilled job but mostly revolves around how many flaws it has -- barbed wire scars matter a whole lot less on a shoe sole than a pair of driving reins. Hides are split to final thickness at this stage. Soling then goes to the butt store but equestrian leather goes on to be curried (dyed, dressed and treated). Most dying is done in a tumble drum these days for speed and uniformity but they still hand-colour some hides. Hides are set out on a stone slab, using a slicker to smooth, even-out and slightly polish the leather. Currying involves the rubbing in of dubbin by hand, which is a mixture of tallow, oil and wax. I didn't get any pictures of the dubbin tank but I think you could submerge an estate car inside it without too much trouble. I've alluded to shoe and equestrian leather and those are the traditional divisions but leathers from these groups is suitable for all sorts of purposes. Baker's sells shoe soling as well as specific cut components like sole blanks, toe puffs, heel stiffeners etc. It can be cut into regular shapes for a beautiful (but rather delicate) flooring material. Soling is also hot fatliquored in a tumble drum to make machinery belting. Equestrian leather is of course traditionally used for riding and driving tack but its use is largely for other goods like belts and bags. Traditional products are bridle and harness in various shades of brown, tan and black. (Some undyed stuff is made, which in England is called russet. That's the sort of thing you might use for tooling.) There's also a certain quantity of lighter weight hides like bag/girth hide, which has an obvious use. Other specialist leathers for making stirrup leathers and girth points on English saddles are available too. Traditional cuts are backs, shoulder, butts and bellies. Backs and butts are sold as pairs or half-pairs (singles). There's also a limited quantity of Russian calf coming out the tannery these days which is amazing stuff. Baker's has been through some rough patches in the past but the quality and beauty of their product is well recognised these days. They're running at full capacity, which is 80 hides per week. It's not the cheapest leather in the world but neither is it the most expensive and I think it's a bargain for what it is. Now I just have to convince my customers the same ;-) You can see some good quality shots of Baker's main products here.
  2. looking for one or two sides of black english bridle 3/4 oz. in Hermann Oak or W & C. Is there any suppliers out there that can do that? I know Hermann Oak wont and thats who I had ordered 3 sides from a couple years ago but they need 5 sides in same color in order to make a sale? That breaks my heart. I have almost a full side of 5oz black Hermann Oak bridle if anyone out there wants to make a trade. 3 to 3.5 oz black is what im looking for. Wickett and Craig id be willing to try too
  3. The answer to this question is probably in this section somwhere but I can't find it! Can anyone tell me who sells good quality tack hardware please. I've been buying from Weaver...great stuff, fantastic customer service. Are these guys the only source? Thank you in advance! Silverd
  4. The answer to this question is probably in this section somwhere but I can't find it! Can anyone tell me who sells good quality tack hardware please. I've been buying from Weaver...great stuff, fantastic customer service. Are these guys the only source? Thank you in advance! Silverd
  5. Hi I have a strip of Sedgwick English bridle leather in Dark Havana. I’m from Australia and wanting to have a go at making stock horse bridles, just work ones to start with but would like to make some good enough to show horses in eventually. My problem is the leather I have is very shiny, almost glossy on top. Other bridles I’ve seen by well known makers don’t seem to have quite the shine on their bridles that this leather has. Have I brought the wrong type of leather? Help !!!
  6. A while ago I made a harness for an Akita. It didn't go so smoothly. It broke twice and wasn't the correct dimensions. But, it taught me a lot. 1. Don't skive the turn where any hardware will be.... And 2. It pays to make a mock up in craft foam to test fit it to the dog. This harness is made from 1" wide 9/10 oz European bridle leather in Havana brown from rjf leather. I used mostly .6mm tiger thread to hand stitch it (fit my 8spi irons better) but I ran out and had to use some .8mm which worked well. The back strap was a problem on the last one. So to fix, I made it tripple thickness. All turns are full thickness and not skived or split. Each chape has a stationary and floating keeper. Let me know what you think. I'll try and get pics on the dog (for a husky this time)
  7. Hi! I starting a custom horse tack business, foremost making dressage bridals and Halters. I'll be using Biothane. Is there anyone around the Lehigh Valley area (Allentown, Easton, Strodsburg, Phillipsburg in Pennsylvania) that can help me make them? email me at carina at swedishequine dot com Carina Vretman
  8. I had posted this in another thread, but thought you might like to see what Beetroot Red Tiger thread looks like on a black bridle belt. I like it. I kinda wished I'd had some 1.0mm for this, but in the end, the .80 looks pretty good too.
  9. Wickett & Craig English Bridle Leather Sale

    Good afternoon, Guys! I have a handful of Wickett & Craig English Bridle Leather Sides in 3 / 4oz for sale. This leather was originally tanned for Coach and I purchased the lot when I was visiting the tannery earlier this year. I have limited quantity available in Olive Drab and English Tan. Some of the Olive Drab sides are slightly discolored around the edges, otherwise I would consider the majority of the sides to be rated as Standard & Utility Grade (According to Wickett & Craig Standards). I was really hoping to introduce these options into my collection, but I just moved into a new studio and would love to clear out some space and get organized, that said - Sides are sold as is. $150/Side + Shipping from Nashville, TN Free free to direct message if interested!
  10. I am inundated with strap scraps that need a new home. Prefer to sell by the giant box full, weighing about 40-60 pounds per box. Come and see it all and make an offer for a truckload! Located in Aurora, CO. Herman Oak golden tan bridle, 8/10 oz veg tan, and 9/11 oz. struck through Black Latigo from Chahin. Most are mixed boxes, with both colors. Most leather is cut and edged, from 3/8" to 1" wide. Also plenty of random bits and trimmings from the edges of the sides. Asking $1.50 per pound, or $40 per big box. A few boxes full of ONLY the bridle leather cut to 9/16" width. This is beautiful stuff, it's just a little too short for the products we make with it. Asking $2.00 per pound, or $60 per box. Perfect for key fobs, bracelets, small projects, 4-H, scouts, crafts, etc. Remnant from dog leash/collar business (IE: nothing long enough or strong enough if this is what you want to make, because we've used what we can for this purpose). I have a continuous supply of this stuff. Feel free to reply here, but for faster reply, just give us a call. Call or text Brian three-o-three 653-184FIVE
  11. Bridle leather is very easy to scratch, how to remove this scratches? And this type of leather doesn't like water, how to protect Bridle from water? Renapur? Thanks!
  12. Can you paint English bridle leather and it last? And if so what kind of paint to use. I already use water based acrylics. Thanks!
  13. OK guys, now that it has been gifted by my client to their recipient for Christmas: Here is a recently completed project that I have been itching to share! It is Hermann Oak English Bridle, and the colour is Havana. The red stitching is called 'Slam Thread' by Lekoza. It is stitched all the way down once, backstitched all the way back to the top, and then backstitched down 2 holes again to finish. Edges are bevelled, dyed dark brown, and burnished with bees wax. I hope you like it!
  14. England tanned butts

    I have two large bins with rolls of high quality leather tanned in England. Colors range from Dark Havana, newmarket, to london. Bridle, rein, and stirrup weights. These are the butt leathers of the highest quality. In these bins are also a couple sheepskins, roo-hides. There are are matching lightweight lining strips for some of the leather. I was going to be making halters. I also have the solid brass halter hardware and the stainless steel stirrup buckles. I am open to offers. There is well over 1k worth of hides and materials here. I just moved to PA, so everything is packed up in bins. If interested, please email tielz1@hotmail.com
  15. G'day all, Long time lurker, first time poster. Thanks to everyone on here for providing so much awesome info. I hope to do the same over time, to help the next guy out. I'm in QLD Australia, and I am looking for some bridle leather. I like to support local where possible, and where I can get good quality product for a reasonable price. Which brings me to greenhalgh tannery in Victoria. Has anyone here tried their bridle or waxed harness before? If you have used it, how would you rate it? The other part of me likes to go with what I know. And I know W&C make great English Bridle, and I know of a stockist not far away... though it is a great deal more expensive too!
  16. What are the differences between these three kinds of leather? I make personal objects like wallets and bags, and until discovering Latigo I just went to Tandy to pick out hides that seem to best suit my needs. While researching my last order with Hide House this question began to nag me, and the thought occurred to me that I should order some of the bridle and harness hides they sell just to see what they are like. But that's a lot of money for R&D if I can't use the hide. Another question: is the California latigo they sell at Hide House different from other latigo? I'm grateful for any insight the brain trust here can give me.
  17. I was reading up on Vachetta leather, but there was very little information on it online other than generic information that applies to all veg tanned leather. Does anyone have any experience with European Vachetta or can any of you shed light on the differences between this and other types? Thanks. Also- I'm mostly interested in it for belts.
  18. Is This Too Thin?

    Is 2oz English Bridle Leather too thin for a wallet? I'm looking to make an ultrathin wallet, but I also want to keep the leather firm and durable. I've spoken with reps at Wickett & Craig and Hermann Oak about splitting leather down to 2oz. Each has said that they don't advise the leather to be split that thin. Why do you guys think? If I made a wallet out of 2oz EBL, would it fall apart? Does anyone have experience working with EBL that thin? Thanks!
  19. Horse Bridle

    I've been meaning to make a new bridle for my horse, Belle, for a while now, and I finally finished it just a few days ago! I took apart my previous bridle to get the measurements for these pieces, and boy... I made my previous bridle about 6 years ago, and I was cringing at my workmanship... I'm glad I have a new one now. It's a much better representation of my skills! I will post photos of it on my mare when I see her next weekend. As much as I like this one, I'm not terribly attached to it... I might still make another one, and sell this one... But we'll see.
  20. Hi, I was wondering if somebody could recommend a supplier for english bridle leather in Canada, specifically ontario or at least nearby. I've been able to find a few places out west to order from but the cost of shipping doesn't really make it cost effective. I've also looked at American suppliers nearby but with the American dollar so high it ends up being more expensive than shipping a side from out west. I would be a really big help if somebody could recommend a supplier. Thanks!
  21. Oil Tanned Burnishing

    ok so i was tinkering and i managed to get a somehat burnish on oil tanned leather if i put more time in i could probbly get it pretty nice. I want to start making bags and i really dont have the experience to know how bridle oil tanned or latigo acts when it comes to burnishing. I want to make bags but want to be able to get a good smooth edge. Any suggestions on types of leather i should use? My first bag will most likely be made of veg tan because thats what i have plenty of to make mistakes with as i learn.
  22. Mini satchel bag with one main compartment, one back pocket and two front pockets. Shoudler belt in combination bridle / alcantra suede. Made of 2 - 2.4mm Sedgwick english bridle shoulder for the main parts and for curved parts (gusset, flap corners) colored trough (bridle top finish) 2mm belly. Gussets on front pockets made of 1mm goat skin. Hand stitched with 0.8mm braided polyester thread (aka Tiger thread)
  23. I've started hitching a bridle about 3 weeks ago. It's going pretty well thus far, but now it's time to attach the leather and put it all together. It's the finishing I have some trouble with though. Eg, I'm using kangaroo lace for the Turks head knot, bot doubt if this is the proper lace to use, I think it does not look the best. Well, here are some pics of the progress: first three pics of the pattern on the side pieces, pic 4 & 5 of the neck strap, pic 6 the leather part on the side pieces for the bit. Thanks for watching.
  24. Horse Tack

    Hello! New here... I've only made a few horse "bronc halters" and I'm already addicted. I'm looking to try a full tack set, breast collar and bridle for my own horse. Someone had suggested using 5-6oz tooling leather for this? I'm planning on putting the blue acid wash from Springfield on it as well. Does anyone have any other recommendations for the kind of leather? As well as how many feet to purchase?