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Spyros

Why do people say "handmade"?

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11 hours ago, Rahere said:

Returning to the subject, I've just had to replace a curtain rail, plastic fatigue after 30 years. The same design shows a difference in the runners, the old ones have metal axles, the new ones, plastic, and don't run as smoothly. That's mass production for you, slow degradation of standards. Us, either it's right or it never sees the light of day. There's the difference: their product was never perfect and is declining to the point where "good enough" has to be prefixed by "barely", with the though that in a couple of years, even that won't be true.

I don't think it's the mass production that causes the slow degradation of standards, it's peoples' desire to to pay less and less.   We are free to choose anything we want and we invariably choose the cheapest possible.

To be honest sometimes this also the smarter thing to do, a lot of household items from a couple of generations ago were ridiculously and unnecessarily over-engineered.   You could see heavy as bricks cameras, televisions and kitchen appliances manufactured to last 3 lifetimes, when they were guaranteed to be technologically outdated in few years. 

Not your curtain runners though, metal is definitely better.

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@fredk  I tried entering the NSW Leather Guild  ( Australia) some years ago. I sent them emails with pics of my work etc. .....on 3 separate occasions , but  I never heard from them, not even the courtesy of a reply. My work obviously wasn't good enough. Theres no excuse for the lack of courtesy.   Hence my comment about guilds being a bit....'snobbish'. 

Needless to say I haven't  bothered with guilds or clubs ever since, and to be honest, I don't think it would have made a single jot of difference if I was in a guild .

I've had my share of clubs & committees in the past,  , they gave me the s**ts ,  I had a gutful, so  I just continue to learn & improve..... and share my skills regardless. If people ask me how stuff is done, I'm more than happy to teach them.

 

HS

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I think the point is value.  Are you in a position and have the desire to deliver value?  Value doesn't always mean the lowest price; as a matter of fact, value usually costs more, and there are plenty enough people who have learned that.  If your expenses are such that you have to compromise, the value goes down, the percentage of repeat business and referrals follow.  Here now, you can either scale things back or try to build an image to attract new business.  If you don't have the desire to deliver value, well I guess that cant be learned or taught.  You simply cash in by working the "spread".  Hopefully most craftsman are the folks that have the desire to offer competent service or products at a fair price.

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I think most people judge on how good your work is theses days rather than qualifications, being a master xxx does not always mean you keep to the same standard as when you qualified, Reputation takes a lot of work and effort to achieve, yet easily lost

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5 hours ago, Spyros said:

I don't think it's the mass production that causes the slow degradation of standards, it's peoples' desire to to pay less and less.   We are free to choose anything we want and we invariably choose the cheapest possible.

To be honest sometimes this also the smarter thing to do, a lot of household items from a couple of generations ago were ridiculously and unnecessarily over-engineered.   You could see heavy as bricks cameras, televisions and kitchen appliances manufactured to last 3 lifetimes, when they were guaranteed to be technologically outdated in few years. 

Not your curtain runners though, metal is definitely better.

My best tale on over-engineering was the 1970s, hip implants. Led by surgeons, the project was at the point of failure, but fortunately my pa was on the panel as a materials specialist, waited until they 'fessed up, and threw Leonardo at them. The body's a marvellous machine - so let's machine it. Surgeons open and close, watch and learn. He got the prostheticians in, gave them an electrical motorcycle cylinder reamer, jigged it up, instant success. The implant was about half the weight, and the rest is history now.

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As far as the Guild's concerned, a lot of it's to do with one's purpose in life. More particularly, there's two Worshipful Company of Cordwainers and Leatherworkers https://www.arts.ac.uk/colleges/london-college-of-fashion/about-lcf/cordwainers - I just get this image of seried ranks of cobblers prostrate before their lasts. In fact, they've a somewhat Masonic approach to charity, extending their knowledge as seen in that link. It's not a million miles from what you're doing here. At the same time, lobbying's not their monopoly, I've four representations to Parliamentary Select Committees in the fire myself right now. As WS Gilbert put it, "a lot of dull MPs, in close proximity, all thinking for themselves is wot no man can face with equanimity." Sometimes, you need to get your ideas where they matter.

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Here in the US the push for socialized gubment dictated education has created the "EXPERT" syndrome , if you haven't bought you education and have a piece of paper to prove that then you just aren't an expert. The old saying c's get degrees is more  used now than ever i think. You will notice on here even the young folks all want to hear form the 'Experts".  If you told most of them you were in a guild they wouldn't even know what that really meant with out googling it. Just my opinion.

So in my google travels this morn i found this site. They do awesome work ,with machines, and use the term handmade What do you all think? https://www.theazweekend.com/stewart-boot-company/

Edited by chuck123wapati

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Thanks for linking that video Chuck.  Very interesting.  I would classify their boots as handmade.  Regardless of the fact that machines are also used.

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18 minutes ago, Tugadude said:

Thanks for linking that video Chuck.  Very interesting.  I would classify their boots as handmade.  Regardless of the fact that machines are also used.

Years ago about 1970 or so my brother in the air force stationed in the Azores had a pair of boots made for my dad. Even the heels were stacked leather i assume made by hand, the only thing they had to work with was a line drawing around dads feet and a picture of the boots he wanted. The boots fit like a glove when he got them and were his prize possessions. I am sure the shoe maker is long gone as is my dad and i dont know if he used machines or not but IMO they were handmade. AS are the ones in the video even though machines and even rubber heels are used you just cant get that quality from a mass producer. Funny though on belts for example if i had one handstitched and one machine stitched, only difference, i wouldn't call them both handmade. i would call one handmade and one hand crafted.:blink:

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And what if there's no stitching at all? Just a strap of leather (cut with a strap cutter), a point cut free-hand, the buckle attached with rivets, and that's it? No machine involved since the tannery, but does that make the belt more valuable than a machine-stitched one?

Edited by Klara

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25 minutes ago, Klara said:

And what if there's no stitching at all? Just a strap of leather (cut with a strap cutter), a point cut free-hand, the buckle attached with rivets, and that's it? No machine involved since the tannery, but does that make the belt more valuable than a machine-stitched one?

You just pretty much described all of the stuff put out by Mr. Lentz!  Are they "handmade"?  You betcha!

back of leather belt

Mens Leather Wallet Plus - Handmade Leather Wallet | Mr. Lentz Shop

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29 minutes ago, Klara said:

And what if there's no stitching at all? Just a strap of leather (cut with a strap cutter), a point cut free-hand, the buckle attached with rivets, and that's it? No machine involved since the tannery, but does that make the belt more valuable than a machine-stitched one?

To some people, yes.  Even if the quality isn't as good.  Some appreciate things that are made largely by hand.  I say largely, due to all of the factors we've discussed in this thread.  Most of us will use a machine at some point in our work, although most of my work, 99% of it in fact, is done with no power tools or machines (riveters, setters, etc.).  I'm a hobbyist and while I am capable of making large, complicated items, I don't feel the need to churn them out fast because I'm not putting food on my table with my work.

A grocery near me is beginning to sell "artisan soaps" and they display them in the main aisle near checkout.  The soaps smell good and they are relatively attractive.  But as far as soaps are concerned, they are just OK.  And they are probably 5X the price of mass-produced, commercial soaps.  And they are selling.  If they said 'Proctor & Gamble' on them, I wonder if the results would be the same?

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9 hours ago, Tugadude said:

You just pretty much described all of the stuff put out by Mr. Lentz!  Are they "handmade"?  You betcha!

back of leather belt

Mens Leather Wallet Plus - Handmade Leather Wallet | Mr. Lentz Shop

To me this guy is a genius.  We can like or dislike his products, that's a personal preference, but from a business perspective he's totally nailed it.   He managed to create designs that minimise his labor cost while ensuring his customers still love them, and that's not an easy task at all.  Then he justifies the prices based on the quality of the materials, which is fair enough, he's selling the cowboy/nostalgic/local/handcrafted image really well, and then links it very strongly to his product.  Even his photography is on point.  And he does all that while being perfectly honest about his products and his processes.   I mean we know that with a die cutter and a rivet setter you can make a wallet like that in minutes, but the customer doesn't know this, and he doesn't need to, it's irrelevant.  What you see is what you actually get, and it is technically hand crafted.  And if you like it now you will like it more as it ages because it is good quality veg tan, just like Mr Lentz said.  No lies or exaggerations anywhere, everything is as advertised.

I tip my hat to this guy, great business model.

Edited by Spyros

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Yes, hats off to Mr. Lentz. And to my colleague who does the same thing. Very good leather, turned very quickly into a long-lasting product. But I feel that the commercial success is mostly based on a misconception in the general public that working with leather is horribly difficult and expensive (hmmm, actually, Nigel Armitage's  book feeds that image very nicely...)

But for me such a very simple design is not "worth more" than one that involved the use of a few more machines, or where the embossing was done with a roller. When buy something it is because I like it, and I'm not overly fussed about how it's been made. The idea of paying more for a quilt because it is hand-sewn seems ridiculous to me. Now, if one can sew a quilt by hand that can't be done by machine, that's different.

And on the selling side I've always felt that I can't charge extra because I insist on doing everything by hand. It's not my customer's problem that my "business" is too small for machinery...

Incidentally, last week I showed off my dog collars to friends, and they were impressed with the stitching. Not because it's particularly good - it isn't - but because they didn't know anything about saddle stitching. First they thought I had a really good, expensive sewing machine, then when I explained it's sewn by hand that it must have been very hard, because they didn't know about diamond awls, and then I maybe made a mistake explaining about pricking irons and stitching pony... If you don't know about leatherwork, it seems a black art. I have had for ages a horse harness with some stitching broken, until now I never even thought about repairing it myself...

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1 hour ago, Klara said:

Yes, hats off to Mr. Lentz. And to my colleague who does the same thing. Very good leather, turned very quickly into a long-lasting product. But I feel that the commercial success is mostly based on a misconception in the general public that working with leather is horribly difficult and expensive (hmmm, actually, Nigel Armitage's  book feeds that image very nicely...)

It can be.  If you want to follow the English tradition of fine leathercrafting, you have to skive pretty much everything that can be skived, it's basically a competition in thin-ness LOL

I've seen guys skiving zippers, no joke.  And then edge paint multiple coats on every edge, leaving hours to dry between coats, put a hot crease on anything that can be creased, buff anything that can be buffed, line anything that can be lined, and before you know it you've spent days on a wallet.  Which is great, and I absolutely love seeing it, I even love doing it when I'm in the mood, but then good luck finding someone to pay for days of labour in exchange for a wallet. 

Not a surprise that many of those guys find it makes a lot more sense to teach it rather than do it.

Edited by Spyros

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Apparently there was some negativity detected in my post about Mr. Lentz.  This is all I said..."You just pretty much described all of the stuff put out by Mr. Lentz!  Are they "handmade"?  You betcha!"

I didn't intend to make any sort of statement, positive or negative about his work.  I merely pointed out the truth, that his work is exactly as described by Klara.  If you read something negative or critical into it, that's on you.

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Some respect and have an affinity for handmade stuff, some don't.  That will always be the case.  Some will even pay a bit more for handmade or handcrafted product and that will always be the case.  Some do it to support and encourage the maker.  Some do it because they truly perceive the item as "better than".  

I am the sort that tries to support small businesses and will pay a little more to get something local as opposed to ordering off of Amazon.  Some think that's just stupid.  And I say let them think what they want, it isn't their money.

Regarding comments about Nigel Armitage's book, I disagree.  He is presenting the "traditional" methods and of course in order to do traditional leatherwork there is stuff to purchase and dues to pay.  

The book isn't the one he intended to write.  That book will come out eventually.  Here are Nigel's own words from a post on this forum...

"It is not yet the book I want to write, neither is it the book I have been asked to write.
I was asked to write what was, in essence, a craft-based project book but there are many like that already out there, so we came to a compromise.
There are of course projects and the techniques focus on the more modern tools rather than the traditional so pre-pricking of holes is the theme with very little awl work. I think trying to get over all the details of the traditional saddle stitch would take a book in itself.

The projects are in more detail than perhaps they expected, but hopefully, I have found the balance between what they wanted to hear against what I wanted to write.
I am by no stretch of the imagination a writer, I talk too much and go off-topic too often, it has been an education."

I owe a huge debt to Mr. Armitage and his videos.  They have helped countless people.  

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18 hours ago, Klara said:

And what if there's no stitching at all? Just a strap of leather (cut with a strap cutter), a point cut free-hand, the buckle attached with rivets, and that's it? No machine involved since the tannery, but does that make the belt more valuable than a machine-stitched one?

nope not to me. Yes it can be called handmade But then it will only be worth whatever a customer is willing to pay for that strap of leather with rivets. When i buy handmade i tend to think of the time a person puts into creating that piece of themselves that goes out to the world to see. Mr Lentz has great products compared to mass produced stuff but i would consider him a success because he is a good business man not a necessarily a good craftsman a monkey or a machine could put his stuff together.

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But could they think of it, make it; and most importantly market it well enough, to sell it

in early 1900's a shoe making company sent a salesman to Africa who stayed there for a 6 month period and then cam home with no orders, he told his boss they wont buy shoes they all walk around bare footed

A few months latter the same company took a gamble and sent a second salesman to the same place, after a month had passed they got a telegram from Africa stating "Sent as many shoes as you can great market here and no competition"

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1 hour ago, Tugadude said:

... He is presenting the "traditional" methods and of course in order to do traditional leatherwork there is stuff to purchase and dues to pay.    ...

Stuff to purchase, yes. "Dues to pay" only if you are still referring to the hundreds of dollars the reader of the book is supposed to invest in top-quality tools before having made the first cut or stitch. Because Armitage promises that there is no need for "apprenticeship" - you do exactly as he says and you make nice things from the start. No need to learn "proper" saddle stitching or how to cut free-hand...

And it works! I followed the instructions for the gusset-less bag, pre-pierced all the holes and put my pocket protector for dog treats together. Felt a bit like doing Lego...

I much prefer Jo's style (from JH Leather) - she makes it look so easy. But I'm almost sure that Jo formally trained as a saddler, i.e. spent years full-time learning how to cut straps, how to work with an awl, how to care for tools etc.

Back to Armitage's book: Imagine a person expresses an interest in leatherwork and gets the book for Christmas. They read the chapter on tools, go to a web shop and learn what all these absolutely essential tools cost in their top-quality version. Will they buy them - or will they think "Wow, leatherworking sure is expensive, now I know why leather things cost so much money." That's what I meant with my comment about reinforcing the misconception.

I would like the book much better if the chapter on tools were different. Like listing the tools in the order in which they are needed for the projects (and clearly saying so!) So the reader would only need to buy the things actually necessary for the finger protectors at first, and then add tools as he progresses through the book and the projects. 

Back to the actual topic: I buy handmade things - even expensive ones - when I like them more than industrially made stuff. Because they work better (like my friend's knives) or because they are prettier (my friend's knives as well, a felted shawl, a sewn scarf), or because I need something right now and the handmade thing is there and reasonably priced (a leather coin bag, various pottery). Basically I agree with whoever wrote this https://www.jlsleather.com/hand-made-well-made/ - well-made is more important than how many machines were involved in the process. 

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2 hours ago, chrisash said:

But could they think of it, make it; and most importantly market it well enough, to sell it

in early 1900's a shoe making company sent a salesman to Africa who stayed there for a 6 month period and then cam home with no orders, he told his boss they wont buy shoes they all walk around bare footed

A few months latter the same company took a gamble and sent a second salesman to the same place, after a month had passed they got a telegram from Africa stating "Sent as many shoes as you can great market here and no competition"

 "i would consider him a success because he is a good business man"

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9 hours ago, Klara said:

Stuff to purchase, yes. "Dues to pay" only if you are still referring to the hundreds of dollars the reader of the book is supposed to invest in top-quality tools before having made the first cut or stitch. Because Armitage promises that there is no need for "apprenticeship" - you do exactly as he says and you make nice things from the start. No need to learn "proper" saddle stitching or how to cut free-hand...

And it works! I followed the instructions for the gusset-less bag, pre-pierced all the holes and put my pocket protector for dog treats together. Felt a bit like doing Lego...

I much prefer Jo's style (from JH Leather) - she makes it look so easy. But I'm almost sure that Jo formally trained as a saddler, i.e. spent years full-time learning how to cut straps, how to work with an awl, how to care for tools etc.

Back to Armitage's book: Imagine a person expresses an interest in leatherwork and gets the book for Christmas. They read the chapter on tools, go to a web shop and learn what all these absolutely essential tools cost in their top-quality version. Will they buy them - or will they think "Wow, leatherworking sure is expensive, now I know why leather things cost so much money." That's what I meant with my comment about reinforcing the misconception.

I would like the book much better if the chapter on tools were different. Like listing the tools in the order in which they are needed for the projects (and clearly saying so!) So the reader would only need to buy the things actually necessary for the finger protectors at first, and then add tools as he progresses through the book and the projects. 

Back to the actual topic: I buy handmade things - even expensive ones - when I like them more than industrially made stuff. Because they work better (like my friend's knives) or because they are prettier (my friend's knives as well, a felted shawl, a sewn scarf), or because I need something right now and the handmade thing is there and reasonably priced (a leather coin bag, various pottery). Basically I agree with whoever wrote this https://www.jlsleather.com/hand-made-well-made/ - well-made is more important than how many machines were involved in the process. 

I think all those videos and instructions should come with a fair warning that this craft is not for everybody because it requires above average dexterity and hand-eye coordination.  Making things look easy is great for making popular videos, but it's kind of misleading in my opinion and will inevitably lead to frustration.  Sooner or later the person watching the videos will be required to cut something freehand, or make paint stand on a 1mm edge without spilling over, or skive something which is already very thin, or make multiple holes on something very thick while making sure they come out the other end exactly aligned, or sharpen a tiny awl blade without turning the awl into a dart, etc etc.  

Regardless of machines and tools and jigs and techniques that make those and other tasks easier, I think it's fair to expect from a crafts person to be better with their hands and their eyes than most people.

I also think tools cost is nothing compared to labour cost, when you realise what you have to pay to provide a fair hourly salary to the person doing the work (whether it's yourself or someone else).  Especially if you're in a western country.  In that respect leatherworking is absolutely extremely expensive, because it takes time.  We just tend to not value our own time high enough, because deep down we love what we're doing and enjoying every minute of it, and so we think it's kind of cheating to ask to get paid for it the same as someone slaving away in a job they hate.  But that doesn't mean that the cost of doing leather working got reduced, it just means we're getting poorer and poorer the more leatherworking we do. 

Edited by Spyros

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.............It goes on to suggest that the terms “whitelisted,” “manpower,” “manmade,” be replaced with more “bias-free” alternatives such as “allowed” and “artificial.”..........

 

If you think i am kidding, you are wrong

 

Federal Reserve Instructs Employees to Avoid ‘Biased Terms’ Like ‘Founding Fathers’: Report (yahoo.com)

 

 

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6 hours ago, Spyros said:

I think all those videos and instructions should come with a fair warning that this craft is not for everybody because it requires above average dexterity and hand-eye coordination.  Making things look easy is great for making popular videos, but it's kind of misleading in my opinion and will inevitably lead to frustration.  ...

....  We just tend to not value our own time high enough, because deep down we love what we're doing and enjoying every minute of it, and so we think it's kind of cheating to ask to get paid for it the same as someone slaving away in a job they hate.  But that doesn't mean that the cost of doing leather working got reduced, it just means we're getting poorer and poorer the more leatherworking we do. 

Or maybe people need to accept that being frustrated is part of life sometimes. And that proficiency comes from practice. And that even as an adult you can't expect to be good at new things right from the start. Leatherworkers have the "advantage" that bought patterns and pre-pierced holes make the work a lot easier. For spinners there is no such shortcut. Or for musicians... 

Money is not everything and millions of people do things for fun that won't ever bring in any money at all... I never felt I was getting poorer when working with wool. It was at the markets, waiting for customers, that I got annoyed. My animals and the making of things enrich my life and I would do it for free. Selling is mostly boring, and I want to get paid for it ;)

 

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