Recently I bought a Panerai PAM005 and with it came the obsession of straps. I started going through a lot of forums and watch strap websites trying hard not to spend all my money. I liked the look of the handmade straps and started learning more about how they're made. I'm pretty sure I must have watched almost all the videos on this subject on YouTube. I was hooked and I just had to give it a go.
My first hurdle was a limited number of tools I could call from online websites in India. Most of the tools that I required for leather craft were either not available here or were way too overpriced. I managed to find a hole punching tool, a rubber mallet, a cutting mat and knife here. The rest had to be ordered from international sellers which took quite a while to arrive (some still haven't reached after more than a month).
I had most of the tools I needs to start working on a watch strap, except for leather. My first plan was to try my luck online, but no dice. I then decided to try some local leather goods manufacturers, but I did not have too much luck there as well. I ended up buying some leather which I was told was perfect for strap making, clearly not true as I would find out later.
Fast forward to my place. I had all my tools laid out and couldn't wait to start! As soon as I got the leather out of the bag, I knew something wasn't right. The leather was really thin, almost like cloth. It needed to be thicker if I had to make a strap out of it. I decided to cut more layers of leather and glue them together. So in the end I had 4 layers of leather making a combined thickness of about 3mm.
Hear are some shots I took while working on the strap...
I was having a real hard while trying to burnish the edges. I then realised that the leather was way too soft for this and I ended up fraying the edges instead (had to cut them off later).
ready to start stitching
And finally here is the strap all done
Here is what I learned:
- Know your leather and buy it from a good source - I saw multiple videos on this and I wished I had seen them before. Turns out the stuff I bought was chrome tanned leather and not suitable for strap making. I need to get vegetable tanned leather. I think I have identified another source who seems to have leather of much higher quality.
- Buy or make a 'pony' - a pony is like a clamp to hold the leather project while you have your hands free to stitch. I thought I could easily do without one, but I was wrong. There was no easy way to hold the strap (I tried holding it between my knees) and I ended up with a slight back ache.
- An awl is a wonderful tool to have - very useful!
- Even though the leather sewing needles aren't very sharp, they'll still ..... you if you're not careful.
It was a great learning experience for me and I look forward to improving my skills. Today I tried the saddle stitch on a piece of a cheap belt and I can already see the improvement :)