Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tender Co. Type 200 Oak Bark-Tanned Belt

image from Hickoree's

Strong contender for Belt for Life.

From Hickoree's (it's quickly becoming my favorite online storefront) :

Not so long ago, people relied on horses to travel significant distances. Heavy leather-and-brass horse tack had to be substantial; a broken stirrup was a serious problem. So stirrups were cut from an impenetrably thick section of hide and fitted with solid cast brass hardware.

Tender Co.'s Type 200 belts are cut the same way -- from the stirrup butt, which runs along either side of the cow's spine. The leather there is 1/4 inch thick: a stack of $20 bills that high would add up to $1,160.

The leather's heft is matched by unique "bent-wire" hardware, designed by William,Tender Co.'s founder. The buckle is cast in solid brass by a UK metalsmith, using the time consuming lost-wax method. The pieces are assembled at a Somerset factory where leatherworkers cut each belt by hand, using scalpels -- the leather is too thick for the factory's electric rotary saw.

These belts are substantial in weight and in history. The leather is made at the only oak-bark tannery left in Britain; a tannery that has been turning animal skins into leather since Roman times. Much of the machinery used to de-flesh and polish the raw hides is run by water-wheel. After this cleaning, the skins are soaked in pits of oak-bark liquor for 18 months and then rubbed with a "currying" mixture of mutton tallow and fish oil. The process yields leather of deep nuance and remarkable aroma. The smell is at once animal, vegetable, and mineral; a warm fishy top note is immediately recognizable and surprisingly pleasant.

Bonus: Photo-heavy post (Part 1, Part 2) on how the good folks at Tender Co. make this superfine accessory using old-timey methods. Truly amazing craftsmanship. It is both too long for my waist and too rich for my blood, but a girl can ogle.

Handmade? Yes
Made in: England


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