Swiss Army Leatherbag made by Saddler E. Banga from Selzach Switzerland in 1966
As a leatherworker or a genuine leather goods collector/connoisseur you should have heard about the masterpieces made some decades ago for the swiss army. They are not comparable to nothing when it comes to craft leather goods without any compromise. And this not made by a luxury brand – it was the Swiss Army! Just pay attention to the round sewn leather strap. Or the buckle and the belt keeper. See that leather for the buckle was sewn it to the front. My guess is that it was made avoid friction and make it a bit more sleek in design. Even after years of study I sometimes find little details how the Swiss Saddlers did things the right way. They are study objects but also a statement. If things were made and designed the right way with good materials – they last a lifetime or two – with a bit of care. Just please do me a favour. Please grease and oil the leather well before you use it so the leather won´t break. It will be rewarded by a lifetime companion.
I want to show some of my flasks or hipflasks I did within the last few years at my “Manufaktur“. I started to craft them right from the beginning around 2014. Some friends wanted to go on a winter snowshoe trip (I could not join) without any flask. So I gave them mine. They had a fabulous trip but the return of the flask was delayed. So I took one of the standard Chinese metal flasks and wrapped it in leather to have a replacement for my other. Christmas came 2014 and a lot of people wanted one as a present as well. I did the orders but I never liked the idea to work with such a mass product. They had no soul and on most of them is either the cap, the cap keeper or both out of plated plastic. (put your lips on it you feel it´s way warmer than the metal).
So I quit crafting them until I luckily found the traditional pewter ones made in England.
During the following years I made quite a few of them. I really like the aspects of enjoying/sharing some spirit with friends and family to special occasions. I especially like the real unique ones. Either the one which were made for two brothers with their code of arms, with antique naval buttons, or french hunting buttons, with collected feathers underneath or special sayings on them. Probably the biggest success was to work for some years with Christoph Keller – Stählemühle (Monkey47) and craft for him the “Sozius”.
Swiss Army Leather Container from 1981 by S. Fluhmann from Kerzers
What a lucky find! Thanks Philip Fust – Das Emporium for supplying me with another rare masterpiece by the Swiss Army Saddlers. This piece was probably never in real use and since I have not seen any similar before it might be “just” a prototype. It is made out of solid 3 mm swiss bridle leather and stitched by hand. Notice the hidden seams to avoid friction on a thread on one side. The handles suggest that it was not made for heavy duty use like ammunition or mortarshells. My guess it was made for maps, however the aluminium reenforced bottom suggest the items carried inside had some weight. Interesting is also the attachment loop with a buckle. Probably it is there to attach the container to a pole (of a Jeep). It will serve me as an inspiration for future leatherworks im designing or even being used to store cut leatherpieces rolled in it and work mobile on my Riese & Müller cargo bike somewhere in summer in the courtryside. The size of the bag is 50 x 32 x 14,5 cm.
What a great surprise arrived saturday via the postman. A follower of be-cause saved this treasure from the dustbin and decided It will be well cared and used in my hands. The postcard he attached says that the tools are from a cobbler/saddler who repaired shoes in WWII and afterwards in the neighbourhood. I really like the fact to know a bit of a background, since most tools I own, I just can makeup stories in my mind about who used them. I also like the fact that it is a complete essential leather repair kit, with beeswax, cobblers tar, needles, overstitch wheel, knife, pliers and awls. I especially like the way the stored the thread. Thanks a “PLG”!
Restauration of US Mail Bag 1968 by Merit Leather. 60 x 42 x 12 cm.
It was a hell of a work but for sure worth it. Merit leather sadly used a bad thread or did not wax it, so all the stitches were breaking apart. Good news however they used good leather. So to rescue this unique piece I did it right and completly took the bag apart and redid everything. I used solid copper rivets and waxed Gruschwitz Linen thread 18/5. It was all saddlestitched by hand and I´m very convinced that falling apart seams are no issues for the further decades of use of this bag.
It was quite a time consuming project but I have to say I learned a lot. One thing is to use the best materials you can get and do stuff the right way or leave it. E.g. the Swiss Army Leatherpieces I collect are sometimes nearly twice as old but I never had a breaking thread. So something the saddlers there did obviously better. This piece will find a nice place at my leatherworkshop.
For my leatherworks some of the biggest inspirations are vintage items which passed the years of use with ease. By studying the wear you can get precious lessons on how to design items with the same goal to craft a lifetimepiece. This vintage swiss army duffle bag have not seem to get any use at all but it is still a masterpiece of a simple, timeless and well crafted bag. Well placed reinforcements, solid rivets and great materials. You see on the type of canvas (no salt and pepper) that it´s of newer origin, I got a toolroll of the same material. Remember to really give those items a good treatment of leatheroil to ensure the dried out leather wont break. Once its broken the damage is done. That what I did immediately. Thanks a lot to Stefan Feichtinger who gave this bag to me at the Boot Root Odershow in Zürich as a present by knowing the bag will be well cared and understood.
I just got back my run down Red Wings 9051Boots / Beckwings from Ingo Keller aka. Schuhgott for a resole. I have to say they came back far better than how they were, even when new. Just look at the finish of the heel. He recreated the heel and put a Daimite sole on them. Excellent job Ingo, highly recommended craftsman.
Vollkorn – full grain distillate by Schmidt & Sons
I was able to finally try the brand new Distillate by Eugen Schmidt Söhne and decided I had to have a bottle of this fine one afterwards. It is made out of various full grains from the south german region, a special “soft” water and great distillery skills to bring out a taste of grain, flour, bread “into the bottle”. With it´s 40% alcohol it´s still a soft and mild spirit absolutely worth a try and beyond comparison to the typical german “Korn”. Check out the website which will show more info soon: http://www.voll-korn.de
Quite for some month I´ve been designing and redesigning this bucket bag in my head. Last week I finally hand sew the “Gloria” for my sister Gloria after we discussed her requirements. A magazine (about DIN A4) should definitely fit in and I extended the size even a bit to store a 13 inch Macbook inside. A bespoke leatherpatch with one of her favorite slogans “no guts no glory”makes the bag even more unique. The bag is still at my leather workshop but it will get handed over to her tomorrow. The bag was completely sewn by hand and saddle stitched with two needles so it´s really handmade (not “handmade” by operating a sewing machine with the hands). The Leather is probably the most eco friendly certified leather you can buy in Germany/Europe. The tannery is located in the south of Germany and the hides are from cows from the alpine region close by as well. For me it´s an important thing to support the local tanneries and craftsmen as i hope my clients do as well. The size of the bag is approx. 35 x 25 x 15 cm. Inquiries about the bucket bag via my website.
This week I got a visit at my workshop from the Photographer Mia Feline – Goldenfox. She spent a day with me and Tillmann to capture me working (an Tillmann waiting to finally going to play Frisbee) on various products eg. a Clutch Bag, a Tote Bag, a Belt and a leather covered Flask. Im very happy with the results and for sure this will not be the last time we work with Mia and Goldenfox.