PROCESS

Making of: a glimpse into the process of APHRA custom-engraved leather & wood business card wallet.

Handmade does not always equal High Quality.

With the word “handmade” enjoying so much popularity these days, the assumption is because it is made by hand, it must therefore also be high quality. This is not always true, of course. Many things can be handmade while still being of poor quality. The skill level of the crafter and techniques used play a big part in determining quality.¬†

I use the term ‘handcrafted’ over handmade and I refer to myself as ‘an artisan’ over ‘artist’ or crafter’ to make the distinction that my products are actually high quality. To explain why I consider my products to be high quality, I have provided a brief video and description of my process.

My ideal is perfection.

My process of product design stems from my training in architectural design. Ideas become sketches, and sketches become technical drawings. Technical drawings become cut files, and cut files become physical products through involved handcrafting techniques.

Starting out the handcrafting process with perfectly-cut pieces is important in getting a predictable end product. I choose methods that produce exact results and minimize waste. Knowing myself and my own limitations, I choose to use a laser cutter as my main cutting tool because it is precise. It is as close to perfection as it comes. I use this tool as a means to an end – not an end in itself. It is only the beginning of my process.

The important steps.

Sketching & Drafting

Transforming an idea into a real, working product is done first through precise measurements, then then through trial and error. Sketches bring an idea to life. Drafting technical drawings focuses that idea into its usable form.

customizing

One of the most unique aspects of my process is the ability to customize just about everything. Not only do I offer a variety of color and material choices for my wallets, but also custom embellishments. Felt is a wonderful candidate for embroidered designs, while leather is a material that takes to many different forms of decoration - from laser engraved images to studded patterns and hand-tooled motifs. I offer different customizations partly because I know that wallets are very personal, but I also want you to cherish your wallet for years to come.

laser cutting

The foundation of a well-crafted product is the quality of its cut. In knitting, you can tear the stitches out and start over, but cutting from a cloth is a much different story. The rule "measure twice, cut once" is important because once you cut, there is no going back! In an effort to avoid waste, making a proper cut is paramount. I choose to use a laser to do this cutting for me because it produces consistent, precise, and clean results difficult to achieve by hand.

cleaning

The downside of laser cutting is dealing with the soot and scorch. Because lasers are essentially cutting materials with fire, a sooty edge remains. Many laser cutting practitioners will sell their products practically right out of the cutting bed, leaving customers to deal with dirty, sooty products. I find this to be highly unprofessional and I refuse to do this. The sooty edge can not only be unsightly but can also come off, dirtying the product and your hands. Cleaning soot should be as integral to the process of laser cutting as rinsing is after shampooing your hair. I clean by hand every material I cut.

finishing

Transforming the raw, freshly-cut, cleaned, and customized material into the end product is a process that is unique to the material being used. Wool felt, for example, requires no further steps after cleaning. But for leather, the steps are numerous and include staining with my own blend of dyes for a customized look, oiling with mink oil to keep the leather pliable and supple, and burnishing with my homemade beeswax & neatsfoot oil burnishing butter to clean up the roughness of leather and to give it a truly finished appearance.

saddle stitching

One big distinction when determining if a product is high quality is to examine its stitching. Not all stitches are the same - some are destined to fail long before others. I'm talking about machine stitching versus saddle stitching. Saddle stitching is a technique achieved only by hand - and the one and only stitching technique I use. The characteristics of the saddle stitch - thread weaving through a piece, first on top, then on bottom - produce a strong, redundant type of stitch. When a sewing machine stitches materials together, the threads remain separately on either side of the material, never crossing through it, hooked together at intervals. Because of this, it will unravel easily if damaged. The machine stitch is inferior and will not stand up to long-term use, so I avoid it.