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How to recognize good hand craftmanship. [more ...]

How Can You Recognize Good Hand Craftsmanship?

First we need to define what signs of quality to look for in regard to leather craftsmanship. How can you recognize a good leather product? As examples we will use a couple of our X47 leather organizers and show you a few characteristics of good quality leather hand craftsmanship.

Leather book, leather binding: Leather organizer Mabook Professional

Quality Test: The Right Fit

The leather organizer's cover and binding need to fit the book perfectly. Take a close look - you can see that the front and back covers lie perfectly over one another.

Our leather organizer "Mabook": The Mabook was one of the most challenging products in regard to getting the perfect fit. Not only should the covers lie perfectly over one another but the insert pages should be perfectly lined up as well. Anything less than 100% perfection was not acceptable.

Leather book, leather binding: perfection

Each piece of leather is cut to the right size with the help of hollow punch tools. These tools look a bit like cookie cutters but they are much larger, heavier and as sharp as a knife.

Leather book, leather binding: perfection

In order to produce a leather product like our leather organizer Mabook, there are many steps to be taken. First, a rough prototype is made so that the functionality can be checked and the leather craftsman has a clear idea of what is required.

The leather craftsman then creates the first sample version of the product. Depending on the expertise and wishes of the developer and craftsman, up to 10 versions may be necessary before it is deemed perfect.

Pieces of cardboard, cut to the exact shape and thickness of the desired piece of leather, are used to constantly ensure the piece of leather takes the correct shape.

Leather book, leather binding: cardboard

The individual hollow punch tools can then be created using these cardboard patterns.

Quality Test: The Corners

Are the corners smooth and perfectly shaped? Leather corners cannot be simply sown together by laying one piece on top of another - that would make the corners much too thick. There are two solutions to making the corners: the easiest solution is to cut the pieces in such a way that the edges lie on each other. The other way, the technique we use for our X47 products, is to guide the leather, piece by piece, around the corners in such a way that small folds are created.

This is a fine technique that is achieved using a special folding tool. The more evenly spaced the folds are, the better the quality. The folding tool used on the corners is made of bone.

Leather book, leather binding: folding tool

In order to be able to properly guide the leather around the edges, the leather pieces have to be thinned at the corners. With our leather organizer Mabook, the leather covers are 1.2 mm thick and have to be thinned to 0.2 mm at the corners.

One interesting note of detail is that not all types of leather can be guided around corners equally well. Soft leathers are much more adaptable to this process than hard leathers. Heavily stamped leather like crocodile print leather for example, which is often covered with a fine gloss, is not suitable for this technique.

leather book, leather binding: edges

Quality Test: The Stitching

Take a close look at the stitching - What does it look like? How thick is the thread? How large are the spaces between the stitches?

Leather book, leather binding: stitching

How are the ends of the thread sown? Does the thread run in a straight line?

Leather book, leather binding: stitching

With our X47 products we place high value in quality details. We use only high-quality thread and tight stitching. The measure we use for stitching is stitches per centimeter.

However, it has to be mentioned that judgments on stitching should be made carefully: stitching is an important style choice and it may be that the type of thread used and the spacing between stitches was chosen purposely to achieve a certain style.

For our X47 products, we have chosen fine quality thread and our stitch spacing is regulated depending on what leather is being used. The brown leather seen in these photos is quite hard and therefore the stitching cannot be made too tightly.

Hard leather would quickly tear if too tight of stitches are used.

Quality Test: Glue Residue

The individual pieces of leather have to be lightly glued together so that they do not slip while being stitched. This is a standard and accepted technique, and is used on high quality products like our organizers.

The use of glue is however not without its challenges and requires a good feel for how much is enough.

Leather book, leather stitching: Gluing

If too much glue is applied or if the glue is not allowed to dry properly, you can easily see this in the finished product.

Quality Test: The Edges

In order to make a product from one piece of leather, the leather has to be cut into the right form.

The trimmed edge is then open and, according to the type of leather used, reveals a rough, colored edge.

There are currently two techniques for dealing with these edges:

At X47, you will see that our leather is folded over the edges and stitched closed. In order to achieve this and make sure that the leather looks good, we thin out the edges beforehand.

Leather book, leather stitching: Edges

The alternative to this technique is to seal the open edges. To do this, the open edges have to be thinned, pasted and painted.

The first technique is the finer solution, which is why we choose to use it. However, if the second alternative is well hand crafted, it does not necessarily represent a lack of quality.

Several large companies use this technique on thicker leathers, particularly those used for purses for example.

Leather book, leather stitching: Knife

In case you ever wanted to take a peek in the toolbox of a leather maker - here is your chance.

Leather book, leather stitching: Toolbox


Leather is often stamped or imprinted.

When working with heat and pressure, sometimes marks can be left on the leather. Large stamping is done by using large stamping plates that cover the entire piece of leather.

Leather book, leather binding: crocodile leather

We typically use cowhide as the basis material for stamping, as seen below in the photo showing a lizard print.

Small stamping is done by using an embossing stamp (like the one seen in the first picture on this page), which is created from a piece of metal.

Leather book, leather binding: Logo stamp

The different types of stamping include deep stamping (as used for our X47 logo), high stamping (where a bottom and top plate are pressed together) and a combination of high and deep stamping.

High-Deep Stamping

For the Lange watch company we created a special and beautiful leather book with an intricate imprint. The goal was to create a sophisticated, small watch detail imprinted on a leather book.

Leather book, leather binding: watch detail

The special element here was the fine high-deep stamping. The imprint is created on three levels: Deep stamping (level -1), level 0 and high stamping (level +1).

In addition, we also created a normal deep stamp for the Lange logo in an arched form.

Leather book, leather binding: watch detail

Stamping Machines

In order to make a good logo imprint, you need the right machine and knowledge of the right temperature to use. Below is a picture of such a stamping machine.

Leather book, leather binding: stamping machine

For larger stamping and for high-deep stamping you need another machine. The leather book that we made for Lange was imprinted using the machine below.

Leather book, leather binding: stamping machine

You may notice that all of the machines shown in these pictures are relatively aged. This is due to the large boom in leather craftsmanship as an art in the 60s and 70s. Even at this time these machines were already seasoned.

Leather makers today use more modern machines but for the production of smaller series products, like those needed for X47, these machines are optimal.

Splitting Machine

Leather typically has a thickness of between 1-3 mm but a thickness of 0.6-1.2 mm is needed. In order to make the leather the correct thickness, you need a splitting machine.

The splitting machine has a horizontal running blade. If you picture a saw that runs horizontally and that has a broad, toothless blade, you will have the idea of what is used here.

Leather book, leather binding: Splitting machine

And with this instrument, you can measure the results of the leather splitting.

Leather book, leather binding: Thickness measure