Miscellaneous Leather Blogs Category

Travel Money Belts For Men & Women

Posted on: July 25th, 2019 by Quentin Burns

How and When To Use Money Belts

You can find many types of concealed money pouches. I’ll be talking in this post specifically about a true money belt – a regular belt with a concealed pocket on the inside, used to hide money while traveling. First I’ll cover the advantages of these types of travel money belts, and then I’ll go over the recommended uses for them plus some issues you might run into.

3 Handmade Travel Money Belts

Three of our long-zippered travel money belts made of quality full grain cowhide.

Advantages Of Travel Money Belts

My case for the traditional money belt, over other types: it’s a belt. Other concealed pouches and attaching type money belts will affect the silhouette of your clothing. If your shirt is thin or you’re carrying a lot in the pouch, it may even be visible through your clothing. Wearing a pouch next to your skin for a long time can become sweaty and uncomfortable, as well.

With the traditional belt style there’s no need to worry about concealing the belt itself. It’s as easy to wear as a regular belt, making it the most comfortable money belt option. This means you will feel more natural when walking around in it. You won’t be holding yourself strangely or trying to sneakily adjust a hidden pouch, which could make you conspicuous.

The disadvantage of the traditional money belt is less vertical space. On our money belts the concealed pocket runs the entire length of the belt, so they have more horizontal space available than other types. The 1 ¾” wide money belts are roomy enough to conceal a small thumb drive. Nonetheless, you cannot keep everything in them. I discuss in the next section why money belts are best used in an emergency backup and not as a a daily wallet.

Lots of storage space in this long zipper travel money belt.

A travel money belt with a small thumb drive and folded money.

How To Use A Money Belt

The main purpose of a money belt is to prevent pickpocketing and grab-and-run thefts. Money belts and other types of concealed pouches are unlikely to foil a serious mugging attempt, and of course the belt can still be stolen when it’s off your body, if it’s been left behind in an unsecure room. Therefore, you should plan when to wear your money belt and what to store in it in order to maximize your security.

It’s recommended not to use or remove a money belt in front of others. If no one realizes you’re wearing one, they can’t make plans to rob it later. Keep cash for the day on hand elsewhere. Use the money belt to secure emergency funds and folded photocopies of your passport and important documents. If a pickpocket targets you, you should have what you need in your money belt to get out of a bind.

This function is especially important and useful when you’re moving between two stops. Once you’ve reached your destination, you can leave your bags in your room and your valuables in the hotel safe. But when you’re en route not only do you have all your things and travel documents with you, you are probably accessing it all frequently. That makes everything more vulnerable to loss or theft. In this situation it’s an especially good idea to have a copy of your passport secured somewhere on your person. Losing a passport in transit can become a nightmare scenario for travelers.

When you’ve reached your destination, if you find there isn’t a safe available you may wish to keep using the money belt this way. If you’re confident your location is secure, you might choose to downsize what you keep in it. However, either way you should keep wearing the money belt as your regular travel belt. That way no one will realize you have a money belt, or chance on an oppourtunity to steal it.

How To Recognize Quality Money Belts

When looking for a travel money belt that will last, you’ll want to consider the quality of the materials, the sturdiness of the construction, and the design of the money pocket.

If you’re buying a leather money belt, don’t take labels like “genuine leather” for granted. That only means the belt contains some small piece of leather. “Genuine bonded leather” is especially suspect, as this describes the leather version of particle board. To make bonded leather, they mix ground-up scraps of leather together in a glue solution to make a sheet of manmade material. It rips easily. Instead look for “full grain leather,” and make sure it is the only material used. The best part of the hide is the bend, which is where we cut our money belts from.

For more information on recognizing different grades of leather, see Jamie’s detailed rundown on types of leather belts.

For the buckle, look for something solid. Our gold buckles are all solid brass, and our silver buckles are chrome / nickel plated solid brass. Solid brass belt buckles won’t rust or snap like the white metal buckles often used in mass produced belts. The non-plated solid brass buckles are safe for people with nickel allergies. (However, people with nickel allergies who want to order one of our belts should still let us know. We will use solid brass rivets to secure the buckle, rather than plated steel rivets.)

Make sure your belt is designed to maximize usable space. On our belts the zippered section runs the full length of the belt between the buckle and holes. Some belt maufacturers only add a short 10-12 inch zippered section in the center of the belt.

The pocket should be easy to access and easy to get things in and out. When we make our money belts, our last step is stretching the zippered section with a bone folder to make the leather more malleable.

Where To Buy A Money Belt?

You can find different styles of men’s and women’s leather money belts on our website, all of which are custom made by Leathersmith Designs artisans. You can opt to have personalized designs imprinted in your belt, or choose a plain style for a more inconspicuous look. For color we offer standard black, brown, and natural oil options; or you can choose a vibrant blue, green, purple, burgundy, or red for traveling in fashion.

The money belts we make here are from strong, high quality full grain cowhide and can endure long, difficult travel. Likely, if you are embarking on long and difficult travel, you will want a daily belt. A quality money belt is a good travel belt option and a good concealment option in one!

Watch our process for handmaking our leather money belts in this video.


Finding Artisans in Halifax Area and Beyond

Posted on: August 2nd, 2018 by Quentin Burns

Discover Galleries & Studios of Local Artisans in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has a rich arts and crafts tradition. The beautiful natural scenery and the community-focused spirit have combined to make a place where local art is thriving and celebrated. Many artisans in Nova Scotia live solely on their craft, while others do it on a part-time professional basis. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or whether you’ve lived here for years, these resources will help you find new places and events to explore.

Discover artisan studios in Halifax / Dartmouth and beyond.

Halifax Art Map used to discover artisan studios in Halifax / Dartmouth and beyond.

Halifax Art Map

Leathersmith Designs is proud to be a featured location on the 2018-19 Halifax Art Map. The guide has been running since 2002. Leathersmith Designs has been appearing in it since 2016, alongside dozens of other amazing artists and craftspeople from the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).

I called Keith McPhail, the advertising and business coordinator of the Halifax Art Map, to ask about how the guide started and where it is headed. I thought I had only a few simple questions which would take him a few minutes to answer. At the end of our hour-long phone conversation, I realized how much I hadn’t known about the Halifax art community. Much of my own city and industry are still mysterious to me.

That’s the mission statement of Art Maps: to de-mystify the mystery. Their goal is to make people aware of what’s out there, to get people through the doors of small workshops and studios. Above all, they ultimately want to guide consumers towards finding a piece of art they can fall in love with.

How Halifax Art Maps Started

In 2002, Keith was working for the city in the Tourism and Culture department. “Culture” was a new addition at the time. They didn’t have much funding or much of a concrete game-plan. They were approached by a group of artists who wanted to highlight local art, to combat a perceived lack of knowledge by the public. Thus the Art Map was born.

In its first year the map covered only Downtown Halifax and Dartmouth, and was focused on the tourism market. There was no money available from the city that year, so the project was funded solely by ads. The response exceeded expectations. They learned there was a lot of local interest and local discovery happening as a result of the map. Therefore, they decided to expand the goals of the project.

In the second year they received matching grants (one each from the province and municipality) for three years to develop the project (print layout, website, distribution). Later they added an annual exhibition. In the last six years they added social media, and the Art Map solidified into its modern form. Nowadays, the market for the map is half tourists and half residents of Nova Scotia.

How do they find Artists?

The Halifax Art Map relies strongly on word of mouth from participants. Artists recommend the map to other artists, and recommend new artists to the map.

Artists can apply to be featured at the Halifax Art Map website. The Halifax Art Map doesn’t have any restrictions on what type of artists can apply, but they do vet their artists for professionalism. They want to feature people who are serious about doing art professionally. The goal of the project, according to Keith, is “helping local artists and craftspeople make a sustainable living”.

Where to find Halifax Art Maps

You can find Halifax Art Maps at every featured artist location, at Visitor Information Centres in the HRM, and at some larger Visitor Information Centres across Nova Scotia. They are in Halifax and Dartmouth hotels, at the Halifax cruise ship pavilion, and at and the Halifax and Dartmouth ferry terminals. They are also distributed at conferences, to reach visiting professionals from all over the world. If you’re planning a vacation, Halifax Art Maps has an online artisan directory where you can search for artists by area or category.

Keith told me hotel concierges proved to be unexpected gold as a resource. They get to know the map, and remark on the changes and updates to it year after year. Even more, they are great at getting maps into the hands of serious art and craft lovers … AND they talk up the local scene.

The library and their branches were also a surprise as they help distribute maps to all their 17 branches. They help get it into the hands of locals as part of their mandate and service as information providers.

If you’re in the Dartmouth area, stop by Leathersmith Designs to pick up a free copy of the map. Jamie Hartling, our master leatherworker, has been a dedicated member of the Nova Scotia crafting community since 1975. He can give you a tour of the leathercraft shop and tell you all about the local leatherworking scene.

Creations of the artisan as well as useful and interesting info on the crafter / artist shown in the printed Halifax Art Map as well as on the Halifax Map website.

The Halifax Art Map in both print form and on the web displays the creations of the artisan as well as useful and interesting info on the crafter / artist.

Who is the Halifax Art Map Team?

For Keith, Art Maps a labor of love. Its creators have all worked in the arts themselves and are passionate about supporting the Nova Scotian crafting community. Keith (second from right) and Kathryn Fraser (third from right) are the core team. Together they do add sales, coordinate exhibits, and organize artist talks. As of this writing, there is a Halifax Art Map event coming up at the Halifax Public Library on how to buy art. To keep up with current craft and artisan events, you can follow the Halifax Art Map Facebook page.

Jane Lombard (far right) is their graphic designer and works on the Halifax Art Map part-time for about three months each year. Peter Eastwood is the webmaster for the Halifax Art Map website, and puts in about one month full time.

Then, of course, there are the featured artists and craftspeople. Every year, Kathryn stops by to talk with Jamie Hartling about the state of Art Maps. Art Maps began as a scheme by a group of Halifax artisans, and aims to stay true to its roots as a “community collaboration”.

Halifax Art Map release in 2016 listing artisans.

Jamie Hartling (leather artisan on left) attending a Halifax Art Map release in 2016 with some of the key Halifax Art Map organizers.

New Directions for Halifax Art Map

Every year the Art Maps team makes decisions on how best to keep supporting artists in their community. Every year they decide to keep the map in printed form. It is now one of few surviving publications in Nova Scotia. Although paper costs continue to go up and the format of the map is expensive, Keith says it’s important for the map to look good, to represent the quality of the art inside it. It’s also important that it remain a tactile piece, because the core buyers of art are familiar with a tactile world. However, the demographic is slowly changing, so the decision must be made anew every year.

This year, they are also considering a new service. They are looking into options for how Art Maps might help facilitate marketing plans for individual artists and small galleries. When Keith spoke to me he was getting ready to attend a seminar on the subject. He told me the next step is to go out and talk to members of the community about what they would want from such a program.

Nova Scotia Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide features Artisans in Nova Scotia

The Province of Nova Scotia Tourism publishes a comprehensive travel guide called “The Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide“. You can request to have it mailed to you anywhere around the world. You can also pick up the guide at any of the Nova Scotia provincial tourist bureaus. On the Nova Scotia Tourism website under the “See and Do” heading ,you can find a section on “Galleries, Shops, and Artisans”. As of 2018 there are 170 listed. While the Halifax Art Map focuses on artists in the Halifax area, this guide is province-wide. It features many small studios and creative artisans off the beaten path.

Artisans in Nova Scotia found on provincial website.

Viewing galleries, shops and artisans in Nova Scotia, Canada on the provincial tourism website.

Citizens of Craft

Citizens of Craft is a good resource for finding craftspeople and artisans in Nova Scotia, as well as across Canada. You can search by location, type of establishment (museums, studios, galleries, etc.), and craft type. There is a diverse array on offer. You can find sculptors, leather workers, fibre artists, glass blowers, furniture makers, metal workers, potters, jewelers, and more. Artisans featured on Citizens of Craft are all registered members of their provincial craft councils, which promote quality in craft.

Artisans from across Canada featured in this national craft directory "Citizens of Craft".

Citizens of Craft is an online directory of artisans from across Canada.

More Sources for Finding Artisans in Nova Scotia

Provincial craft organizations such as Craft Nova Scotia, Arts Nova Scotia, Visual Arts Nova Scotia and Centre for Craft Nova Scotia can put you in touch with the craft community and artisans in Nova Scotia. Even more, there are many regional and local organizations such as the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, Halifax Crafters Society, Dartmouth Handcrafters Guild, and Maritime Makers. Various craft shows throughout the year also provide a great opportunity to meet artisans coming to your area.

Discover the uniqueness and quality of individually handmade crafts. Besides that, nothing is more memorable when visiting an area than purchasing a one of a kind piece by a local artisan, or watching a handcrafted item being created before you in their studio.

Leather handcrafts tooled by leather craftsman in Dartmouth, NS. studio.

Artisan at leather craft studio in Dartmouth, NS shown hand tooling design on leather guitar strap.


Leather Pouch For Communion Pyx

Posted on: October 13th, 2017 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs
Communion Pyx Leather Pouch

Leather Pouch For Communion Pyx

Leather Pouch

The small leather pouch for this communion pyx was recently handmade for a customer who visited our custom leather shop. Importantly, the leather pouch has a sturdy leather lace so the small leather pouch can be worn around a person’s neck for safe keeping which is commonly done with a leather pyx case. A cowhide bag leather was used for the body of the leather pouch. The inside of the front part of the leather pouch is lined with a soft leather to cover the inside part of the metal snap. This is done to prevent damage by not allowing the metal snap to rub against the metal pyx.

What Is A Communion Pyx?

The word Pyx is rooted in Greek and means a container. Many centuries ago if you wanted to carry your coins to the market, you might put them in a pyxis. However over time, the pyx came to refer mainly to a sacred vessel.

The metal pyx is used in Roman Catholic and some Anglican churches. The host is carried in the pyx to people that could not attend the mass/communion church service. The idea is that by doing so, the celebration is extended to the whole community. The host is the bread or wafer consecrated in the celebration of the Eucharist. Mainly people that are sick or homebound have the consecrated bread from the church service taken to them. The pyx is like a portable tabernacle that is used to hold the host.

In the Catholic tradition, the pyx containing the host (communion bread) would be put in a fabric or leather pouch called a burse. The burse would be carried around the neck hanging close to the heart of the eucharistic minister or priest to take the consecrated bread to the infirmed.

Most pyxes are made of brass, gold, silver or pewter material. Usually a Christian symbol adorns the cover. The pyx is usually in the shape of a cylinder. The cover normally has a hinge and clasp to keep it closed.

Christian Gifts

Other Christian gift items we have custom made for members of the Christian community include personalized guitar straps with Christian symbols embossed, leather inserts for collection plates, leather crosses, imprinted leather neck discs for Cursillos, carrying cases for large bibles, imprinted leather wristbands and slip on leather covers for hymn books. The imprinted Christian symbols could be a cross, triquetra, fish or praying hands.

 


Horseback Riding – Horse Riding

Posted on: May 3rd, 2017 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Horseback Riding Adventure

Horseback riding is one of the exciting adventures a family can enjoy while vacationing. Part of our summer vacation led us to Boulderwood Stables in Ardoise, Nova Scotia, Canada which is only about a forty-three-minute drive from our custom leather shop in Dartmouth, NS.

Ann and James Wootton have run these stables since the early 1990’s. They expanded their business into a huge leisure and activity center. It includes a swimming pool, hot tub, day camps, birthday parties, red cross swimming lessons, tennis courts, play area in addition to their horse riding lessons and trail rides.  Our daughter enjoyed a couple days stay there years ago with her Girl Guide Trex group.

Not being experienced riders, we chose a one hour trail ride which took us about four kilometers though beautiful wooded trails and fields. We thought the 10 kilometer trail would be a bit too much for us. Horse riding helmets are provided for safety. The experienced guide led us through a route and speed that was tailored to our ability.

Horseback riding through beautiful fields at Boulderwood Stables led by Cassidy.

Cassidy, our guide leads us horseback riding through beautiful open fields at Boulderwood Stables.

The change of scenery on the many trails is interesting. Some trails are geared for more experienced riders and other trails are geared for taking the novice on.  The guide chooses the appropriate trail for her group.

Horseback trail rides going though woods.

Much of the horseback trail ride winds through woodland.

The Horse Stables

After the trail ride James Wootton showed us around the stables which has numerous horses. He explained about the care of horses which we appreciated. We enjoyed petting some of the horses in the stables.

Horse saddles are removed by James Wootton.

James Wootton unsaddles the horses in the stable after the trail ride.

Appreciation of Horseback Riding Gear

Of course being a leather worker, I was very interested in all the leather horseback riding gear used in the bridles, harnesses and saddles. Although I don’t make horse gear, my business Leathersmith Designs supplies harness buckles and other leather hardware such as D rings, bridle buckles and O rings to saddle makers, harness makers and leather repair shops.

Cassidy explained the many differences between English saddles, Australian saddles and western Saddles. The English saddles tend to be lighter and are geared for the ride positioning for jumping as well as dressage. The western saddles which have a horn but no knee pads tend to be best suited for reigning, barrel racing, pole bending as well as hold and tie maneuvers. The Australian saddles are designed for comfort and rider stability. This is important when horseback riding in steep country or when making sudden changes in direction when handling livestock. They are characterized by the knee pads that stick out on the front side. For securing young novice riders better in the saddle, Boulderwood Stables tend to use the Australian saddles.

Horse saddle variations explained.

Cassidy explains the difference in horse saddles. She points to the horn between the knee pads sticking out on the sides of this Australian saddle.

I enjoyed examining the saddle room which had lots of leather bridles hanging on the wall. As I spent a bit too long examining all the interesting leather gear, my family eventually got me out of this saddle room as their highlight which was the trail ride had ended.

Bridles hanging in the saddle room.

Saddle room with lots of leather bridles hanging.

Boulderwood Stables

Boulderwood Stables is certainly an exciting place to enjoy for the novice wanting a horseback trail ride or for people that want to be trained for more serious horse riding. What a wonderful way to spend a day as it certainly was an exciting horseback trail riding adventure.


Leather Belts Made From Which Types Of Leather?

Posted on: November 12th, 2016 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Genuine Leather Belts?

What types of leather belts are you getting when the store clerk tells you “These are real leather belts”? Are all types of leather belts the same quality when they are imprinted “Genuine Leather”? Not all leathers are the same quality and you will learn that even some leather terminology is misleading. Therefore when you are told an item is made of real leather or genuine leather, that is too vague. You must know the specific type of leather used in order to understand the belt’s quality as not all leather belts are created equal.

Types of Leather For Belts

The cattle hides are very thick and the tannery usually splits the hide thickness into a number of layers.  The top layer of the hide which is closest to the animal’s hair is called “Top Grain Leather”.  The grain is only in this top layer of the hide.  Top grain leather is a general term as it refers to both Full Grain Leather and Corrected Grain Leather. The layers under the top grain are called split leather. All of these layers are genuine leather but are of vastly different qualities, strength and cost. Let me explain the differences between the types of leather.

Splitting leather hides into different layers.

At the tannery, thick leather hides are split into different layers.

Full Grain Leather Belts

Full grain leather is the best quality of genuine leather used by belt makers. The full and untouched grain surface is present. Beautiful unique markings are visible such as grain patterns, hair cells and any natural healed scars on the full grain leather belts. This is the strongest and most valuable layer of the hide. Remember that full grain leather is a specific leather term that falls under the general category of top grain leather.

From the various types of leather, full grain leather is the belt leather for making belts.

This full grain leather belt is one solid thickness. Full grain leather is the highest quality leather from the various types of leather.

Corrected Grain Leather Belts

Corrected Grain Leather is the 2nd best quality of genuine leather used in making belts. Excessive scars and scratches are buffed and sanded from the grain to remove imperfections. Typically, the tannery covers the surface with heavy pigmented finish coats so the original grain is no longer visible. This leather is often embossed with a grain to simulate hair cell patterns. Corrected grain leather is another specific leather term that falls under the general category of top grain leather.

Split Leather Belts

Split Leather is the third best quality of genuine leather that is used to make belts. It is often finished and embossed to simulate a top grain leather. However, split leather is not as high a quality and much less expensive. Splits are often used for suede and are not as durable as top grain leather. The further the split is from the top grain layer, the dramatically weaker it becomes. In other words a flesh split, which is farthest below the grain and next to the meat, is real cheap junk.

Bonded Leather Belts

Be careful because Bonded Leather is not genuine leather. Chewed up leather fibers are pasted together to form a manufactured sheet of man-made material. Bonded leather is also sometimes called reconstituted leather and fiber leather. The percentage of leather particles in bonded leather varies greatly between manufacturers. Buyer beware as bonded leather tears easily. It is often imprinted and finished to imitate a top grain leather. Unfortunately, the vast number of belts in stores are made of bonded leather which is a very cheap quality material. Most bonded leather belts consequently break in a short period of time.

Bonded leather compared to genuine leather would be similar to comparing particle board to solid wood. In wood work, you wouldn’t build your quality dining room furniture from particle board. Nor would a leather artisan be able to build a strong durable belt from bonded leather.

Bonded leather belt tearing apart.

Bonded leather is not genuine leather as you can see in this belt which tore easily.

Leather Terms For Marketing Belts

Marketers often try to impress buyers by misusing and distorting leather terms. Imprinted terms on products sometimes portray what you want to hear and often only refer to one material used to make the product. The imprint on the back of the belt that says “Real Leather” could actually mean that the belt only has a paper thin layer of split leather adhered to cardboard and vinyl.

The following video shows belts that were brought into our leather shop by customers that had purchased them elsewhere. Unfortunately, these belts shown to us had broken, torn or fallen apart. We took these belts apart to see if the imprinted leather term on the back of the belt accurately portrayed the materials used to make a perceived quality leather belt.

Video discussing leather terms imprinted on belts and dissecting the leather belts.

In conclusion, your best guarantee to insure you are getting a solid full grain leather belt is to purchase it from a leather shop that actually makes the belts. Luckily, there are still lots of leather artisans that continue to individually handcraft their belts from quality leather hides.

Holes punched in handmade leather belts by leather artisan.

Leather craftsman punching holes in handmade belts.




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