So just what is Handmade?

November 9, 2019

A quick search of the internet will throw up hundreds, if not thousands of handmade items. But what actually constitutes a handmade item?

The Cambridge Dictionary has its meaning as

“Made by someone using their hands rather than a machine”

With that in mind lets have a look at what companies and businesses class as handmade. Obviously, I am going to base this on leather goods as that is my craft. I will go through the basic process of crafting a leather belt and compare the differences.

The first job that needs doing when making a handmade leather item is cutting out the leather. Now I start with a large bridle butt. The whole back end of a cow. My first job is to cut a straight edge to the leather. I do this with a long metal plaster's feather edge, a round awl to mark it, and a head knife to cut the leather with. Once I have the first straight edge cut, I can then use a strap cutter or plough gauge to cut the required width of the strap. Another task that I carry out by hand.
Now someone else may use a die. A premade metal cutting tool that they lay on top of the leather. They would then use a hydraulic press to cut out the required shapes. Now assuming that they placed the leather by hand in to the machine this may still be classed as handmade. In fact, you can get a machine that you would just feed your leather hide into and it cuts it in to the required widths and number of straps you need. Fast and efficient if you need to make a lot of the same thing.

The next task that I now need to do is selected the required buckle and prepare the buckle return. This includes hot creasing the side of the leather, the nice line that you see down the edge of your belt. Edging, putting a rounded edge to the leather. Skiving, this is thinning the leather down to make a smooth return to the back of your buckle. Punching and preparing the buckle crew hole, the hole where the buckle pin pokes out through the leather. Making the leather keeper and staining and polishing the edges around the buckle. All of this takes me a long time. The same process can be done by a machine. You feed your strap in to the machine, and it edges and creases all in one go. So with the die cutting all of the holes that you need and another machine sorting the edges for you, is that handmade? Now take a look at your belt - go on! Have a look at the way that the buckle is attached. Is the leather rounded on both sides? That is a sign that it has been prepared by a machine. You see, where the two pieces of leather are stitched together on my belt, I don’t edge the leather at that point. This makes for a smoother finish and is a good sign of a hand-crafted leather belt.

My next job is stitching. I do this by hand. Yep! each one of those stitches are made by me pushing an awl and two needles through the leather to make a stitch. Very strong, totally traditional, and something that very few people can do properly. So pick your belt up again. Have a look at the way that the buckle is attached. Does it have a couple of rivets or Chicago screws? They are quick. Worse still, does it have a clip-on buckle!!!! Is it stitched? It is! Now does that stitching run along the length of the leather down the edges or does it go across the leather like perforated paper either side of the keeper? Hhmmm! perforated paper. I wonder where that belt will eventually fail! Now the reason that many belts are stitched across the leather is that it is easy to do on a machine. You see a sewing machine can’t stitch under that leather loop. By hand stitching I can. So if it is stitched by a machine is that still handmade? It certainly could be if the leather was being guided and controlled by hand. Take a look at a bag. That is a lot of stitching. A machine can do that in about 10 minutes or less. By hand you are looking at a couple of hours or more.


So, the buckle is attached now it is time for me to make the belt to the correct length. Do you remember when you brought that nice, store brought leather belt? Did it say fits a xx trouser size, or S, M, XXL? That is because they are mass produced to fit a variety of sizes. That is why sometimes you may have to by a belt that fits on the first or last hole because you aren’t quite the size that the belt was manufactured for. Now the reason that I need your length measurement around your waist with your trousers on is because that is the required size of belt that you need. I can then measure from the buckle and make that length the middle hole. Mark two additional marks either side and punch the holes through the leather. And yes, I use a manual hole punch and a big mallet to do this. In the machine process these holes would have been cut out by the press. Along with the point at the end of the belt. Another thing that I do by hand.

Finishing the belt is another time-consuming job. This needs to be done properly if I am going to achieve a great finish. The edges need rounding off and a hot crease is run around the edge as well. I run a hot crease around the sides as well. So have another look at your belt. Take a look at the pointy end this time. Do any lines down the edge actually go around the point, or do they just go straight over the edge? Does the point have a rounded edge to it? These are another sign of a machine-made belt.

Finally, I stain the edges all of the way round, wax and polish them for a really nice finish. I then block the loop, which makes it square, re-crease everything, and polish the buckle and it is done! A handmade, hand-crafted, work of art!

So, are all of my items made in this way?

Yes, you can guarantee it!

Hopefully this helps with understanding what is handmade and what is handmade but uses machinery to speed up the process. I will have a talk about leather and made in Great Britain can mean in the future.

Have a good day.



White Stitching?

September 4, 2019
Just a few notes on white stitching on my handmade leather goods.
Firstly, white stitching does look nice on many of the leather colours that I use. That being said - it doesn't stay white for long!
White thread is actually described as whitey/brown thread. See even the manufacture can't keep it white for long!
By the time that I have waxed it - I keep a different piece of wax especially for white thread - it starts to take on a slightly yellowy/brown hint. Not much, but I can see it when it is ...
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Leather Colours

July 27, 2019
I only use English Bridle Leather from J E Sedgwick. These come in 14 beautiful colours;
  • Australian Nut
  • Black
  • Burgandy
  • Chocolate
  • Conker
  • Dark Green
  • Dark Havana
  • Hazel
  • Light Havana
  • London Tan
  • Navy Blue
  • Oak Brown
  • Old Oak
  • and Red

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Forces and Bluelight discount

May 19, 2019
In celebration of our hard-working Armed Forces and bluelight personnel I have set up a 10% discount especially for you. Check out your relevant discount service to access the codes.

For Armed forces visit and for the Emergency services check out

If you are not already a member of either of these services I would suggest that you join immediately (assuming you can - fortunately I can!). They offer discounts on many high ...
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New Camera Strap Designs

May 13, 2019
I have been experimenting with some new handmade leather camera straps recently. I have four out for field testing at the moment. Just to check that they all work as they should!
I have tried to think of something that is not common in the world of photographers and their cameras. Being Leather I know that they are stylish, and as they are made entirely by hand they are all bespoke. But I have also used some fittings from the saddlery trade. The Globetrotter shoulder strap for instance, uses a...
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So just how much weight can one of my handmade leather camera straps carry?

April 24, 2019
"Can your camera straps support the weight of my *insert camera model*? It weighs *insert weight*?" Is a very common question I am asked. And the answer is invariable. Yes! Yes it can!
Now as a picture is worth a thousand words I thought that I should test one.

So this is my Globetrotter camera sling supporting a 25lt water container. And yes it is full! so that is around 25kg supported quite happily.

This then made me think. What else could I hang from that strap. Hhmm! What's that in the backg...
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New Websites

April 17, 2019
I have been tinkering with some new websites recently. I decided now was a good time to have some web specific names and to split some of my store items. I also needed to buy up some domain names like using the recently introduced .uk web address. It was also a chance to play with some settings and see what I could come up with.

Having my store with Ecwid makes it easy as I only have to add the store to each website - and viola! there it is.

The majority of my websites ar...
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Camera Straps - What one suits you?

April 2, 2019
A simple search of the internet will throw out a myriad of camera straps. From the standard manufacture's stock one, to custom made bespoke straps costing more than your camera!
My ethos is different. I make camera straps that are designed to do their job, with strength, and style. I use leather from JE Sedgwick. JE Sedgwick make the finest English Bridle Leather that has the strength, durability, and robustness required of a modern day camera strap.
So what strap do you need?

Wrist Straps

Roamer Camera Slipped Wrist Strap

A wris...
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What does Brexit mean to me?

March 16, 2019
To be honest I haven't got a clue. I don't think anyone else has either really!
My suppliers are UK based so in theory this shouldn't be an issue.
Shipping to Europe will probably change as you can guarantee that your government will want to charge an import tax on your goods!
I will also expect postage costs to Europe to increase. Not because it will be more expensive to ship there, but because they can!
Anyway, once those in charge finally get their act together, and work for the country, inste...
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Lining Leather For my new Cavesson Dog Collar

July 18, 2018
An option for my handmade leather Cavesson Dog Collar is to have a soft leather lining. There are a variety of linings to suit any flavour.
I use genuine pull-up leather which has a distressed look with a silky soft feel.
Colours are;
  • Bubblegum pink

  • Espresso

  • Havana

  • Jade Green

  • Lime Green

  • Olive Tan

  • Plum

  • Purple

  • Walnut

  • Olive Green

  • Black

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Simon Harrison Cordwainer at Oakside Saddlery Handmade, bespoke leather Made in England. Leather Collars and Leads for your Dog, Handmade, made to Measure Leather Belts, Leather camera straps, And Leather rifle slings for Field Sports. All made in the Traditional Hand-stitched way


Simon Harrison

Oakside Saddlery

67 Windmill Rise



ME12 3QA

United Kingdom


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