I have not had much time to post or read over the last few months, popping in once or twice a week at best. Between work, family and building an extension for my daughter, my hands are full. But I did manage to spend a morning last week visiting the leather belt maker Fullum and Holt. F+H make belts for the likes of Allen Edmonds, Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers and many others. They claim to be the oldest belt maker and one of, if not the, largest in North America (a company in Texas is close and it is not certain but believed to be that F+H is larger). The company at a touch over 100 years old, is run by the third generation family member, Morgan Lackman. During the time of my visit, they were working on a large order of women’s belts, which was a disappointment, as I wanted to watch a Shell Cordovan belt being made, no such luck. They do not make the leather belts for AE, only the Cordovan. Shell account for abut 5 percent of the men’s belt run. Each Shell belt is cut from three strips of the same section of hide. Seams can be done close to seamless or as overlap as seen in the picture below. Everything is made by hand using machines that date from the 30s through to today. A few Pfaff sewing machines are about as modern as it gets for the first tier belts. They do have an automated four step machine for belts that are destine to hit the Moores type retailers. They work in leather, cordovan, croc, snake, and have even been asked to try turkey!! The leather looks nice but the turkey project never took off. Kiton was my first factory visit, I wish it had not been, understanding a little more now, and at the risk of another flame war over “hand work”, the average amount of man hours that go into a typical leather men’s belt of the AE level is an astonishing…..a whopping 10 minutes per belt. Shell takes “much more” time and only a few of senior staff do shell. The average seniority of workers in the shop is close to 20 years with the most junior leather worker being at 10 years. The finished Shell belt I saw made for Brooks was very nice. Tools in the sample room: Preparing to cut leather: Staining the sides of the leather: Sea sponge is used to avoid running and staining the front or rear of the belt. <img src="http://img408.imageshack.us/img408/7028/5893.jpg" alt="Image Hosted by ImageShack.us"/> Large batch runs allow low man hour per belt ratio. Shaping the corners near the buckle: Sewing belt loops etc: The belt loops are made in a mini belt shop that uses the same machines as a full size but scaled down and group in one section of the plant. The finished leather belt: Hand stamping details inside the belt. Hand cutting or pressing on machines dating from the 40s and 50s. Shell Cordovan belts for Brooks Brothers, Allen Edmonds etc. One belt per hide, different seams: The Finished Shell Cordovan belt. Various leather types……they even had turkey! Suspenders and men’s garters are made for a handful of clients: Hand cutting for a run of women’s belts.
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4/18/09 at 11:30am