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Ray Clark's Briefcase (British Bridle Leather)

hints

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TLDR: 5/5 stars :) You can find Ray's Etsy shop here.

A short review of a custom briefcase from the craftsman Ray Clark!

Ray is semi-retired now and I’m glad that he found time to make my briefcase. Holding the end product, you can really feel that this is indeed his “passion”.

Craftsmanship:
Ray has spent decades working at Swaine Adeney Brigg. His craftsmanship and experience really show. I asked Ray to take some photos to share with me on what the process is like. See attached.

Stitchings are in a dark color (compared to the leather) and this makes high-quality hand-stitching work very visible. It is as if the briefcase wants to humblebrag about itself :)

RAKGL6Y.jpg


From Ray - "I use heavy duty dees that cost about three times as much as the ones that other companies use"


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From Ray - "The strap retainers and strap ends are cut with a 'church window cutter' which is hit with a mallet."

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From Ray - "A screw crease is used leave a 'crease mark' around the edges."

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From Ray - "The running loops are hand stitched and much nicer than the riveted or 'horrific' stapled loops that some people are using!"


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From Ray - "This is my vintage splitting machine, which I use to split the looping. I bought it (many years ago) from an old whip maker that had made the first bull whip for Harrison Ford to use in Raiders of the lost ark. I'm probably the only person who has still got one of these."

0HX0T0N.jpg


Custom Briefcase:
I ordered a smaller custom version of the “Grantchester Briefcase” (15” long instead of 17”) in Light Havana and with the Liston Lock. There was an option to go with an Italian square lock - but I feel that a Liston lock is a bit more “classic”.

Since my order, Ray also has the “London Tan” as a new option. I believe that London Tan is technically a more classic (popular?) color. But it could be too light for some folks. I believe both colors will develop a nice patina after years of use.

"London Tan is another colour with big traditional provenance and shares its origins with Newmarket Tan due to the history of coaching and the colour of the harness used on the teams of horses pulling the coaches carrying passengers and trade to and from our capital city. Stunning in all the products we use it for, this colour will mark you out as individual and can only be described as individual. Neither biscuit, russet, tan or yellow, it resembles a biscuity, russetty tan with a hint of yellow - possibly? Even Pantone would struggle with this one." (source)

For my custom order, I downsized the base model to 15” because I have a 13" MacBook Pro. Originally I was going to have it downsized to 14”, but Ray suggested a briefcase that is too short can look “crowded” (because of the vertical straps). I agree with him and I’m glad that I picked 15” instead (see photo).

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Note that if you also have a 13” laptop, the height of the briefcase can also be a bit too tall. It’s unclear to me whether you could (or want to) downsize the height too.

w9zHqDv.jpg

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One thing that I didn’t request (and I don’t know if it’s possible) is have the vertical straps be 2"-3” longer. This way you can also use them as belts.

Leather:
Note that Ray uses the same “british bridle” leather as SAB (from sedgwickandcoleather.com). Except that Ray uses only the “butt” portion of the leather. I believe SAB generally use the shoulder only. The butt portion is harder (and more expensive!).

This type of leather is quite heavy. I choose to order the briefcase without the rear pocket and figure it will make it lighter (and cheaper too). In fact, for folks who are worried about weight, Ray also offers a Milton Briefcase, which doesn’t have the vertical straps and might help with the weight further. In that case, you might be able to have it slim down even more (if you have a small laptop).

leo0Us7.jpg


US customers:
The product was shipped quickly. You’ll need to pay the custom tax upon receiving it. In my case, the broker only accept paper checks (no credit cards) so make sure you have them on hand!
 
Last edited:

sleepylamp

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Nice review man! I also ordered a briefcase from Ray and it hasn't shipped yet. I am curious what courier is used for the shipment and at which point do you pay the custom fee? Do we need to pick up from Post office? Thanks.

Regards,
Ed
 
Last edited:

dangaa

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Thanks for the pics. I'm using a MB Pro 13" as well. How much extra room is there (height wise) if you were to sleeve the laptop ie. neoprene before placing it in the bag?
 

hints

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@sleepylamp For me it was UPS. Pay on delivery.

@dangaa A macbook pro 13" is ~8.5" (it sorts of depends on your model actually, but more or less correct). I think it's possible to drop the height from 11.5" to maybe 10". However, you might not want to make the bag too crowded so I'd consult Ray on this. You can consider his Milton version though.
 

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