21 Step Process

 

“This 21 step process offers no shortcuts, only the satisfaction in knowing that most companies are not willing to go this expensive and laborious direction.”

Brenda and Manny

OWNERS SBC

 

Atlas Marshall was a bull owned by Brenda's Uncle, Jim Bradford.  In 1969 Atlas sold for $50,000.  The bull held the state record for many years.  Brad-Z-Ranch continues to produce some of the finest Angus cattle in the world.


PREPARING THE LEATHER

The key to a great meal is great ingredients...belts are no different.

      We start with full sides of the finest vegetable-tanned leather we can find. The tradition of vegetable-tanning dates back presumably to the beginning of man.  It is simply the process of using tree tannins or natural tannin extracts from plants and trees to slowly cure the leather.  The 6 to 8 week process is costly and laborious. The main usage of this specialized leather is gun holsters and saddlery.  Both of these industries rely on the rigid characteristics of the leather and the ability of the stiff leather to contour to a desired shape and retain that shape for the life of the product. Like an IWB holster or a saddle, these items cannot be flimsy like shoe leather or car upholstery. The process of making shoe leather is much different.  Chrome Tanning uses chemistry to tan leather and is somewhat poisonous to the environment.  Although widely used around the world, this tanning process produces strong leather in any color or finish, the drawback is that it is ALWAYS FLIMSY.  This is why many leather factories stiffen belts with fillers and sew them together.  Not Us...we DO NOT use chrome tanned leather.

 

"For people that know their leather, and know the difference, there is no substitute."

     The bovine hides are separated from the USDA burgers and steaks at the Texas and Midwest packing houses.  The hides are graded right then and there.  The biggest and nicest are put aside and destined for one of only two vegetable tanneries in the United States,  Wickett and Craig and Hermann Oak.  They are the only two large domestic tanneries still left making this tree tanned natural leather.  Both tanneries have been in operation for close to 140 years.  Vegetable tanning uses clear aniline finishes for beautiful aging, patina, and color depth.  The problem is that they cannot correct imperfections in the grain like other leathers tanned by Chrome processes for shoes.  What you see is pretty much a lighter version of what you will get.  For those who have a basic understanding of  vegetable tanned leather, there is no substitute.

      The fresh hides leave the  houses on refrigerated 18 wheelers.  When the arrive at the tannery the hair is removed and they are graded again for size and  thickness.  The average side that makes it this far is about 8 feet in length and 25 to 28 square feet per side!  These are truly the best of the best. It makes no sense to tan inferior leather in a 6 week period. The hides sell upwards of $300 each and its easy to see why if you take a look at the slow vegetable tanning process.

     It takes about 40 days to transform raw hides into unique and durable vegetable tanned leather.  This process is natural, environmentally friendly and it creates leather that maintains its beauty and luster.

     Natural leather that is created by this process is 2.5 times more valuable than its chrome tanned or "shoe leather" counterpart.  

Saddle leather is an expensive byproduct of the American beef business. It is easy to spot American hides because they typically run 3-4 square feet larger than South American hides by comparison.

DAD'S  STRAPCUTTER

We use this strap cutter just about every week in the shop.  It is the first process after hide inspection and blocking take place. 

BENCH TOP SKIVER

The leather must be “thinned” down at the buckle end. This allows for a more comfortable fit. The Skiving Process takes 20% of the lower side of the strap. This allows the buckle to be properly positioned. We start just before the second hole for full strength.

 

QUAD-CUT BEVELER

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     We run every belt through this beveling machine twice to ensure even edges. This process is a bit laborious but produces 4 very clean edges with the lower edges a bit deeper than the top ones.  We are constantly sharpening these unique rotary dials with circular cutting blades. 

CREATING THE HOLES & FINISHING THE EDGES

     Many years ago we decided that most belt manufacturers set their holes too far apart.  Most are close to an inch...too far away in our opinion. When holes are placed 1 inch apart the belt owner can find him\herself between holes, sometimes for months or years.  They might end up drilling a hole through the belt or worse, driving a nail through their belts.  This will cause eventual hole cracks and failure.  

We use 8 close holes at approximately 5/8 inch apart.  This has proven to be a great design.  We hate to hear stories of people drilling holes or worse, just to find the middle ground between a good quality belt with holes designed too far apart.
 

"Here at Scottsdale Belt Company, we started using a proprietary 8 hole custom spaced cutting plate. After testing for many years by hand in my father's career,  we designed the plates for our modern multi hole equipment."

 Our full grain hides are slow tanned for superior strength and long term durability. Our 30 Year Guarantee completely protects you against natural hole failure.

THE EDGE SEALING PROCESS

     We use an imported Italian edge dye specifically formulated for vegetable tanned leather. It is blended with a compound of emollients.  This expensive and natural edge coat smooths out the edges without flaking or picking off.  We apply it twice and then burnish while the edge finish is still tacky.  That ensures a penetration and minimal crusting.  

     Many leather factories often machine roll coat their belts. Then bake the edge dry with conveyer ovens.  We believe this is why many edges on other companies' leather belts and handbags will crack and peel off.  The hand burnishing process forces penetration and complete adhesion without a thick and heavy look.

LIQUID SADDLE SOAP and HEAVY CANVAS

"There is no substitute for heavy canvas, saddle soap, and good old fashioned elbow grease."

GUM TRAGACANTH

The Second Edge Process is with gum tragacanth. This is a natural plant based edge smoothing agent.

 

The Final Edge Process is with an alpha hydroxy product. This lowers the pH and although expensive, offers the best final edge in leatherwork

LOCKSTITCHING

"Germany produces the finest industrial sewing machines in the world. Our machine defines stitches with unparalleled quality."

     Below is The Autumn in Merlot Bridle. The stitch definition is the signature benchmark of German equipment.  The only downside is the slower speed this German workhorse the operates at, compared to the mass production models.  

Most good things are worth their wait.

BELT LOOPS

"Our loop making process is like a mini belt regarding labor... It's in the SBC details as to WHAT MAKES US DIFFERENT."

     The loop that holds back the belt end has to be cut, dyed, beveled, smoothed, stapled, stitched and molded as well.

A handmade Amish loop blocker is used to square up and define the loop edges.

FRONT LOOPS



     Currently, front loops are being sewn closer to the snap on men’s jeans either for fashion or fit . To accommodate for this we have moved the belt keeper loop closer to the buckle.  You will grow very fond of this simple feature.  

ELECTRIC HIDE BRANDING TOOL

The Final Step

This electric hide brander brands AZBELT.COM onto every belt.

ATLAS MARSHALL

 

     Thanks for taking time to look through our time-tested process.  We treat leather belt making with immense pride and passion.  It would be easy to cut out steps for profit; however, pridefulness in our finished leather belts will always get in the way of shortcuts.

    Brenda and Manny Brulport

Second Generation Belt Makers