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.”
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.
"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.
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
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.
"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."
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
"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.
"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.
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.
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