I started writing my first blog, The Deliberate Agrarian, back on June 18, 2005, and one of my recurring themes over the past 16 years has been small-scale entrepreneurship. I’m always particularly impressed with younger people who put the time and effort into learning new skills, who are imaginative and creative, and who start their own businesses (they remind me of myself).
Such brave, bold, and enterprising young people are becoming more of a rarity in our culture. That’s the way it looks to me. It is, after all, a whole lot easier to not be brave, bold and enterprising.
And that brings me to Cody Hahn (pictured above, with his girlfriend, Rhianna). I have recently learned about Cody and his upstart business, Crossroads Leather Company.
Cody does leatherwork of all kinds, and one of his special interests is putting new leather covers on Bibles. This next picture shows the typical Bible of a person who actually reads and studies their Bible over the course of many years.
The next three photos show a Bible that Cody has recovered. You might say it has been born again…
After seeing Cody’s Facebook page I asked him more about himself and how he happened to start doing this kind of work. I’ll let Cody take it from here. This is an exact excerpt from his e-mail reply…
As for your questions, and details pertaining to them, here goes……I had already been doing various forms of leather craft before, as a hobby, working on men’s and women’s leather belts, dog collars, moccasins, simple leather shoes, etc. My mother had a 1994 Nelson NKJV wide margin bible that was her go-to work and study bible, with all her notes in it, but the bonded leather cover had been deteriorated and broken down for years and years, and she had kept it inside some sort of fabric sleeve she had made for it, kind of like people do for textbooks. Well, then the binding began taking more wear and tear over time, developed loose stitching, etc, and just got more and more beat up. So she was originally going to do her best to strip down and recover the bible herself, because of not being able to afford sending it off someone to have done (it is expensive, that’s the thing), and she put together a few little tools and supplies and such, and even eventually found an old leather jacket at a thrift store that she was going to try to cut the cover from, and then she bought a small piece of lambskin on eBay, to make the leather liners from. Well, after a great deal of time gearing up for that, and trying to figure out how to go about it, she grew pretty frustrated with it and disheartened, and suggested that if I wanted to take it over as a project, I could, as I already had the hobby level experience working with some leather projects anyway. So, take it over I did, and finish it I did. It ain’t perfect, it’s got a lot of flaws, but it turned out alright, it is flexible, it looks and feels nice, and it’s totally functional, and she uses it daily, and even for not being done that “right”, it’s her go-to workhorse bible, and honestly, even though I’m biased I guess, it seems as though it will go for years.
Then as for how else I learned, I received a good deal of guidance from a couple of bible rebinders, one in particular. So that, and a lot of trial and error and note-taking and keeping track of variables and how something turned out versus how I was trying to get it to turn out.
I’ve been recovering bibles, old or new, for about a year and a half or so.
I also make simple but solid leather belts for work, casual, and everyday wear, using Italian brass buckles (don’t have anything for Italian brass, other than it is a non-China option, until I can ever find a good US option, surprise surprise, there aren’t many…..I just am doing what I can at the moment to distance my products and work from the junk spewing out of that country). These belts are typically made from either vegetable tanned tooling leather (I cut the straps from an entire half of a cow), or from bridle leather, or English bridle leather, or heavy harness leather, depending on stock on hand, type of belt, or what a customer desires. The main two ways I attach the buckles are by hand-sewing the buckle and keeper in place, or by setting copper or brass saddler’s rivets to secure these components in place. Both are strong, and both offer a different look.
I have made some bridle leather dog collars, and will be making more in the future as time allows.
And I’m about to begin working on some leather thong sandals, that while uni-sex in nature, will probably appeal a bit more to women, just due to fashion, except for the male ultra runner or hiker or such here and there. They will be very simple and bare-bones in nature (and even then, good grief, it costs so much to make anything, and so hard to have it come out at price points that both make me an “okay” wage per hour of labor, but still allow enough customers to purchase them…….the struggle), and will feature a single sole of thick vegetable tanned sole leather, treated with two heavy coats of olive oil to begin life with, and a leather thong/lace that will secure the sandal to and around the foot/ankle/achilles tendon. In the future, if it proves worthwhile, I may consider cementing a thin rubber outsole material to the bottom of the leather soles, and trimming and sanding to shape, for the increased wear resistance, and see if it can still wind up at a price that enough people will go for them, but for now, leather only. I just wanted to try to offer a simple form of footwear, even if only mostly the women are interested (I have plans for men’s shoes, lace-up work boots, athletic shoes, etc down the road, but it’s a LOT of time and money-intensive pattern work and trial and error, and can’t be approached too lightly, because the mistakes are too costly, horrendously so often) that would allow people a non-China option of sandals, and a non-synthetic option, at least what directly touches the foot, for hopefully a healthier pair of footwear, better breathability and less sweat and clamminess, less odor and smell (due to better breathability and less sweaty nature of veg tanned, not chrome tanned, leather), and an attractive enough look. Plus, the main thing with these sandals is not all this, but the fact that they will be built around a pair of sole tracings that the buyer mails to me, so that I can literally build them to the sole outline of the owner’s feet, something that isn’t possible with factory sandals from China. I am now in the experimenting stage with a willing and patient girlfriend and cousin, haha, of whom I am grateful for, plus they are getting at least one free pair of sandals made to their very own feet.
And lastly, when I can get to it, I am going to be putting together and offering some buffalo calfskin leather wallets, probably both bi-fold and tri-fold.
That isn’t all I would plan to do, but it’s what I will mess with for now, and it’s plenty, haha.
Well, let me tell you, that response brought a big smile to my face. Cody has an honest and endearing way of communicating with the written word. Do you get the sense that he is excited and passionate about what he is doing? He followed up with another e-mail shortly after the one above…
So I recover old/used AND new bibles, whether the owner provides me with the textblock (a personal used one, or a new one they want recovered more to their liking), or I myself procure one for them. I typically prepare goatskin covers for these bibles, though I have used other leathers, and will, but I’ve been on a lot of goatskin lately. The liners are most often a thin, soft lambskin, but the leather liners could also be goatskin, sheepskin, or calfskin. I install new head/tail bands at top and bottom of the spine (little decorative pieces you see, but might not have ever noticed). And I install anywhere from 1 to as many as 10 (for extra cost) satin place marker ribbons, depending on width of the spine and what it will sensibly allow for, and I offer these in either a narrower 1/4″ that most people are used to from the factory, or a little bit wider 3/8″. I’ve messed with anything from black, to brown, to red, to blues, to green, to purple for the cover colors, and others, but more and more, I’m actually growing a bit disenchanted with the wilder, weirder, more “modern” color schemes, and find myself personally being more drawn to blacks, browns, reds, burgundys, tans, and even certain dark/deep blues (closer to indigo is better) etc, rather than the more flashy and often garish colors we see a lot of now.
Now as for repairs, I do them, yes, to the degree I am able. I have dampened and ironed flat dog eared pages. I have ironed bent/folded edges. I have resewn binding to a degree, to the best of my current ability. And I have even very carefully applied thin, nearly transparent, acid-free archival book repair tape in order to mend certain rips and tears in the pages. But, it does all cost, and it often involves a surprising amount of time and labor to repair what many people would consider “minor” repairs, and they are often dismayed at the cost of the actual bookblock repairs. I completely understand, as it can be bad, but it’s just one of those things that takes so much time and careful, tedious work, that there isn’t really a way around it, and I have actually lost money time and again getting caught up on the book block repairs, as opposed to the more leather work side of things. The sweet spot, I have found, is recovering a brand new text block that needs no repairs, or recovering a solid textblock for someone, that mostly just needs a facelift and new decked out cover and liners, but has been cared for and handled (you would be surprised at the CONDITION of some people’s bibles, it’s as if they let them fly around in a pickup truck during heavy stop and go traffic with much brake slamming and forward motion of objects in the vehicle……) in such a way that it doesn’t require much repair to the pages and binding itself. Needless to say, I am always glad when the bookblock does not require major repair.
Anyway, hopefully that gives you enough of a run down of the basics of what in the world is going on in this type of work, haha.
Yes, Cody, it was a good and enjoyable introduction to what you are doing. With your e-mail replies, you have unwittingly written most of this blog post! I sure do appreciate knowing about you and your business.
I hope those of you reading this blog have found this story as positive and encouraging as I have. Here’s a young man with a lot of initiative, working hard to learn a useful skill and build a business. Cody isn’t the only younger generation person doing this sort of thing, but he is one of the few, and I admire him greatly for it.
I’ll close out this blog post with one last picture. This is one of Cody’s handcrafted belts (with the Italian brass buckle). Wouldn’t you love to have a belt with that kind of quality? It would also make a great gift for someone. Stop on over to Cody Hahn’s Facebook page if you’re interested (he doesn’t have a web site yet). If you can’t find a way to contact him, send me an e-mail: Herrick@PlanetWhizbang.com