Tool bag safety: the next level.

I have noticed a growing concern amongst my customers that their newly purchased leather tool bags could easily be separated from their motorbikes or bicycles, while the rightful owner is happily having a cuppa somewhere else.

In a previous post I have shown how a cable tie could be used to secure your bag, however, the protection offered by a cable ties is limited. Even something as small as a pair of nail clippers can easily get through most cable ties.

 

Anti-theft cable.

Anti-theft cable.

That motivated me to come up with the next level of protection. I believe this is about as safe as you ever will be able to get your bag from opportunistic thieves- those who just happen to be in the wrong spot at the right time. This method employs a 2mm thick steel cable, with two loops swaged at the ends. This cable is then looped through the slots in your bag, and around a secure anchor point on your motor bike/ bicycle. A small padlock (I dont supply these), is then used to secure the end loops together. These cables are less obvious than cable ties, and virtually impossible to cut with anything other than a pair of heavy duty pliers. To make it even more inconspicuous, the loops could be left on the inside of the bag, so the padlock is not visible from outside.

 

Anti-theft cable.

Anti-theft cable.

I currently sell these steel cables, without padlocks, for 14.00AU, which INCLUDES standard postage, anywhere in Australia. For international clients, there are a number of postal options, so contact me and we can investigate these.

 

 

Cane toad leather watch strap: A noble use for a common pest!

To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of making watch straps is the fact that you can make use of even the smallest, often most interesting pieces of leather. Pieces that would usually prove too small to be used for many other projects, can often be turned into unique and individual  watch straps, eager to enhance the wrist appearance of someone’s trusty time piece.

Therefore, the other day when I was visiting my local leather supplier, it was with a lot of interest that I watched him unpacking   containers with what looked like patches of colourful, highly textured pieces of leather. “What are they”? I enquired, and the answer opened up another exciting, and quite exotic avenue for Reivilo watch straps to be explored: “Cane toad” was his reply…

Yes, at last it seems a good use for this iconic and I may say, passionately disliked introduced pest in Australia has been found. The cane toad,  is commonly found in most areas in Australia, and often in plague proportions. Deadly for most local indigenous wildlife that may dare to prey on it, eradication programs have been widely put in place, with limited success.

But now someone has come up with the bright idea of putting the extremely tough skins of these animals through a tanning process, and the results is absolutely fascinating. I have been experimenting with these skins for a while now, making both natural and rolled edge straps, backing the thin toad skins with tough kangaroo. And I am happy to say that the results are beautiful, unique and durable watch straps available in a variety of colours.

Cane Toad leather in green.

Cane Toad leather in green.

Just like all my other straps, they are available with my standard stainless steel buckles. Prices start at 38.00AU plus postage for the 18mm straps.

The first strap is in green, best described as jade green. Green generally goes very well with watches with gold coloured faces or cases. The kangaroo used for the backing and the keeper is  a dark forest green.  This specific strap was made with a rolled edge. When attached to a gold watch, the combination is very pleasing. Its not often that one sees a green watch strap, I have found that wearing this one draws a lot of comments. And when you mention what leather the strap is made from, you can prepare yourself for some very interesting discussions…

Cane Toad in green

Cane Toad in green

And no, I have been wearing cane toad straps for a considerable time, and still don’t have warts all over my hands; however, I am getting very good at catching flies in mid-flight with my tongue….

Some frequently asked questions about our straps.

Here are some frequently asked questions about Reivilo Watch Straps:

  1. What is the difference between a rolled edge strap and one with a natural edge?

A rolled edge is where the top leather is laminated on another piece of leather, usually kangaroo. The top leather is however wider than the bottom layer, so the excess is fold back underneath the bottom leather, effectively sandwiching the bottom leather . Very much like you would tuck a sheet on your bed in underneath the mattress.  This method can only be used with very thin leathers, such as kangaroo, kid, cane toad or calf.

A natural edge is where the top and bottom layers of leather are simply cut and left like that to form the edge. The different layers of leather used in the construction can be seen from the side. Sometimes the edge created in this way is treated with a stain similar or contrasting to the main colour of the leather. This is the most widely used method of construction.

Both these methods are strengthened further with a row of sewing.

2. What does it mean when a strap has a raised center ?

That means that another narrow layer of leather has been laminated in the center of the strap, between the first and last layers of. This then forms a longitudinal raised portion the full length of the strap. This provide the strap with a bit of bulk and slightly more rigidity and is mostly cosmetic. It is still edge stitched as usual.

3. What is the Saddle stitch method that you use on your straps?

A method of stitching leather, using two needles at the same time. This method has been in use probably from the beginning of the leatherwork industry. It is very durable and not matched by machine stitching.

4. How long are your standard straps?

The lengths which I offer as standard, and which seems to fit just about everybody, are: buckle end, about 90mm long, pointed end, about 120mm long. However, I can do any size, depending on the customer.

5. How wide are your standard straps?

This is determined by your watch, and is why its important that you provide me with accurate measurements, as discussed elsewhere.

6. How do I measure my watch to specify the size strap I need?

There are basically two measurements needed. The width of your watch case, between the lugs, where the spring bar fits in. Usually in the range of 16mm, 17mm, 18mm or larger. But its also important to know the distance between the back of the spring bar and the watch case. This gap (usually only a millimetre or two) will limit the thickness of leather that we can use.

7. Can I install my new strap myself, or do I need to go to a watch repairer?

Very little skill and only a basic tool is needed to install your own strapd. If you dont feel comfortable doing it, a watch repairer would do it for you perhaps even free of charge. If you do it yourself, ensure the spring bar has engaged with the hole in the lugs on either side. Attach the pointed end of the strap at six and the  buckle strap goes on at 12!

8. How long can I expect my watch strap to last?

Oh, how long is a piece of string? Some of my straps go on to dress watches that may see use a few times per month on special occasions. Others go on very expensive watches that are pampered every day, and worn in air-conditioned office luxury. But I have sold straps to people in the trades, working outside in the elements. After all, we all need a strap on our watch. So, the life span of your strap will depend on how and where you use it, and how well you care for it.

9. Do you have a warranty on your straps?

Based upon the above discussion, it is very difficult to give a blanket warranty on my straps. However, I am always available to discuss problems, and I have always been able to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Recently a client sends me an email, asking for a replacement strap for a bag that I have made. Somehow one of the original straps got lost. I send her a new strap the same day, free of charge, I even paid postage.  In a large number of my transactions, my clients become repeat clients, I value this situation, just like I am sure my clients values it. I trust that neither of us would do anything to mar that relationship.

10. How do I care for my new strap?

Just like you would care for a pair of leather shoes.  Excessive moisture such as oils, sweat, soap and water when you wash your hands etc, as well as dirt and excessive heat are a few of the enemies of leather. The fact that the strap is made from cane toad leather, doesn’t mean you can shower with it! Every three months or so, depending on how you use it, give it a rub with some leather crème. If it does get wet, dry it naturally, brush off all dried dirt and give it some crème. Basically, use common sense!

11. How do I order and pay for my new watch strap?

For all International  orders, payment is through paypal. Even if you don’t have paypal, we can still process the order through your credit card. I have this great, return customer form Canada, who insists on paying me with a bank cheque which he posts by standard international mail! He feels comfortable doing it like that, doesn’t mind the extra wait and I am happy to do business with him. Orders from within Australia usually are processed through paypal or direct deposit. Ordering is easy. Once we have established exactly what you want, I will send you a payment request based upon your preference, and start working on your order while I wait for the payment to go through! I usually post within four days from having received payment.

12. How do you post the orders and who pays the postage?

All orders are securely wrapped and posted in a standard A3 envelope. Within Australia I always use registered mail, but because of the large difference in cost between standard international mail and registered international mail, I predominantly use standard international mail. I have already touched on the last part of the question, yes, postage is paid by the client. I provides you with  a fixed postage quote up front, for is real postage costs only, so you know what your total cost will be.

Back to basics: Natural Kangaroo.

I have had this piece of natural kangaroo (not coloured in any way) sitting in my drawer for some time, wondering what to make with it. In the past, I have made phone cases using similar leather, which over time developed a lovely deep, vintage patina. I have found this natural patina to be very sought after because it creates a lovely warm, well loved and “been around” feeling to an object.

"The birth of a strap"

“The birth of a strap”

So, I thought, if I could do a watch strap, and the same patina would develop over a period of time, the results could be quite pleasing. I have captured the making process in a few behind the scenes photos here under.
I have decided to make a rolled edge strap, using light brown stitching, done by hand. The rolled edge technique is very suitable to kangaroo leather, because of the great working properties of this leather. I have documented the process and are showing that with a couple of photos so you can see how this strap came about.
"The birth of a strap"

“The birth of a strap”

"Beginning with the stitching"

“Beginning with the stitching”

The result was a very pleasing strap, and even without any patina, I think this is already a very pleasing and versatile strap. And the fact that it was done in Kangaroo, makes it as durable as any watch strap you will ever find. This strap is hand stitched, and I am using a stainless steel buckle.
The next step was to decide on a watch to wear this with. When my gold Seiko Sea horse came back from a service, I thought it a perfect match. What I have found to be a further bonus of the natural colour, is the fact that it goes perfectly with either gold or stainless steel. Please note that the colours in the photos have distorted somewhat. The closest to the real colour is the above photo, “Beginning with the stitching”
This strap could be further customised to match a specific watch, use white, or even dark brown stitching, or if your a bit more adventurous, it can be done in a range of colours, such as yellow, red, blue. Often the addition of a bit of colour, usually to match a similar colour on the watch, adds a surprisingly pleasant touch to any watch strap, especially lighter coloured ones such as this.

"Kangaroo strap, natural colour"

“Kangaroo strap, natural colour”

Kangaroo leather is probably the strongest leather by weight that is available, and its thin dimension and wonderful working properties (I only use vegetable tanned hides) make it absolutely ideal for watch straps.
"Kangaroo strap, natural colour"

“Kangaroo strap, natural colour”

Kangaroo are sustainably harvested in Australia, and the meat sold in supermarkets for human consumption and also in pet food.
"Kangaroo strap, natural colour"

“Kangaroo strap, natural colour”

Kangaroo straps are currently available in red, black, dark and light brown, and off course in the natural state. From time to time I do have access to other fashion colours, so if you have a special request, let me know, and I can see what is available.
Natural Kangaroo straps start at 42.00 AU each. Registered postage in Australia is 6.00 AU. International postage varies, so please ask for a price if you are from outside Australia.

“New Kidd on the block!”

Today I have a few surprises. Firstly, the leather I am using, a beautiful, brown with tiny light specs where the hair follicles must have been, is not cow, or kangaroo, but Kidd leather! And, instead of my usual natural edge finish, I have rolled-finish the edges. Rolled edges gives an added elegance to the strap, especially when using the finer leathers. Rolled edges work very well in most exotic leathers, especially Kangaroo. So when I looked at the Kidd leather, I thought I was going to try a rolled edge on it as well and the results are awesome. Kidd leather is a lovely soft and thin leather, usually

"Kidd leather strap with rolled edge"

“Kidd leather strap with rolled edge”

reserved for gloves and linings of expensive purses and bags.

Because of the fact that this leather is so soft and thin, I have made this strap from triple layers of Kidd leather, bonded with a water-based adhesive and then stitched on the edges.  I have omitted the stitching before on a number of other straps, relying only on the glue, and the test results over a number of months of everyday wear (and every night- I sleep with my watches to test the straps), was very positive. Omitting the stitches present an uncluttered, plain surface, desirable in some cases.

"Kidd leather strap with rolled edge"

“Kidd leather strap with rolled edge”

This strap was matched to a vintage copper-coloured Raketa, probably from the late seventies, early 80”S.  You will also notice that I used two different coloured stitches, dark brown on the buckle end, and a lighter brown on the opposite end. No, I didn’t run out of thread, I have done it on purpose to give me an idea of how these colours match up with this leather. This strap is fitted with an 18mm, stainless steel buckle. Prices from 40.00 AU, plus postage.

“Lady (‘Roo) in Red.”

By now regular readers of my blog will know that I love colour. If there is even the slightest chance that I can pick-up some colour in a watch, and carry that through to the strap, I will do that. Well, that explains where the idea for the next strap was born.

“Red kangaroo, red stitching”

I ordered the 1970’s, new-old-stock Ricoh on line, and when I received it, I was immediately impressed by the beautiful red centers of the baton hour markers.  I had this piece of red kangaroo leather sitting around for a while, waiting for the right opportunity to be united with the right watch. I have to confess, I am absolutely thrilled with the result. And it looks excellent on the arm as well. I find that even non-watch fanatics always notices a colourfull watch and strap combination.

“Red kangaroo, red stitching”

As mentioned, the strap is double layers of red kangaroo leather, with a raised center portion, to give it a bit of body. Stitching is red braided polyester, virtually indestructible, and the usual 16 mm stainless steel buckle, (also available in 18 mm) which I think IS indestructible during any use on a watch strap! And, off course, my usual wide keeper, in the same leather. The finish of the edges on this strap is natural, but I can do a rolled edge when using kangaroo. Prices from 40.00 AU, plus postage.

A green addition to the Reivilo watch strap range!

From previous experience I have learnt that blue for a watch strap is virtually always a success. It simply seems as if a strap is in blue, it will match any watch. Therefore I offer a number of blue straps, from a dark blue to faded denim.

But, what about green? Green seems to be a more difficult colour to match to watches. I already have one green band on offer, with limited success. However, the other day when I was stocking up on leather, I noticed a lovely faded green piece of leather. The more I look at it, the more I felt certain that this could be excellent for watch straps, and maybe even break my mental block about green in watch straps. I decided to take the plunge, spend the money and hope for the best.

Frankly, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result. I decided to do the stitching in yellow, to contrast with the green, and, as we all know, green and yellow do look lovely together.

'Green strap, padded with yellow stitching"

'Green strap, padded with yellow stitching"

A while ago I bought this 1970’s new-old stock Citizen. I loved the look of this watch, however there is a definite absence of colour to liven up the face. Then I noticed the tiny, hairline, light green lumen that runs through the hour and minute hands. This was my clue. I fitted the green band with yellow stitching, and as you can see from the accompanying photos, the results speak for themselves.  The green strap picks up the tiny green lines in the hands, and ties them all together.

'Green strap, padded with yellow stitching"

'Green strap, padded with yellow stitching"

The straps are padded, with yellow braided stitching and a wide keeper, lined with pigskin. The buckle is my standard stainless steel buckle with a lifetime warranty. As always the strap is covered by my usual warranty, explained elsewhere on my website. I can make this strap for you in widths ranging from 16mm to 22 mm (or wider) if you require. Since the leather is reasonably thick, the completed strap measures 3mm thick, which you have to consider if your watch have limited clearance between the spring bar and the case. As always, at 28.00AU, an investment that would be hard to match in today’s throw-away society.

'Green strap, padded with yellow stitching"

'Green strap, padded with yellow stitching"

Fountain pen review: Hero 240.

The casual observer, or even those who count themselves among the cognoscenti of the fountain pen world, would be excused if they mistook today’s pen for a similar, yet far more expensive model, from the same manufacturer.

The Hero Pen Manufacturing Company from Shanghai needs no introduction to the readers of this blog. I make no secret of the fact that they are probably my favourite manufacturer of affordable fountain pens that are still in production today.

As the creators of both the Hero 242 (the focus of today’s review) and the Hero 121, a strikingly similar but more expensive pen, The Hero Pen company has once again succeeded in supplying the market of fountain pen collectors and users with another very affordable , yet unique writing instrument.

The design of this pen, especially the section area, is a distinct deviation from the more traditional, cigar shaped and fully hooded designs that I have featured previously. The 240 is of a semi hooded design, with a gold coloured, steel nib. This nib is of a triangular design, the two flat sided meeting to form a prominent ridge on the top. Chinese writing on these flat sided probably represents the company name.

"The Hero 240"

"The Hero 240"

The nib is medium sized, and is what I would expect to find in a medium nib. This is probably one of, if not the most pleasant nibs I have reviewed until now, writing on any paper I could find in the office, in clear wet lines, without ever running dry. Bleeding through did occur on some of the real cheap papers, which is to be expected from a pen that writes wet.

The section is the part that distinguishes this pen the most. Pentagonal in shape, with the uppermost two flats much larger than the ones underneath, this section is referred to simply as “duckbill shaped”. This shape gradually takes its form from the clutch ring where it is round, towards the nib, where it ends in a clearly defined pentagon.  Where the uppermost surfaces join, a silver coloured metal inlay, in the shape of a necktie, provides an interesting little detail.

"The Hero 240"

"The Hero 240"

At first I was a bit concerned with the angular shape, fearing that the rigid flat surfaces would force my fingers into a writing position that could be at odds with my natural pen grip. However, this turned out to be no problem at all, especially because where I naturally grip the section, it is still fairly round. The section joins the barrel with a 4mm wide stainless steel clutch ring, screen printed with “Made in China 240” in English and Chinese.

The round barrel tapers slightly towards the barrel end ring, which consist of a stainless steel ring and a flat disc of the same colour as the barrel. My test pen is maroon, but as far as I know other colours such as black and teal also are available.

The dimensions of the pen are, uncapped, 120mm, posted, 147mm, capped, 136mm. Where I grip the section, it is about 10mm at its widest. A very comfortable grip, indeed. Weight, empty is about 15 grams. Filling takes place via a very general aerometric system, not unlike those found in the majority of the Hero affordables.

The stainless steel cap is fitted with a black, plastic end cap with a stainless steel disc on the flat end. The clip is stapled to the cap, and features a textured central depressed area and the Hero emblem at the top. The Hero name is screen printed near the open end, in English and Chinese. This screen printing started chipping off after a couple of days use. I did not favour the bold screen printing, it makes the pen look real cheap. Readers would have noticed that I rarely use the word cheap to describe the pens in my reviews. I prefer to use affordable, having a much more positive connotation. The word cheap is reserved to convey a more negative message, usually indicating an area of possible improvement. This screen printed design and writing is the only negative comment I can give on an otherwise great pen.

I loved using this pen. Usually when reviewing a new pen, I would fill it once and then use it until empty before I do my review. However, in this case I have refilled it a number of times, and are still writing with it! Ink flow is very positive, easy and uninterrupted.

In the Hero 240, I feel that not only have I discovered another, quality writing tool from the affordables range of the Hero Pen company, but the unique appearance of this pen adds a fresh dimension to the usual, round designs. A real pleasure to own and use! Definitely worth getting one or more for your collection. Available for around 12.00AU.

 

A matching strap for your watch.

Just last week as I was having a conversation with someone at work, I saw that suddenly he was concentrating more on my watch than on the conversation. I stopped talking and when he noticed that I have picked up on his distraction, he apologetically explained that he found my watch and strap combination very striking. I gave it to him for closer inspection, and after complimenting me again, he remarked that he would have never in his wildest dreams thought about this combination.

That incident once again proved to me the very reason for Reivilo Watch Straps’ existence: To supply watch owners with as wide a choice of colours and combinations of high quality leather straps as practically possible. I was getting frustrated with having a limited choice of black, dark or light brown straps every time I was looking for a new strap for one of my watches. Vintage watches should not be limited to straps in sombre colours only. There is nothing as freshening and complimentary to an old (or new) watch as a leather strap in a colour that immediately grabs the attention and from then on focusses it on the watch. It is a team effort.

People are used to others having dark coloured straps around their arms- they dont even look. But have a bright green, blue, black with bright yellow stitching or any other bright colour around your wrist, and people will notice. And you will find yourself also looking more at your watch than is necessary to tell the time…. Just a quick disclaimer: I dont talk brown or blacks straps down- not at all. I have many of my own watches fitted with black or brown straps, and will continue to do that. Sometimes that is what you want for a specific watch or application. However, open your mind to the power of colour!

I have also noticed that people cant always picture which strap to be the best choice for their watches. Once again, here Reivilo can be of assistance. Send me a photo of your watch, and I will match it with  four or five straps, to help you make the choice.

We will also start to feature a watch every month together with a number of straps that we feel goes well with it, to further assist you in making up your mind. This month I chose a dear friend, one of my Seagull collection watches, featuring a lovely reddish brown face. See some of the colours I have chosen for it, and pick your own favourite! Have fun!

"Brown face with cream strap, white stitching"

"Brown face with cream strap, white stitching"

 

 

 

 

 

"Or, Navy Blue (to match emblem), with brown stitches..?"

"Or, Navy Blue (to match emblem), with brown stitches..?"

 

 

"Or, Tan with yellow tint and yellow stitching..?

"Or, Tan with yellow tint and yellow stitching..?

Watch straps of kangaroo leather.

In a previous post I have introduced you to a kangaroo strap made by Reivilo Watch Straps. Today I want to elaborate a little more on these. All our straps are meticulously crafted to enhance and compliment any wrist watch.  Apart from an obvious aesthetic choice, Kangaroo leather also incorporates many other attributes making it the unequaled material of choice for our watch straps. Here are some facts:

·        Kangaroo are found in abundance in the wild all over Australia, but they are also farmed extensively.

·        Both kangaroo meat and hides are utilized, with kangaroo meat sold in many major food chains.

·        A small number of the large-sized species which exist in high numbers can be hunted by commercial hunters.

·        Studies conducted by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) confirm that kangaroo is one of the strongest leathers of similar substance available.  

"Dark brown and Black kangaroo leather straps"

"Dark brown and Black kangaroo leather straps"

 

·        When split to 20% of its original thickness, kangaroo retains between 30 to 60% of the tensile strength of the unsplit hide. Calf on the other hand retains only 1-4% of original strength.

·        Not only is kangaroo leather lighter than the hide of a cow or goat, it has 10 times the strength of cowhide and is 50% stronger than goatskin. 

·        In Outback Australia, chrome tanned kangaroo leather is the material of choice for many farmers for all their automotive and other engine gasket requirements.

"A collection of kangaroo leather straps from Reivilo Watch straps"

"A collection of kangaroo leather straps from Reivilo Watch straps"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other components that go into making Reivilo Watch Straps unique, are the virtually rot proof Mox braided stitching (hand sewn, of course), and a robust but elegant stainless steel buckle.

Kangaroo leather is available in a vast range of fashion colours and is available in either chrome or vegetable tanned. Please enjoy your purchase.

"Light brown and Tan Kangaroo leather straps"

"Light brown and Tan Kangaroo leather straps"