Value in Vintage: Part III/III
Quality, character, and durability. Every machine and piece of equipment we started with was vintage. Starting with older machines was where we began because it’s all we could afford.
In 2012 we were notified through friends in the business that there was a bag maker in Jersey City that was selling his uncles entire workshop. Located in a basement, there was a ton of equipment and supplies. Scissors, rulers, wooden boxes, metal storage drawers, seam rippers, old webbing, a leather press, sewing machines and more. We drove a huge truck up and filled it with all we could. Anything he had, if we thought it could be put to use, we put it in the truck. There was a small leather press (still heavy as hell) we had to take apart to get out of the basement. Even apart, it was incredibly heavy (at about 800 lbs) and required a multiple-man carry. Some how, we got it out of the basement, loaded it up, got it home, and came to realize- it didn’t even work. These old black singer machines were wonderful to start with, producing an incredible stitch, but we needed a different machine to make the heavy-duty bags we dreamed of. We have stored a lot of our original machines away for a rainy day but sold a few in order to afford newer machines capable of sewing through thicker fabric and leather.
These older machines though… it’s hard to explain, but they have a beautiful stitch and feel to them. Think of it as how it feels to start up and drive an old car around town. It cruises differently. It still gets you from point A to point B, but the experience is not the same. For this reason, most of our most loved pieces of equipment remain vintage, being used on a daily in the shop.
Although we never used that original leather clicker press from the old workshop in Jersey City, our current press is probably the oldest machines in the shop. Dating from the 1940’s this clicker is massive and powerful. Holding our custom-made dies, this piece of equipment cuts every strap, bottom, and small detail from our veg-tanned leather. Many of our sewing machines are 1970’s-80’s walking foot machines along with our brand-new Juki machines. Our skiver (thins leather down for easier sewing) is new as well. Our fabric cutter, button press, iron, and most hardware hammers are vintage from the Jersey shop as well. We also have a unique combination of new and old: our heated stamp press. The stamp is brand new which creates all of our branding patches while the base and structure are an old drill press, customized to become a stamp press!
Our machines mean everything to us. We have become more selective over the years, choosing what we enjoy making with, which a lot of the time is something old and well made. Training our team how to use each one with care and skill, we service, inspect, and rely on these machines. We often joke that Aaron (our owner and head seamster) has a magic touch with these things… a machine can be acting up, not one of us can figure it out- yet he will give it one touch and it’ll go again.
Our daily tools and trusty machines prove to us time and time again that there is a value in vintage that cannot be reproduced, one we do not take for granted.