When we use the terms "Hand Tooled" or "Hand Carved", we mean them very literally. Most retailers advertising and selling "hand tooled belts" are actually selling a machined belt that has the appearance of a "hand tooled belt" when in reality, there is no hand tooling involved at all. Their machine has a big steel wheel with the pattern on it and they feed a blank belt strip through it and in twenty seconds they have a "hand tooled belt". If you want to know if a belt has been hand tooled, or hand crafted, it is as simple as looking at the quality and the price tag. Any complicated floral pattern that is priced below seventy-five dollars is likely machined. All of or our floral patterns require well over eight hours of hand tooling. So you can see, very few people would be willing to spend eight hours at a tooling bench for $40 in wages.
Why is it so important that the belt actually be hand tooled? - you might be asking. Well, good question. Simply put, finely tooled leather is a work of art. "Artistry in leather" we like to call it. The process might accurately be compared with sculpture work or some forms of painting. Really good leather tooling requires artistic talent and hours and hours of practice and experimentation. Take it one step further - all of our floral patterns are drawn or designed on paper by Bill Briggs so they are in every sense, a work of art. Some people place great value in fine art and are willing to pay for good work. Another value that is inherent in a finely hand tooled belt lies in the fact that each one is actually unique in character. Because the design is first traced or drawn into the damp leather and then that same design is carved deeply into the leather itself, try as you might, you will never be able to do it exactly the same way every time; its like a fingerprint or a snowflake, no two are identical. Machined belts are most definitely identical and are not unique to the owner.
A personalized, custom leather belt from Lone Tree Leather starts out as a blank strip of the best Herman Oak leather we can find. Water is applied to begin the "casing" process of causing the fibers within the tanned leather to expand and become ideal for knife carving and tooling. The belt blank is then tipped and edged. A nice border is then hand carved to the edges. Next comes the tracing and transfer of the pattern to be carved in with a knife. The actual tooling of the pattern is the next and most time consuming, but also the most enjoyable phase. Then the tooled belt is allowed to dry for several hours before the final touch of edging, hole punching and finishing is completed. Good edges require a lot of rubbing and elbow grease.