Nick Tafel, founder of NoNameLeathers, is currently a student of The New School, Parsons School of Design in New York, NY. Here he talks about his most recent leather creation, the Stealth Roosevelt Wallet.
Describe your product.
This is the Stealth Roosevelt Wallet. Black hand-dyed 4 oz. Herman Oak leather, black waxed polyester stitching. This is definitely the most complex wallet that I build because of how intricate the layering and sequencing of all the pieces are. It has 4 card pockets, 2 hidden pockets and a cash slot in the back.
What led you to create this product?
I began sketching this wallet model about a year ago because I found that I was really displeased with most leather wallets on the market. To me it seemed like you had to choose between quality, price and design. I really wanted to create something that was beautiful, functional, and most of all heavy duty. This wallet is a tank and it will last you forever.
Tell us about the process of making.
When I begin a wallet, I start with natural vegetable tanned leather as it comes to me on a hide.
I lay my patterns out on the leather and trace them so I can cut them out. Using a knife, I carefully cut the patterns out making sure every cut is perfect.
After all the pieces are cut out, I dye the leather blacking using oil dye. Dying leather is tricky because if you are not careful, the dye will be uneven and splotchy. After dying, I treat the pieces with a surface finisher to seal the dye in and give some shine.
Now to start assembling the wallet.
I start by fixing the back pockets with both glue and stitches. These stitches will be hidden by the next pocket but it is important to sew them properly so they will never come undone. To sew leather, I use a traditional saddle stitch which involves one piece of thread with a needle on each end (no sewing machines here!). Each stitch is individually punched and sewn one at a time to ensure quality and consistency.
I glue the front pockets over the back pockets and sew the pieces together.
Then I take those two pockets pieces and glue them to the font of the bill fold and sew them in to create the two hidden pockets.
Next, I glue the back of the bill fold on and finish sewing all the way around. Along the way, I will do what is called ‘edge finishing.’ This is the process of working the edge of the leather to seal it and make it beautiful. Edge finishing is key in a project like this because I glue multiple layers of leather together.
When finished properly, the pieces of leather will seal together and look like one thick piece. The last step of the build is finishing the remaining edges.
Lastly, I stand back and revel at how pretty it is.
How did you decide which tools to use?
I have spent a great deal of time experimenting and trying new tools. There are always newer and better tools that make jobs easier and more polished. I go between online forums, videos, and books to choose what tools to buy next. There are a select group of tools that are key to leather working. Whatever tools you do end up using, make sure to keep them sharp. Sharp tools = sharp work. [See the ErgoKiwi post for an example]
Share a resource or resources that helped you in this project.
Where do you typically display your work online?
Instagram @NickTafel @NoNameLeathers
Personal Website (www.nicktafel.com)
Tell us about your School’s architecture program.
At Parsons, they are really focused on the act of making things. They encourage us to make full use of the shop facilities that we have at our fingertips. We have CNC routers, CNC mills, laser cutters, various types of 3D printers, full wood shop, full metal shop, and technicians to help you realize your project on any of them. At all points of projects, professors encourage you to step out of the computer and make a model or a mock up to help you work through your design concept. The other strength of Parsons program, in my opinion, is their emphasis on the social and environmental impacts of design. [Check out more about Parsons Architecture Program on their profile page]
What do you intend to do upon graduation?
I would love to work in a multidisciplinary design office that has architecture integrated into their scope of work. I would like to still have the ability to make models and mock ups of design ideas because I think it is critical to the design process. Ultimately, I would love to start my own company that does this sort of work, but that is many years down the road. Leather working, however, is my cathartic escape from the world of architectural design so I will definitely keep doing that!