Industry

BEXAR Goods shop visit :: Constructing a Land Carry

by , November 19, 2012

As you may recall, I recently did a shop visit with BEXAR Goods Co., down in San Antonio, TX.  One more time, its pronounced “BARE”, named after Bexar County, the county in which they’re located.  This is the second of two of posts on this shop visit, this one which is all about the handmade process(es) that they perform daily on their incredible carry products.  Guy, Christian, and Falcon were 100% on board with the idea of having me photo-document the process of them constructing one of their products, step-by-step, and sharing that experience with Carryology.  Since BEXAR’s leather satchels can take 16+ hours to cut and hand saddle stitch (no sewing machine at all), and we all only had a limited amount of time that Saturday afternoon during my shop visit with them, we agreed it would be best to do up a Land Carry, one of their most popular flagship products and primarily made of waxed cotton canvas.  So lets explore this amazing process of transforming quality fabric, materials, and hardware into an end carry product, ready to go out and take abuse for many years to come.

As you can imagine, it all starts with the fabric.  And great products start with great fabric.  BEXAR uses the finest quality Tradition Textile’s Martexin Original Wax cotton fabric, a super thick, heavy (22 ounce), waterproof, US-made fabric which performs and wears very much like leather.  Really nice stuff.  Pricey too.  When I first walked into the shop, Falcon had just finished cutting the pattern for the Land Carry from a roll of “brush” colored Martexin.  He had already drawn the pattern and done the cutting in order to save a bit of time.  He quickly sewed on a leather pocket to this large panel.  This pocket will later end up on the inside of the bag.  For anyone not familiar with the process of sewing up a bag, you have to really plan ahead.  Its like chess.  Every move requires you know what you’ll be doing 4 moves in advance.  Each step must be followed carefully and meticulously.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with a garbage-looking/performing pack at the end, with the handles upside down.  Falcon has done this many times before, and it shows.

He slices up one more panel from the waxed cotton fabric on the massive cutting table, and we go back over to the 1950′s Consew industrial-grade single-needle sewing machine (single-needle machines and single-needle construction are considered the highest quality in the industry, FYI).  If I didn’t keep asking what each panel was, or which part of the bag was being worked on, I would’ve easily lost track.  With all these panels, all in the same color fabric, it can get confusing, at least visually for me, being a simple observer.  This panel (above) will make up the dual exterior drop pockets, which is sewn to the front, and then riveted in the center for added strength.

He hammers out a little circular leather spacer for the backside of the rivet to sit on.  One swift tap with the mallet, and out comes the leather disc.  A center hole gets punched out of that leather disc for the copper rivet’s post to pass through.  Then he slides the copper disc down around the rivet’s post, sandwiching the leather disc, waxed cotton canvas, and the copper disc together securely.  This adds serious strength to these exterior pockets.  A stitch would work here.  But a rivet really keeps things tight for hefty use abuse.  This is why your favorite pair of denim has rivets located at the critical stress points.

A snip with the pliers and off comes the excess length of the copper post.  They showed me a coffee can that is nearly full of these copper rivet scraps.  There are some plans to somehow upcycle this minimal amount of waste.  Plenty of cool options for future projects.  No hammering of the rivets just yet.  The reason being, like any small and efficient production line, if you can perform multiple identical steps (that require different tools that you’re using now), rather than switching back and forth, you can do these steps later in the process all at once, and you’ll save time.  Rather than sewing, switching tools/processes, hammering, going back to sewing, etc, etc.  If you were building a fence, you’d focus on building the fence first, rather than putting down your saw/hammer and painting each individual wooden post as you finish, then going back to next post.  See what I’m getting at?  Some of this switching is required, but the least amount you can do, the better.  Plus, this rivet, even without the hammering, is snug enough to stay firmly put during the rest of the construction.

Some clamping and some pinning down to keep the tight lines required for the next set of stitch lines.  Now the Land Carry is starting to come together.  See that Bic lighter trick?  Every good softgoods craftsman/craftswoman has a Bic in their kit.  These are clutch.  It is the best way to eliminate loose thread ends (which are a natural result of sewing).  This way, the industrial grade nylon thread melts onto itself, securing itself from coming loose over time.  Sort of like a one half of plastic rivet in a way.  You’ll see some double stitching here along all the major seams and stress points.  This isn’t achieved with a dual-needle machine, like some shops use.  Each is a single pass, carefully and precisely creating two parallel lines by eye and a steady hand.

Now, this is trick. During most production bag construction, you’ll see the makers using a wax pen to make marks on the fabric.  These pens work great because the wax easily comes right off, sending a flawless bag to the customer without marks all over it.  However, this waxed cotton canvas is magic.  Making a light surface scratch with the backside of a pair of scissors, it saves making any wax marks on the fabric, without the need of a wax pen.  Following a straight edge, Falcon lets the scissors gently glide over the surface of the Martexin waxed cotton canvas fabric.  This doesn’t damage it whatsoever, it would take a whole lot more to even begin to hurt this stuff.  Plus, you can rub the mark away if you like, as the wax will melt smooth with the heat from your fingertips.  Or not.  This line will go away within a day or two of owning it, maybe even gone before you receive it.  I personally like these leftover process details, showing traces of the handmade process after the product has left the factory/maker.  I’m always searching for little white wax pen marks on bags that I purchase.  Search for these wax marks next pack you purchase.  They’re really obvious on black nylon bags.  Love it.

One more main stitch into the body of the Carry.  Now we’re getting there.  We’re at least 2 hours into this process at this point.  Falcon admits he’s rushing a bit, as I’ve got to leave in just a short while from this point.  I step outside to take a 5 minute business phone call.  When I come back inside, I see this wad of fabric below.  Falcon purposely waited for me to photograph this.  This is what most bags look like right before they’re done.  An inside-out blob with no real shape.

It takes some muscle, some patience, and some persistent convincing to the fabric, but there is a bag waiting to be “turned out” (industry term) in there somewhere.

After battling the waxed cotton warrior, it is finally showing its true form.  This Martexin fabric is amazing stuff.  Its so thick, the bag will stand straight up on its own.  Falcon rolls over the top edges, readying them for the two leather carry handles to be attached.  A quick stitch to keep these edges tidy.  Now we’re ready for straps.

Down off the shelf comes a giant hide of amazing 12 ounce English bridle vegetable-tanned US-sourced leather (the best stuff there is, period).  This particular hide is pricey, a couple hundred bucks, easy.  Worth every penny.

Using a wooden strap cutter, he slices off two long hefty straps from the thick cow hide.

Next up, the straps are measured to correct length.  Then, using a strap end punch tool (shaped with a geometric blade for aesthetic purposes) and a poly mallet, the straps ends are cut.  Using two different edge beveler tools (one for increased comfort on the side of the leather strap the touches the inside your hand / the other for finishing and aesthetics… serious detail), Falcon carves off the sharp edges of the leather straps into fine leather discard ribbons.

The part you’ve all been waiting for.  Hammering down those copper rivets.  The cut ends of the copper posts are sharp and waiting to be smashed down.  There are quite a few of these rivets used in the construction of this bag, making it extremely durable and strong.  To be specific, there are a total of 13 industrial grade rivets.  A metal plate is slid under the flat side of the rivet, so this back side will lay flush against the completely level metal plate, acting as support.  And hammering begins.  Several swings with a hammer for each rivet.  Between 10 and 25, I’d estimate.  Something to be noted… this process is loud.  Real loud.  Especially in a room with no real sound dampening properties.  A metal hammer, hitting a copper rivet nice and hard, and the copper rivet laying on a metal plate.  Metal on metal… on metal.  Its loud, but I dig it.  The copper sings.  Easily my favorite part of the process.  Probably because it is one of the very last processes, too.

A final set of taps with a poly mallet on the handle ends of their two custom BEXAR leather stamps, make deep embosses of their logo into the leather straps.  A handsome minimal detail which finishes the handmade processes required to make this Land Carry.  Not as easy as it seems, eh?  Total time for this process, just over 3 hours of serious skill and labor.

I highly recommend you go check out BEXAR’s products, including their leather satchels, their bags and backpacks, and some other unique products they have (such as the Boeing weekender and their newly launched vegetable-tanned-leather-bottom Outlander tote).  They carry all sorts of clever stuff.  I’ve got one of their Whiskey Corral leather belts, made from the English bridle vegetable-tanned leather, with their unique “sweet spot” option, and I love it.

…And speaking of their products, Falcon dropped me a line to give you Carryology readers a secret heads up on an upcoming Black Friday Sale they’re going to be announcing here shortly.  The sale runs from November 20th – 26th, and BEXAR will be doing “UP TO 35% OFF” products on their site.  No better time to hit them up for a great discount.  No risk of getting trampled, either.

This concludes the shop visit portion of the posts on BEXAR Goods.  I’ll be Road Testing this Land Carry over the next several weeks, then I’ll get back to you all with a detailed report on this new-to-me product and method of carry.  This is the first dual-strap “open” bag that has entered my Carry Quiver, as I usually opt for a backpack or shoulder bag when I’m on the go, so I’m curious to see how a this form factor will fare in my day to day adventures.  One thing is certain, it feels seriously durable, using quality amazing materials, and its really well made, by hand.

  • http://www.bexargoods.com Guy Rubio

    Thanks so much for the posts, Taylor!

    It was great having you in the workshop. You’re welcome back any time.

    Cheers,
    Guy

  • James

    I just ordered one of these bags for the wife, she says that the only materials that she can’t destroy are canvas and leather so I’m excited to see this bag in person. Thanks for sharing this!

    • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

      Nice purchase, James!

      I’m sure you and your wife will love this product. I’m certainly loving mine. It absolutely feels like it can take some serious abuse. It hasn’t even started to show any wear marks after everything I’ve thrown at it so far.

      Reply back here with your thoughts once you receive it!

      Thanks for your message

      • James

        The tote landed this week and I am very impressed with it and its construction. Thick and heavy, it will only get better with age and usage. I’m really impressed with the thickness of the leather…it makes me consider ordering the porter satchel…to bad I already have a great leather briefcase.

        Also I’m digging the urban vagabond rucksack. Maybe one of these beauties is in my future. Thanks to the Bexar team for the fantastic product.

        • Taylor

          Nice James!

          Glad you’re digging it as much as I am. I’m still Road Testing the one they made for me here, all is looking good. I’m looking forward to seeing what this bag looks like in 30 years from now. It will become a serious hand-me-down with tons of character.

          I too, would love one of those Porter Satchels. They use that same thick leather for the entire body, super sturdy. Built like tanks.

  • Pingback: Road Test :: BEXAR Goods Land Tote | Carryology

  • Smith

    Hi Taylor,

    How’s the belt holding up? Has it changed much in color? I’m thinking about ordering one of the belts but can’t decide on tan or brown (not sure how light or dark the brown is). Thanks!

    Also deciding on medium brown or dark brown on the porter satchel haha but can’t decide as well though leaning towards medium brown thinking I’ll like the aged look/color better.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

      Heya Smith,

      Thanks for the message.

      Funny you should ask about the belt. Last week, the guys from BEXAR drove up from San Antonio to Austin (where I live) to do an in-store bag-making demo at the HELM Boot shop here. Being just a few blocks from my doorstep, I made my way over to hang out. They actually ended up making a few belts for some lucky folks in attendance. I happened to be wearing mine, which I pulled off so people could see how the tan leather would age. It has certainly darkened, more caramel and more richness. I highly recommend the tan versus the brown. Eventually, over time, the tan will become darker and darker. You earn the darkening color and patina. Where if you start with a darker brown, you don’t get to see the slow and beautiful transformation. Plus, it will only go from brown to very dark brown. (Protip: if you leave your belt out in the sun, it will actually get darker, literally getting a tan from the rays.) Love this belt. Super thick, will easily last another few decades, if not my lifetime.
      See the photo I snapped for you of the belt here below…
      http://imgur.com/coXCB9X
      Congrats on getting yourself a Porter satchel! I’ve been drooling over those for months, really want one myself. I’d definitely go for the medium brown for the same reasons as before. Guy (one of the three behind BEXAR), had his Porter originally in Natural, almost pinkish leather, and now, after heavy use, it is dark rich brown.
      Make sure you tell the guys that Taylor from Carryology sent you.
      PS- I see they’re having a sale that starts from today until July 7th, seems like luck is on your side!

      • Smith

        Thanks for replying back to me so quickly! Oh wow that tan belt of yours darkened so much! I love it and definitely convinces me to get the tan belt. Hopefully the belt will fit right with the sweet spot option!

        Haha haven’t ordered the porter satchel yet. I’m still deciding if it’s worth the money though I’m sure it is (and it being on sale makes it so tempting). Also doesn’t help that I’m not sure if I’m the type of guy to rock a satchel! I also like the Urban Vagabond Backpack ><

        PS, I got the land carry based on your reviews and definitely love it so thank you for your road test!

        • Taylor

          No problem at all. Always happy to chat carry, especially when it is such a rad brand like BEXAR. Still loving my belt, the process of seeing it turn darker is really interesting to me. Definitely happy I went with tan over the darker brown, so I could experience the transition. I also opted for the sweet spot. However, while I was there at the BEXAR/HELM in-store demo, I had to add a second hole to my belt, as I lost a few pounds and needed a tighter fit. Worked out perfectly since they had all the necessary tools right there.

          I’ll be eternally jealous if you end up getting that Porter Satchel. They spend something like 16+ hours on each one. Taking that into account, with the cost of that super high end thick leather, the price (in my mind), is absolutely worth it. It could easily sell for an extra $200-$400. Personally I don’t think of it as a “satchel” per say. For me, having seen them up close and personal several times now, they’re more like rugged briefcases. Definitely very masculine.

          How are you digging your Land Tote? I use mine regularly. Always seems to be the perfect bag to grab on my way out the door. Farmers market, grocery store, party at a friends place, etc, etc. Holds everything, looks great. I also like how they renamed it from the Land Tote to “Land Carry”. Great product.

          PS- Damn! I just saw their current sale first hand! $650 down to $530 for the Porter Satchel is super hard to pass up! If I didn’t have some expenses and travel coming up, I’d be all over that myself. Drives me nuts that I’ll have to miss it.

          • Smith

            Yep that was my only worry about the belt in the event I lost weight that I’d have to get another hole put in but I’m sure it’s worth it!

            I love how rugged the land carry is and that it already came looking a little bit worn. I haven’t used it to it’s full capacity yet but I’m sure it’ll stand up to any abuse I put it through.

            Haha I know that sale makes it so ridiculously tempting! Have you also seen the slim porter satchels? I’m thinking the extra $30 is worth the increase in size if I wanted to fit lunch, water bottle, maybe extra shirt or laptop in it. If I do get it, I’ll make sure to post a picture of it!

          • Smith

            I just thought about how dark your tan belt turned which got me to wonder if the tan satchel would be better than the medium brown since it’ll also age especially since you mentioned that Guy had a natural one that turned dark brown.

        • Taylor

          In response to your other message regarding the Porter satchel…

          I’ve seen the Slim Porter, and yes it is a bit smaller. I’d opt for the larger one. It will allow for a greater range of carry diversity. You could easily travel with it, etc. That would be my vote anyway. Please do post a photo if you end up picking one up.

          Also- Hell yes to the tan! Give it some months, but that thing will definitely darken up and start to tell your individual story of your life. When you start with the brown/dark brown, it can only get a few shades darker. Guy’s personal Satchel went from that bright pinkish leather to a super dark brown (through wear and tear, taking it out into the desert, hiking, etc). I’d say it’s probably darker than the dark brown they offer, no kidding. At one point though, it became tan, light brown, medium brown, etc. I’d love to witness that transformation… even setting up a photo area where I could snap a similar shot of it once every month or two, to record the progress.

          • Smith

            As for the belt and satchel, I ordered both in tan! Will upload pics when I get them!

          • Smith

            Hello hello,

            Just thought I’d give an update! Guess what finally arrived! Belt and Satchel!

            http://i42.tinypic.com/2ngzxqv.jpg

        • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

          YOWWW!

          That thing is awesome looking! Color me jealous!

          How are you digging it so far?

          Very cool man, great purchase.

          • Smith

            Haha thanks I’m definitely loving it. I knew even though the color’s supposed to be tan that it’d have more of a cognac hue which I’m starting to dig more. The belt and satchel feel rugged which is awesome! Can’t wait to see how the color changes!

            On a side note related to boots, have you ever bought Oak Street Bootmakers boots/shoes? I’ve been looking into those besides the Muller Teak boots.

        • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

          Heya Smith,

          I have heard good things about Oak Street Bootmakers, definitely. For me, they’re just missing a little something.

          For me, it’s HELM and then White’s Boots. I’ve only recently discovered these (White’s), but they’ve been around for a while. They’re made damn well and everyone says good things about them. Kind of like the underground Red Wing in a way.

          Still love my HELM. I just ordered the Mueller Teaks actually ;)

          • Smith

            Yeah OSB are definitely a little different and little more expensive :(. I was just looking for something in between boots and my nike frees (i.e. their natural boat shoes).

            Dang nice!! Take a picture for me if ya can please! :) I found the black Marion boots on Nordstrom for 50% in my size but still no Mueller Teaks :(

            One last thing, I was messing around with the porter satchel yesterday and noticed that switching from backpack style to briefcase is fine but I think switching the strap to single shoulder is more a hassle since I’d have to take off one of the shoulder straps and then put it back on if I wanted to use it as a backpack. I think I’ll be keeping it in backpack mode the majority of the time and then switch to briefcase if necessary!

      • Smith

        Also forgot to ask, enjoying those new HELM boots? Did you get the Mueller boots?

        • Taylor

          Ah yes, the HELM boots. I’m a bit of a nut for them. I think I own 5 pairs… maybe 6? I kind of hate to admit that, it’s my one guilty pleasure I suppose. I really appreciate their aesthetic, quality, customer service, purchase experience, and well-built US construction. To be honest, I was never into footwear of any kind before I discovered HELM… now, I’m all about it. Picking up another pair of the Mueller Teaks (with the Railroad sole put onto them as an option). I can’t say too much, but I may or may not be working on a carry product of some sort for the fine folks at HELM. More info to come soon!

          If you have any questions on their stuff, ask away. I’ll answer as best I can, or I’ll put you in touch with the brand founder/owner.

          Thanks for your comments,

          • Smith

            Haha damn 5-6 pairs? Gotta admit though, they’re nice looking boots. I’m still debating since the price is kinda higher than I’d like. The most I’ve spent on any pair of shoes/boots is $110 for dress shoes. How are the leather soles on the bottom? I’ve got a pair of tan Cole Han boots with the leather soles and I’ve nearly killed myself slipping three times! If I did get a pair, it’d definitely be the Mueller or Railroad though I’m more partial to the Mueller. Excited to hear about the potential carry item from them!

        • Taylor

          In response to your other message regarding the HELM boots…

          Haha, yeah. I’ve been slowly acquiring them over the past 3 years. Some were on crazy discount (prototypes, etc). I fully agree with you… the price definitely shocked me. I had never spent more than $100/$110 on shoes before. As soon as you commit to it and make that payment one time, you’ll understand. The boots are made so well, here in the USA, out of Horween leather from Chicago (US’s oldest tannery), and Cone Oak selvedge denim, among other great materials, etc. They’re nothing short of amazing. Though I don’t try (or really care), someone will always notice them. You only pay for quality once!

          Get this, by request, they’ll put on any sole onto any boot you want. I’m actually having them put on the Railroad lugged sole onto the Mueller Teak, as they’re just that more impressive in color, in person. All the other pairs I own have the leather bottom soles, which is also a new thing for me. You end up replacing the sole of a pair of well-worn boots about once a year ($30, takes 3-4 days). Some of my pairs that I reserve and don’t wear, still have a near perfect sole after 3 years though. This time, I just want to mix it up a bit and go with the lugged sole. I’ve heard that an all-leather sole is more dressy/fancy, and a rubber bottom is more casual, which I guess makes sense. I don’t follow fashion rules or anything, I just like the way they look and feel personally. On my Reids (the one with the denim insert), they’re flat leather soles on the bottom, however, they have a bunch of rubber circles added into the sole for additional grip and durability, which is really clever. Those Reids are damn nice, definitely a head turner. I know it is quite a bit to drop, especially like when you’re used to maxing out at $100ish. It will all make sense when you put them on for the first time. Highly recommended.

          • Smith

            Just thought I’d give an update regarding the boots, I picked up a pair of brown Reid boots last week for 50% off Nordstorm (no longer in stock) and I’m still debating if I like them or not. Though, I’m leaning towards no as I originally liked the Muller.

            http://tinypic.com/r/34yqpn9/5

        • Taylor

          Thanks for the update Smith!

          Sounds like you made some damn amazing purchases. Stoked to see your BEXAR Goods… goods, haha.

          Not so sure about the HELM boots? Those are potentially my favorite pair I own, love those things. Made in the USA from Horween leather (US) and Cone Oak selvedge denim (US).

          Is it the styling that is leaving you questioning? They’re a blend between traditional, casual and eccentric, which I why I dig them so much.

          • Smith

            Haha thanks! I’m excited for the Bexar Goods too though my wallet hates me! As for the HELM boots, I’m definitely not denying how slick they are. I showed them to my brother who replied “ooooh snap those are sick” haha. I guess my preference is more traditional/urban/rugged? I still have time to decide on what to do!

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