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Insights :: Wilboro

by , March 15, 2013

Will Ficner is a versatile guy. When he’s not making bicycles he’s creating carry products under his Wilboro brand – that’s pretty crafty by anybody’s standards. He has kindly put together the post below which provides some insight into the man and the brand…

My name is Will Ficner and I’m the co-owner of a bicycle store (Tall Tree Cycles) and a small bicycle manufacturer (Steelwool Bicycles).

It may seem a bit odd for a bike guy to be here on Carryology except that in my spare time you’re likely to find me in my basement workshop messing about with sewing machines, leather, canvas and the like. The fact is I love bags, cases, covers, aprons and other carry-related items; it’s what’s running through my head a good portion of most days. I get grumpy when I can’t sew or design and there is nothing better than when great design comes to fruition.

Here is a little bit of background into how this all started for me.

My first real interest in carry started when I came across pictures of messenger bags in the back of bike magazines in the early 90’s and I wanted one badly. I couldn’t afford to order one but luckily there was another way.

My parents’ house was full of all sorts of fabrication supplies and tools. There were old industrial sewing machines, bolts of nylon, cordura, and ventile that hung from the rafters and there were boxes full of old fasteners, and hardware lining the basement and attic shelves. There were also stacks of old mountaineering packs, military bags etc. These were things that had been collected by my father from surplus sales, auctions, garage sales, closing factories etc. Among other things my father dabbled in bag making (purely for himself), hence all the supplies.

After a little prodding I convinced my father to sew a messenger together for me. Soon I wanted different sizes, different designs, and different materials and while my father helped me for a while (I was a bit terrified of the 3500rpm motor on his old Singer 111) it wasn’t too long before I was making bags on my own (provided I could remember how to thread the old machine).

These days I have my own little carry project under the name Wilboro. A combination of my name and the name of the Village (Westboro) in Ottawa where I grew up and still live. Mostly I make items for myself, my friends and my family. I do occasionally make items from my slowly growing catalogue of designs on a request basis. The plan is to expand with Wilboro over the next few years as my other businesses are maturing, but at the same time I would like to keep this venture small and fun.

What sorts of things does Wilboro produce? For the past five years it’s mostly leather and waxed canvas bags, leather belts and more recently molded leather cases.

My focus has been on building a well functioning workspace, and filling it with the necessary tools to work these materials. I do love tools, and every new project seems to require something new… Some might say I have an “iron deficiency” only cured by more…ahem…iron…tools.

Ultimately I spend a huge part of my spare time designing and fabricating like mad. I enjoy experimenting with new techniques and new materials both with success and failure. Dissecting other designs, listening and talking with other makers. Looking at historical items, making my own new designs and obsessively honing my skills (which still have a long way to go).

Coming up I’m going to be covering one of my favorite projects from last year and giving you some insight into the design process, perhaps inspiring you to have a go at your own project.

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  • Erik

    Purchase info for these bags? I like the looks of that tote and the reddish bag center top in the photo

  • Erik

    Sorry, just noticed its mostly friends and family.

  • Moritz

    You can not imagine how jealous I am….

    I like when things really “grew”.


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