#283 In which our hero recounts his quest for the perfect man bag (part 2)
The first step is creating this bag was getting the pattern right. The Filson catalog only had the one picture of the satchel, I didn't even know what the back of the thing looked like, let alone how the insides were assembled. So there were details I needed to work out. And, honestly, I still wasn't sure if I could even pull it off.
But, since we live in an age of wonders, I went online and found exactly what I was searching for: this forum includes a post by "TidyBeard," who bought an actual Filson Field Satchel. Most helpful to me, he took pictures of nearly every conceivable angle and posted them.
This not only gave me what I needed to draft a pattern, it also confirmed something I suspected all along: the craftsmanship on this bag wasn't that impressive. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Filson's bag isn't well-crafted, because it is. It's just that it is a straightforward, rugged construction—by design. Take a look at this:
Ignore that this is a woman's purse. See how fine the stitching is, especially down the center? And see how there's a sort of yoke around the opening in the top? Construction-wise, there's a lot going on with this bag. That's craftsmanship well beyond my abilities.
But the Filson bag has big, bold stitches. I can do that. The photos I found online also allowed me to figure out the pattern... which wasn't complicated. It's basically three rectangles of leather sewn together with two gussets. Add a couple straps and buckles, and you have yourself the perfect man bag!
I drafted a pattern out of plain paper, very roughly. Like I said, there were no confusing parts, so it didn't take much time. Actually, the majority of my time was spent figuring out the dimensions. Thanks to TidyBeard, I had a handle on the dimensions of the actual bag, but I made mine slightly larger, so my laptop could fit easily inside it.
Next was a trip to the leather store.
I brought all my pattern pieces so I could make sure I got a big enough hide. If you're not familiar, leather typically comes in three sizes: the entire hide (basically all of the usable leather off a cow in one piece), a side (half a cow) or double shoulders (pretty much just what it sounds like). Double shoulders tend to be the finest leather, but they are also the most expensive (and more to the point, they typically aren't big enough to yield the size pieces I needed). I didn't need an entire hide, so I looked at the sides.
A little more background. The thickness of leather is measured, oddly enough, in ounces. One ounce equals about 1/64 of an inch. Since leather is a natural product, it's not completely consistent across the entire hide... the leather is thicker in some spots, thinner in others. Therefore leather is usually sold in a range, i.e., a "6-7 oz. side." To give you some reference, belt leather is generally about 7-8 oz., or roughly 1/8" thick.
The leather used in the Filson bag is really thick. In the catalog it's described as "genuine bridle leather,"which really doesn't mean anything. "Bridle leather" is more a descriptor of how it can be used, not it's weight. But, looking at the catalog and online photos, I'd guess it's about a 10 oz. leather.
So I went into the leather store with a 9-10 oz. side in mind. But, talking to the owner convinced me that this was overkill, that I could use a lighter weight leather and still get a very rugged bag with plenty of body. Plus, he had some 6-7 oz. leather on sale. I bought a side of that, plus a side of 4 oz. leather to use for the gussets (they are designed to collapse or fold in on themselves, so they needed to be lighter than the main body). I also bought some of the brass hardware I'd need, namely D-rings and buckles; and a bottle of dye.
I took all this stuff home, and there it sat in the basement. For months.
Every once in a while I'd bring up that website and look at all the photos of that great Filson bag. I'd think about tackling the project, then the mood would pass.
It was a pretty big project, using rather expensive materials. I didn't want to jump into it and screw it up. And I wanted to make sure I had enough time to invest in doing it right.
Finally, I took a week of vacation time I needed to burn. I didn't have any plans, other than a few around-the-house errands, so I decided to tackle the construction of the bag.
Once The Scientist was off to work and the kids were deposited at school, I trundled down to the basement and got to work.
To be continued.