Edge Staining – the messiest job in the factory
Of all the jobs in the factory here in Middle England, the messiest is definitely the edge-staining. This is a critical bit of the ‘finish’ on our bags but, curiously, it is one of the earliest processes in the creation of a bag.
We start by cutting out the pieces of leather, they are then individually quality checked and marked up with pattern markings, but then, if any part of their edge will be on show on the finished bag, they go straight to the edge-staining area. Here, the raw, cut edges of each piece are individually painted with a special toning stain which colours and seals the cut edge – a kind of manicured finish. If required, when dry, the edge is further smoothed and re-stained to give an even more luxurious finish.
Our chief edge-stainer is Lesley and here she is burning off stray fibres on the leather with a blow-torch (a pretty scary process!) before painting the edges carefully with leather dye. She is the second generation of Chaplins to do this job, having taken over from her mother Cynthia when she retired. The edge-staining apron is a total must and in fact Lesley keeps an entire set of clothing just for work because this is such a mucky process – the dye does not come off!
Each piece is then carefully laid on a drying rack to dry, which will generally take half an hour or so, before it moves on to either a repear process or to the skiving and splitting stages.
So next time you are choosing a leather bag, check out those edges and spare a thought for the messy hands left behind in the making!