The Best Made Company was brought to my attention by Steve Derricot, the Owner of Gfeller Casemakers. I was visiting his shop discussing some other projects, and I noticed a very unique looking case that was under production. My inquisitive nature took over and Steve happily showed me the case they were making for a New York company called Best Made. When I say case, I mean a large brief that is capable of holding a number of documents, an Ipad, small laptop, or similar, and that is molded so as to add structure and security for its contents.
Like all of Steve’s work, I was impressed by the craftsmanship and beauty of this simple case. I reached out to Best Made to gauge their interest in having us review their Gfeller Document Case and lo and behold here we are with the review. Before jumping into the review though, let’s look a bit at the Best Made Company.
Best Made Company
The Best Made Company was formed by Peter Buchanann-Smith in 2009 out of a desire to create a better axe. He not only wanted a better axe, but wanted to connect people back to wilderness and nature, and to encourage exploration of the great outdoors. Best Made partnered with one of America’s oldest and esteemed axe makers and designed their first proprietary axe, made to compete with the best axes on the market.
Designing and manufacturing the very best axe possible became the blueprint for the design and manufacture of many outdoors related products – knives, maps, tools, clothing, camp supplies, bags and cases. Personally, I have purchased a number of products from Best Made and find that the products I purchased live up to the name of the company. The Gfeller Document Case is no exception.
The Gfeller Document case is built with sturdiness and rigor in mind. It is built from just three pieces of premium leather – the back and top flap, the inner pocket, and the molded front. The inner pocket is designed to allow for snug protection of documents or a thin tablet. The front of the case is molded, something that Gfeller specializes in, and something that gives this case its unique feature and function. It allows for an inner compartment that is roughly 1 ⅛” deep, which is ample space for a number of documents, maps, or thin electronics.
The Gfeller Case is stitched together with Gfeller’s thread of choice – linen. The stitching on the case is not perfectly straight, which could bother some that are used to machine made products. This does not affect the durability of the case in any way, and is more of an indication of a hand made, artisanal product, which it is. The choice of linen is contrary to what many other leather bag manufacturers are using today – polyester and nylon. Gfeller has been using linen since it’s inception in 1946. One look at a wall in Gfellers studio that displays bags and accessories that are many decades old makes the point clearly, linen can hold up to the test of time. These goods are still held perfectly together and though beaten up, could still perform their intended function today.
The upper corners of the case are each riveted with a nickel plated brass rivet, to add strength and durability to the case. The case is finished off with a brass button snap made specifically for Best Made.
The leather used for the contstruction of the Gfeller case is the same used for most of Gfeller’s products – Hermann Oak’s russet skirting leather. This is full grain leather, the toughest and in my opinion most beautiful, and is eight and a half ounces thick (approximately ⅛ of an inch). It is tanned through and is a natural color, which is beautiful in its own right, but will naturally darken and take on a patina with time and use.
The edges of the case are finished by hand using wax and a whole lot of friction. The beauty of vegetable tanned leather is that it can be burnished to a tighter, slightly darker grain, giving the leather a more finished look and also adds to the durability. Gfeller has fine tuned this process and the result is beautifully finished edges that practically shine. According to Steve, if you apply too much friction you can actually burn the edges, making them weaker. Too little friction and you still have edges that can fray. It takes an expert touch to burnish in such a way as to leave a beautiful shine with a tight grain. Gfeller nails that here.
The Gfeller Document Case is meant to transport essential documents or maps securely from one place to another. Many a plastic cases could be purchased for the same price as one Gfeller Document Case to accomplish this use, but none have the same panache and none will last as long as this case. The Gfeller case does not have a shoulder strap, so it is not meant to be carried like a traditional leather bag. I could see a college professor using the case to transport papers from office to class, I could see a national park ranger carrying his or her maps in this case, and I can see a lawyer carrying important briefs to a case or meeting.
This is not a laptop case, though it can carry a small laptop (my 13″ Macbook Air fit snugly), and it is not meant to replace a messenger bag or satchel. It has a fairly specific use, but within that use, the Gfeller Document Case can be used in a variety of ways.
Best Leather Conclusion
The Gfeller Document Case by Best Made is a hand made tool for keeping secure and transporting important documents and electronics in an elegant way. It is made by expert hands in a small studio in Meridian, Idaho with some of the best vegetable tanned leather that can be purchased. The look and feel of the Gfeller Document Case screams artisan, and will surely be a tool that can be used for decades.