The three easiest ways to identify a quality leather product right out of the box are stiffness, squeak, and smell. This is a stiff, squeaky, and smelly wallet.
Minimal wallets normally have dibs on my right back pocket, but there is a bifold usurper about and it hails from Blackthorn leather.
about Blackthorn Leather
Blackthorn is a one man operation out of California run by Andy. Andy got into leather for one of the more interesting reasons I’ve heard – he had to have a unique diaper bag. Whatever gets you going, I guess. It certainly is a badass diaper bag (how many times has that been said?).
One of the best parts about Blackthorn, it’s all made in America.
I asked Any what got him interested in leather working…
I loved going out in my parents garage and making things out of scrap wood, using (and breaking) tools, and just working with my hands. I always loved meticulous craftsmanship and the effort that went into building something. The design, the process, the completion. Admiring a job well done.
I stumbled into leatherwork via an old friend of mine who had a small leather shop in his garage. I loved the look, feel, and smell of leather and it really satisfied my desire to create with my hands. I was hooked! I wanted to make myself a cool diaper bag that no one else had. So, hours and hours later I had myself a cool bag I was proud of.
I have a background in art and I’m currently an art director for a large automotive magazine. I find leatherwork a great way to unplug from the computer world and get back to basics. My design background comes in handy in developing my identity as well as think about how my products look and feel.
My design philosophy is to keep things simple. I think my leatherwork should not only work well but look good doing it!
I have a love for all things Celtic and Old World (stemming from my Irish heritage) and I try to capture some of that essence in my work.
on to the wallet
Out of the box this is a stiff wallet due to the 5 oz. full grain leather exterior. While 6 oz certainly isn’t the thickest leather you can get it is more than sufficient for a wallet that you have to sit on. Empty it measures a half inch thick and with a dozen cards and five bills the thickness is more like 7/8ths of an inch. You would have to be some sort of chiropractor addict to want thicker leather, and even then I wouldn’t suggest spending a ton of time sitting on this one.
The interior of the cash pocket is lined with stitched in 1 oz. pigskin (used for its toughness). The interior cowhide leather is an appropriate 2 oz. or about 2mm thick hide. This wallet is all stitched together with a light nylon thread (138 weight). Nylon thread is significantly stronger than polyester thread and is not weakened by UV rays.
One of my favorite features of this wallet and the most time consuming is the skiving and dying on ALL the edges.
Notice how the edges in the photo below are smooth and it very nearly looks like one uniform piece of leather? That’s because of skiving, which is the process of shaving leather off the edges so they are smoother, rather than being raw. Skiving gives the wallet a much more refined look.
All of the Blackthorn Leather products are hand-dyed. Hand dying is a time consuming and precise art so appreciate Andy’s signature take on his goods. This vintaged look defines his goods, along with your choice of the celtic emblem that goes on each product.
Without the weight from cash and cards the wallet is so stiff it won’t stay closed. This is very promising for the longevity of the wallet. The ridiculous thickness of the outside leather will keep this wallet very serviceable for decades if you condition it appropriately. There are no obvious weak points in the design or construction methods.
Black pigskin inside. Meh. It’s tough, yes, but it looks more like recycled tire than leather. Many many times I have shown someone a leather product with black pigskin and they have pointedly asked me what the black stuff was. They didn’t even recognize it as a leather.
I would rather see the pigskin in a maple or brown. That being said, black dyed pigskin is easy to buy and completely functional so I can understand its use.
Each product that Blackthorn Leather sells can be stamped with your initals. A nice feature for an $85 wallet. Getting individual letters lined up correctly is tough so I suspect Andy has a device, those letters are pretty perfect.
Bifolds like this one are wallets that tempt you to turn it into a library of receipts, family photos, and membership cards. It’s wallet that turns into an archeological excavation every six months if you are not judicious with what you put into it (hence my loyalty to minimal wallets).
There are four slots for cards. I put my two most oft’ used cards in the front-most slots and crammed everything else into the rear slots – about four cards for each rear card slot. The card slots are not staggered so don’t plan on smoothly accessing the rear-stored cards. You pretty much have to pull them all out at least half-way to flip through them. The stiff leather can make it a bit of a wrestling match. This isn’t much of a problem for me since I have a few cards I use most often and they are easy to get at on the front.
It costs eighty-five dollars and there are (of course) cheaper options in the leather billfold market. However, for those who value the personalization, unique Celtic look of the emblem, and the vintage hand-dye then this won’t be hard to justify. It is a wallet with a lot of character for people who like character in their goods. This billfold will certainly be around for a very long time.