I recently bought a leather bracelet from a company called, simply, Leather Braiding by John (LBbJ). Since I’ve been enjoying wearing bracelets this summer, I thought I’d try one of John’s braided designs.
Leather braiding has its roots in western and nautical cultures. However, John is an urban braider, so while his pieces harks back to those traditions, he has developed styles outside of those realms. He uses kangaroo leather for its high tensile strength, then other leathers to allow for more intricate work. Each kangaroo hide is spiral cut by hand into a one inch wide strip, which he then cuts as needed into the various widths, ranging from 3/64s to 3/16s of an inch. Each hand cut strand is then beveled on the edges to give the braid a smooth finish. Besides the cutter/beveler, an awl and saddle soap are about the only tools he uses to craft the pieces. There are no glues or mechanical clasps. Some pieces have glass or silver beads, but other than that, this is as traditional leatherworking as you can get.
The real beauty in John’s bracelets is in how he turns simple, repeated steps into unique, intricate designs. For example, the one I bought takes a braid made out of 8 strands of leather. The braid then splits into two braids made out of four strands, and then goes back again into an eight strand braid. There are then three Headhunter knots to cover the mechanics of the transition, and an Aztec Button knot to secure the bracelet on my wrist.
Everything John makes is custom made. You pick the leather, size, and style. He also has a few pre-made bracelets on sale if you’re looking for a deal. I think the real gem, however, is his custom split braid bracelet in dark brown. It has a nice solid feel, and compliments wristwatches well without overpowering them. There’s also a bit of rugged, sophisticated elegance about the design, which makes the it easy to wear for those who might feel like bracelets are a bit too “dandy.” John charges $75 for them, but I think they’re well worth it.