Leather Briefcase Restoration, Brad's 46 Year Old Made in England Briefcase Repair

bradford connolly_RAF crashfighter, Woodbridge, UK

Bradford was 19 years old, a RAF Crashfighter, stationed in Woodbridge, East Anglia, United Kingdom. While there, he had a leather briefcase made. When he brought it in to me for repairs, I could tell that this was a very loved and often used leather piece. It was in rough shape. The leather was extremely worn in some areas, and in others, it was scratched and cracked. This briefcase is 46 years old. Brad doesn't think he has once conditioned it since he's had it, which explains its condition.


The first thing that I did was clean and oil all the leather surfaces. I let them sit overnight in hopes that the oil would bring the leather back to life. I then began my search for the hardware that would compliment the hardware that was already on the briefcase. I sent Brad photos of what I had found and waited for his response. 

While I waited, I began to rip out all the stitching that was in need of repair. The thread tore like it was paper. I didn't need to use any force and I hardly ever needed to pick up a tool to assist in the process. Because the thread was as weak as it was, all the stitching throughout the entire bag needed to be ripped out, including all the buckles, the small straps, and the handle.


Brad had asked for a carry strap. I thought it would be cool to incorporate his Grandad's old vintage belt into this project. Making it into a carry strap seemed to be the perfect place to do it. Unfortunately, part of that belt was so old and dry that it was as hard as a brick. Because it was too stiff, it was unusable. I had no choice but to cut that rigid piece of strap off. In order to achieve the length that we needed, I had to now figure out a way to add a new piece of leather to the old leather belt. No problem.


Next up, I began to cut and skive down the leather for the replacements and the additions; a small strap for one of the buckles, the straps needed to secure the D'rings to the bag, and the leather for a new strap to add to Gandad's belt/new carry strap. 


Once those pieces were finished, I began treating all the surfaces in preparation for the dyeing process. I mixed up some different colors of Fiebing's dyes (the same "recipe combo" that I used for Morgan Wallen's leather covered mic stand) and began to dye the pieces.  Once I achieved the look, color, and the finish I wanted, I began the antiquing process, again using Fiebing's products. I then finished off all the pieces with a couple of coats of top coat, and let them sit overnight.


The next day I was ready to reassemble Brad's Briefcase but before I did, I was anxious to turn Grandad's old belt into a new carry strap. By using a rectangular ring and some matching antique brass rivets, I was able to join the new strap with the old belt. And I used matching rivets to attach all the new hardware onto the new carry strap, and attach the D-Rings onto the body of the bag. 


Reassembling the briefcase was the last and final step. It was also the most challenging one because I had to first match up all those tiny needle holes in the leather so I could use them to re-stitch the briefcase and all its parts. Once matched, I used leather glue to hold everything together while I sewed all the pieces together, by hand, one stitch at a time. Thirteen and a half hours later, I was finished. Yay!!


Brad and his wife, Dot, arrived at the shop to pick up his briefcase. I had wrapped it up nice and pretty. As I watched him open it, I felt nervous and excited anticipating their reaction. I wish I had video taped them because they seemed astonished at the transformation (as was I when I had finished). Being challenged becomes worth it when, on the other side is a person whom your effort brought them joy. Another happy customer...√




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1 comment

  • Beautiful, Lisa!

    • Julie