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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).



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Monday, August 15, 2016

Cash across the water, cash across the sea....

The Interweb is a great thing. It removes borders and boundaries and makes everything accessible to all. Or at least to those who have computers and an Internet connection. For bookbinders and conservators that means that we can order and use the best materials from across the globe regardless of where they originate and wherever we are.

I'm grateful that I can order from Colophon Book Arts Supply and have it appear on my doorstep. It's wonderful. Same for Chena River Marblers, Hiromi, Hollander’s, Ernest Schaeffer, Talas and others. This is how it’s possible to make a living binding and conserving books while living on the backside of a desert mountain range.

But I think that we sometimes forget the benefits of buying directly from sources across the pond.

Both Harmatan and Hewit sell directly to customers in the States. I think most of us know this but don’t take advantage of it as often as we should. Most of us know Harmatan and Hewit from Standards, or various other venues around the country. Marc Lamb is at Harmatan and David Lanning is at Hewit.

Harmatan sells goatskins in a wide range of colors and in nine finishes. Hewit sells calf, goat, alum tawed, pigskins, and vellum plus equipment and supplies. Go to their sites and look around.  Have your credit card handy—you’ll want to use it.

None of this is new, or unknown, of course.  Everyone knows both companies make great skins.  I think that most of the skins I’ve used since I started this about 26 years ago has come from those two companies.  We also all know that Marc and David are great people.  And we know we can buy direct, but many don’t. 

It seems clear that Brexit has done a number on them, well, all of the UK.  Who knew that shooting yourself in the foot might not be the best idea?? Gee, maybe you google it before you vote.  Maybe?

But it also has done something for us, in the stronger dollar next to the pound.  It’s like Brexit put everything in England on sale.  Funny thing is that even with the “sale” situation it benefits them if we buy from them even at our reduced price.

I think what discourages people from ordering directly is concern about shipping charges. But last week I ordered one yard of book cloth from Talas and the charges were $21.50 for the cloth and $18.47 for shipping. I'm not saying that Talas isn't justified to charge so much to ship one yard of cloth—they need to stay in business.  What I’m saying is that you can't look at shipping charges from England and assume the charges within the States will be much less.  You’re going to be stunned when you see how much it costs to ship a bone folder across a dozen states.

David says, "Shipping rates to the United States are very competitive, so should not come as too much of a shock to the wallet." Maybe I should order a yard of book cloth from Hewit and see what it would be. Harman’s rates for leathers are also reasonable and fair. Marc says he recently sent a 12-skin order over here for $90.

To me there are two main advantages from buying directly.

 Available stock. How many green Harmatan Fine Leather skins do you think a domestic distributor has in stock? Or how many red Hewit Chieftan skins? The selection is going to be much better at the factory. If you want a fire engine red Chieftan of a certain size, the folks in Scotland will be able to look through more skins, probably from differently dye lots too, to find the color you're looking for.  Skins come in different sizes so more choices can help there as well. Here's a picture from Harmatan showing what they had around when the class stopped by for a visit several years ago. Enough to make you either drool, or plunge into a life of crime.

Secondly, they both offer the ability to modify or select the thickness of the skins. Why not just get skins the thickness you want without having to buy them and then send them off to a splitter? Hewit will shave skins down as requested. Harmatan will split them.

Both companies sell a variety of skins for a variety of purposes. They also make it very easy to buy across currencies. Did I already mentioning that with the current political situation in England the pound is really low, so it’s almost like everything over there is on sale. Take advantage!

Hewit also sells all kinds of other stuff as well, including leather dye. The Hewit leather dye is fantastic, light-stable, and easy to use. I talked with the author of a study of leather dyes who said that Hewit dyes are the best ones available in the States.  (The way I use it is shown in this YouTube video:  ) 

 Hewit also sells finishing tools, glaire, paper, cloth, other tools and equipment, really everything you’d need to do binding. It’s a great resource.

Harmattan has chosen to stick only to leathers, but what a selection. 

Of course it will take a bit longer to get your order from the UK unless you choose the fast, expensive option. We in the Guild would love it if you would buy directly from them is to buy from them at Standards. It's in Charleston in a few weeks and in Tacoma in 2017.

Heck, Hewit will sell you leather for your bagpipes. I bet if you buy enough of them they’ll send you a kilt for free. Or at least a can of Haggis.

Their sites are:

And, finally, probably the new British national anthem:  

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