Rubbing Elbows

Unpacked: Hide and Stitch 

Michael Glick, SPA/BA ’07, owner and principal maker, Black Bear Leather, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 

Illustrated image of Michael Glick
Illustrated coaster

I’ve been making and selling leather goods full-time at my store and since 2016. Black Bear is named for the construction business my father and Amish grandfather started out of the family barn in 1972.

Leather weight gauge

A leather weight gauge helps us measure 3 ounces, or 3/64-inch thickness, for wallets; 6 ounces for journals; and 12 ounces for belts. 

Punch and stitch

It takes about an hour to hand-stitch each wallet. The saddle stitch method locks in the waxed thread. 

Rotary strap cutter

Rotary strap cutters make a clean cut of any width. I can crank through five 1–1/2 inch belt straps at once.


Black Bear made the official wallets for members of the 117th Congress. We stitched 375 between mid-August and Election Day.

Beveler and slicker

The notched blade of a beveler removes the leather’s hard corners. The rounded edges are then dyed and burnished with a wooden slicker.

Belt press

When I first started making belts, I measured and punched all 13 holes individually. A self-centering belt press takes care of that in one pull. 

Made in USA stamp

I source our leather domestically. Tanneries in India and China use chromium sulphates, industrial chemicals that pollute rivers.

Phone with audible app open

Nonfiction books and sci-fi epics on Audible keep my brain active when I’m doing monotonous stitching work.

Skiving blades

Skiving blades shave down the thickness of leather, like on the buckle end of belts.

Utility knife

I grew up building sheds with my dad and three brothers and have always carried a utility knife. It’s the primary tool I use today.

Vegetable tannins

Wickett & Craig in Pennsylvania tans our leather by soaking hides in a bath of vegetable tannins, derived from tree bark, for two to three weeks.

Leather clicker

A clicker is a real time-saver, cutting out die pieces like coasters and embossing our logo onto the leather.

Mallet and rivet setter

A mallet strikes a rivet setter to lock a copper rivet in place. I’ll do 20 to 30 a day if I’m making tote bags.

potted plant

A skylight in my workshop makes it feel comfier and feeds my 22-houseplant jungle.