We wanted to highlight a maker doing some really badass work this month, so we decided to showcase the artisans behind the aftcra shop American Bench Craft. From beautifully crafted leather wallets to handmade leather herringbone manly bracelets, they’ve got everything covered at American Bench Craft. And we’re sure you’ll find something amazing here for the man in your life for Father’s Day! We also really love Chris and Jason’s story behind their shop.
Let’s get to know Chris and Jason and the story behind American Bench Craft (aftcra shop’s here)!
Hello, we are Chris and Jason Angelini of American Bench Craft (aftcra shop). We created custom designed and handcrafted leather goods and accessories, including wallets, cardholders, belts and other high end, ultra durable gift and personalized specialty items.
We have a workshop, offices, storage and fulfillment center in downtown Reading, MA.
What is your background? How did you two get started in leatherwork?
My brother Jason went to school for engineering and has been designing and creating things since he was young. He used to make furniture for my parents when he was a kid. He began working with leather when his wallet fell apart and designed this wallet that was ultra durable and pretty unique to anything that was on the market. My background is in marketing and film production. We both eventually quit our jobs, and my brother started making these wallets and I started making videos about the wallets and selling them online and that’s how we started the company.
How long has American Bench Craft been around?
My brother designed the original Hammer Riveted Wallet that would build our company in 2013, which is also when we quit our jobs. It took us several months to design a Web site. We officially started selling the Hammer Riveted Wallet through a successful Kickstarter campaign beginning of 2014.
How did you come up with the name of your shop?
We knew our name had to have American and Craft in it, since all of our products would now and always be handcrafted in the USA. Before we could afford a workshop and warehouse for our company, we were actually making all of the Hammer Riveted Wallets we were selling out of our parent’s garage using an old tool/work bench my brother had made when he was younger, so American Bench Craft seemed appropriate at the time and the name stuck.
As a small business owner, what is one piece of advice you would share with other small business owners?
You really have to spend money to make money, but make sure you’re getting something of value for your hard-earned money. I was doing marketing for other companies before American Bench Craft and I saw how companies that spent good money on marketing were generally bigger, more successful and profitable than companies that were always pinching pennies and looking for the cheapest option. So, I knew we’d have to spend money to remain competitive. The problem is you have to make sure your getting something valuable for the money you’re spending and that’s tricky trying to decipher between who’s calling to sell you something legitimate, and who’s calling just to make a sale without any thought or consideration for you or your company. There was definitely a slow learning curve there and because we bootstrapped our company with no outside investment money or capital, it was a challenge and setbacks were difficult. We learned how to be smarter about business and that along with our products which have always been some of the best on the market has been what I attribute most to our success. We know our customers expect the best products and we strive everyday to put out the best products on the market. And therefore, we expect the best from the people we work, be it companies that supply us with raw materials or provide us with necessary services to operate our company.
How do you create your products?
When we get an idea for a product, we first design it using a CAD program. Once we’re satisfied with the design, we begin prototyping it to see if the design works. Usually, the design needs to be tweaked a few times before we get it right. Prototyping is usually a long, tedious process. However, once we have something that looks good, we test it out for a few months to make sure its functional and we make adjustments along the way. To bring a new product to market is a long arduous process, but crossing that finish line is always worth the time and effort.
What is the inspiration for your work?
Solving problems and being the best. The first wallet my brother designed and created was done so to solve the age old problem that eventually your wallet will fall apart. My brother had no interest in a metal or plastic wallet, as nothing really beats leather, but he was sick and tired of his wallets falling apart so quickly. We continue to design and create products that solve problems, so that consumers can keep our products forever.
What does “handmade” and “handcrafted” mean to you?
We design and create all of our products entirely by hand using only simple hand tools. Even our 8 Ton clicker press runs on good old American muscle, no electrical power. Everything from the cutting, stamping, riveting and finishing is done by hand. That’s what handmade/hand crafted means to us.
What is your next new exciting project?
We’re currently working with our local fire department to design a new, ultra durable holster for their radios, which we are really excited about.
What is a quote that you personally live by, or you have shared with others for inspiration?
“Don’t Count the Days, Make the Days Count” – Muhammed Ali
Why did you choose to join aftcra, and what do you enjoy about the community?
Aftcra seemed the perfect match for us “Crafted by American Hands” so it was an easy decision to join the Aftcra community and being apart of something that focuses solely on handmade goods is what’s most enjoyable.
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