As I reviewed recently, I think HoldFast's MoneyMaker camera harness/strap is the bees knees. The look and feel of it is perfect, but the more I looked at it, the more I wanted to find a way to put my logo on the strap. This isn't going to be a strap I use for a few months and then try to resell; this is something that I'm expecting to be with me for a long long time, so what better way to make it feel like it is part of my system than for it to have a logo or some kind of brand on it.
Thus began my obsession with finding the perfect stamp or brand for the strap.
I looked long and hard and did a bunch of research. The first option I considered was laser engraving the strap. I knew someone locally that could do the job, but when I brought the strap with me to run the idea by them, they couldn't fit the strap in their laser engraving machine. The strap was just too bulky. While looking up other laser engraving places, it dawned on me that cowboys have been branding their leather (and cows! ouch!) for generations, and perhaps what I really should be looking for is a leather stamp. Something that would put an impression into the leather rather than burn it with a laser. Plus, having a leather stamp would also allow me to use it for other purposes, should I desire. So I started looking at stamp makers.
I spent a good long time looking at companies outside of the US that could make a metal leather stamp. Metal would last practically forever, but the costs where just high enough that I backed away. In reality, I'm using the stamp once on my camera strap, so spending hundreds of dollars for a metal leather stamp seemed a little crazy for something that I'd only be using once, so I kept looking.
Eventually, I found a place called TuffCase out of Michigan who specialize in custom leather stamps and other leather personalized items. They do traditional "maker" stamps as well as custom work. They had a fantastic price on a custom 1-inch square stamp, which was exactly the size I had in mind for the camera strap I have. They make their custom stamps out of Delrin plastic, which is very durable and can last for 1,000's of impressions. At the price, I figured it was a great, affordable way to have a custom stamp made for my camera strap. It was actually cheaper than having it laser engraved, and I get to own a stamp with my logo on it that can be used for other things at a later time if desired. I uploaded a logo I have been using in my media kits and about a week later, the custom stamp arrived at the studio along with a scrap of leather showing me what the stamp would look like:
The stamp feels nice and hard and stiff. It is about six inches in height. Once I had the stamp I started to do a little research about how to actually get the pattern into the leather. I picked up a rubber mallet with the intention of using that to get the pattern into the leather, but decided to go to the source and I emailed Matt Swaggart of HoldFast Gear about what he does to get his stamps into the leather camera straps he makes. He wrote back to me almost instantly and advised that instead of using a mallet that I use a c-clamp and a hard surface. All I had to do was dampen the leather, place the stamp where I wanted it to go, and then tighten the c-clamp down tightly and leave it there for a while and let it push the pattern into the leather. Sounds simple enough!
I grabbed a c-clamp and did a test on an old leather watch strap that was lying around and it came out perfect:
If you look closely on the top left you can see that I had it lined up, but then after putting the clamp on I slipped a little bit and had to re-register the stamp. I got it almost exactly where it was the first time, which is why there is a slight double press in the top left. Certainly something I could live with if I ended up doing the same on the camera strap because it isn't that noticeable.
After doing some more testing I felt pretty confident that I was ready to stamp the camera strap. I was nervous because this wasn't a piece of free test leather, now I was about to stamp a $200 product and if I messed up it would be on the leather forever! Talk about stress! But I just returned from pressing into the leather strap, and I am happy to report that it came out beautifully:
If I had to change anything, I would have purchased the stamp with a much shorter, stubbier length. Because the stamp was so high I was nervous that when I had the stamp clamped down it might tilt slightly because of the pressure of the c-clamp pushing down and I'd get an uneven pressure thus affecting the pattern. I think it did that a little bit, but nothing overly noticeable. If I had ordered a shorter stamp, I could have put a block down on top of it to help level out the pressure. I'll remember that the next time I order a stamp, as I'll more than likely be using the same kind of c-clamp pressure/press as opposed to using a mallet.
I've already started a list of things I want to brand with this stamp, and I'm also working on a much more elaborate stamp for future use.
For me, it's the little details that I love thinking about the most, and this little embellishment on the camera strap just adds that extra little magic to help brand my business. Anything that makes me feel more professional and more successful is always a plus in my book. This was well worth the time and effort.
I can tell this is going to be a new addiction! :)