This sleigh bell strap is owned by a Texas museum. The original leather strap was falling apart even when carefully handled by the museum staff. I was asked to create a new strap as close to the original as possible.
The original strap had been made by an experienced harness maker, probably in the late 1800s. It is a high-end piece with unusual decorative details and a crisp, professional look.
The strap is 8 feet long and 1 1/8" wide, tapering at the ends to a 1" wide buckle and billet (tongue). The stitching was done by hand with flax (linen) thread.
The keepers have a distinctive "X" pattern creased into the leather. This was a common decorative element used on well-made horse harness of the 1800s, but it is unusual on a sleigh bell strap.
Most of the bells on the strap date to the late 1800s, but there are several early- and mid-1800s bells scattered along the length, including an unusual William Barton bell (left). The bells range from 1" to 2" across. The bells were installed on the new strap in the same order as they had been on the original.
Even though I am comfortable doing this kind of project, I had to watch carefully to make sure the results of my work matched the original. That was harder than one would expect, because no two people do things exactly alike. The result, however, was rewarding. The curator of the museum wrote,
"...The sleigh bells came in today and they look absolutely wonderful! The leather was replicated so well that my colleagues couldn't believe it...."
This particular item is a custom, one-of-a-kind project made for a past client. Items in this Custom Projects section are for information only; they are not available for regular sale.