Most of the time we re-create bell straps so they look similar to the old strap when it was new. In that case, it is appropriate to clean and polish the old bells so they also look like they did when new. Most of the bell straps shown in our "Custom Projects" section are made to this standard.
Occasionally we are asked to re-create a bell strap so it looks old. The strap shown here is one of these projects. We do not actually use old leather for projects like these, because we want to produce a durable, heirloom-quality, historically accurate bell strap.
Most old leather is far too fragile to reuse. In the few cases that a strap of old leather still has some useful life left, it usually has old holes and stitch lines from its original function. These details may create "antique appeal" for some folks, but they are not appropriate on a historically accurate sleigh bell strap.
We have learned to gently distress new, unused leather so it looks surprisingly old, yet retains all of its strength and durability. Although we usually draw the line at re-creating mouse chew marks, tears, and other serious damage, if an owner really wants the strap to be "distressed" to that degree, we can do it.
We like to reuse the original buckle if possible to preserve that extra bit of history and add to the sense of age. If we must use new buckles, bell pins, or other hardware on a distressed bell strap, we darken the brass and buff down the steel to add to the appearance of age.
These bells were only cleaned to remove the rough grime that coated the bells inside and out. Because they were not polished, the bells retain patches of their original soft-nickel plating. Where the brass is peeking through the plating, the bells are a warm golden-brown color. They were originally fastened onto their strap with small steel screws and thin washers. We were able to reuse all of the original screws and about half of the original washers.
The bells on this strap were manufactured in the late 1800s by W. E. Barton or his successor, the Barton Bell Company, of East Hampton, Connecticut. The bells are not marked with Barton's collectible WEB logo. They are clearly his bells, however, because they have his patented screw and washer fasteners and patented oval collars. These distinctive steel collars are sandwiched between each bell and the strap to isolate the bell acoustically from the leather strap for better sound.
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.