Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gear Review: belt

I have been wearing a Wilderness Experience/5.11/Cabelas nylon belt clone for ages now.  With my success in personal downsizing (weight loss for the uninformed), I have shrunk sufficient for most of those belts to be rendered unusable.  Only the Cabelas had survived, and that only because it was a single layer of  nylon webbing without reinforcement or Velcro so as I shrank I was able to cut the end off and shorten the belt.

I had been wanting a nicer belt, one that didn't scream "tacticool" at everyone, and one that looked nice too.  For me, that meant a big ol' slab of dead cow!  No, not the kind I love to put on the grill--that's ribeye, and such and will be consumed with glee this weekend!  But rather the hide of said bovine...

There are some problems with a leather belt however--such as turnaround time, available customization, and cost.  I began my search a while back, and slowly came to the conclusion that if I wanted a nice durable, suitable for hauling around all the crap I usually do on a belt, I was only going to be able to solve 2 of the problems... I settled for accepting that I would pay about the same cost no matter where I went for a belt.  In some ways that was good, as once cost was not the deciding factor (all the makers I looked at ran in a similar price tier.)  I was then able to focus on the other important things to me--quality, customization, and turnaround time.

Quality is hard for the consumer to determine in a custom item for a couple reasons.  First, you likely have not done business with the maker before, so you have to rely on reviews (such as this) to see what others think of the makers product.  Two, in the realm of custom leather work, many shops are smaller 1-2 man operations, and may or may not have the volume of business to generate reviews.  Second, some shops that were quality once, may have fallen on hard times, and may not be what they once were.  This appears to have happened to a maker I had done business with in the past, and the subsequent internet furball over their delivery of orders caused me to take them off my list of possible makers.

Next was the question of customization.  Now, I am one who does not really want a belt with tooling designs stamped into it, or a super fancy buckle.  What I was looking for was more on the order of construction options, leather colors, and stiffness options with or without inserts.  Oh, and brass hardware--plain old yellow brass.  Yes, I developed a lifelong love of brass in grade school/junior high when I assisted the local astronomy club in restoring the 6" Clark Refractor to working condition on the KU campus.  But that's another story...

Finally there is the ever-present question of when do I get my stuff?  A lot of shops that offer belts, have their ready-to-ship line of basic quality belts, but there is nothing 'custom' about it.  I didn't quite want 'off the rack' for this.

What I stumbled across was a website named Custom Leather Belts. Made To Your Specifications. Hand Crafted in the USA.  They seemed to have a host of options to make what I wanted, how I wanted it.  They even promised a speedy turnaround time!  Now we're talking! 

I worked my way through their ordering options, and decided I wanted a 1.5" wide belt with a taper to 1", brass roller buckle hardware, a keeper loop, and 2-layer leather--med. brown bridle leather for the body, and black harness leather for the outer layer with black stitching.  The owner/maker Ken, was a joy to work with!  He was so helpful in discussing what sizing I would need, and very knowledgeable about his product.  I ordered on a Thursday, and had my belt the following Monday!  That's LIGHTSPEED turnaround time, especially on a custom item! 

The belt is wonderful!  Stiff where I wanted stiffness, and the tapered front looks so nice.  I shot a couple pictures, but my photographic skills are lacking.  I can't do the belt justice. 

If you want to see what the belt looks like when photographed well, to go Ken's site.  Just scroll down to the 4 pictures right above the harness leather color chart.  That's what my belt looks like!

So in summation, Custom Leather Belts provides an easy to use website to build the belt you want, provides for a high level of customization ranging from style, to buckles, to leathers, provides amazingly fast delivery of your belt, and manages to provide excellent customer service (via phone and email contact), along with a highly competitive price structure.  Check 'em out!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bacon! Chocolate covered bacon!

Yes, such a thing as chocolate covered bacon exists!  Fall Festival chow, I might add, but apparently it is a favorite on some of the BBQ competition circuits, based on the sign on the trailer selling it.

I saw their sign, and immediately thought of one of my favorite bloggers, Brigid, who is well known for her love of bacon, among other things!

Brigid, that's Big "B" BBQ, in case they ever come up Indy-way!

The bacon was thick cut, and crispy, then dunked in a molten chocolate mix.  The result was sweet and savory, with enough chocolate taste to compliment the bacon flavor.  I enjoyed it thoroughly!  However, I think it would be even better if made with a seriously dark semi sweet chocolate instead.