Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Judge Whiplash turns his hand to a Leica X2 wrist strap

Judge Whiplash turns his hand to a Leica X2 wrist strap

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  Beginning the braid. Beeswax leather balm, good for the hands too.
Beginning the braid. Beeswax leather balm, good for the hands too.

An Infectious Visitor

Q: What’s a great pursuit for a Judge to take up in retirement? A: Whipmaking. 

It was earlier this week that a couple from out of state stayed with us for a few days while on a road trip. We have known them for decades, but lives do change. One of them has now retired after four decades in the legal profession, most recently as a District Court Judge here in Australia. On the first full day of their visit, I emerged for breakfast and found him already up early, braiding leather outside in the morning sunshine. It turns out that he has taken up leatherwork and braiding as an absorbing hobby. And I soon saw that he was good at it.

  Sunshine and gentle concentration. A great way to start the day.
Sunshine and gentle concentration. A great way to start the day.

He explained that it began with an intense leathercraft course that he decided to do while on vacation in Ireland, followed by subsequent reading and Youtube videos. Then practise, practise, practise. And yes, in answer to line 1 above, he has made some top-grade equestrian whips for serious competitors.

Leashes

That first day at our house he made a strong leash for one of my daughter’s large dogs. I sat outside where he was working and absorbed as much knowledge as I could through conversation and watching. He explained that leashes for large dogs must be made properly so that there is no chance of it breaking. For example, he said that there is no place for a large dog to break its leash if it got excited at a dog show. Mayhem would ensue!

Below: A dog leash takes shape (click to enlarge)

So, he makes his leashes in proportion to the size and weight of the recipient dog. The two that he proceeded to prepare for my daughter and son-in-law’s dogs are undoubtedly strong. Julia, one of the dogs, thinks that she is a human and will likely appreciate the craftsmanship. Maxine, the other dog, behaves more like a dog and will probably have no idea.

He made those two leashes by braiding 3mm leather over a round-section central cord, then braiding a second 4.7mm lace over the first braid, followed by a final change to a flat section handgrip. And he further explained that kangaroo leather is his preferred material because it is lighter than cowhide, and also four times stronger. His dexterity was impressive, and his brain was mathematical as he went about the job.

The final stages of a leash. Trim off loose ends, Roll with a heavy board to even thickness if necessary, trim off the loose ends, and then the finished product. (Click to enlarge)

His knife….and his binoculars

When I saw him use his knife to cut some of the lacing, I noticed the discreet but classy looking leather strap attached to the handle. That set me thinking, so I asked him whether he had ever made shoulder straps or wrist straps for cameras. He replied that he hadn’t, but that I should go to his car and get his binoculars to see what he had done there, as it could possibly be adapted to camera straps.

Purposeful tools (Click to enlarge)

That was when I saw the essence of the Judge. The braiding on the binocular case and binoculars themselves was impressive — and the binoculars were terrific! Leica 8×56 Geovid. I did play with those binoculars over the next two days. The large aperture combined with Leica glass was fabulous at pulling in extremely crisp clear images. They put my 8×42 binoculars to shame, even though I had previously thought that my binoculars were pretty good. And the Geovid designation meant that there is an inbuilt distance finder. Just press a very subtle flush soft pad on the top of the binoculars while viewing and a red square appears, similar to a centre focus square on a camera. Then, a second later, an inconspicuous digital distance readout shows for a short time in the view. Truly impressive. Damn, there goes my pocket money as I now have to dip my toe into the world of Leica binoculars.

Camera Straps

After lunch, on that first day, we went to the Macfilos archives so that he could see what braided leather camera straps were all about. He was quite interested and suggested that wrist straps were the way to start. That afternoon he made a braided wrist strap for my Leica X2. I was impressed at how he was able to flick, turn, plait and complete a geometric four-lace strap in about 30 minutes.

The next day he suggested that it was my turn to try to make one. I hesitated, feeling very insecure. But he insisted, and was a great teacher, observing me as I started and only offering essential commentary as needed. It was “sink or swim” for me. However, after about an hour or so I had finished the job. Much slower than his the day before, but my own hands had performed an apparent miracle. I felt chuffed!

  The first camera wrist strap, made from 3mm lacing and attached to the Leica X2, crafted by an expert. The unattached strap is my novice attempt. It will go on the Leica D-Lux.
The first camera wrist strap, made from 3mm lacing and attached to the Leica X2, crafted by an expert. The unattached strap is my novice attempt. It will go on the Leica D-Lux.

A sincere thank you to a retired Judge. It wasn’t just a social visit and some good meals and conversation. It was a surprise learning experience for me. Good times to remember, and an infectious craft to pursue.

Postscript: Mike has now returned from the LHSA meeting in Wetzlar. Many of you would be aware that Leica have their home base there, but not many would know that Wetzlar rose to prominence in the 1600s when it became the site of the Imperial Supreme Court of the Holy Roman Empire. At that time it became the town’s primary employer with a staff of about 150, including 20 Judges (source: Wikipedia). So he thought it ironic that on the day of his return he received a submission regarding a retired Judge.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. The German word for ‘judge’ is ‘richter’ . The man who wrote the definitive work on Barnack and the first Leica Is Ulf Richter, who attended our dinner in Wetzlar last Saturday night. This book has been translated into English by Rolf Fricke for the LHSA. By coincidence our guide on the LHSA tour of Marburg Castle last Saturday was a lady called Uli (for Ulrike) Richter. Those Judges in Hesse seemed to have got around a bit.

    The leather work of the retired judge is superb, although I would not trust myself with a hand strap. It is either a neck strap or a carry around in a bag for me.

    William

    • Thank you for the further insights re the Richter connections, William.

      Regarding wrist straps, I do feel quite comfortable using them on small compact cameras e.g. the Leica X2 and D Lux, as well as the Fuji X20. Especially so if the camera has a reasonable hand grip – I have a Leica grip in the X2 and a Richard Franiec grip on the D Lux.I guess it’s all about what we are used to and feel confident with.

      But I certainly agree with you about cameras with a bit more heft. There I will always use a stronger shoulder strap. In fact, I did look closely at the flat braided harlequin strap on the Judge’s binoculars. Now that’s a project that I will aspire to, after more practise and knowledge that is. If it is good enough for his Leica 8×56 Geovids then a similar shoulder strap should be fine on an X Pro2.
      Wayne.

  2. Thanks Wayne for an unusual and fascinating piece. No mention of the camera but the photos are very good and show the process nicely, I admire the quality of his work.
    Kevin

    • Hello Kevin. All photos taken with the Leica X2 (except the second-last photo of the X2, that one taken with a D Lux).
      Wayne.

  3. Hi Wayne, I really enjoyed this entertaining and informative article. The articles on this blog are amazing and why it is now the first blog I check multiple times a day. I now only look at about 6 blogs – Mike your efforts are more appreciated than you probably realize. From 🇨🇦, with gratitude!

    • Thanks Brian. It was enjoyable putting the draft together.
      Then seeing how editor Michael delightfully forms it into the resultant post on Macfilos, and his erudite sense of humour when emails flurry back and forth as he assembles it. All good fun.
      Wayne.

  4. That’s impressively unique having a camera strap or two that are technically homemade but at a quality possibly as high as a professional manufacturer.

    Nice images to complement that article too.

    I would never find the time to do that intricate type of work and do it justice

    Dave S

    • Gday Dave. I can only say that a straightforward 4 lace braid isn’t as difficult as you (or I) might first think. But you do need a good teacher to instruct you and provide confidence to attack the project. The Judge did that for me.
      Wayne.

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