Friday, 31 August 2018

Red Leather

Heehee. Here's a picture of Désiré recording the interview with BBC World Service. Due to connection problems, we still haven't heard it yet because we can't load the player, but we've heard great feedback and a friend is going to record it on their phone and send it to us.

So, what's been happening?

Well. Indecision, mostly.

In an attempt to keep things local, Marion approached Bernadette from leather company Dokmai. The idea was to replace items like the understring and pressure bar felt with leather. Dokmai make a lot of leather products such as bags and wallets, and the idea was to use any scraps from their leftovers.

Then Marion was at Union Trade Centre (UTC), one of the main shopping centres in town, and saw that Kigali Leather have opened a shop. Along with leather products, they were selling full hides. One of which was a rather fetching shade of red.


The reason this looked so attractive is that the hitch pin punchings, which are made from felt, are also red.

Gizmo helping to put the punchings in.
Knowing nothing about leather, how much it costs or how it's made, we talked it through with Bernadette. The leather manufacturing capital of Rwanda is Bugesera. However, it has had a difficult history when it comes to environmental protection. Bugasera was temporarily closed for polluting Akagera River, and other tanneries in the country have been permanently closed for similar reasons. Waste disposal is an issue for us as we want to be conscientious about where we source our materials. The other thing we learned about the Bugesera leather is that the colour is painted on, whereas good quality leather tends to be dyed.

Bernadette put us on to another supplier in Kigali called Germaine. Germaine has worked in the leather industry since leaving school - it's a family business. She makes shoes and other leather goods, importing hides from Kenya. She showed us the difference.

Bugesera leather, which has been painted.
Kenyan leather which has been dyed.
You can tell from the back of the hide which process has been used. A white, or natural-coloured back, is painted, whereas a dyed hide is the same colour on the front and back, and that colour will not fade or rub off.

The difference then comes down to price.

The Kigali Leather hide was selling for FRW 50,800 (currently around £44/$58)whereas the second, dyed leather cost FRW 90,000 (£80/$103) for slightly less. Importing the felt from America (string braid, pressure bar and understring) comes to a lot less - around $40 including postage. As post takes a really long time and we want to start stringing, we opted for the leather. As we want the prototype to look smart, we've gone for the more expensive leather. In the future, we'll revisit this decision depending on how well the leather suits its purpose and what the customer wants. For now, we can also use the leather for the action as there's enough of it.

We also bought a bottle of 'yellow glue', which is suitable for sticking leather. It cost FRW 2,500 (around £2/$3) and takes around 30 minutes to set.

the leather is going into the piano over the weekend, and stringing should start next week.

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