The Great Disassembly

After many years of faithful service, one of my favorite bags has finally deteriorated to the point where I can’t really use it anymore. The smell of embedded kerosene from its time as my fire-eating props bag aside, bits of seams were giving up the ghost.

Some parts of it are still determined to remain unbroken. All the rivets are in good condition, but that which they fasten has seen better decades.

My intention here is to reconstruct it with actual leather instead of vinyl and a somewhat more interesting color scheme. As much as I love the bag, olive drab does not do it for me. That was my father’s (ahem) bag…

The three major structural parts

It’s not a perfect bag by any means, but it has a few features that make it delightful. It also has a couple of features that I think can be improved on. It’s a bit floppy, and the pocket that would be otherwise perfect for a laptop and the like is completely unpadded. But then it was likely designed some decades prior to portable electronics… That’s the bit with the big ink stain.

Structurally, the bag consists of 2 main parts, (disregarding the flap over the opening) that are seamed together and then the seam is wrapped and given a second row of stitches. Curiously, though the bottom is reinforced by a layer of textured vinyl (or similar) there is no structural component that wraps around the bag to reinforce that particular seam. That it stood up to the years despite this is an indication that it may be less necessary than certain bag manufacturers insist. That said, I think in the reconstruction I will likely make the belts that old the flap closed one continuous piece that encircle the whole bag.

Also of note are the two side pockets, which I can attest will both hold a nice wine bottle. I think this is an important dimension to consider.

The main shoulder straps are a bit barren, but they originally had strap pads that they slipped through. Long ago I actually had two of these bags and the other one still had the pads. Sadly that one was badly damaged in storage and the pads, alas, were discarded with that one. The straps themselves are a heavy duty cotton webbing that is also used to reinforce the top edge of the back as well as the top and bottom of the two side pockets. Curiously the bottom end of the shoulder straps are reinforced by leather instead, (along with an outer strip of the same vinyl that protects the bottom and the flap. That vinyl appears to have been intended as a layer of waterproofing too, but the edge nearest the straps had torn away from the seam holding it on.

The other sides of the three

There are four straps on the bag, the two shoulder straps and the two holding the flap down. The shoulderstraps are both held on with one large rivet at each end, and the flap straps are each held by two smaller rivets at each end. As noted earlier, despite seeming to appear to encircle the bag, the ends are each tucked away without going down the back panel. The waist anchors for the shoulder straps are an interesting detail and I’ll go over them individually when I get around to disassembling them.

As far as features to improve, the initial shortlist is padding for the ‘laptop pocket’ making it a bit more rigid. Recreating the strap pads for the shoulder straps, as well as adding a tether of some sort to connect the two across the chest. I’ve had that feature in a number of bags at this point and it really helps to distribute the load. I have some thoughts about cycling with a bag as well, though I’m not sure if that involves a handlebar strap or simply being able to adjust the strap length easier for walking and riding.

Look closely, lower left corner… circa 1995

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