- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

WHITEFISH, Mont. (AP) - Stan Freeman shaves with a straight razor and makes his own bread from sourdough starter he has nurtured for 40 years.

Given his penchant for anything that’s “old school,” it’s no wonder Freeman’s tiny workshop in Whitefish is a step back in time. He’s a master leather craftsman who relishes making things the old-fashioned way.

The sturdy machine he uses to crease leather is stamped with the year it was made, 1887. His stitching horse, a wooden chair with a clamp for holding leather while it’s stitched, is from the same era.

“I got some equipment from an Amish harness-maker,” he said. “He gave me some of the tools he wanted people to keep using.”

Freeman, 64, has been working with leather for more than three decades. He produces one-of-a-kind fly-rod cases, briefcases, holsters, rifle and shotgun cases and golf bags.

He also repairs saddles, the Daily Inter Lake reported (https://tinyurl.com/lntnxcq).

“I do a lot of repairs,” he said. “I have a saddle coming in from Wisconsin right now for repair.”

Texans are some of his best customers, especially for the fly-rod cases. He ships items overseas, too.

Flathead Valley businesses who deal with the local equine industry provide Freeman’s contact information for saddle repair.

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Freeman got started in leather work while working as a police officer in Dayton.

“I’m left-handed, and when you go to gun shops, all the holsters are for right-handed people,” he said. “Lefties had to order almost anything they wanted, then play the waiting game.”

Freeman started making his own gun holsters and found he enjoyed working with leather.

He moved to Whitefish in 1997, seeking a more rural way of life. Freeman has always done his leather work on a part-time basis and likes not having the stress of a full-time trade.

“It’s a one-man shop,” he said. “I don’t look to get rich.”

Leather craftsmanship takes time. He puts in eight hours of hands-on time making each fly-rod case, and that’s if it is stamped. Carving the leather designs takes longer.

Freeman is passionate about history and the way things used to be.

“I like history. I like the way things were done, when there was more respect for the thing that was made,” he said. “I love the 1700s. I’m locked into that time period.”

Freeman hasn’t been able to fully escape modern society, though. He has a website for his business, Freeman Leather Co., at freemanleather.com. He keeps his cellphone in one of his handmade leather holsters.

Much of the ornate leather work found on saddles and in other products is produced by machines these days.

“This is a dying art,” he said.


Information from: Daily Inter Lake, https://www.dailyinterlake.com

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