I’ve recently had a lot of questions about my shop apron so I figured I’d write an article and shoot a video about it. This is not sponsored and I did purchase the apron.
So why an apron in the first place? There are two obvious reasons; protect your clothing and keep commonly used small tools on you at all times. I used to wear a shop apron when I first started woodworking but eventually faded away from it because that one wasn’t comfortable. The straps wrapped around the back of the neck and it pulled my head forward…which is incredibly annoying.
Fast forward to a few months ago. I posted to Instagram and Facebook asking if anyone had any recommendations on a shop apron that they recommend. I got a lot of engagement as there are a lot of options out there for aprons. One of the suggestions was to check out Dragonfly Woodworking and Leather. Long story short, I went with them because it was the only truly custom option that I found, I liked their completed work, and I prefer to support and try out small business when possible. Every other apron I could find was generic in some way with a few different options….not truly customizable.
The concept is like a hand tool wall. Why are they so popular? Because it allows you to put any tool exactly where you want it to be. You have complete control. If you don’t want customization and a few options are good then just put up a few shelves and pick which one you want to put the tool on. Regardless, everyone values things differently so this isn’t a knock on any other aprons but rather my perspective on the situation. I wanted complete customization and not a choice between a few options.
It’s been a few months since I got my apron. I planned on publishing this article and video from the beginning but I wanted to have a decent amount of time using the apron in my workflow before I gave an opinion. Just to hit some high points I’ll give my thoughts in a pros and cons list.
- Commonly used small tools on me at all times.
- Tools EXACTLY where I want them in relation to my exact body and arm reach. I don’t have to stop and think. Everything is an extension of the body so-to-say.
- Tools are held securely. Nothing falls out.
- Sized to fit me personally. This is a big deal. I put it on and it simply fits. If it’s not comfortable you won’t wear it.
- Soft and flexible. I don’t feel like I’m wearing cardboard. It doesn’t restrict my movement at all even with the lower length.
- Comfortable. I never feel like it’s pulling on me or weighing me down.
- The stainless hardware does not feel “cheap.”
- All stress points are reinforced with rivets and some areas are also reinforced with multiple layers of leather. I get the impression that this thing will last a lifetime with proper yearly (or so) leather maintenance with a leather conditioner.
- I was able to have my logo burned into another piece as an option. This might not matter to a lot of people but being able to incorporate brand recognition into something of mine that is seen a lot is important to me and my business. Again,It’s not for everyone but a big thumbs up for the option.
- The hanger option. This turned out to be a little more handy than I initially thought and continues the personal touch.
- It’s another layer of clothing so it’s welcomed in the winter months.
- It’s another layer of clothing so there is some warming effect in the summer months. This is both a pro and a con depending on the season. I got mine when it was still hot outside and my shop AC was running. It was never too hot to wear but it would be unwise to dismiss the fact that it does warm you up a small amount. I used the apron for a full day of woodworking in my friends openly vented shop on a day close to 80 degrees (26.6C) and I was never uncomfortable due to heat.
During the entire process Michelle & Patrick provide update pictures and videos of the progress on their Instagram page. It’s pretty cool being able to see something made specifically for you being made. Here’s a brief outline of how the process goes.
After ordering the apron they sent a package of leather samples and a cloth apron. Once received, I sized the apron to fit me and made any adjustments to the length by folding the bottom. Then we hopped on a video call for a face to face meeting to discuss and finalize tool options and placements. It was great to get Patrick’s insight on what has and hasn’t worked for him over the past few years of using his apron. Tool placement is determined by holding the tool exactly where you want it on your body/apron and tracing around it with a pencil. Then the apron and the rest of the package were sent back to them.
I got progress pictures from them as well and while I don’t know the exact steps in making an apron I’ll provide my non technical interpretation of each pic. Here Michelle is using a template to determine the main leather area.
This piece was laser engraved and Michelle is burnishing the edges on the drill press. (Nice drill press by the way)
Here Michelle is adding some magic solution to the logo that makes everyone watching it want to subscribe and follow all of the “Jays Custom Creations” stuff. Actually, I think it’s a leather sealer of some kind.
And here it is with the awesomesauce applied.
This is the original cloth apron I sized with my award winning pencil work. Also, the top pockets are taking shape.
Michelle with the main leather piece cut out.
All of the edges get hemmed.
….and I thought woodworkers could never have enough clamps…
The sewing begins.
Reinforcement material is added to the hardware locations.
Looks like the rag ring is being applied here.
So here is my tool placement. On top we’ve got a pocket for my 2” square, a pencil pocket, and one slightly larger pocket for a marker. Bottom right in this image (bottom left when worn) is a 6” square pocket and two pockets for a marking knife and 6” rule. On the left (right when worn) is a tape measure plate and a right for a glue rag. Immediately left of the logo piece is the ring for the rear belt.
Rivets are used to reinforce all corners.
This is one of the upper corners with one of the hand peened rivets completed.
Patrick getting some peening action going.
Two completed rivets at a reinforced hardware corner.
And the completed apron. Patrick looks to be in much better shape than I am so this gives me hope that the apron will fill still fit if I lose 20 or so pounds :)
The start of the hanger. Looks like this was started before the completion of the apron.
Patrick’s jig for making the hanger hook.
Drilling the through hole on the hanger.
The hanger after engraving, finish, and the brass cleaned up.
This shows exactly how flexible and soft the apron is. I was really surprised at how soft it was when I got it.
This confirms that having an apron like this is all the HULK needed to prevent him from turning green and destroying buildings. If he only had an apron like this…
Although it is Patrick in the picture he echoes my thoughts exactly. Two huge thumbs up on the apron and customer service. As I said earlier, there are a ton of options for shop aprons. Some with no customization, some with a few options, and one like I got with complete customization. Do some research and choose the one that will be best for you. But for those who are interested in getting a custom apron made I highly recommend you at least consider a Dragonfly Woodworking and Leather apron.