By B. Crawford
If you bring a knife to a gunfight, at least make sure it has a nice sheath. Tooling a bull on a dead cow is ironic.
These words of leatherworking wisdom come straight from Kingsbury, Texas, workshop of 25-year-old Trevor Weinaug, the founder of Weinaug Handcrafted Leather. Trevor is 100% Pure-D Texan, the direct descendant of a German immigrant who made his way to the hill’s northwest of San Antonio in 1853 and claimed a big chunk of newly declared state for his own. The following generations sold off most of the land; but amazingly enough, they managed to hang on to some acreage and a camp house, and that’s where Trevor and his handcrafted leather company call home.
“When I needed more space for my workshop, I asked my grandfather if I could move into the old camp house, and he said, ‘Sure, if you fix it up, you can stay out there.”‘ It took Trevor and his girlfriend about a year to fix up the place. They turned one of the spare bedrooms into a workshop, complete with sewing machines, headstones for tooling, a closet full of tools, a fold-out cutting table and a homemade clicker press.
Although the space is a little tight, it’s for sure that Trevor’s German pioneer ancestors would be proud someone from the family is using the land to build a business based on a traditional craft that was as important and popular in 1853 as it is today.
Straight-backed and straightforward, Trevor walks the Texas talk. He has a collection of cowboy hats from American Hat Co. and Rodeo King, some for nice events and some cheap ones for working. He loves nothing more than a good pair of starched, white label Cinch jeans with his gator Tony Lamas. For a quick into town, he slips on some clean Vans.
Trevor describes himself as an introvert, “Unless you want to talk about leather and business.” He cut his crafting teeth as a bladesmith. “When I graduated from high school,” Weinaug says, “I went to trade school in Waco, Texas, for welding. I went there for two years, and I started making knives out of my apartment. I came across a YouTube video on how to make a sheath for the knives, and that’s when I fell down the rabbit hold of leatherwork. I sent off for tools and kits and I was doing it on the floor of my apartment.”
After getting his associate degree as a welder, Trevor transferred to Texas State University in San Marcos, and continued down the rabbit hole of leatherwork in his apartment, No. 1315. Trevor worked his way up from the floor. “I YouTube some stuff,” Trevor says, “My buddy does a bunch of woodworking, and I asked him, ‘If I buy all the leather and everything, will you help me put a leather bench together?’ We built a nice leather bench. I had a cutting table, I had shelves for all my paints and dyes and everything; technically, that’s where it became more of a business than a hobby.” Trevor puts it, “Apartment 1315 will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Trevor graduated from Texas State University in December 2020 and began to hit the leather bench full time. His first hit product was an unlikely mix of hip footwear and even hipper leather.
“Someone asked me to add tooled leather to a pair of Vans. When I posted them on TikTok, I got something like 1.8 million views. People messaged me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They even found my Snapchat, which I don’t give out publicly. For two months, I was building seven to ten pairs of Vans per week.”
Trevor kicked into high gear working on custom orders. He bought two sewing machines and became a leatherworking Van Man. “I kinda burnt myself out a little bit,” Trevor says. “Since the demand was there, I decided to build some average sized with a general design and post them on my website. I figured this would give me a bit more freedom to come up with designs for other products that I wanted to create for the market. But the Vans were paying really well, so I couldn’t complain.”
Trevor hasn’t stopped at Vans. While sticking to his Texas roots, he has created a wide variety of products for his young western-loving customers, the next generation of leather work afficionados.
Trevor has made graduation caps, a gun sling trimmed with Axis hide, welding arm pads, bouquet wraps, wallets, belts, camera straps, phone cases, money clips, slip-on mules, poppin’ collars, spur straps, rough out belts, fully tooled floral belts with a splash of color, dog collars (in Trevor’s words, “For only the goodest of puppers”) and knife sheaths (“Every knife deserves a good home.”).
Trevor is always up for a different design, a can of Coors, a cheese enchilada plate with red tortillas and good American cheese, hummingbirds and marigolds, skull and roses (hmm, could be a promising design for all the Deadheads out there), a naked woman, an alien or two, inspired by the space cowboy theme. To quote from his social media, Be sure to check your cattle for alien abductions.
Just to prove how old I am, I remember in the 1970s, when Steve Miller, another Texan, sang, “Some call me the space cowboy, come call me the gangster of love.” Trevor is neither a space cowboy nor a gangster of love (at least he doesn’t brag on it). And he’s definitely not 66-years-old. His work always comes back home to the west. Describing one of his designs, Trevor says, “It doesn’t get much more western than a gun-slinging armadillo shooting a rattlesnake out of a cactus.”
Sometimes Trevor works with his “head in the clouds.” But even with his head in the clouds, he is always working. “Makers are gonna make,” Trevor says, by way of explanation. He has even found himself working on his birthday. “Why work on my birthday you may ask? Because I don’t consider it work! I do what I love every single day and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Trevor’s Vans continue to sell really well, but he is changing his product mix to expand his market and increase his personal satisfaction. “I have started pulling away from the custom order Vans,” Trevor says, “and I’m doing more towards general stuff for the website. This way I have more artistic freedom to put on them what I like and hopefully people will like them too. And a simpler design will be a bit more affordable for people who only want to pay so much for a pair of Vans.”
Trevor is also working on expanding his product line, so that he will be able to expand his market beyond his current enthusiastic following of college students and young adults. Briefcases decorated with enchiladas. A portfolio with an alien abduction? Who knows what will come next from Weinaug Handcrafted Leather?
No matter what happens, Trevor is ready for it. “The future’s so bright I’m going to have to wear shades even when I’m inside! I’ve been looking into moving the shop into a portable building for some extra elbow room. And I’m also looking to do bigger projects with some really cool designs that push the envelope.”
Trevor recently launched Weinaugh Leather & Silver. “I’m very excited to add a new medium to the mix!” Trevor says. “I started out as a welder by trade so I’m no stranger to metal. I just started engraving, so hopefully soon I will have that on the website as well. I’m looking to build belt buckles, wedding rings and engrave guns. I’m still in the process of purchasing more tools and figuring out where I’m going to put everything in my already small shop.”
As he expands his offering, Trevor says that he will always keep it western “Wester is a way of life; a culture of people that like to get their hands dirty. It’s out past the city limit signs where people make a living off the land. I grew up around it and it’s always come natural to me. I’m a big fan of alternative western art such as Teal Blake’s paintings; I have two of his prints hanging in the shop. I appreciate western artists who can spice it up a bit, but still keep it western!”
Just as the western theme is enduring, so is the sensation of owning a good piece of leatherwork. Trevor says, “If you have a nice piece of handcrafted leather as part of your daily life it is something unique. You can stand out from the crowd. I like to call it functional art. It’s definitely art, but you get to wear it instead of hanging it up on the wall. You can show people who you are and what you are into, don’t have to invite them over to your place to show them what you got up on the wall.”
Trevor has found that one of his best marketing tools has been work of mouth from his customers who proudly wear his functional art. People tell him all the time, “Hey, someone asked me, ‘Where’d you get that belt (or wallet or money clip)? So, I gave them one of your cards.”‘
“I really appreciate that,” Trevor says. “You can support local business and look fly while doing it!”
While he is not in his shop, Trevor is stalking game in the Texas countryside. “In my free time I love to bow hunt! I’ve been doing it since I was young and the obsession has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I’m not the best at it, but being that close to an animal and being able to harvest it with a bow and arrow is a hard thing to describe unless you’ve done it yourself.”
In addition to offering photos of his lates creations social media, Trevor also posts bits of philosophy from his leather bench:
If you want to be good, you have to master the basics. Having straight swivel knife cuts and smooth beveling is as basic as it gets.
You go to the outer limits.
Ladies treat yourself and men treat your ladies.
Focus on the details and the rest will fall in line.
Dirty hands, clean money.
Brands… an art form in themselves.
Even when he is working in his shop, Trevor always has time to pursue his other great passion country music, or as he puts it “Kuntry & Wistern.” He quotes the classics on social media, sometimes with a Trevor Weinaug twist”
It’s all right to be little bitty.
Just sitting out here watching airplanes.
You can’t roller skate a buffalo herd, but you can wear these if you’ve a mind too.
“I’ve built some stuff for Randall King, Triston Marez and other artists,” Trevor says, “and I have a bunch of guitar straps on the list right now I need to get done.”
Trevor is always on the lookout for up-and-coming country artists to inspire him. “Right now, I am listening to Vincent Neil Emerson, who plays with Charley Crockett. And I built a pair of Vans for Kellen Smith from Wyoming. He’s not really well known yet, but he’s really good. He sounds like a traditional country artist, a rancher, but he’s also got a punk rock side to him.”
I’m a country music fan myself and I am always rewriting country songs in my head. Here is my latest, inspired by Trevor Weinaug and the Dwight Yoakum classic, Dim Lights, Thick Smoke:
Sharp knives, straight cuts, and top grain leather,
Are the only three things I really understand,
Sharp knives, straight cuts, and top grain leather,
You’ll always find a friend in a leather workin’ man….
Maybe, just maybe, one of Trevor’s musician friends (or one of you ShopTalk! readers) will take my musical musing to the next level and turn it into an actual song. Whoever does, will go down in country music history as the first person to sing about leather working. Sounds kinda strange, doesn’t it? Well, in the words of Trevor Weinaug…