The ancient "cuoietto" process of creating or covering objects in highly polished leather dates back to the Renaissance, when leather work was found on all manner of household objects, such as chairs, tables, wall panels, jewellery cases and writing desk-sets.  

Even as late as the 1970s, there were dozens of Florentine workshops still using these traditional methods, but today just a handful survive.  The rise of mass production offshore, and the battle for low prices, was too much for most. 
We have worked with a lovely family company since the late 1970s, based just outside the centre of Florence in a quiet industrial area.

It’s not a busy place. But once inside, it’s a lively scene, a buzz of activity for the small team of craftsmen and women making everything to order for their customers, including textile stores, interior designers working on corporate commissions, and a few small leathergoods stores like Hunt from around the world.

In recent years our workshop has broadened their range just a little, thanks to the influence of the younger generation now in charge, and listening to their customers at the major Milan design trade fair.

They’ve introduced new fresh colours, and some very clean and minimal updates to their traditional range.
 The workmanship involved in every piece is unbelievable.

The starting point is a piece of undyed, vegetable tanned cowhide.  The thickness varies according to the use to which it will be put.  The leather is cut to the desired shape, generally using a specific “knife”, which is basically a numbered cookie cutter.

On a wall of pegboard, every single design that they make has its own numbered cutter. Each of the pieces needed for the item will be cut out of the leather by Leonardo, whose father founded the firm, and still takes care of production overall.

Depending on the order, Leonardo might cut a little pile of these leather shapes ready for the craftsman to mould onto the block. The leather is then taken to the workbench where the craftsman dips each piece into hot water
(heated in a big old aluminium stockpot kept hot on a little domestic hotplate in the middle of the workbench).
Once wet, the leather is rolled in the hands and softened up, then pressed and shaped over a specific timber block. Off to one side is a wall of these blocks, stacked in numbered pigeon holes.

For the more popular items there will be dozens of wooden blocks – and they’re all made by hand as well, so every piece varies just a little. The leather is tacked or glued into place on the block, with the edges thinned, joined and smoothed until the joins from top to side are invisible.
The piece is put into a big drying cupboard and left to dry out for a few days. The construction process for each item will be different – on some, the leather is tied to the block with thick cotton tape, which compresses the leather into the grooves of the block.

Once the leather is dry, the box will be cut open by hand, and the wooden block removed. The aniline, non-toxic dye is applied by hand with a brush and a sponge, until the desired depth, consistency, and richness of tone is achieved.

Once again the leather needs to dry, and then the box will be polished to an incredible lustre, using a big brush on a wheel, operated by foot pedal.

This is a highly skilled process – the box (or tray, or business card holder, or coinpurse), will be turned and turned against the wheel to ensure an even shine, with just the right amount of pressure. On some items, such as jewellery boxes, velvet cotton lining will now be cut to shape and glued inside the box.
A decorative gold line, or line of dots, might be applied – once again, by hand – and on some classic items, like a playing card box, there might be images of hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds applied using an embossing tool.
Once again, each is applied by hand. And finally, on the base, our Hunt logo is debossed, and the proud words, “Genuine Calf Leather, Made in Italy”.
We’ve been selling our Florentine leather boxes all my life, and despite hearing the stories from my parents about the skills involved, they were something I just took for granted until I personally visited the workshop in 2013.
I’ve grown to love, and to be very proud of these special pieces. They are gifts for life, things to treasure and take with you on your journey, made with love and pride.

We have a beautiful new range of trays, pen tubs, photo frames, hip flasks, shoe cleaning kits, dice holders, and new boxes, including a large heart; perfect for Valentine’s Day, or indeed any other time of the year.
Exclusive to Hunt ❤️
Previous Article Next Article


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published