NKY Leatherworker Turns Hobby Into Growing Business
Randal Teufel has been a man of many hobbies. After trying his hand at both sausage making and coffee roasting, Teufel has turned his attention to leather working which has become a viable business for him. Teufelmacht, Teufel's leather company, offers handcrafted leather items from notebook covers to belts to tote bags.
“I always wanted to be a DIY guy,” Teufel said. “I like to figure out how to do stuff myself. I also kind of have a short attention span, so I will pick up a hobby. One time, I decided I would do my own sausages, so I got a meat grinder and sausage casings and all of this stuff and started preparing my own sausage. My wife hated that. Then, I got into coffee and experimented with roasting my own beans, different levels of grinding and all the different brewing methods. I really like to experiment with different stuff. I like to learn how to do stuff myself and even if I don’t stick with it, I have those basic skills.
“I picked up leather from a kit and thought everything I made was kind of ugly. Most American leatherworking is a style that I don’t really like. I like a sleek, simplified design, so I stopped but came back to it a few months later and decided to make the leather work the way that I wanted with streamlined, timeless stuff that’s going to hold up well.”
Working with products made in the United States is important to Teufel. He gets his leather from a distributor from Louisville and the notebook covers he makes are sized for a company called Guided Products, who use recycled products and make everything in America.
He has considered expanding his product line to include boots and other larger items, but he is comfortable growing his business at his own pace.
Teufel makes leather notebook covers of various natural leather colors and sizes. He also makes custom pieces for people with larger notebooks. His largest pieces are leather tote bags that he only recently rolled out after having his wife use one for a while.
“I do quite a bit of custom stuff,” he said. “Everything is completely handmade, so it’s easy for me to do custom orders. I can do initials or monograms stamped on there, that kind of stuff I will usually do for free. I like to stick with the colors that I use. I’ve tried dying pinks and blues and it looks bad. It doesn’t work well and it doesn’t wear well at all. I like to build my stuff well. Items that will wear out in years, if not decades."
Teufelmacht is the company name because “macht” is the German word for made and Teufel is his last name, but "Teufel" also means devil in German, which is why there is a pitchfork in the company logo.
In addition to tote bags and notebook covers, Teufelmacht also offers wallets, billfolds and card case wallets, as well as belts, cuffs, bracelets, dog collars and wrist bands.
“Everything I do is 100 percent handcrafted and hand-stitched. Most stuff you get is machine stitched which is a lot quicker, but it’s not as strong because the way that the thread interacts. A typical machine stitch has a thread that loops over top and pulls through and if one of those threads breaks, it all just unravels. With this, there are two separate threads that just overlap and cross each other in the middle of the leather, so basically this is a lot stronger and if the thread does break, it’s not really going to unravel.
Teufel has mastered the production process and is able to manufacture a notebook cover in about 90 minutes. Most of his products are made of new, smooth leather that is rather stiff starting out, but some of his leather pieces are already flexible because it came from the armpit area of the cow which makes the leather wrinkly and is much softer.
A notebook cover costs around $50, a wallet is $75, and a tote bag is $150. He has hopes for a permanent store in the near future.
“I’d like to have a brick and mortar shop at some point, but we need to balance the expense with gauging how much more business it would bring in because I would like to have more space. If the holidays go well this year, we might be able to do that next year.”
Teufel told the story of two customers that needed the customized element he offers in his products.
“I had a guy from England that liked the covers I did, but wanted a specific notebook that was made in the UK. I made a custom cover for him. With the notebook and the shipping, that order was by far the most expensive order I’ve ever done. He loved it.
“One of the first custom orders I ever did was for a guy in New York who was originally from Kentucky and he was moving away from his girlfriend and wanted a gift to remember their relationship. It was a big 8"X10" notebook and he wanted the word "Ubuntu" stamped on the front which is a South African word that basically means be nice to each other. I had a piece of scrap leather from that and I stamped Ubuntu on that as well and made a key fob out of it so that they both have something for each other.”
Teufelmacht products can be found both online and for now, at local arts and crafts markets like The City Flea and O.F.F. Market in Oakley. This Sunday, Teufel will set up a table outside of flow - a shop for men on Pike Street in Covington as part of Art Off Pike.
“I started making this stuff as a hobby, but all of this stuff is expensive and adds up quick. So I started sell some stuff online on Etsy just to kind of help pay for the materials. Then, I started selling more and more. My wife suggested that I do some holiday markets and it kind of went from there,” Teufel said. “We’re looking to do more wholesale orders and consignment with local shops.”
For more product information, customers can visit Teufelmacht.com for gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor/Photo: Randal Teufel