I’ve been wearing an apron in the workshop for 3 years now, and although I worked quite happily for a number of years without the benefit of an apron, I can’t imagine working without one again. As I’ve written previously, putting on my apron is part of a ritual which signifies the start of a day in the workshop, and helps to clear my mind of anything but the task waiting for me at the bench. Beyond the psychological or ritualised aspects, a good workshop apron brings physical benefits – pockets to hold essential tools, protecting your clothes from damage and workshop abuse, and acting as a snug barrier to stop stray folds of cloth getting caught by machinery.
My final tool purchase of 2016 was a new apon from Jason Thigpen at Texas Heritage Woodworks. At the time it felt like a real luxury – my original apron is a fine example of a handmade garment and still has plenty of life left it in, but having two of Jason’s outstanding tool rolls (a chisel roll and auger bit roll), I couldn’t help but want a matching apron decorated with my Over the Wireless logo. Luxury or not, I ordered an apron from Jason anyway, and just before New Year’s Eve it arrived. And you know something? The moment I tried it on, I knew that this new apron was not a luxury at all. I do try not to write too many tool reviews as I think it’s far more interesting to write about what I’m using the tools to make. But sometimes you find something special that just deserves to be written about – wearing the new apron from Texas Heritage was one of those moments.
Jason offers three options for aprons – the “classic” full length apron in either waxed or unwaxed canvas, and a shorter “nail” apron, all of which are then customisable with a number of further design options. Those options include for the classic apron three chest pocket configurations, three lower pocket options, a choice between smooth or hammered rivets, and logo or name embroidery. All aprons come with double stitching for longevity, a wide selection of fabric colours, and choice of two sizes catering for most body types. If that sounds like a bewildering number of choices, Jason’s website clearly explains the choices and makes selecting your perfect apron a cinch. I dare you to have an apon desire that the multitude of choices offered by Texas Heritage do not satisfy, but if somehow you manage to do so, Jason offers a custom service so he can probably meet your specific apron needs.
For my new apron I selected a waxed navy blue canvas with hammered rivets, the “full” chest pocket configuration, and closed lower pockets, all topped off with the OtW logo in white stitching. So far so stylish, but why does the Texas Heritage apron stand head and shoulders above any workshop apparel I’ve previously tried? Firstly the fit and finish is outstanding. The stitching was crisp, particularly the OtW logo (stitched by Jason’s wife Sarah), and the rivets were perfectly peened with a gorgeous hammered finish. The apron fits perfectly too – it is snug but not constricting, and after a few minutes of work I forget that I am wearing it. Similarly, the lower pockets have good holding capacity but remain nice and snug to the body.
Essentially, the apron becomes a second skin in the workshop. This is large part, I think, to the strap design. Thanks to an old shoulder injury sustained during martial arts training, I am prone to back and neck pain. My old apron used a neck strap which definitely aggravated this injury – there’s nothing like hanging heavy weight waxed canvas from your neck for prolongued periods of time to contribute to back pain. In contrast, the Texas Heritage apron has no neck strap, and instead uses two shoulder straps which cross the body using a metal hoop. This system means that the weight of the apron is distributed across the whole of your back and shoulders for a much more comfortable wearing experience, and as a result I’ve been walking away from my bench at the end of the day feelng much healthier. The waist strap is secured in place with a clasp rather than ties, which avoids any faff trying to tie knots behind your back. Finally, the lower pocket flaps do an excellent job of keeping shavings and saw dust out – there is nothing worse than digging through layers of hamster bedding in your pocket while looking for a tape measure.
I’ve been wearing the Texas Heritage apron for 3 months, and it has taken a beating while I’ve been working on the Policeman’s Boot Bench; man-handling 15″ wide 110″ long oak boards to be cut to length, extended planing sessions as I’ve processed the timber by hand, and cutting plenty of joinery. Through all that it has felt comfortable, and never hindered my movements. Although it no longer looks out of the box fresh, it is developing the pleasing character of an apron that sees regular use, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to age over the coming years.