Grippable and rugged, these handmade footballs are built to be caught and thrown. The concept is simple, but achieving this state of functional elegance is more involved. Paul Cunningham, who designs and makes each ball, searched years before finding the right leather, a tough American-tanned skin originally developed for heavy duty boots.
Unlike the official NFL issues made for the broad and brawny hands of professionals, Leather Head footballs are built to fit roundly in the hand of a layman - much better for throwing between friends. The footballs are handmade one at a time from start to finish, so the quality is consistent, but each iteration is distinctive.
Leather Head footballs are an artisanal product, and Cunningham considers himself accountable for the quality of each ball. Along with meticulously sourced materials, carefully designed cutting dies, and hard-earned skills, Cunningham maintains high standards and checks for quality at every step.
Get out there and play. The only thing to avoid is throwing the ball into the ocean (salt water is bad for leather), and the gnashing, rough love of dog teeth.
Care is minimal; these footballs are not delicate. Clean the mud and dirt from the ball with a damp cloth after play and, every once in a while, rub a small amount of leather conditioner into the surface.
Each Leather Head football holds an unconditional lifetime warranty. Should it come to that, return the ball to Kaufmann Mercantile for an exchange.
The idea of a classically designed, enthusiast's football had been living in Paul Cunningham's imagination for several years, but it wasn't until the Summer of 2009 that knowledge, skill and circumstance aligned to get to the actual work of designing the ball, obtaining the right cutting dies, and sourcing the materials.
The entire ball is made by hand. Cunningham has a streamlined assembly process, but he describes his workshop as bearing a closer resemblance to one from the 19th-century than a modern factory.
Starting with a full side of leather, patterns of each panel are hand-placed to avoid weaknesses and brands in the hide. They are then cut by hand with a special cutting die and a manual die press, and scorch-branded with the Leather Head logo. The ball is assembled inside-out with an industrial sewing machine, then inverted with a little elbow grease and a sturdy stick. A rubber bladder is inserted and the ball is finished with rawhide lacing.
Normally leather work generates hundreds of pounds of scrap leather waste. But Cunningham generates nearly none, using the scrap leather for stuffing his line of old school medicine balls.
All the leather used for Leather Head footballs are American grown and tanned. Additional components are nylon cloth liners, nylon thread, rawhide lacing and butyl rubber bladders. Bladders are sourced from China.
Heavy-duty footballs built to be used every day and last forever. Constructed with rawhide lacing and American-tanned leather, which gets better with age. Each piece handmade in a New Jersey workshop.
19 ½ inches (49.5 cm)
Butyl rubber bladder
New Jersey, U.S.A.
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