Our bespoke shirt cutters work with a very specific and very personal set of tools, many of which require years until they are honed to perfection. Some of the tools have been present in the cutting room since Budd first started cutting bespoke shirts. Below, is a snapshot of the tools of the trade.
1. Brown paper
This is the same as the paper used by Savile Row’s bespoke tailoring houses. It is used for its durability and pliability. Each customer’s individual pattern is kept on file for decades, so it needs to endure.
2. Tape Measure
An obvious tool! Up to 20 measurements are taken on a new customer when measuring for a shirt. As well as measurements, configurations such as a barrel chest or sloping shoulder are also noted. These influence the pattern and fit of the finished shirt. Budd’s cutters work in inches, but order cloth in centimetres as the mills that the company works with are Italy and Switzerland based.
3. Sharp pencils
Unlike bespoke tailors, shirt cutters work with a pencil when drafting and marking patterns. Chalk would not show up on or rub away from cotton as well.
The length of a shirt body means that yard or metre sticks are required. Yard sticks were traditionally marked with a crown stamp to confirm that they were genuine! Set square rulers are also used.
Cutters have two pairs of shears each. A smaller pair for cutting out paper patterns, and a larger, old fashioned, tailoring pair for cutting out shirt bodies and sleeves. The first rule of any cutting room is never to borrow a pair of shears. A cutter tends to use the same pair of sheers throughout his career and will sense when they have fallen into the wrong hands!
6. Belly Blade Knives
Sadly, these are no longer used today, but fortunately last a lifetime! Budd is one of the last houses to use them. They are akin to a fountain pen, responding to the individual cutter’s handle of them. They wear down over the years, improving with age. The knives are used for cutting the smaller elements of the shirt, such as collars, cuffs, yokes, gauntlets and gussets. Belly blades offer a precision that cannot be afforded with shears.
7. Lead Weights
The majority of these have been in Budd’s cutting room since day one. They are used to keep paper and cloth in place when cutting out patterns and shirts. They are well worn and have plenty of history.
8. Sharpening Stone
This is an old piece of hardboard topped with sandstone. Again, these are another disappearing tool, but are essential for keeping belly blades and shears sharp. Watching Head Cutter, John Butcher as he sharpens his knife is both mesmerising and terrifying. Sweeney Todd, anyone?
9. Soft Wooden Block
There is a block for each cutter. The soft wooden block is similar to a chopping board and is used for cutting shirt parts with our razor sharp, belly blade knives.
10. Flat Iron
You won't find a domestic steam iron in the cutting room. Each one of our shirt cutters will have a flat dry iron switched on at their board all day. The heavy weight of a flat iron removes any creases quickly and efficiently ensuring patterns are matched perfectly.