Joe Gannon and Max Wastler recently visited East Tennessee’s Smokey Montains. Their purpose was simple, to check out the rural studio of craftsmen Billy Moore and investigated his process. Moore, the man behind Cause and Effect Belts & Accessories, has been described as an unorthodox genius. He’s said to spend days beating leather hides with stones… and evenings rebel rousing. The belts have been described as “old fashioned,” and while neither the aesthetic nor the approach screams ‘turn back the clock’ it still manages to work.
But, enough of our thoughts. Let’s turn to our guest bloggers. Above, you’ll find Mr. Gannon hard at work polishing a belt buckle. After the jump, some words by Mr. Wastler (on a night with Mr. Moore) is complemented by some fine photography.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park backs right up to what amounts to a Hillbillified Las Vegas Strip, and the contrast is alarming. One second, serenity, the next pandemonium – the pancake kind. Past Madame Tussaud’s, past the Panda Express, winds a road. It traces itself up the side of a tree-covered hill, and dotted alongside are little, ramshackle houses that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bobbi Ann Mason story. At the end of the driveways lie hand-carved signs: Pete’s Pots, Nellie’s Nut Bowls. And I’d hoped as we found our way to the Moore residence, a sign might read “Billy’s Belts.” Alas, there was no sign. Just a very simple house where Billy and his brother live, work, and play, but from the looks of things, it’s mostly where they work. Joe and I got it in our heads that he would learn how to make the buckle and then turn around and teach me.
PBR and power tools. Even though it was long after nightfall, Billy set to work, teaching Joe how to work his big, loud, bone-crushing machines. While Billy showed Joe how to craft the wonky, rough-hewn nickel and copper buckles, I watched. I took notes. I took pictures. I watched some more. And then, it was my turn. Joe showed me how to cut the thick nickel rod, and then, using a ball-peen hammer and a blow torch, I bent the shortened cord around a D-shaped form designed by Billy. Taking the copper coil, Joe handed me a blow torch. He showed me how to bend a piece of hot copper around itself to create the buckle’s hammer, the moving part that fits in the leather belt’s holes. I cut another inch-long piece of copper which is inserted into the hammer, and acts as its fulcrum. Handing me two small pieces of silver, Billy cautioned that if I didn’t hit the silver pieces just right, I wouldn’t solder the copper bar to the nickel D-ring. I sandwiched the silver between the copper and the nickel. Fired the torch. Sure enough, I hit that silver all wrong, and the copper bar never stuck. It took another piece of silver. With that, after a half-hour of bending and soldering, Billy Moore taught Joe Gannon who taught me how to make my first buckle.