It's pretty much standard for guitar strap manufacturers to source off-the-shelf leather hides to cut into straps. There's nothing really wrong with that at all, there's a lot of good leather to be had if you've got a relationship with the right tanneries, but it doesn't offer much, if any, variation or character from strap to strap. Our Formula 5 wax is what we use to develop the prehistoric-looking relic grain patina on our Buffalo King straps. It's not wax that we buy in at all, and it's called Formula 5 because it was the fifth formula we tried in order to nail the look we were shooting for…..make each Buffalo King guitar strap look completely unique.
Formula 5 wax is moulded into hand size rubbing blocks for waxing large buffalo hides.
Obviously, Formula 5 is Bison Boa’s own secret sauce developed entirety in-house specifically for use with buffalo leather, so we can't tell you it's ratios or list all the ingredients. We can talk a little bit about the obsession that went into sourcing the ingredients and the finish that the wax achieves.
We've made the Buffalo King strap for around eighteen months at the time of writing, and in all that time we've never mentioned the back story of Formula 5. We went the long way round to make sure absolutely all of the waxes and oils in Formula 5 were going to be UK origin…..which was way more hassle than the alternative of importing the stuff from industrial suppliers.
We're ok to say we use beeswax as one of the several waxes in Formula 5, and we got it into our heads that Bison Boa’s beeswax had to be from UK hives, no exceptions. Looking back, I'm not quite sure why we went for that stance since we weren't going to really publicise the fact, but ultimately I think it's part of having the best standards you can achieve irrespective of whether your customers are going to see it or not. If you just have the attitude of quality regardless of recognition, that workshop mentality diffuses into the products, so it's worth the extra energy.
So, *sigh*, UK beeswax, easy right? Nope. It turns out that while there are a few bee farms in the UK selling wax, it's actually difficult to find one that doesn't cut wax from their own hives with imported wax because they can't keep up with the demand for ‘British’ beeswax otherwise. It's because of the big resurgence of home crafts in the last ten years or so, of which, hobbyist candle makers using beeswax are well represented. Long story short, after about two weeks calling farm after farm, we found one prepared to pour us beeswax only from his own hives. Finally, pure British beeswax!
Pure UK beeswax, fresh and bright yellow before being cooked into Formula 5. Definitely a butter tub mould!
Not only was the wax difficult to source, but it's actually not as convenient to work with. You see, the freely available import stuff comes in pellet form so it's easy for candle makers to pour into a mould and easier for farms cutting their own wax to weigh out. Our wax comes in big solid blocks that look like they were poured by some bloke into an old butter tub as a mould. They look this way because they were poured by some bloke into an old butter tub as a mould. We go at these blocks with a chisel and hammer to chip off chunks for the Formula 5 mix. Since we measure Formula 5 ratios to the exact gram and millilitre to it give consistent performance when we use it, we've got to chip tiny pieces of wax to fine tune the ratio. It's not a big deal, but pulling out or adding a couple of preformed beeswax pellets would be quicker to say the least.
An older block of chipped beeswax, lightened by the sun, next to our 'precision' measuring tools.
Ultimately Formula 5 is a ‘theatre’ wax. While it does undoubtedly condition the buffalo leather to an extent, the core purpose is to enhance aesthetics, ‘theatre’, in the final product. It does an incredible job of highlighting any natural grain and imperfections in the leather ensuring all straps are fingerprint level unique. Is Formula 5 wax better for all the research and hassle involved in finding our bloke with a butter tub and a field full of hives? We can't say for sure, but we can say that our Formula 5 mix of beeswax, unicorn’s tears, leprechaun oil, pixie eyebrows and yeti dust makes a wicked looking strap you'll never see coming out of a big factory.
See Formula 5 wax in action on our Core Line Buffalo King strap.