Throughout history many craftsmen (and craftswomen) have worn aprons as they ply their trade. A good workshop apron will help to keep some dust and dirt off of your clothes, keep your pencil(s), block plane and other essentials close at hand. It’s also an item you will spend a LOT of time wearing, so you better get something you like and make sure if fits comfortably.
For the past ten years or so my main apron has been the standard canvas apron from Lee Valley (seen below). Made in Canada this apron met all the basic criteria — covered by torso, had a pocket with a cover, has a pocket for my pencils etc. Over the years the pencil pocket has worn out at the top edges, saw dust finds its way into the pockets (and I empty it every so often), it has survived many a washing though the chest is becoming a bit on the thin side. All in all I have been very happy with this apron.
Since that time I also bought a Rockler apron that goes over the shoulder instead of around your neck, and a nice festool apron that wears a bit more like a vest. The Rockler apron was a pain to get on sometimes (the shoulder straps often got messed up, though I liked the idea of not having weight around my neck) and the Festool apron while nice didn’t cover as much and so I hardly ever wore these aprons and preferred to keep adding miles to the old Lee Valley apron. (Plus it was a Christmas present from my Dad).
I wear a lot of Carhartt gear — I find it is made better and lasts a lot longer than other brands I’ve had in the past. (I’m looking at you Lee Carpenter Jeans that wore out way too fast…). Where I live we have one of the few Carhartt owned retail stores which caries most of the lines Carhartt makes and sells. While much of the stuff they make is made overseas — they do still make a line of Made In the USA garments and accessories and whenever possible I try to buy from this line.
According to Carhartt’s web page, less than 2% of all the clothing sold in America is actually made in America — that is a very scary number. The only way more clothing is going to be made in the USA is customers seek out and buy more of the clothing made in this country. (I also like American Apparel and Red Wing who also still make clothing products in the USA) You can learn more about Carhartt’s Made in the USA line here along with an interesting video talking about how and why they still make some products in the USA.
During my most recent visit I saw they had a table full of Carhartt 125th Anniversary gear and accessories including the workshop apron above.
Also from the tag above that came with the apron some portion of the sale will help support Carhartt’s $25,000 donation to SkillsUSA which helps train students for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations while fostering “total quality at work — high ethical standards, superior work skills, lifelong education, and pride in the dignity of work” and promoting community service.
So far I am very happy with this new apron. (It was $34.99 — about the same price as my old Lee Valley apron which goes for $38 today) It is well made from Carhartt’s famous heavy duck canvas with rivet reinforced pockets. The fabric is noticeably thicker than my old apron and much longer though it does not seem to get in the way of my movements.
A nice wide (and soft) adjustable strap that goes around your neck along with a loop for hanging it up
Reinforced pockets (double layer of fabric) to help keep sharp objects from poking through the bottom.
A pocket much like that on my carpenter jeans — great for cell phone, utility knife or similar.
Along with my favorite feature — a loop for holding my combination square.
The apron ties in the back much as you see on other traditional aprons. I may get a set of plastic side release buckles as that was what I was used to, or maybe an Apron Hook but so far tying the apron behind my back has not been bad.
If you are in the market for a reasonably priced, Made In The USA workshop apron I would suggest checking this apron out before they stop making it — seems like it will be a limited run item.
P.S. They also seem to make a line of tool rolls and tool pouches out of the same materials. If you’d like to learn about making some of your own tools rolls and similar items for the shop check out these earlier posts.
P.P.S. Not related to woodworking at all, but Carhartt also made a nice Made in the USA duck canvas blanket that is sherpa lined and is my new favorite couch accessory.