I used some of the Leather Thorn Paddles in the Spanked book trailer and let me tell you, they are a lot of fun! Painful, kinky fun. Many thanks to Stacie Joy for her help in facilitating and transcribing this interview all about John’s custom paddles.
How did you get into the paddle-making business and how long have you been doing it?
I owned a custom leatherworking shop, created and provided supplies for horses and riders, made and repaired tack equipment, saddles, and chaps. Whatever someone wanted that was crafted from leather, I made for them. (For instance, gun holsters, knife sheaths, checkbook covers, purses, and cell phone cases.)
A friend of mine saw some leather paddles and straps for sale on eBay one day, showed them to me, and said, “You can do better than that!” I looked at them, drew up some patterns, and started making paddles. That was about eight or nine years ago. The business has taken off since then, mostly by word of mouth. I have to say thank you to all the bloggers who have, for years, been featuring my products and services.
Please tell us a bit about your paddles, both what they’re made of and how you craft them.
They are made out of cowhide (number 1 hide, skirting leather—the same leather they make custom saddles out of). I make all the paddles, straps, and tawses myself. Everything is cut and tooled by hand. I use a special sewing machine to sew through thick layers of leather. This is a one-man operation!
How are your paddles different from other paddles on the market?
For one thing, I have a different handle design, made to better fit your hand. I use a built-up handle I designed for a more comfortable grip. I offer most of my work in many different colors and styles, and have a choice of handle colors. I customize each paddle to the person who will be using it. For example, is the person left-handed or right? That makes a difference in the placement of the design.
Also, I offer custom work, which most people do not. If someone wants something different than my standard lineup (something longer, wider, a different pattern, or design), I can do that for them. If they have a design in mind, I make it to spec. There haven’t been too many things I can’t create or craft.
Additionally, I am the only one I know who offers patterns on the spanking implements. I use a basket weave or diamond pattern mostly, although I offer other patterns. I will even make up a new pattern if someone has a request or idea.
My company, Leather Thorn Paddles, offers a “Name That Paddle” contest every year, where contestants (anyone with email access can enter) offer up names for one of my newly created paddles, and the winner gets that paddle, free of charge.
Which one is most popular and why?
Well, that’s a tough question to answer. There are a few best-sellers, and they seem to rotate. The ones that are consistently the most popular are the Small Rose Paddle, the Rose Blush Paddle, and the Turntail Rosy. Most of my customers (about 75%) are women, and they seem to like the rose designs best. I think they prefer nice-looking or aesthetically pleasing designs. A lot of women like that my paddles come in other colors besides black, and they appreciate the look that the natural leather and custom designs provide.
You do custom paddles, as seen on your website. What’s the most unusual custom paddle you’ve created?
That’s another tough question, Rachel. I’ve had some unusual design commissions: I had one woman that wanted a tree-bark pattern with a heart on it with her initials plus her man’s initials in the middle, just like it had been carved it into a tree.
Another woman wanted a yellow-and-black cartoon bee (complete with stinger) on her paddle. One man wanted a padded paddle, made with soft sheepskin on one side.
I’ve put all sorts of designs on paddles: four-leaf clovers, angel wings, and wolf faces. I’ve made matching sets: his and hers, little and big, twin swingers. I’ve made different patterns on the implements themselves: camouflaged (mossy oak) patterned-paddles, and barbed-wire–patterned straps.
I’ve also made breast bondage cuffs, ankle and wrist cuffs and restraints, hogties, and bondage belts. I can make them in almost any color or style the customer wants.
What do you like best about creating Leather Thorn Paddles?
Meeting the people who use the paddles. I’ve met a lot of nice folks, some of whom I am still in contact with. By “meet” I mean via email and telephone; I haven’t actually met too many people in person. I enjoy being able to craft special items for people, and then getting an email or letter telling me how much those people love the results—it makes my day! I really like the challenge of making new, unusual, and different items for people, not the same old black leather paddles that are for sale everywhere else.
Is there a paddle you’d recommend for someone new to being spanked, as well as for someone who’s done it a lot and can take something more powerful?
The Rose Blush Paddle [pictured above] and the Imp Lament are perfect for beginners. They have rounded, smoothed edges (and are edged and polished/burnished) and can deliver a nice mild spanking (although they can also pack a wallop if you aren’t careful). It’s all in how you use them.
For your experienced players: the Brat Loop [pictured above]. You take a walk on the wild side with that item. You can really set someone’s ass on fire with one of them!
The Tawses can also provide some serious stimulation: I offer two, the two- or three-fingered standard tawse, and the new, American Tawse [pictured below]. Again, it’s all in how you use them, but thinner straps generally provide a more potent sting.