A Case for the Scottish Spyglass

Whilst up in the Highlands of Scotland, north of Inverness, I met a man who manages 100 square kilometers of rugged mountains, forests, rivers and lochs. His name is Innes Macneill. A very knowledgeable and proud man of nature.

He saw my leather work and so sent his assistant to fetch his Spyglass. The challenge he had for me was to make a new case for it.

Both telescope and original case had lasted him 20 years but the case was starting to fall apart.

I love bespoke work so I was completely on board, even though there were a few unknowns I had yet to work out. The first challenge was working out how to mould the end pieces of leather to fit inside the tube.

Luckily he allowed me to take the old case and his spyglass away so I could make a new one to fit perfectly. This was a great honour, especially as he trusted me to take care of his precious instrument.

Innes uses his spyglass for sighting deer when stalking. The deer numbers need to be culled as there are no predators other than humans.

It is telescopic, with three sections sliding out, the last section allowing you to focus, giving a crystal clear view.

The second challenge was to learn how to line the inside with felt. I’ve never lined any of my work before so off to YouTube to find out how other people do it!

Once I’d worked out how I made a test piece, which I decided could be a dice cup (anyone want it?!)

Pleased with the result I started making the case from oak bark tanned British cow leather – a very traditional and rugged leather that will last for many years to come.

It took me two full days but I got there in the end. And what a pleasurable experience it was. I molded the ends by wetting circular pieces of leather and pushing them into the right-sized cup with a slightly smaller plastic bottle! Worked a treat!

Here’s the end result:

I made a short video to show you how it all fits together…

So, do you like what you see? Do you have an unusual leather need? Something you can’t just buy from the high street or Amazon? Drop me a line and I’d be happy to chat. Or maybe you also have a Gray & Company spyglass that needs a new case!

Gladstone Bag Repair

A lady brought me this bag that was her Grandfather’s bag, made about 80 years ago. Some stitching had failed and one of the side walls had collapsed. Here’s what I did to repair it.

You can see how the side wall had collapsed. Looking inside, after removing the deteriorating lining, the reinforcing cardboard was broken.

To straighten this out I soaked the cardboard to soften it, then flattened it out and left it to dry with weights holding it down. Once dry I glued a new reinforcing piece of cardboard in place.

Next up was time to fix the holes in the corners where the stitching had deteriorated.

There were two ways to fix this. The first was to remove the metal frame around the opening, remove the reinforcing cardboard and turn the bag inside out. This seemed too big a job and I was in danger of not finding the correct rivets to attach the frame again. So I opted to wearing a head torch, and using a curved needle to work from inside the bag! Quite fiddly but possible.

Finally the bag needed a good clean, oil and wax, and it was ready to go. A beautiful little thing. I’d love to work on more of these. An absolute pleasure.

If you have an old and cherished leather item that’s in need of some love and repair then please drop me a line with some photos. I’d love to help.

Say “No” to Plastic Bottles!

I’ve always cared about the environment and dislike the amount of plastic floating around, especially single-use plastic. I aim to produce leather goods that will last for years and not just be thrown away. So here’s my new line of leather covers for glass bottles. You can fill your bottle with tap water (or something stronger!) and enjoy the unadulterated taste of drinking from glass – plastic bottles make drinks taste horrible, in my opinion.

Available to order from my Etsy shop: Glass Hip Flasks

And if you’re after something smaller for gin or whisky I have Stainless Steel Hip Flasks too!

Going Full Time!

For the past 10 years I’ve been juggling my leather work with my office job in Preston. But finally all my hard work of building my leather skills and my leather work business has paid off, so I handed in my notice in July! Hooray!! I’m having to work my 3 months notice, so October 4th 2019 is my final day of working for the “man”! Can’t wait!

So, here’s where you come in. In order to make sure I can continue to feed my family I need my orders to continue to come in thick and fast. Please let people know about my work. Not only do I sell ready-made leather products but I also:

  • work with customers on bespoke items,
  • carry out repair work,
  • run courses on leather work, and
  • sell small pieces of leather for you to work with.

Here’s to a future of creating and making, rather than sitting in front of a computer screen all day long!

Rite in the Rain

I’ve been making these simple leather covers for Rite in the Rain notebooks. If you’ve not heard of these world-renowned notebooks then read on! They are coated with a special substance that means they don’t get wet, and can be written on with a biro or pencil in all weather. I’ve been using them for years and love them.

They’re made in the North West region of USA (Washington State) where they get their fair share of wet weather, so they know what they’re doing. I started using them on outdoor courses years ago when I used to do a lot of greenwood working. If you’re an outdoor person that likes to make notes then these are the booklets for you!

Recently I developed 2 new designs for these books – a vertical flap and side flap (a bit like my Kindle covers!). Here’s a few photos to show you what I mean:


You can order both versions here:

Side Flap or Vertical Flap

Kindle Covers

I’ve been making quite a few leather covers for Kindles and other e-readers recently. The two main designs are the vertical flap and the side flap. The Kindle is held in place with a strap at the top and corner tabs at the bottom. This allow all buttons and ports to be available for use. They work with the older Kindle versions and the new Paperwhite touchscreen versions.

Available to order from my Etsy shop:
Side Flap or Vertical Flap

Holdall for a London Chef

Earlier this year I had the privilege of making a leather bag from tough-wearing, oak bark tanned bridle leather.

It had two zips (the main one and an internal pocket), rolled handles, a shoulder strap and brass stud feet.

Here’s a few photos to show the process and the end result…


Making Tool Sheaths

Here’s a little insight into how I manage to make tool covers fit perfectly, without having the tool in hand (apologies for the double entendres in this post! ) .

In this example my customer (a roofing thatcher) has a spar hook that he uses to make the spars that hold the thatching material in place on a roof. Proper job!

He sent me a plan view photo of his tool (snigger) with a ruler in sight.

I then scale the image up on my laptop screen until the ruler matches reality.

Then I trace around it. Simple eh!?

Obviously I have to allow a little as perspective/wide-angle lenses can change the shape slightly but so far I’ve had no problems.

And here’s the final cover, completely hand-cut and hand-stitched, finished with natural oils and beeswax. I’ve attached a flap and press stud to hold it in place.

At first the tool will be a tight fit but over time the sheath will stretch and mould to the shape of the hook.

Drop me a line if you’d like to get a quote for a cover for your tool 😊

Patchwork Stool

I had some great fun putting this padded seat together for this piano stool. Using up lots of scrap pieces of leather and laying them out like a jigsaw.

I stitched each piece together using a cross stitch to form the top.

Then attached the walls.

Then padded it out with wool fleece and finally attached it to a beech wood stool.

If you’d like to commission something similar then please drop me a line!

Oak Bag

A durable shoulder bag made from chunky Oak Bark Tanned “London Colour” bridle leather.

This is the leather. It has a beautiful colour and a very unique smell – I can tell by the smell alone that it’s from the tannery in Devon.

Before starting this commission i confirmed all the details with the customer by sending diagrams and descriptions.

My customer also wanted me to use “veg tan” coloured thread, which I don’t usually use, but I have to say, I’m loving it. Below you can see a dyed and burnished edge and part of the back pocket.

All the leather has now been cut and the main wrap-around piece stitched together. 

Almost ready to start stitching, but first l need to finish the buckles for the front and shoulder straps.

The front buckle and strap will incorporate a hidden magnet (well, actually 10 hidden magnets) to allow the bag to be opened quickly without opening the brass buckle. Below you can see the split leather with magnets glued in place.

So here’s the finished front buckle and magnetic pad that it sticks to. The pad is sewn to the front pocket.

Here’s the front buckle and shoulder strap buckle side by side. The front one is 1 inch wide, and the shoulder strap is 2 inches wide.

Finally I stitched the sides on which completed the bag.

Below you can see the inside front pocket.

Back pocket and shoulder strap below.

The finishes bag. I’m so please with it. It gonna last many many years as it’s solid and sturdy.

And here I am, showing it off in my back garden! I really ought to find a decent model!

If you like what you see and would like your own bag designing then please get in touch.

Next up… a round tool bag for a plumber… I’ll post updates and photos soon.