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!

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!

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 Bark Peeling

I went into the woods today and peeled some oak.

Every year, about this time, as the new growth starts to sprout and the sap is rising, woods people gather in Cumbria to peel oak bark to send to the tannery in Devon (the only one still using oak bark commercially).

The happens in a coppiced “coup”, which is an area of broadleaf woodland that is periodically harvested for its wood. Each tree that is cut down grows back by sending new shoots from the roots and stool of the tree. Typically, a coppiced woodland would contain oak, hazel, ash, birch alder and elm. It’s these species that make this practice very different to the clear felling plantation woodlands, where all the tree need to be replanted after harvesting. Coppicers work with nature, continuing a practice that’s been carried out in Britain since the Middle Ages.My wife and I use bent copper pipe to slide under the bark. This doesn’t damage the wood underneath and allows the bark to be pulled away without cutting it.

Coppicing mostly takes place over winter, when the sap is down and there’s little growth to get in the way of working. But when you want to peel oak you need to time it right. May and June are usually the best time of year, but a combination of sunshine, rain and the phase of the moon seem to make a difference to how well the bark peels.

This is Edward (above), and Brian and Ian (below) – long standing members of the Coppice Association North West who organise these events. A nicer group of people you won’t meet. I love spending the day working with these knowledgeable and fun folk.

Each oak trunk is carefully cut with a sharp chainsaw to ensure the stool (the roots) remain healthy. They’ll start growing again this summer and will be ready to harvest again in maybe 15 years.

Here’s the bark taken from one large 4 metre length of trunk and its attached branches.

The peeled oak is used for furniture and bird tables. Anything left over is sold as firewood or turned into charcoal, to be sold to BBQ lovers.

Above is half a day’s peelings. This is transported to somewhere undercover to dry. Then later in the year the tannery will send a flatbed truck to pick up the bark from all the coppice workers in the area.Mike, Dan and John, loading the charcoal kiln with unused and unsuitable wood.



See my Bodger Morgan blog about a visit to the tannery a couple of years ago: A visit to Bakers oak bark tannery

New Year, New Website

After managing for a few years with a clunky shop website I’ve decided to switch over to using Etsy to sell my products.

I’ve also converted all my website pages into this new WordPress website and started my Morgan Leather blogroll.

Using Etsy and WordPress should make my marketing, updating and selling easier, so hopefully I can keep everything feeling more fresh!

I hope you like it and would love to hear what you think!

Old Posts – On My Bodger Morgan Blog

Here are some old posts I stuck on my Bodger Morgan blog…

Leather Sheaths with the Co-op and BHMAT

Learn how to make hard wearing sheaths for your woodworking tools by coming on one of my courses.

A Visit to Baker’s Oak Bark Tannery

In August I was lucky enough to visit Britain’s last oak-bark tannery. They produce top quality leather from Devon’s finest cows using the ancient technique of soaking the hides in oak bark and water. And the great thing is, I peel oak bark with the Coppice Association NW and then sell it to the tannery. So some of that bark was peeled by me!

New Version Billhook Sheath

I’m always looking at how my designs could be improved. Checkout my latest billhook sheath design…

Rub in that Dubbin!

This guide will explain how to get a great finish on your leather.

Plus I’m including a secret recipe for my Morgan Leather Balm!

Morecambe and Wize

High Class VW Campervan Restorers – wow!

I love the VW campervan, especially the T1 and T2, so imagine how chuffed I was to be contacted by Mark Ritson, the director of Morecambe and Wize – Classic Vw Campervan Builders.