The Vikings are Coming…

Here at Blackwater Leather we are not all about working.  Amongst our hobbies is Viking Re-actment!  Yes, dressing up in silly clothes and running about hitting each other 😄.

We wanted a couple of good quality bags to keep authentic items in, like iPhones, iPads etc. and couldn’t find anything on the market that fitted the bill.

So we decided to design and create our own.  Based on early Viking finds from Scandinavia, these bags are as authentic as we could make them.  The bag frames are linden or ash, the bags are wool and linen or leather and the fittings are bronze or brass.







So, if you are looking for an authentic reproductiin of an early medieval bag, look no further!

A Really Good Idea, but…

My son suggested that a time lapse video of some of the more regular jobs might be a good idea. Gaffjaw re-leathering, Bowsprit traveller leather, Shroud Cover’s being made.

This is easier said than done however. It involves fixing a camera on a tripod aimed over ones shoulder and pointing at the work in hand. I understand that newfangled iPhones can do this and that they can be set to take a snap every few seconds, minutes or whatever.

But what if one toddles of to make a cuppa? Or answer a call of nature, or forget about the camera and pop out for a few hours! Not a very interesting video! Still, undeterred I promise to try again😄

Anyway, for now these pics will have to serve to give at least an idea of the process involved in re-leathering a gaff saddle.

Promise to try harder and post a video very soon👍

Authentic Viking Dog Harness?…

Well, not quite but it could be:)

A mate in a local Viking Reenactment group needed an “authentic” harness for his warhound.

Being part of Regia Anglorum he has to be very careful when it comes to matters of authenticity. There were simply no plain, simple, dog harnesses about.

As regular readers will know we are always up for a challenge, so, grab a tape measure and away we go. First job was to choose the leather, in this case it is 2.5mm veg tanned shoulder, strong and supple. The thread was artificial sinew, a sort of nylon based thread that looks the part and lasts for years. During the early medieval period, metal was very expensive, so rivets were out of the question, the whole thing is hand stitched and only two brass parts were used, the buckle and a large ‘D’ ring.

A trial fitting was carried out on a Viking practise night and all the parts were marked up and brought back to the workshop. After several hours we had a prototype to try out on our own warhound, the long suffering Inca.

All looking good, so at the next practice night we sallied forth and tried it on…

So ‘Cooper’ is now dressed the part to raid villages all over Essex with his warrior owner.

If you want to know more about Viking re-enactment visit ‘The Vikings of Essex” at and on Facebook, of course.

If you would like a custom made to measure (nearly) authentic Viking dog harness, just get in touch or check out the Etsy shop.

Something new…

Over the years we have re-leathered a great many bowsprit travellers but last week we came across a first for us. This traveller arrived through the post for re-leathering, it is constructed from stainless steel tubing. Galvanised mild steel is by far the most common, stainless bar we see frequently but never a stainless tube.

After chatting to it’s owner we learned it was off of a Heard 28′ one of my all time favourite boats, and co-incidentally, the customer and yours truly had visited a sister boat a couple of years ago that came up for sale nearby on the River Crouch. I very nearly made an offer for her but the wife considered the interior a bit gloomy🤨.

Anyway, I digress. Why not stainless tubing? Saves weight and gives a larger, kinder, radius where the traveller bears on the bowsprit. I don’t think there are many faults on Heards and reckon this little innovation is a cracker.

The leather used here was 2mm veg tanned shoulder and it was hand sewn using waxed linen thread. Should give many years of service and with a regular application of tallow, should last as long as the bowsprit!

And for today’s trick…

We will be making a holster for a metal detecting trowel.

“Evolution” produce very robust and hard wearing digging trowels, but they do not supply holsters. No problem, I made this holster/sheath from 1.5mm veg tanned shoulder, this holster will last for many years. It is stitched using tough polyester thread and is re-enforced with stainless rivets in strategic places.

It is open-ended to allow dirt and water to escape from the bottom of the holster, rather than having to remove from the belt and tip upside down. Please don’t ask how I know this 🙂

Although I made this for my own use, I would be happy to make something similar for fellow Detectorists, however, I would need to have your trowel to ensure a good fit.

I estimate the price would be around £30, depending on size etc.

Belt loop integrated with the body of the sheath for strength.

Re-enactment arrow quiver

For some years I have been making Bass Bow Quivers, they are used by double bass players as a convenient place to put the bow when plucking the bass. Pictures of these are in the “for sale” section.

A while ago I was asked to create an “early medieval” style arrow quiver. After a bit of research I discovered that very early quivers were made from linen, with a few bits of leather here and there for reinforcement. However, it has been suggested that leather was used too. Probably belt hung but at least one source suggests they may have been back mounted too.

Metal, in early medieval times, was very expensive, so I ruled out the use of metal fittings, and decided to hand sew everything using waxed linen thread. I also chose not to ornament the quiver, to give it a “workmanlike” feel, rather than a “high status” item.

The customer was happy and a new product was added to our portfolio!

Silva Compass Case

Never let it be said that we guys, at BWL rest on our laurels, fail to adopt new technologies and do not move with the times.

A long standing issue with making small wet moulded items is the time and cost of creating moulds. The same applies to embossing stamps, but more about them later. My eldest son treated me to a 3D printer for my 60th birthday. It was not long before I hit on the idea of using it to create one-off moulds for specific jobs. My Silva Compass Case being a good example. With a bit of fiddling with a CAD software program I produced a superb mould for the cases. Much more accurate than my earlier wooden version, it turns out correctly dimensioned case parts again and again, and when it finally breaks, I can print another!perfect fit, time after time 👍😄

Dogs are nearly human…

…but, not quite. Today I had a request for an eyepatch for Gus. No problem except that Gus is a Labrador🤨

When one really looks, one notices just how different a dog head is to a human one. No forehead and no solid sticky out ears. Making the patch is easy but how on Earth will it stay on?

1- two elastic straps that fix to a collar

2- Velcro (?)

3- or what? Ideas on a postcard please, this one has me stumped!

The Globe Theatre eyepatch!

Amazing coincidence yesterday. Youngest son David ( has landed a position at a Shakespearian production at London’s Globe theatre and yesterday I had an Etsy order from the Globe for an eyepatch for the same production!

So my son will be on stage with my eyepatch 😄

Bespoke work is easy…

…if we can visit and measure the boat and even easier if the customer knows what he wants.

West Solent OD capshroud
West Solent OD capshroud…

A while ago we were asked to make a set of bottle screw covers for a West Solent OD that is kept in a local yard.  No problem.  When we visited the beautiful boat to do the work the specification was changed by the boat keeper, who commisioned the work.

A week later and we went back to the boat to fit the bottlescrew covers only to be told the design had been altered again!  Grrr.  Never mind, the customer is always right, is’nt he?

So with a new design explained we return to the workshop and make another set of covers.  Back to the boat and learn that the design has been altered AGAIN by the owner this time.  By now the boat was about to be moved to her winter quarters and the job was becoming a ‘rush’.  Because all the rigging had now been removed and the mast taken down, we were given a bottle screw (see pic) to use to make a final version.  A week later we return to the yard with a bag of perfect bottle screw covers, only to discover that the single bottle screw we had been given, and told to work from, was in fact the forestay bottle screw.  Er, so what I hear you ask.  Well the fact is that on this boat the forestay screw is 50% larger than the others.  So, only one bottle screw cover actually fitted.

By now we are getting a little bored with bottle screw covers.  Chucked the whole lot in a skip and went home.

Moral of the story?  Please let us measure and design any bespoke leatherwork.  We will make them and offer them for approval and if you like them you will be invoiced.  We will never break our golden rule of accepting orders over the phone without first either visiting your boat to measure and design or at the very least have a set of drawings we can work from.  If boat keepers, yard managers, helpful locals, and owners all get involved then it quickly becomes a case of ‘chinese whispers’ and no-one really knows what is going on.

Moan over 🙂