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About UKRay

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    Leatherworker.net Regular
  • Birthday 09/13/1955

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  • Location
    The Welsh border, UK
  • Interests
    Looking, listening and learning

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  1. Apologies to all for my lack of contribution in the past few years. Ill health takes no prisoners. Major surgery was interesting. I don’t plan on doing it again.
    Right now I’ll drag up a chair, help myself to the donuts and coffee and sit and listen for a while. It’s nice to be back even as a part time earwigger!

  2. Hi Loquai, you could do a lot worse than contacting one of the US’s most accommodating sewing machine guys. Steve at Cobra is both helpful and a genuinely nice guy. I’m based in the UK but he was even prepared to advise me on needles and sent exactly what I needed. I wish I was US based so I could take full advantage of Steve’s knowledge. Give him a call to discuss what kind of machine you need. He is always happy to chat and may have exactly what you want. Good luck fella! UK Ray
  3. Like to chat with UKRAY as I have the same machines


    1. UKRay


      Sorry Alan, I dropped the ball there. Chat away! 

  4. I'm told that Tandy supply metal hooks suitable for suspenders (braces) but can't find a reference number anywhere. (I've seen pictures!). Can anyone help please? It maybe because certain lines aren't available this side of the pond... in which case the reference number is essential in order to order them direct from Tandy US. Thanks for taking the time to red this - any maybe for some help! Ray
  5. You make very nice stuff, Bob. I'm sure you are successful. I wish I had the 'brainspace' to explore Etsy more fully as it seems to have a lot on offer. However, it would be yet another thing thing to check on every day - which is why I stopped selling on Ebay. I've had luck with my website and it now provides me with enough work. At the outset I was concerned that it wouldn't justify the money I had spent or even pay for its existence (hosting fees, updates etc) - but I was soooo wrong! Accepted, I do have to work on it regularly - change stuff around and freshen up the front page occasionally; but it earns its keep. I'd recommend any leatherworker to have their own dedicated online shopfront. It won't be cheap if you do the job properly, but my experience is that it will pay for itself time and time again with regular business. To be honest, I'm glad I made the decision to sell online as this may well be the last season of shows for me, it is getting harder to shift all the stuff, put up marquees and generally deal with the public. My re-enactment customers are charming, polite and appreciative of the work we traders put into attending events - but there are always a few members of the public that cause grief! Frankly I'm wondering if I can be bothered with it. Time will tell...
  6. This is a very early piece of work (from the early 1980s) that I was so pleased with I hung it on the wall in the shop rather than finish the pouch. I found it in a box when I moved house and hung it up again to remind me there is always room for improvement!
  7. A retail storefront sounds like a great idea but it ties you down. With a mail order business like mine I can take a day off when things are quiet and nobody is upset that I'm not there to serve them. I had a few shops over the years and eventually drifted into the world of medieval re-enactment markets - Renaissance Fairs in the US I believe... With a dozen or more shows a year I find I can still get 'face to face' contact with my customers and still retain my independence (and hopefully still have time to go fishing!). Ive attached a picture of my booth at a few recent shows.
  8. We are all creatures of habit... we like the familiar and mistrust the new. At least, most of us are! This weekend, I've been going down memory lane... sorting through 40 plus years worth of patterns, leatherworking books, CraftAids, tool catalogs and paperwork. I have a mountain of stuff still to go through but I was quite pleased to discover that the way I do leatherwork now is not so different from the way I worked back in the 60s and 70s. However, it got significantly easier as I invested in machinery to speed up the time consuming jobs. Nowadays I still make at least six patterns before making a new product (I've still got patterns dating back to the 60s when I was fifteen years old). I still hand-cut intricate designs and still hand tool much of my work. A 22 ton hydraulic clicking press has definitely helped speed up some of the processes and laser cut stamps have made a huge difference to the range of designs I can offer. I still do most of my best work on a big granite slab though! The big difference is sewing. My hands aren't what they were. Arthritis and the 'sands of time have taken their toll. Hand stitching is almost a thing of the past for me. I was quite worried when my hands started to go, I reckoned I would have to take up gardening or worse... Fortunately, a few years back I purchased a big harness stitcher and haven't looked back since. That machine has earned every penny I spent on it many hundreds of times over. Possibly the best investment I ever made. I used to hand write all my notes. Nowadays the computer takes the strain - in fact, I'm not sure I remember how to write with a pen! Sorry to ramble on folks, but this has been a weekend of memories and I wanted to share them. Ray
  9. Truth be told, I'm having an 'interesting time' at present as I try to change the way I look at life and work. Putting aside the 'familiar' is hard. Coming 'home' early is actually a problem as I feel I ought to be in the shop pounding leather. I find any excuse to keep on pounding. This either means I'm a workaholic or I've got an overdeveloped work ethic - I'm not too sure which it is. Hey, I could just be stupid! Seriously, does anyone else work harder than they have to? I suspect most self-employed people have this problem. We try to do the best job we can for people and this means we work a lot harder and more hours than if we were employed. I calculated my hourly rate recently and was actually shocked at how low it is. Sometimes I wish I'd done an apprenticeship as a plumber and not as a harness maker! lol
  10. The main issue is that carriers won't have the same respect for your work that you do. I use acid free tissue paper to protect the surface, bubble wrap to protect the item, put the whole lot in a black garbage bag to make sure it can't get wet and newspaper/styrene beads/whatever I've got to fill any gaps in the box. Obviously I'm shipping in the UK, but the packaging is about the same! Ray
  11. A few years back I spent a lot of time answering questions and hoping to help folk on this amazing forum. As my leatherworking business took off I was unable to spend as much time as I would have liked on here (I got busy) but still looked in whenever I could. Then I got VERY busy and my visits dwindled to almost nothing. I was spending every waking hour making leather stuff and had no time for enjoying life (and enjoying the company of like minded folk). What I'm trying to say is that the more you work, the less you are inclined to remember why you were working in the first place. In my case, I started leatherworking for pleasure at home. I had a good sized house and the space to set up a small workshop. It all looked perfect. In time, the business started to grow and I quickly found myself working far too hard just to make a sensible living. Space in which to work was a real issue. Noise (lets face it guys, we do make a noise) was a problem. Deliveries were a hassle and storage was a total pain in the posterior! My partner objected to living in a storeroom (I can't really blame her) In short, it wasn't much fun! I forgot about enjoying my leatherworking as it quickly became my ambition to move my business out of my home into a 1500 sq ft commercial unit to make things easier - which I did. The unit was very secure and didn't have windows. I got to work in the dark and left in the dark. I didn't see daylight from one week to the next. I was making a whole lot of product and had a superb work space but it wasn't making me happy. Especially when I realised I needed to work even harder to pay the rent on the unit. After two years of this, the penny dropped. My solution was to move to a much smaller house on a bigger plot of land and use the available cash to build my own fully insulated workshop and storage cabins in the yard. Which, after a lot of shenanigans I finally did. But I had to shift a lot of soil and build a road first... Net result: my outgoings (rent, heating, lighting, insurances, gasoline bill) dropped like a stone. I walk to work in the mornings (all 25 yards). I have an amazing view from the workshop windows and life is a lot more relaxed because I'm not constantly chasing the last dollar in every deal. My new workspace has everything I need - see pictures - and I'm a much happier man. My conclusion: Leatherworking is a great hobby, but those who go down the 'full time' route will doubtless agree that it is a tough way to make a living. Your workload is necessarily large because profits are relatively low; so you always seem to be firefighting with no time to cut any fire breaks. Make time by reducing your overheads guys - it worked for me. Right now, I've found time to redesign bits of my website, updating the SEO side of things and generally sorting out images and text. I haven't had time to do this in years. Each change and improvement is bringing in slightly more business which I'm regulating with my pricing. In short, I'm a happy man. I don't make a fortune but I have enough to live. If you are renting work premises then you may want to think hard about building your own work space on your own property. I can't say it was easy, but with the move completed I'm a changed man. For the first time in years, I am free of the need to work all the time. Hey, I've even dug out my fishing gear!
  12. An interesting question... I have changed the way I make patterns. No more paper, I make the pattern directly onto flooring vinyl and cut it out. Vinyl behaves in a very similar way to leather; it folds, rivets and even stitches in the same way. Using vinyl means it is very easy to spot and correct design flaws before you even make a prototype. Hint: most flooring or DIY stores have sample books (vinyl pieces about 18" square). They throw these away when they go out of date. I blag one every time I go past the local flooring store!
  13. Pick a range of stuff you like to make. Making things when you don't enjoy your work is misery! I won't do any more horse leather. Ever! Ray
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