Author: osfameron

"Epic Trip #6 – The Leather Satchel Co workshop, Huyton"

A small group of Epic Trippers (Adrian, Hakim, Matt) met in leafy Huyton where Keith Hanshaw had generously agreed to show us around. His uncle Steve founded the business as a master craftsman in 1966, and Keith has been innovating by introducing digital fabrication into the mix — we couldn’t wait to get a look at how this all worked.

The laser cutter gets used for creating custom jigs, and for various prototyping duties, like creating custom designs for buckles. The alternative to the latter is to get custom cutting dies machined: these are brutally efficient for mass production, but too expensive/slow for fast iteration.

Laser-cut jigs and a clever focus-tool for materials of different widths

Laser-cut jigs and a clever focus-tool for materials of different widths

Machined Buckle die cutters from the production line.

Machined Buckle die cutters from the production line.

Keith has also innovated by introducing a top-of-the-range UV printer. We watched as he printed a design directly onto leather for a new customizable satchel range they’ve partnered on. This allows them to do single or small-batch designs which would be otherwise impossible (getting printed leather from tanneries requires committing to at least 1,000 satchels in that design.) As well as the cost of the printer, learning to use it effectively with a pliable material like leather took them 18 months.

UV Printer.

UV Printer.

Keith admits that the Leather Satchel Co. is the smallest of the three big players in the UK (Cambridge Satchel, and Zatchel are the big fish) but is confident that they’re the “market leader” in terms of craftmanship, quality, innovation, and customization (from what we saw in the trip, this seems plausible.) Part of this is through the investment in digital fabrication, but actually much of it is from retaining the skills as master craftsmen in-house rather than out-sourcing.

Part of the production workshop

Part of the production workshop


Keith shows us the leather stitching machines

Keith shows us the leather stitching machines

The other major factor is the relationships with partners. None of us knew much if anything about tanneries, but it’s a fascinating topic. They work with a number of them, mostly in the Netherlands for various reasons: the UK ones have mostly closed (though there’s a resurgence in small-scale craft tanning), Southern European tanneries tend to produce harder leather which is good for shoes (due to the grass in the cows diet being less rich!), Indian ones have been implicated in environmental issues (with the chrome chemicals used in the colour dying getting flushed into the water system), and Eastern European tanneries use such different processes that they’re harder to work and communicate with. On that last point, Keith mentions that as a customer they’ve effectively had to teach their suppliers how to provide exactly the best sort of leather for them to work with!

Leather stacked for quality control

Leather stacked for quality control

The vast majority of leather satchels are sold to Asia — though there is even a Chinese counterfeiter of their products, the traditional British craftmanship is massively popular. Export requires a keen understanding of differences in expectation: even the high-quality stitching used for the European market had to become even more consistent to avoid whole batches getting rejected by the Japanese!

Afterwards, in the Epic Trip tradition, we went for a drink (Camp and Furnace) and mind-expanding converation about world domination, authenticity, RFID tags, Perl 6, and why QR codes are rubbish.

See more photos of the trip!

  • osfameron
  • Workshop
  • Comments Off on DoES is now 50% More Awesome with a dedicated workshop space
"DoES is now 50% More Awesome with a dedicated workshop space"
Setting up the Laser cutter in its new home

Setting up the Laser cutter in its new home

At the weekend a dozen People Who DoES came to help move our temporary workshop into our Exciting New Dedicated Workshop space in the room next door.

Using an impressive array of technological (3D printed models on laser-cut floorplan, contributed CAD drawings) and organizational (anarchy/democracy) methods, our volunteers worked tirelessly for several hours, pausing only for cake and sandwiches.

This big

This big

Our co-working space is now larger and tidier, while the workshop is looking great. We’ll be celebrating the move on Saturday 11th August, for the inaugural Makerday (10:00-17:00). Hope you can join us!

See all of our photos from the move here!

"DoES wants to Do Even More Epic *cough*"

Over the last year, DoES has hosted events like Barcamp, Google Developer Breakfasts, and groups like Makernight, Lean Startups, the SpecFic Writing Group and Liverpool Sewing Club. We’ve also welcomed many guests, from occasional hotdeskers to permanent residents – techies, entrepreneurs, and artists.

We’re in great shape to carry on doing all this and more… but sometimes it feels like there is Too Much Awesome to hold within our 4 walls. We’ve got a great opportunity to expand next door into what we call the “Dinky” room.

Here’s what we could do with the room:

  • It has plumbing for a kitchen!
  • Move the current workshop tables into a dedicated space in Dinky
  • This would free up desks and clutter in the main space to have more capacity for desk workers
  • We’d also be able to move the laser-cutter into Dinky, freeing up the central room to be entirely a shared meeting space.

But of course, we need money for this: it would normally cost around £650/month, but we could currently take it on for £325. It looks like at the moment we could almost afford it. As DoES has always been very careful with managing our money well, we don’t want to take on something without being sure it will work out.


  • If you were thinking of taking a permanent desk, or a workshop membership at DoES, this would be the perfect time!
  • If you know someone who is looking for a desk or workshop, why not point them in our direction?
  • And if you’re like to support DoES, but don’t need a desk, why not think about becoming a Friend who DoES?
"Become a Friend who Does Epic, er, Stuff."
Sad Puppy

CC-BY-SA Martin Cathrae

Would you like to support your friendly local co-working and hackspace, but don’t need a regular desk or workshop access? That’s the problem that Francis Irving from ScraperWiki had. And when he looked at us sadly with his adorable puppy eyes, we knew we had to help him out! [1]

So, you can now become a Friend who Does Epic ShiStuff (allegedly) for a mere £9 a month. You’ll get your very own laser-cut membership card, and a host of membership benefits, currently mostly consisting of a warm glow and the eternal love of everyone here at DoES [2].

[1] an alternative explanation of events is given in Francis’s post on being our first DoES Friend

[2] however we are considering many options for the future, such as: money-off vouchers! Free kittens! Sparkly stickers!

  • osfameron
  • Groups
  • Comments Off on UK Northwest study group for Stanford University’s free distance learning AI courses
"UK Northwest study group for Stanford University’s free distance learning AI courses"

You might have seen that Stanford Uni will be offering 2 exciting courses Free and Online in Autumn 2011, in “A bold experiment in distributed education”.



The course content will be delivered by video, and there will be exercises and opportunities for discussion.  There’s no certificate as such (though you get a “statement of accomplishment” if you complete it.)

Remote learning is all very well, but we’d also like to have a local study group.  We’ll set up a monthly meeting at DoES Liverpool, and everyone who’s following along on either course in Northwest UK is welcome! [1]

Though many of us will be studying the AI class, you’re welcome whether you’re doing that or the ML one.

There will be wifi, a projector, coffee (and stronger drinks available by donation for after-study), and we will get hold of the (optional) course books.

If you’re interested in coming, then please:

  1. Register for either course above
  2. join the DoES Liverpool mailing list  and let us know which course(s) you’ve signed up for!


We will meet twice a month, on Tuesdays, Sep – Oct, 7-9pm. Please note there are some additions/changes since the original mailing!

  • NOTE CHANGE: the Oct 11th meeting has been moved to 4th + 18th
  • Tues Oct 4th
  • Tues Oct 18th
  • Tues Nov 8th    (1.5 weeks before mid-term exams)
  • Tues Nov 22nd
  • Tues Dec 13th  (a few days before the final exams for the advanced track)
I’ll advertise any changes on the DoES mailing list!

We’ve already met once, on Tues Sep 13th  to look at Linear Algebra, one of the prerequisites, and discuss our approaches.


We will do some/all/none of:

  • watch course videos
  • discuss things we’re finding hard
  • work together on exercises
  • use the time as an opportunity to read/study by self
  • present something to group
  • commiserate about how hard it is and how dumb we are


If you have any questions, then please shout on the DoES list, or ping @osfameron on twitter!


[1]  If Liverpool isn’t convenient for you, then why not join Geekup and talk about forming a group closer to you in the NorthWest.  People have already been discussing the possibility of groups in Manchester and Leeds/Sheffield.

Alternatively, there are online study groups at and


As DoES is a co-working space, you are welcome to arrive early (or even during day, to hot-desk) if that is more convenient.  (And remember, first time hotdesking is free if you bring cake!)

Last trains back to Chester / Manchester / Leeds are after 11pm, and Lime Street and Central stations are within 5-10 minutes walk.

Scroll to top