Scott Hollifield: The Mysterious Tale of the Leather Bell Skiver

Not only do I gather monkey news, eulogize fallen comrades when the time comes and admit my plumbing failures publicly for the amusement of others, I try, whenever possible in this space provided by newspapers desperate for content, to help readers meet their leather-crafting needs.

Yes, I wear many hats, none of which are leather but I’m sure Betty can make me one if she finds the right skiver for a reasonable price. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Recently, I received this email (lightly edited here for publication) from a person named Betty:

“I grew up, years ago, in the Cross Mill section of Marion and will be ‘returning home’ for several weeks soon. Along with renewing friendships with childhood friends, I’m hoping to find a source for a good quality used Leather Bell Skiver while I’m in the area.” 

As with many of you reading this, I too, was unfamiliar with a Leather Bell Skiver. To me, it sounded like the name of an old mountain woman-turned-ghost that people tell cautionary stories about around the campfire:

“Kids, have you ever heard tell of a woman by the name of Bell Skiver? Leather Bell they called her. Meanest woman on yon side of Chicory Creek. Why, if she caught you stealing apples from her tree she would whup you across the pasture with her leather strap. Killed her husband, she did, and drank hard cider from his skull. They say when the moon is full you can hear the ghost of Leather Bell Skiver cackling up and down Chicory Creek and snapping that leather strap like she was beating the devil himself. Stay away!”

Turns out, it’s not an old mountain woman’s ghost but some kind of machine.

Betty’s email continued:

“I now live in New Jersey and in my retirement I sew and make handbags and am recently using leather for many of my bags. In so doing it’s necessary to ‘skive’ the leather edges for stitching. The cost of a new Bell Skiver to accomplish this is prohibitive for me, BUT finding a good used one would make me a ‘happy bag maker.’ So, you’re asking yourself, why would this ‘crazy Jersey lady’ be emailing me?” 

Honestly, I did sort of ask myself that. I wondered if she was plotting to kill me and drink hard cider from my skull. Turns out, she was not.

Betty continued:

“I could just place an ad but it would be difficult to just place an ad to the public, 95% of whom would not even know what a Bell Skiver is. I’m hoping to somehow figure a way to target people in leather auto upholstery, leather apparel shops or the like or shops of the same type who may be closing their doors.”

Betty said she was seeking my help in hooking her up with someone with a skiver – described online by Leather Machine Co. as “a kind of machine that reduces the thickness of a piece of leather by cutting a slice out of the leather’s edge” – to sell at a reasonable price.

 “There you have it - the reason I’m emailing you!” Betty wrote.

So, dear readers, if you have a reasonably priced skiver or know of someone who has a reasonably priced skiver, Betty is looking for one. I am almost certain she will not kill you and drink hard cider from your skull or cackle up and down some nearby creek when the moon is right. She is a nice person who just wants to make leather handbags and such.

You can reach me at and I will pass any skiver-related information along to Betty. Hopefully, she gets her machine and I get the satisfaction of knowing I’ve helped yet another reader meet their leather-crafting needs.


Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at

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