For more than forty years, Bruce Macleod has plied his trade and built a reputation as one of the most skilled sheet metalworkers in the UK. His skills were handed down from his father Iain and honed through additional qualifications and an inquisitive nature that forged an attitude of “How can we do that? Let’s work out a way”. Cherished classic vehicles are still on the road today thanks to Bruce’s talents for recreating panels for which the tooling long ago went to the recyclers. Some were automotive icons, some were humble but treasured transport for which the owners were eternally grateful for Bruce’s skills. Over this long career he has developed tooling to reproduce panels for every Jaguar XK from 1950 to ’61, much to the appreciation of the mark enthusiasts amongst whom he gained an enviable reputation and eventually could build entire bodyshells.
Bruce’s hands are equally at home on the hammer and dolly, shrinker/stretcher, TIG welder with steel or aluminium. Just to really embarrass us mere mortals he also has qualifications in joinery and toolmaking and can wield a CAD programme when he needs to employ the use of a CNC machine. Yet there is one tool for which Bruce has become synonymous, the Wheeling Machine or ‘English Wheel’ as our American cousins like to call it. The traditional British coachbuilder’s tool for encouraging flat sheet metal to take up a compound curve, we talk more about the history of the machine here: (Link) and embedded firmly in that history is Bruce. His broad skillset led to many architectural and sculptural commissions and when the designer of the flame cauldron for the London Olympics needed someone to realise his design, there was only one man to call.
Heatherwick’s requirement included 612 Copper petals, across both the Olympics and Paralympics. Engineered by stage specialists Stage one and entrusted to Bruce to manufacture, there were 204 different shapes of complicated double curvature Petals, each unique to a competitor country. The result was stunning amongst all the jewels that made up the London Olympics and contributed to its success and yet behind the scenes it created something else. Bruce had struggled to find a wheeling machine that met his exacting requirements, especially when it came to forming tight curvatures. You can occasionally source an old, original Ranelah or Edwards, but they require rebuilding, they weigh so much you need a forklift to move them and are just too big for most workshops as well as having their limitations in what shape of panel can be worked. So, Bruce developed his own machine, to suit the demands of the varied projects he was called to work on, and over the next ten years this has evolved, been honed and perfected to make a truly excellent, professional machine.
Bruce recently stepped back from Jaguar panel making, and his tooling is now with others who have taken up the baton. He retains his passion for working in various metals and continues to work on a range of bespoke commissions, but he has become committed to sharing his skills with others, running courses in vehicle sheet metalworking for over twenty years, now based at the Heritage Skills Academy. We are very excited to announce he will be bringing his talents to C&B as we develop new ‘1-Day’ courses to share his experience. We will also have exciting news about his unique Wheeling Machine. Watch this space and in the meantime, here is a taster...