And so, with this in mind, I set off from Liverpool Street Station one sunny Friday morning in August on a train to Wickham Market in Suffolk. Not the sort of place you would expect to find a small shoemaking factory, but, nevertheless, this is what I had come to see.
My host was Mr Jadd Friedman and his story turned out to be quite extraordinary. Having had no training in shoemaking, he and his father set about finding, buying and restoring old factory machines. His father has a shoe repair shop in Saxmundham and I can't recall whether that pre-dated the shoemaking machinery or vice versa but a passion for these old machines they certainly had.
Not being very mechanically minded, I was mightily impressed by their ability to restore and maintain these fantastic machines. Jadd said they were the best ones ever made and were built to last.
Jadd set himself the target of making shoes with his assembled crew of venerable kit. So he has taught himself pattern making, clicking, closing and making. On his own! Respect. That is some achievement.
His chosen construction is stitch down or veldtschoen - great for desert boots, work boots and work shoes. It is a more robust, waterproof construction where the upper is turned out to become the welt and the sole is stitched to it. So, in theory, water is less able to get in through the welt.
While I was there, Jadd was in the middle of finishing a large order for a well known British footwear brand to celebrate an important anniversary. So he worked while we chatted.
So, we started with a massive sole stitcher - impressive!
Another sole stitcher which they don't use - they had a lot of machines like this which they have restored to working order.
Toe lasting machine.
Jadd preparing the uppers for lasting by glueing them.
The heels are pre-formed
And this is what it looks like this.
With the heels formed, he revived the glue with a heat gun and glued the upper to the sole..
This machine pressed the heel section to secure the glueing process.
The fore part was then glued down.
And this is how it looked with the upper glued to the sole.
This machine defined the edge of the turned out upper.
Then the excess was trimmed off.
This machine righted any twists that had developed on the last so that the boot was perfectly flat again.
Finally the boot is stitched.
This was an inspiring visit. To see how one person can achieve so much with determination and dedication. Acquiring all these skills through trial and error is amazing and I can only applaud Jadd for getting this far. And wish him every success in the future.
Plus he is doing it in England where small scale shoe production has shrunk considerably. Let's hope he can inspire more people to do the same. Jadd, we salute you!
We are now full of ideas and will hopefully be collaborating with him in the future - watch this space.
Lastly today, the lovely Deborah is doing the Great River Race on Saturday 12th of September to raise money for The Promise, a charity which supports children with disabilities in Russia. If any of you kind shoe folk would like to sponsor her, please go to the following link
She would be very grateful.
And that is your lot. Until next week, happy shoemaking!