Friday, 20 March 2009

Heel Building 2

OK people, the time is here. I know that week's wait was torture, but this is it. Part 2 of my photo essay on heel building. Contain that giddiness and read on...

The next stage is putting on the top piece, which must be hard and durable like the sole. However, we put on a 1/4 rubber on the back of the heel where the customer wears out the heel the most. This is usually on the outside edge due to pronating. Occasionally it is on the inside, you must check when you measure the clients feet. You first mark the rubber on the heel, glue with a contact cement and fix securely. The top piece must fit the 1/4 rubber and you must do this by cutting a step into it using the knife. This is one of the few occasions when you must put your hand in front of your knife when you are cutting and it is a bit hazardous. I have cut myself quite badly, mainly when the knife is blunt, so keep sharpening it. Glue the top piece on with contact cement. It is best to leave it overnight and refresh the glue with a hair dryer. This way you get a better fix. The last thing to do is put in some nails to make the top piece extra secure. You can choose a pattern that can become your signature, it is details like these that distinguish bespoke shoes from their manufactured cousins.

Right, the fabric of the heel is now finished, and it remains to make it look beautiful. Firstly, you must rasp the surface to remove all the knife marks and make it true and straight. Spend time here as any blemishes you leave will be visible at the end. I sometimes wet the surface when rasping. I also press quite hard. I think these things compress the surface ans fill in ant cracks. Rasp the 1/4 rubber aswell.

The next stage might seem a bit odd, but you are probably used to that by now. You need to get some offcuts from a framers of some 2mm glass. They usually give it to you free. Then, with the edge of your driver (file) or another piece of glass, you must make a tiny nick on an edge and then break the glass so that you end up with a curved surface. This acts as a tiny knife. Wet the surface and scrape the glass along it in 1 direction at an angle of about 30 degrees. One edge always cuts beter than the other. You should end up with an even, smooth surface.

Next is sanding the heel. I use aluminium oxide paper and a sanding block. Use grit 80 initially. Again press hard and sand thoroughly. Move on to grit 120 and do the same thing. You can sand in both directions at this stage.




Finally, wet the heel, and, with a very fine grade paper or one of those foam blocks you can buy for DIY, sand in one direction. This creates a very tight, smooth glassy finish (and is very satisfying).




Again, some seemingly odd behaviour, but now you must scratch up all that hard work. But with a very light grade paper and very gently. This is so that when you put the ink on, it will soak into the leather. Ink the heel, let it dry and then put on some Astral wax, or any heel/edge wax you can find. I like to put on a layer dry, and then with a hot heel iron, melt it. I repeat this process twice more till I have 3 layers of wax, all melted with the iron. Nearly there now. With a flannel, now rub the wax off. You must rub fast to build up the heat. Most will come off on the cloth and leave you with a thin, shiny layer of wax. Little trick here. Instead of using a fast elbow, use a hair dryer to heat the wax. This way the wax gets hot and smelly rather than you. Voila, the heel is gorgeous and finished. Ready to be wrecked by the client. Ho hum!