Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 30 July 2010

Week one of the course

Hi there, just a quick update from The Other One on the course before the weekend.

It's been an emotional week for our new students. They are a great bunch and are really giving the course their all but we don't call it an intensive course for nothing! There have been deeply felt highs and lows, aching hands, shoulders and egos to be soothed and some tough love to try to keep them on track with their making.

Learning something new as an adult is hard at the best of times, so hats off to them for showing such great determination and strength of personality this week. This is a highly skilled craft to learn.

The first day was spent getting to know their knives, sharpening them up and then skiving the toe puff and stiffeners. They also blocked over their insoles ready for the next day. It's fair to say that skiving is not a popular task (even we are not big fans) and there were many questions about machines to do the same task. They do exist, but we're keen for our students to become adept at using a knife - skiving machines are expensive and we try to run the course so as few tools as possible are needed.

The next day the holdfasts for welting and the insoles were prepared, ready for lasting and the welting threads were made - we roll our own threads using hemp tipped with bristles. We've come to see how personality plays a part in shoemaking - as students have become frustrated with their lasting, welting or stitching the task has become harder and harder. Especially the threads, which warm up in hot hands and become more and more sticky and difficult to work with. The warm thundery weather hasn't helped and I think we might invest in a mini fridge for the next summer course to keep the threads cool!

So, the last two days they have really come to appreciate just
- why the bristles have to be attached just so
- why the holes in the holdfast should be made with one clean movement
- why the toe puffs need to skived thinly
- and why the excess material after lasting needs to be trimmed away

I've never put on so many bristles in one afternoon!

Anyway, they all headed home this evening to continue their hard work ready for James to tomorrow.

Good luck everyone, enjoy it and see you next Saturday for the last day!

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