Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 12 November 2010

Finishing The Sole (Ink And Wax 2 is postponed)

Grrr! All my photos of the second part of finishing the heel and sole edges have been wiped off the camera! And who has used the camera this week? Not me. So the finger of accusation must point in another direction. I wonder who it was?

Anyway, I have had a request to explain how to finish the sole. So after you have glassed and sanded four times, you are ready to finish it.
You have two choices. A natural finish or a coloured one.

With a natural finish, we use polish. This can be neutral, light tan, mid tan or dark tan. The trick is to stop it looking uneven and smeary. And the trick is this. Before you start with the polish, you need to put on a layer of water and let it dry. This has the effect of hardening the top surface so that when you apply the polish, it goes on evenly. You can also add a tiny little bit oxalic acid to the water. Or some gum tragacanth. These have a bleaching effect and also harden the surface.

When you start with the polish, use a cloth. Rub it round the polish briefly to warm it up. Apply it in small amounts and brush it on in the same direction with your finger, starting at the toe. Be sparing and do many quick strokes from polish tin to sole, building up an even coat of polish. You will see how the leather darkens. Try to get it even. If you put the polish on too thick, you will get dark patches.
You do get a few dark parches anyway, but leave the sole for about an hour and the patches disappear.
After an hour, buff the sole with a cloth, but do it very gently. Caress it. You will see how the surface goes shiny.
Put another layer of polish on in the same way. You might get dark patches again but they should fade. Another hour.
Buff again and you should have a natural shiny surface.

If you want a solid finish, you need to use the same ink as on the heel and sole edges (last week). Just paint it on and let it dry.
Then put a generous layer of polish on. At this point you need to iron the sole with your heel iron. Heat it up but it must be quite cool, cool enough to touch. The polish will go shiny and marked.
Polish again, but rub hard and fast so that it melts and goes even and shiny. The more layers you do, the glossier the finish.
You can use nylon tights at the end to get a wonderful shine.

And that, as they say, is that.

I really love shoemaking and feel very lucky to be able to do it every day. And I am really pleased that there are so many of you who share my passion, so thank you for visiting the blog.

Next week there will be another riveting exposé, so, until then, happy shoemaking!