Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 19 August 2011

Day 11 - Shoemaking Course

Finish, finish, finish. This is what your shoes will be judged on. Most customers do not know about welts, stiffeners, fudge wheels, the quality of your lasting etc. What they see is the finished shoe and that is what they judge. So it matters!

Today the students rasped and sanded till it hurt. Lots of huffing and puffing, but they got there. The results are great.
We use three grades of aluminium oxide paper (80, 120 and 240) in succession to achieve a glassy finish. we use a sanding block on the heels and a rolled up piece of paper on the edges. This gives a slightly concave finish which marries perfectly with the convex body of the edge iron.

Sanding the Edge

I think the results are fantastic.

Glassy Finish on Heel

Some of the students went on to finishing the edges with the edge iron. This involved cutting off the lip on the top of the welt with a knife; re-fudging the stitches; rasping off the lip on the underside; and ironing away with a hot iron.

Setting the Edge
After this came glassing the sole and the top piece ready to sand them. Again, three grades of paper and a peachy smooth finish.

Glassing the Top Piece

The really speedy ones even inked the shoes with black ink. They really look good now. Unfortunately, this is the stage when any imperfections on the finishing will show up. One of the hard things about doing something complicated like making a pair of shoes is that you don't know what you are aiming for or why you are doing something in a certain way, or what consequences doing something badly now will have further down the line. But that's life folks!

Inking the Sole

Black All Over - Lovely!

Last day tomorrow, can't wait. I am a bit anxious about everyone finishing, but we should be fine.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Day 10 - Shoemaking Course

So, day 10 arrives and the students are finishing their heels. Most of the day was spent on this and everyone finished building them.  Final lifts; cutting the heel breast; putting on the top piece; and cutting the seat.

Cutting the heel breast

Nailing the top piece

One very important step is to check the level of the heel using a glass board. Put the top piece under and check how the heel is sitting. We also check the heel spring at the toe. The tip of your finger should just fit under the toe.

Next comes rasping, glassing, and sanding.



People ask why we don't use a wheel for this. Well, there are two things. One, it is traditional to do it this way, and we sell our shoes as a traditionally made craft product, so we should do it properly. Two, if you are making shoes on your own, it will take a long time to make buying an expensive machine worth it, assuming you can afford to buy it in the first place.
And anyway, we don't shy away from hard work - ask the students!

Tomorrow will see finishing start in earnest. Some speedy students are well on the way to finishing this already, but most will start tomorrow. The final push to the summit!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Day 9 - Shoemaking Course

Ok, Day 9 was all about heel building.

With the split lifts on, everyone got to cutting out their heel lifts. Four in total, two for each shoe.

With the skin side roughed or glassed, they proceeded to attach the first lift with paste and nails. Three in a triangle in the middle to secure it and then a row around the edge. These they clipped and punched as before. Next came trimming, peening and hammering smooth.

Then came some skiving to flatten the heel lift. The object is to  achieve a flat stable contact with the ground on the top piece. This is done by skiving a bit of each lift.

Next came the second lift. Same procedure - paste; nails; trim the edge; peen with the French hammer; and hammer the marks out. All followed by some more skiving.

Once on, they had to shape the heel. Here the convention is straight on the sides and slightly pitched under at the back. This was done with the knife.

After shaping, they had to put the shoe on a flat board and put the top piece under the heel. This is to check how the shoe sits on the ground. It must be flat and stable. No rocking. If the shoes rock or are not flat, more skiving of the surface is needed.

Some of the more speedy workers, managed to trim the seat. This is the part where the heel meets the upper. They drew a straight, flat line, wet the leather and cut carefully, avoiding cutting the upper.

This then had to be trimmed using a bit of plastic from a ruler to protect the upper.

Once the seat was trimmed, they wet it again and peened it close, followed by a gentle hammer to give it a good shape.

Tomorrow we will concentrate on getting the top pieces on and starting the finishing. Rasps at the ready everyone.

If any of this is not clear, please feel free to ask a question. We are happy to help.

Until tomorrow, happy shoemaking

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Day 8 - Shoemaking Course

Good progress today.

Everyone finished their sole stitching and they have all moved on to heel building.

We had a comment asking if we use any form of nail or peg to attach the sole around the heel. We use nails to do this.
We use 20mm nails, knock them in to half way, clip them and use a nail punch to punch them under the surface of the sole.
Some makers use wooden pegs, but in England, we use nails.

And so to heel building. First up is the split lift or rand which goes around the edge of the heel. It helps to level up the curve of the heel and make it flatter.

The students had to skive the  split lift down to nothing.

Next come five notches and then some hammering to get it into a horse shoe shape.

Now to attach it. Again the students used paste and nails.

Once on, they had to trim with the knife and peen with the French hammer.

Some judicious skiving to flatten the surface followed, et voila! Attached and ready to go.

Next came the first heel lift, again using paste and nails.
Same routine, trim, peen and skive. This time, however, they started to shape the heel with their knives. At this stage the shoe begins to look like a real shoe. It's an exciting point to reach.

Two students are attaching the heel lifts, so we will review this stage again tomorrow when the rest catch up.

Another good day's work everyone!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Day 7 - Shoemaking Course

So week 2 arrives and I take over teaching duties from Deborah. I was happily surprised at the general level of work and also how well everyone is progressing. So far all on target, and a few of them well ahead.

I have said to them that they have to finish stitching the soles by the end of play tomorrow.

Today we were principally getting the soles stitched on. This starts with glueing on the soles. On the course we use neoprene/contact cement for strength, but when we attach soles ourselves, we use rubber solution in the middle and neoprene on the edges. This to avoid pulling out the shank and the cork when you repair the sole.

Once attached, we trimmed the sole to the welt - sharp knife essential.

After this we cut the channel. This requires a steady hand and a courageous heart. This is a flap of leather which covers the stitches on the underside of the shoe. After stitching, it is glued down again.

Next came marking the stitches with a hot fudge wheel - sorry no photo, but it leaves a series of lines on the welt which mark the stitches.

Now comes the stitching. A three cord thread this time with a bristle at either end. And a different awl too. Much easier than welting they all said.

After stitching both shoes, we flattened the stitches with the bone, closed down the channel and hammered it flat. This gets rid of all the creases.
We then opened it up again, glued it with neoprene, let it dry for 10 minutes and glued it down. Some gentle hammering was followed by smoothing the whole sole with a sole smoother (an old chair leg, sanded smooth).

And that was eight hours in class. Tiring but satisfying is the general view I think. More tomorrow.