Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 2 March 2012

Cutting A Channel In Thin Sole

Greetings again from carréducker. We are busy polishing and making sure all our samples are in top condition for our trunk shows in Chicago and New York in 3 weeks. Deborah will be there doing fittings with existing customers and taking orders with new ones. We are very excited.

Following on from last week's post about the customer always being right, it must also be said that it is our job as experts in shoemaking to advise customers into not taking decisions which will either damage their feet or not suit the shape of their feet.

Very often, a customer will be very keen on a certain style or design detail. Usually this is fine, but we do have to step in occasionally and dissuade them.
For example, if a customer has short wide feet and they ask for a straight toe cap, we will tell them that this will accentuate the width rather than the length of their feet and we will also suggest a design which will flatter.
Similarly, if they want a seam on a place which will hurt their feet, we will explain this and make an alternative suggestion.

So we can say that they get want they want, but only within reason. It is part of our duty as shoemakers to make sure they get shoes which fit them, are good for the health of their feet and look fantastic.

Now, this week I had the unenviable task of making a 3/16" dress welt. This is fairly straightforward except that you must be very careful when you cut the channel.

Here is the shoe in question before the sole is prepared for stitching. Sole glued on with rubber solution and trimmed close.

Before I cut the channel, I run my thumb nail along the edge to create a little mark. This is where I cut the channel, half a millimetre from the edge.

Now to cut the channel.
Make sure the knife is sharp.
Start at the heel mark and cut towards you. With such a thin sole, you have to be very careful not to cut through the whole thickness. If you do, you will have to start again with a new sole. In the waist, you have to follow the contour of the last a little, so concentrate on the angle of your knife.
As it is a close welt, the channel does not have to be very wide.
Try to do the whole channel in one cut.

Once you have done it, open the channel up with a screwdriver.

Next thing is to create a little groove in the channel for the stitches to sit in. I use a broken awl that I have sharpened to a point.

Drag the tool along the channel and make a groove. Be careful it doesn't slip and damage the upper.

There is, of course a specific tool for doing this. But it is certainly not essential. It's the one called CHANNEL OPENER here in the Barnsley catalogue.

Next you fudge the welt with, in this case a 16 fudge wheel. This means 16 stitches to the inch which is a lot of stitches. This is one of the criteria of a dress welt. Close and a lot of stitches. I have done up to 20, but don't recommend it.

Now you are ready to stitch. With so many stitches to the inch, you have the problem of the thread being too thick. With larger stitches it doesn't matter, but when they are so close together, a big thread will squash the stitches around it. For this reason we use a thinner thread on a dress welt.
This is also because the more thread in the substance of the sole, it can affect its final thickness, by making it thicker than you want.

Stitch with patience and some good music.

One thing to remember, because the thread is thinner than normal, push your awl in less to make a smaller hole. In general, make the smallest hole in the leather that you can, or that suits the job in hand. Big holes make stitching easier, but weakens the leather and the wax plug in the hole which pulling the stitch makes.

Make the stitches EVEN. Like this (quite pleased with the result!)

When you have finished, flatten the stitches with a sleeking bone and flatten down the channel, making sure you get rid of all the creases.
Open it up again and put in some contact adhesive. Let it dry and close down the channel.

Hammer the edge and smooth the whole sole with a sole smoother (an old round chair leg which you have sanded smooth).

Et voila! A lovely thin dress welt with 16 stitches to the inch - beautiful.

And that is your lot, I'm afraid.

Until next week, happy shoemaking!


Anonymous said...


jimmyshoe said...

Thank you anonymous. Glad you liked it, best, jimmyshoe

Steve James Brown said...

Im curious regarding the pace you work at? How long would a single shoe take with such small stitches?

jimmyshoe said...

Hi Steve, a single shoe takes about an hour with stitches this size. At 10 to the inch, it takes about 40 minutes. The trick is to get into a rhythm and finish in one sitting. The faster you go, the better the result generally because your hands learn what they are doing rather then your brain thinking about it too much. It's a bit of a trance state - om.
Best, jimmyshoe

Unknown said...

Thanks alot I really love your craft tutorials