Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

August 2012 Shoemaking Course - Day 9

Day 9 in the shoemaking class and it's all heels, heels, heels.

Once the split lifts/rands were put on and trimmed, we were ready for the lifts. Most of the time a typical man's shoe will have a heel made up of the sole, a split lift, 2 lifts and the top piece.

The tradition in the UK is to build heels with paste and nails. The other common method is  to use paste and wooden pegs. Both are valid and both have their pros and cons. We use nails in this class.

The routine here is to put a generous layer of paste on the heel; place the lift on with a little overhang; put 3 nails in the middle to secure it; draw a line round where the nails will go; hammer in the nails; punch them; trim the lift; and peen it with the French shape hammer to make a solid heel edge. Simple, huh?
Well, not really. I think heel building is the most difficult part of shoemaking to get right - just my opinion.

Once the lift is on, you must skive the top so that is goes flat. The last is curved and the top piece must sit flat on the ground, so the skiving is to achieve this end.

Here are a few pics to give you a flavour of the day.

A lift nailed into place and a bit of skiving done at the heel breast.

Trimming the lift with the knife

One critical part of heel building is to get the shoe to sit stable on the ground. Here we are checking this with a view to knowing where to skive. We also look at the spring at the toe and the height of the heel.

The heel breast is traditionally curved and here one of the students is cutting it - very carefully!

One breast cut and the other marked and ready to go.

And finally, we had another incident with the nail punches. Now, you might think it is because they are inferior quality, which may be the case, but it just so happened that it was the same student who did it. Coincidence? You decide. Anyway, I went out at lunchtime and bought a great big monster one that not even Superman could break. Fingers crossed.

And so we have three days left to finish the heels and do the finishing. All being well, we will make a trip on Saturday to our friends at John Lobb and to our concession at Gieves and Hawkes.

Until tomorrow, happy shoemaking!