Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 25 May 2012

Boot camp by any other name!

Well another course is over and James and I are settling back into a routine of shoemaking, creative projects and enjoying some rare summer sunshine! (Although not for long, as James is back out to Chicago and New York on our quarterly trunk show trips in a fortnight...followed by a well earned holiday in Maine)!

We get great feedback after the courses, which is really important to make sure we keep improving and keep the course relevant. Our friend and fellow shoemaker in New York, Jesse is also a great help, because she not only attended one of our courses early on but has watched us in action in her studio every year. Even she says we are improving our methods and approach!

But there is something of the course that we still find hard to convey and that is just how physically exhausting it is! We use the word intensive to describe it, not just because of the short time frame, but because it is physically intensive and you are working most of the time, seated in a low chair with your knees at 90 degrees.

So here’s the boot camp guide to shoemaking to show the tools and parts of the body used at each stage; and I’ve given each job a mark of intensity with 1 being low intensity and 5 high intensity:

Sharpening your knife – knife & strop working on a table - good hand eye co-ordination – engages hands, biceps/ triceps, upper body and core. (2)

Skiving – knife, glass board, strop working in your lap - good hand eye co-ordination, engages hands, biceps/triceps, upper body and core. (3)

Preparing insole – nippers, nail hammer, last, knife – engages hands, biceps/triceps, upper body and core. (2)

Lasting – lasting pliers, last/upper – engages hands, biceps/triceps, upper body, core, thigh and butt muscles. (5+)

Making threads – threads, leather, wax, tar, bristles - good hand eye co-ordination; engages upper body - one of the few things that you can do standing up! (1)

Welting – threads, awl, nippers - engages hands, biceps/triceps, upper body, core, thigh and butt muscles. (5+)

Preparing soles – knife, hammer - upper body, arms and hands – engages upper body and core. (2)

Stitching soles – threads, awl - upper body, arms and hands – engages hands, biceps/triceps, upper body and core, thigh and butt muscles. (2)

Building heels – hammer, knife – good hand eye co-ordination; engages hands, biceps/triceps, upper body, core, thigh and butt muscles. (4)

Finishing – rasp, broken glass, sandpaper, paintbrush, irons - engages upper body and core (4) for rasping, glassing (2) for painting and irons.

(I threw in a 1, but to be fair none of it is actually low intensity because you are using muscles groups you never even knew existed!)

So there you have it…the equivalent of 10 days in the gym! 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

New York Shoemaking Course 2012 Final Day

And so it ends. 12 days, 7 students and a lot of hard work. Well done to all of you from Deborah and myself. It really was a great effort and I'm sure all the readers will agree that the finished shoes are of an excellent standard.

This is a strenuous, physical course, but very rewarding.

I have had an excellent week, one , because I really enjoy sharing this wonderful craft of ours, and two, because this group was a great bunch of people.

We wish you a future in the trade in whatever form it takes. Welcome to the fold!

So, final day highlights? Finishing. But the last stages were inking and applying wax. We also spent a long while polishing.

Applying wax.

The finished shoes. Plus my tan brogues.

Natty pink socks and laces combo. What d'ya think, Rob?

Look at that shine.

And finally, the happy students with the king (read dictator) on the throne.

And that, as they say, is a wrap. So long, farewell, until the next time, happy shoemaking.