Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 29 June 2012

Square Waist Masterclass

Wow! We have reached a milestone which I would like to share with you. We have reached 200,000 hits on the hit counter. Now I think that is amazing for a niche blog like this one. We have over 200 followers (please become one if you read regularly); 258 posts and 424 comments - unbelievable stats!
A massive thank you to all of you who read the blog regularly or those who are less frequent visitors. We value each and every one of you

I am so pleased and proud, to be honest,  because we love this craft and it is our dedicated aim to promote it. And we think that sharing our knowledge is the best way to do that. Too often, skilled crafters hoard their accumulated skills and are very unwilling to share or encourage, under the mistaken idea that if they do, somehow they will lose business. We think that if you encourage and share, the trade will survive and flourish which is what we all want, after all.

Nothing is sadder to me than when an incredible craftsperson dies without passing on their skills and knowledge to the next generation. And believe me, I have seen this happen again and again. Craft is not like literature or history, it cannot be written down. It has to be shown, practised and fine tuned.

So there you go. Share it guys!

And so to making. This week I am going to give a masterclass on the finer points of a square waist. This is the construction which most of you will do most often.
It is pretty straightforward, apart from the section where the welt meets the heel. This can look bulky and ugly.

A few points to bear in mind. When you welt the shoe, make sure you bevel the end of the welt in a long tapering bevel. This allows a good transition to the sole.

Second, when you make the feather/holdfast, give the outside waist a curve inwards. This allows for a nicer heel shape. Too often, the heel can become triangular and ugly if the waist is too wide.

Ok, you have welted; stitched on the sole; and built the heel. The transition can look beautiful like this

Or ugly as all hell, like this.

But don't worry, this is usually because you have not trimmed the sole well around the heel and it is too full. There is a solution.

When the heel is built, I like to trim the seat before I cut the heel breast. Mark the heel points and make sure they are still the same on the left and right shoe.

Before I trim the seat though, take a look at the transition area. Very often it sticks out a lot from the upper and this continues into the heel/seat area and makes the heel bulky. The solution is to leave the welt quite full when you trim it before welting, but to put the stitches close to the upper. This leaves a section of welt which can be trimmed in when you are building your heels. Cut away the excess and blend the welt into the heel, taking away the bulk. This way, you can achieve a lighter, more elegant heel shape, especially combined with the curved holdfast trick.

To cut the seat, I use a tape measure and lay it evenly round the seat, making sure it is even and level.

Draw a line along the top of the tape measure. Again, check it and adjust if necessary. Pay attention to the way the line meets the welt. You are looking for a continuous, smooth transition.

Wet the seat and cut it with a sharp knife, paying particular attention to not cutting the upper. Use a plastic widget to avoid this if you are worried.

It should look like this.

You will most likely notice that the seat is not of an even width. Using a knife and a plastic widget to protect the upper, trim the seat even.

Wet it and peen it with the French shape hammer.

Now the seat is cut, you can mark the heel and cut the breast. Make sure they are a pair.

Rasp, glass and sand as normal. This transition is still a little uneven, but when you fudge the welt again, this will level out well.

Ink and wax the heel and edges as normal and you end up with beautiful square waist.

That is the theory anyway. Go away and practise.

Until next week, happy shoemaking!