Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 13 July 2012

Finishing - Tips and Tricks 2

Welcome back, shoe people, to the second instalment of the finishing post. After last week's breathlessly exciting Part 1, I am sure you are chomping at the bit for more. So here you are, fill your boots.

When you have glassed, everything looks pretty smooth and you think, I could leave it like this. Well, you can't. As soon as you put on the ink, all the imperfections show up.

So you have to use the sandpaper. One thing that does happen when you rasp and glass, is that the 1/4 rubber on the heel seems to rasp at a different rate to the leather, so it sticks out a bit. I use the tip of the knife to just cut the lip of the rubber off so that when you sand, the edge is more even.

So, start sanding. I use a block and start with 80 grit aluminium oxide paper. Press hard and go all the way round in an even, controlled way, making sure that every surface is done thoroughly.

Don't forget the heel breast.

At this stage it is important to do one shoe first, then the other. This way you know that you have done all the stages on both shoes. Here, the custom is to do the left shoe first.

After the 80 grit, use 120.

Make sure you concentrate on the 1/4 rubber and make it as smooth as you can. It should get pretty smooth.

At this stage, I do the edges, but you can finish the heels entirely first if you prefer.

For the edges, I get a piece of emery cloth and glue both sides. Then roll it up to form a solid roll. I wrap the paper around this and use it on the edges. The reason is that the edge iron has a convex surface and it is good to get a concave surface on the edge, and this achieves it.

Use 80, 120 and 240 grit on the edges and waist.

This is what the 240 looks like after sanding. It is very fine and the finished edge should look smooth and glassy.

Now back to the heel. The last stage is to use a fine sanding foam block. Use the finer side. Wet the heel and use the block in light motions in one direction. Lift it off and go back and repeat many times. But make sure it's only one direction. The surface should get really smooth and the grain will sit in one direction and look lovely.

This is how it should look.

You are now ready to finish the sole and top piece surface. When you come to ink the heel, you might need to undo the good work you have done by keying the surface with some light sanding. If you don't, the ink can just sit on the surface and rub off when you take off the excess wax. You will have to experiment.

If you use this method and practice, you should get a really nice finish. The most common problem is where the lifts meet. It is just a question of doing each stage very well and not leaving any blemishes at any stage. Also, don't use contact adhesive to glue the heel lifts together. It leaves a little layer. Use paste and nails.

Hope this is useful and we are happy to answer questions.

Until next week, happy shoemaking