Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 19 July 2013

Glue 2

Another week goes by, but this Friday finds London baking in 30 degree sunshine in an unexpected but very welcome heatwave. I was wrong about our summer. This year, we are really having one. Hooray!

It does mean that our workshop here is unbelievably hot and you have to work at half speed and drink litres of water. This week we reorganised some of our customer lasts into more a spacious home and alphabetised them so that they are easier to find. Quite satisfying displacement activity.

And this is a sneak preview of a pair of boots we are making for a very good customer of ours. Any guesses as to what the animal is? And don't worry, it's all legal and above board with a CITES licence.

It's very beautiful, if a little disconcerting!

This week sees us returning to glues. We looked at paste a couple of posts ago and this week it's the turn of contact adhesive (or neoprene). This is the strongest glue we use and is solvent based. This means you have to use it in a well ventilated space because the solvents are toxic!

We use Colle de Cologne by Renia, but there are many on the market.

The essential fact about this glue is that you must put it on both surfaces you want to attach in a thin coating and you must let it dry for between 5 and 30 minutes until it is just tacky to the touch. You then place the two surfaces together and it bonds them.
You can leave it longer, overnight for example, and then next morning you can revive it with a hair dryer or heat gun. This forms an even stronger bond.
I have heard of people doing this and then putting on a second coat of adhesive and letting that dry. Never done it, but give it a try.
It only works on porous surfaces and in the time it is drying, it forms a bond with the surface it is on. This is why it is such a strong glue.

We use it for

  • attaching the sole before stitching
  • splicing together welts (for a welted seat for example)
  • glueing in the shank and filler
  • glueing on the top piece

There are some things to bear in mind when you use it though.
  • it can form a thin line between layers of leather, for example, on heels or between the welt and sole. This can show up when you are finishing, so be careful. Best to use as thin a layer as possible
  • you only get one chance to stick, so you have to position it right first time. You can't shift it about like you can with paste.
  • it's nasty toxic stuff, so open a window or turn on a fan
  • it's extremely strong, so only use it on bonds you do not want to break. We were taught not to use it for shanks and filler because when the repairer comes to resole the shoe, the sole pulls out the filler and shank. This is true, but we do all of our own repairs, so it is not an issue. But a general point is to think about your shoes over a period of years. You will have to repair them, so don't do anything that you can't easily reverse.
That is about your lot for contact adhesive, apart from to say that you would use this glue if you are going to use a cemented construction for your shoemaking. Not something we do here at carréducker, but a perfectly valid way to make shoes.

Next time we will look at rubber solution.

Until then, happy shoemaking!


Anonymous said...


Here in the States we use contact cement more than we do glues or pastes. We also use a contact cement that is water-based and out-gasses no toxic fumes, although it is harder to find. It is nearly as strong as solvent based but a little harder to use.

Sometimes, for difficult applications we first apply a thinned (to near water-like consistency) coat of the solvent based cement and when that is dry we apply another coat full strength. The resulting bond is ratcheted up. To further enhance the bond, you can let both surfaces cure overnight and then gently warm them with a heat gun or hair dryer before pressing the surfaces together.

I wish I could get away from contact cements altogether...especially solvent based ones.

So my question is...what do you used to close the outsole channels?

DWFII said...

Sorry that was me above

Natasha said...

Elephant! How exciting and expensive

jimmyshoe said...

Hi DW, thanks for the comment. We use the nasty contact cement for closing down the channel on a sole. It really gives the best results, especially on a bevelled waist.
Have you ever used elephant BTW?
Best, James

jimmyshoe said...

Hi Natasha, yes it's elephant. I'm not sure you can even buy it. Our customer is involved in conservation and they cull the elephants. Makes me a little uncomfortable if I'm honest! Best, jimmyshoe

DWFII said...


Confirms what I've thought. I've been using PVC for closing channels and it works but it's a hassle to make sure there are no gaps.

I've used elephant a lot. I like it. There's a photo of a pair on the CC in the Gallery.

jimmyshoe said...

It is very beautiful. Is it easy to buy in the States? I don't know of any suppliers here. Our customer brought this stuff in, James

DWFII said...

Elephant is not easy to buy...nor should it be.

In the States, each hide has to be certified as coming from a legitimate, licensed source (primarily tightly controlled herd culling by Park Rangers and the like). People have gone to jail for thinking they could circumvent these restrictions.

That said, I can get it in a number of colours and is expensive. But it is probably the most scratch/scuff resistant leather known to man and it is amazingly supple for all of that. Not too far off from calf in that regard.

jimmyshoe said...

That makes sense. This guy is part of a conservation project and the animal was culled to police the area where teh wild elephants meet the farmers. Apparently, they destroy the crops and then the farmers go out and kill the whole herd. Colours sound good! All the best, James