Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 17 August 2013

London Intensive Shoemaking Course Week 2 Day 12 - the last day!

How the days have flown on this course. The last day has come around so quickly!
And yet there is still so much to do! So first some quick energy fix with Australia's favourite biscuit the TimTam. Best eaten with the end bitten off!


 And then down to some serious finishing work...

Painting soles, heels and edges...

burnishing sole bottoms...

waxing and burnishing heel edges...


Then a break for lunch...

But at 2pm where was everyone? The stairs were bare? Apparently the pasta was too tempting to rush but little did the group know what still awaited them in the afternoon!

Some fittings, full and half socks and foam socks in some cases to achieve a good fit...

Some more burnishing where heels weren't quite dyed and waxed enough...

 Red laces with an unwelcome surprise - the dye was not fixed!

But others making a beautiful contrast...

in red

and grey...

 Surprise debossing from the lasts...

 Military polish on the toes...

And what it took to achieve it! 

Apologies there is no group shot today - one student had to fly, literally - back to Australia via a fortnight in Bali - so the photo was taken on a camera with a timer! It'll be with us for next week's blog. So it just leaves us to say a fantastic well done to everyone for the last two weeks and we hope that you learned everything that you wanted from the course!

To all of you...including our new graduates....happy shoemaking!

Friday, 16 August 2013

London Intensive Shoemaking Course Week 2 Day 11

Ah, my over-optimism! All that rasping, glassing and sanding today took much longer than I had planned so there were no field trips and we're gearing up for a busy morning tomorrow, dyeing the soles and heels, burnishing the soles, setting them with wax and rubbing off the excess.

But back to today. Well give a man a few nails and a heel design to come up with and we went from one extreme to another... 

Heels were rasped, glassed and sanded

And sole edges were rasped, glassed and sanded creating a gentle concave curve on the edge to take the edge iron...

It may not look as though much has been done, but trust me, it's been a day of constant hard work straightening everything up and smoothing rough corners left right and centre.

But everyone is looking forward to seeing their finished shoes tomorrow. Until then happy shoemaking!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

London Intensive Shoemaking Course Week 2 Day 10

Today has been a day of rasping...shaping and more rasping. Should rasping take a day - for perfection, why not? And can you ever rasp a heel too much...well yes, you can sometimes if a weak spot sneaks up on you and suddenly undercuts what is otherwise a perfect heel :(

Today we skived the heel lifts flat...

Found an unusual but effective use for the killer toothbrush when the heel lift surface dried super-smooth!

Sat the heel lifts onto the top piece.

Trimmed the heel seat

and then glued and shaped the top piece and curved the heel breast.

Hopefully everyone will have enough energy left tomorrow to get through rasping, glassing and sanding so that we finish the day with everything dyed and ready to set on Saturday.

We shall see. Until tomorrow happy shoemaking!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

London Intensive Shoemaking Course Week 2, Day 8

The enthusiasm is still bubbling away today as the group finished their first sole stitching before lunch and started on after lunch to finish the second. Fatigue is starting to set in and there have been breakages (two awls) and injuries (shoulder) on the way...

although we don't know whether this is a shoe or rough-housing-with-the-nephew related injury!

This bristle - usually straight with a slight curve at the end - goes some way to illustrating the pressure everyone is under to finish!

Once stitched, sole edges were hammered back into shape!

Getting started on the second shoe often causes confusion and threads end up wrapped around the sole edge. You start with an equal amount of thread in each hand and then stitch the first stitch as usual.

Bristles came off and were put back on...

Threads snapped and were re-rolled...


and the second channel was carefully, oh so carefully cut.

Once the stitching was completed, the channels were glued down and the edges re-shaped to 90 degrees.

So we're ready for a day of heel building tomorrow...if everyone has done their homework. Until then happy shoemaking!

London Intensive Shoemaking Course - week 2, Day 9

Today hammers, nails and bits of leather have flown as what once started as several separate bits of leather were been turned into fabulously straight sided (on the whole), flat standing heels!

Straight split lifts were cut, glassed, notched and transformed into heel shapes

 They were pasted and nailed in place around the heels with 20mm nails securing them.

Then the first lift was stuck on top, nailed with three nails and skived.

The second lift quickly followed nailed in a horseshoe shape to secure both layers to the split lift and sole leather.

Finally the heel edges were carefully shaped with a knife and then the separate layers were peened together closing any gaps and forming one solid heel.

The final test was whether the heel would sit flat on the top piece. Further skiving
and hey presto!

 Finally the heels of both shoes were aligned in shape and size...

before the heel breast was cut....curved in some cases and straight in others.

The results of a very hard working and rewarding's not surprising the group are off for a well-earned pint! Until tomorrow when top pieces go on and finishing begins...happy shoemaking!