Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 14 November 2014

Guest Blog: Blocking / Crimping by Bootmaker, D.W. Frommer

"I was fascinated by the post about the 2014 Independent Shoemakers' Conference in the UK. We have something like it here in the United States, a Trade Guild modelled on, and associated with, the London based Worshipful Company of Cordwainers. Our organization is called the Honourable Cordwainers' Company. Each year we have an Annual General Meeting that hosts lectures and presentations regarding bespoke shoemaking. I think we have been hitting 60-70 plus attendees in recent years, coming from all over the US and Europe.

I was particularly interested in the discussion about blocking. When I made comment on the blog and lamented an inability to post photos, James and Deborah generously invited me to write a "guest" post...and here it is!

My intent is not to gainsay anyone, but to expand upon the whole idea of blocking...perhaps offering some insight into what is possible.

I have been a bootmaker for over 40 years and in the tradition that I work in, blocking is not only common, it is essential. And when I came to try my hand at making high end dress shoes it just seemed natural to incorporate as many blocking techniques as possible. After all, the whole purpose of blocking is to pre-shape the patterns such that they lay on the last easily and without distortion.

This is a kind of blocking:



The mean forme method of creating patterns directly from the last seeks some of the same objectives but struggles to create three dimensional shoe parts from two-dimensional cutting patterns.

In the "school" of bootmaking that I adhere to, mean formes and pattern making such as are described in Golding and Swaysland, etc., are not used much...although I am convinced that most of the methods I was taught have their roots in English or German shoemaking of the 19th century.

With no mean formes we are forced to block our vamps to create pleasant lines and to make lasting and fit easier.

Simple boards are very usable and suffice for most needs, but in our shop we have taken the process a little further, as you will see in the ensuing sequence of photos. The first photo is of the boards we use for a dress Wellington, along with a "crimping" iron that makes the job of blocking easy and predictable.



Using boards such as these (and the patterns that accompany them) we are able to cut the tongues and quarters however we like--narrow, wide, floral. Here is a photo of the vamps being blocked prior to cutting: 




And here is a photo of a blocked alligator vamp used on a pair of boots made for a customer who lives in Brussels: 



This technique can be taken a lot further, however, as the next two photos demonstrate: 




But it doesn't stop there, I block vamps for whole cut Chelseas, Jodhpurs, Chukkas and whole cut Oxfords, as well as Oxford linings.

Chelseas:



Ostrich jodhpurs:




Finally, here's a photo of several boards we use in our shop and their usage...from top left: Jodhpur board and Chelsea board; bottom, whole cut Oxford or Oxford lining."



Thanks D.W. for a great insight into blocking from a great bootmaker! Until next week happy shoemaking!

3 comments:

D.W. Frommer II said...

I want to thank you for offering me the opportunity to share your wonderful blog. It is an honour.

Thank you...DWFII

jimmyshoe said...

It's our pleasure. Let's hope our readers enjoy it as much as we have. Best, James and Deborah

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