Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Thursday, 18 September 2014

An Experiment

Welcome back once more, dear readers, to the wonderful world of bespoke shoes. Aren't we lucky to have found such an absorbing trade? We hope you have had a productive week and have had your hands on some oak bark pit tanned cow hide - a treat for anyone, if only they knew!

We have been working to prepare a travelling exhibition which will feature two of our shoes and some assorted tools, leathers and sundry shoemaking  paraphanalia. It is run by Fife Contemporary Art and Craft and will be touring public libraries in Scotland over the next year. Our shoes will be housed in two Craft Pods along with a description of our craft and something about Carréducker. Looking forward to seeing some pictures of the launch which happens on the 23rd of September.

Onwards and upwards. While making a pair of bottle green oiled nubuck stalking boots (as you do), I had a bit of an idea. This does happen occasionally and I wanted to try it out. BTW Horween make the oiled nubuck and it's really luscious, waxy and alive - check it out

I wanted to insert a midsole made of a thin piece of Topy (brand name) sticker sole - a synthetic sheet 2mm thick. This would create a thin black line between the natural welt and natural sole and would look quite stylish

And here's the problem. Our understanding was always that you can't hand stitch these synthetic materials by hand because when you pull the awl out of the hole, the hole closes up - unlike the leather where the awl actually leaves a hole because the leather compresses when the awl goes in.

When a customer asks for a synthetic sole (Dainite, commando, Ridgeway or such) from us (it does occasionally happen), we last and welt the shoes as normal, except that we welt round the seat as well.

See this blog post for details of how we do it.

At this point we send the shoes to a company which stitches on the desired sole with a sole stitching machine.

Now I had never tried out the theory explained above and being a doubting kind of person, I wanted to test it.

So, here's what happened

The synthetic sandwich was made







And the awl was put through.

The bristle was then inserted and as suspected, it didn't come out the other side. The theory was proved correct. To be honest, I did push the awl through so far and wiggled it that I was able to put one bristle through, but the second was impossible.


The next step is to find a way of doing it. The only thing we can think of is to make a hollow awl which actually punches a whole in the synthetic material, much like what they use for body piercing. Something which takes out a little piece of the rubber.

Sounds like a project. Any tool makers out there?

Or, dear readers, is there another way? Do you know how to do it and make an old shoemaker happy? Let us know and we will be forever grateful.

Till next week (in hope and anticipation), happy shoemaking!