Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 21 November 2008

Black Wholecuts

Friday! Already.

We are excited. Lots happened this week. All very embryonic, but you will be the first to know as soon as we have concrete news.

My favourite bespoke shoe, the wholecut. Just about to make one and it's always a pleasure. One piece of leather; one seam. How is it possible? It's the closest the shoemaker gets to alchemy. I think it is the simplest yet most elegant shoe, the quintessence of Englishness.

This model is black with a red lining and made on a very pointed last. It's going to be beautiful handmade bespoke shoe and is destined to be one of our new bespoke samples, so you may see it in our publicity material.

The insole is prepared and it's ready for lasting. The stitches are bigger than normal because it is not going to be worn and does not have to have the usual strength. On a normal shoe, it is 4 stitches to the inch. Or just under. Any smaller and you weaken the insole, which is the core strength of the shoe. If that fails, the shoe will fall apart.

More later.

If you have any shoemaking questions, then please just ask!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Stiffeners and Toe Puffs

Oops. Sorry everyone, been bogged down by the minutiae of life.

The intricacies of lasting.

The first thing to do is prepare your stiffeners (no sniggering at the back there) and toe-puffs (oh, grow up!). We start with a piece of oak bark tanned belly and cut them out, followed by careful skiving with my extremely sharp knife. The edges must be skived to nothing and the centres must be strong so that the heel area and toe areas do not collapse. In factory shoes these components are plastic and ready made.

There is a third extra piece of strengthening left to prepare. The side-lining, a piece of thin calf or glace kid which gives support to the line from the counter to the toe puff. It must be skived to nothing on the top edge so that it is not visible through the upper on the finished shoe.
There is a debate as to whether to put them in or not. I used to omit them, as I thought they were superfluous, but I now tend to put them in, especially with a foot with a wide joint. In these cases, the shoe can bulge where the toes are and look unsightly.
I started to learn to make shoes in Spain and there side-linings are not used because of the hot climate. The fewer layers of leather the better. But here in England, this is not an issue.
Every shoemaker I've met has an opinion on this and who knows what the definitive answer is?

Thanks, and happy shoemaking.