Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 12 March 2010

Those Rough Edges

Well, well, well. Another week. The Other One has posted about the Independent Shoemakers Conference, so check that out!

We now only have two places left on the London course, so if you are thinking of doing it, then you need to move quick. We had two students sign up from Cordwainers/LCF this week who said it was a major aspect of their curriculum that they missed. Lucky we are here then!

We are really looking forward to New York. We booked out flights this week and lots of the stuff I ordered last week has arrived, so we have a growing pile of grindery clogging up the workshop.
We love teaching shoemaking to people!

Now, I have had a request for info on thread making and attaching the bristles, so that will come next week and The Other One has more to post after her visit to MICAM last week.

This week, I am going to look at finishing the edges. This is a really important task, as it gives the final look to the shoes. It's what people see and judge the shoes by. So you need to get it right.

After glassing, rasping and sanding the heels and edges (see post Super Natural) you are ready to start. The appearance is rough and unfinished.

The sanding process produces a lip on the welt edge which you must cut off with the plough. A knife also does the job. Don't worry if it appears to cut off the fudge marks.

Wet the welt with water using a toothbrush.

Heat the fudge wheel again to a point where a bit of spit on your finger sizzles. But dont go mad with the heat because you will singe the leather. Run the wheel along the welt making sure it goes into the existing marks. Otherwise you will have multiple marks which looks bad (called having babies!). Press quite hard to get nice sharp marks.

Now we look at the underside. The lower edge will appear with a lip too. Take a light rasp and starting at one end, gently rasp, in a forward direction all the way round. Then turn the shoe round and go back the other way.

You will be left with a fluffy lip again but this time at 90 degrees to the edge. You need to pick off with your fingers the majority of this material, but you must leave a little of it because this will fit into the edge iron to produce a defined line.

Now we are ready to use the edge iron. This has 2 edges, one with 2 lips and the other with 1, with a domed smooth piece of metal between.

Heat the iron on your burner. Again, wet your finger with spit and when it fizzes, the iron is hot enough. Again, not too hot as you will burn the leather.

Wet the edges again with water, and run a piece of regular hand soap along the edges. This acts as a lubricant to help the iron slide around the edges, to produce a glassy edge.

There are various ways to set the edges. Some people do it all in one go, top and bottom at the same time. My preferred method is to set the top edge first, then the bottom edge. The double lipped side is for the top edge. Place it on the fudge marks and pressing in and down at the same time, run the iron round the shoe, backwards and forwards in small motions. You should end up with 2 tiny lines, one on the edge itself, and the other on the fudge marks. It will look very smart.

Do the same on the bottom edge, again producing a clean lipped edge.

Keep the iron hot in the burner through all this.
Now fill in the gap between the top and bottom edges. It will now look darker, uniform and shiny.

You are left with the bevelled waist to finish.

Wet the waist with water; run the soap along; and heat your waist iron. You need to press in very hard inwards and downwards with the iron. And try to fold the top edge down. The iron will do this naturally for you if you press hard enough.

The last thing is to blend the edge with the waist. Go over the join with the edge iron until it looks seemless.
At this point you can do a natural or a coloured finish.

Hope this makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions.

Until next week, happy shoemaking.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Standing on the shoulders of giants

It's only when we're amongst fellow shoe folk that we really start to appreciate that it takes quite an extraordinary person to pursue this specialist craft...and what young upstarts we are in such a venerable trade!

So it was with much anticipation and some dread that we pitched up to the rather imposing Latimer Place in Chesham, for the 12th Annual Independent Shoemakers Conference. We joined about 50 fellow shoemakers, cobblers and repairers in leafy Bucks to discuss all things shoe related and having located a good coffee machine and snaffled some breakfast, things started to look up.
Kindly hosted this year by Peter Schweiger of James Taylor & Son, it was in fact a fantastic day and literally flew by. We began by each introducing our favourite shoe (in our case the Half Cut and ladies brogue) and this was Mr. Schweiger's - his shoe when he was a very well-shod little boy! Leather upper, sole and heels and hand stitched...I only hope our children aren't reading this!

We met the amazing shoe historian June Swann (she of the Northampton Museum); we sat in awe at the resourceful, skillful and expert orthopaedic shoemakers who work miracles to help improve their customers' mobility and wellbeing; and we met shoemaking legend Bill Bird - sorry Bill, but it was a delight to finally meet you and congratulations on the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers acceptance!

We dis
covered something of the history of the Conference (it was our first visit); enjoyed a riotous dying demo by Arty Achilleos;
had a go at hand-stitching as demonstrated by Dominic Casey (pictured below with June Swann);

and saw how height is built into a trainer by Andrew Twigg - the fastest knife in the north!

As you can see James couldn't resist having a go at the hand stitching but wasn't ready to try the trainers!

By 5pm with new contacts and friends made we wearily headed home - leaving the stalwarts to swim, watch Hobson's Choice ( a David Lean comedy starring John Mills, about a bootmaker and his unruly eldest daughter) and generally make merry into the early hours!

So, until next year fellow repairers, cobblers and shoemakers (or Snobs as we were once known!)!