Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 22 October 2010

New Tool

Busy week making. We have a deadline for Tuesday next week and I am madly trying to meet it. I think we will be ok. I am going to work tomorrow, very dedicated I know. But it's all in the line of duty I suppose.

We delivered a pair of interesting bespoke shoes this week. They were a real struggle to fit, a huge challenge. The client had to come in six times for fittings. But that is what bespoke shoemaking is all about. Some shoes fit perfectly on the first fitting, but others are more taxing.
The problem was the the joint, especially on the right foot. It is really painful, so the client insisted on the very rounded toe shape, so that his feet are not compressed in any way. He also had a very low toe box in front of the joint, so the scoop down from the instep is very pronounced. And he was concerned about the vamps not creasing when he walks, so the fit had to snug enough to avoid this. It was a balancing act. But we did it! And the result is a comfortable and idiosyncratic shoe. I grew to like the shape!

Next, I must say a big thank you to my friend Marcell Mrsan of Koronya in Budapest. He recently sent me a new tool. Now, I am a bit of an old school maker; resistant to change; stuck in his ways; you know the type. So I am reluctant to try new things. But when an ex student of ours, Seiji, came to work with us for a couple of weeks with his new fangled tools, I tried it, and, amazingly, I loved it. And within two weeks, he had told Marcell and he had sent me one. Fantastic. So a massive thank you goes to both of you.

What is this amazing tool? Well, it's called a feathering knife and it is used for cutting the feather or holdfast. A simple task you may think, but, until now I have been using a flat knife, which is fine, but it is hard to get a level flat cut, both the vertical and the horizontal one. This tool sorts this out.

And here is how you use it. You prepare your holdfast as usual by marking the lines with a pen (is this a whole new blog post?). You must still use your flat knife to make the first incision, about 2mm deep around the first line.

Wet the cut with water. This helps the next step.

Open the cut with a screwdriver.

Now comes the new tool fun. Previously I would do this with the knife and you are cutting blind with it, so it is quite a hard technique. With the featering knife, you simply place the tool in the beginning of the cut and away you go. The depth is constant and it takes seconds. I love it!

Just look how neat the cuts are.

On the second line, you do the same thing but hold the knife at a 45 degree angle. This makes the holdfast stronger.

Wet as before. Open it up, and cut with the new tool, this time following the angle. Et voila! A lovely neat holdfast.