Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 30 September 2011

Thread Wax

Preparations for our trunk shows in Chicago and New York are in full flow. It is not long now and we are very excited. If any of you wish to come, or know anyone who might like a pair of our bespoke shoes, then please spread the word or make an appointment. Carreducker needs you!

Over the last couple of days, our friend the Shoe Snob has been polishing the shoes we are going to take. So they are gleaming, And today we started packing them. We are really looking forward to this trip - can't wait!

We were asked about the wax we use on our threads. I did do a post on this but I am going to repeat it for those newer readers amongst you.

The threads you use are very important. You can buy ready made, pre-waxed threads which work fine, but they are not made of natural fibres, I have been told. Being very traditional shoemakers, we prefer to use a natural fibre like linen or hemp. As a result of this, we need to use a thread wax to coat and preserve the threads. The wax penetrates into the fibres and stops them breaking or rotting.
We make this wax ourselves. And here is how.

For the natural colour wax, you will need colophony (distilled turpentine), beeswax and tallow. We buy ours from the marvellous LCornelissen & Son, artists suppliers. Love the packaging!

If you want black wax, substitute tar for the colophony.

So here is the recipe.

200g colophony

300g beeswax

a tiny fingernail of tallow

This is a winter wax, so I added about 20g more of beeswax. This has the effect of keeping the wax softer in the cold weather. In summer, add about 10g extra of colophony.

Place all the ingredients into a pan and place on the heat. Continue until all the ingredients are liquid. This gets quite hot and smells a bit, so open a window.

Next pic is about half way, with some melted and some still solid. It looks like liquid honey when finished.

The next stage is the fun bit. I don't know why you have to do this, but you do. It will not work if you don't. It stays brittle and unusable.
Get a plastic washing up bowl, put it in the sink and nearly fill it with cold water.
Pour the liquid wax into the water. It disperses a bit. You have to push it together with your hands. Be careful as the wax is very hot. The water helps stop it burning you. Turn the tap on when you start touching the molten wax. When you have a ball, start kneading and massaging it for about a minute. This makes it mix properly.
This next bit is a video, so don't miss it.

Now divide the ball into smaller ones, about 5 for this amount.

Having just watched the video, I think there is a way to improve the process. I think if you stir the water in the bowl round with a big spoon and when it is spinning really fast, pour the liquid wax into the middle, it will stop it dispersing so much. Like doing a poached egg. If any of you try this, let me know how it works. I am curious.

And that, my dear readers, is a wrap. Have a fantastic week, and until next Friday, happy shoemaking!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Walk 10 miles in our shoes...

Blog fans it is time to dig deep and to do a little giving. I am taking a 10-mile stroll along the River Thames riverside on Saturday night all in the name of charity - a very important charity that helps children with disabilities in Russia.

Anyway, to make things more interesting I will be doing the walk in a pair of our carreducker shoes (whilst my fellow walkers will no doubt be in trainers with gel pads, cushioning, wadding etc.)

My money's on the leather shoes - is yours? If you would like to find out the results of our footwear experiment and to show some soul whilst I am wearing through my sole, please sponsor me.

I promise to post pictures from the finale at Tower Bridge.
Taxi home anyone?