Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 25 August 2012

August 2012 Shoemaking Course - Final Day

And so we arrive at the last day. Still some work to do but not the frenetic pace of previous days.

Some sole burnishing; putting on the wax; taking off the wax; doing the seat wheel; doing the single lipped iron on the heel edges; cleaning the shoes; polishing the shoes; and pulling the lasts - simple!

And then we made and put in socks into the shoes. Either half socks, full socks or double thickness socks depending on how the shoes fitted. - you can do quite a lot once the shoe is finished to get it to fit better.

Last thing was to give out certificates and celebrate with a glass of prosecco and a cupcake from Bea's.

And here are the happy students with their shoes (minus one who could not make it today)

Excellent work all round and a very big congratulations goes to all of them.

And that is a wrap. A thoroughly enjoyable two weeks of shoemaking and learning. We hope this will encourage you to sign up if you are thinking about it.

Until the next time, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 24 August 2012

August 2012 Shoemaking Course - Day 11

It's nearly all over! One more leisurely day tomorrow to finish everything off - make the shoes look pretty; pull the lasts; put in the socks; and tie the laces.

We motored today and everyone is nearly finished.

Here's a summary of today's activities

After rasping the heel, they glassed them and the edges.

Next came sanding with 80, 120 and 240 grit aluminium oxide paper.

Edges too. we do it like this to get a concave finish on the edge so that the iron fits well.

They ironed the edges.

Glassed the soles and top pieces

Sanded the soles to a peachy finish.

Inking the soles, heels, edges and welts.

What a happy bunch we are.

Last day tomorrow - boo. I love my job!

Until tomorrow, happy shoemaking!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

August 2012 Shoemaking Course - Day 10

Day 10. Only two more days to go. It flies by in there. Still a lot to do, but enough time to do it.

So, today was spent finishing off the heels. Cutting the seat and trimming it close to the upper. Still a bit of rubber solution in there which you can rub away with a piece of dry leather.

We attached the top pieces with contact adhesive and nails.

Cut the heel breast.

Once built and shaped with the knife, the students started the finishing, beginning with rasping - a lot of fun.

The fans were on full to keep them cool. Rasping is vigorous work.

And here are some of the rasped heels - lovely, huh?

Tomorrow will be spent making the shoes look beautiful, a process some will find more of a challenge than others.

Until then, happy shoemaking!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

August 2012 Shoemaking Course - Day 9

Day 9 in the shoemaking class and it's all heels, heels, heels.

Once the split lifts/rands were put on and trimmed, we were ready for the lifts. Most of the time a typical man's shoe will have a heel made up of the sole, a split lift, 2 lifts and the top piece.

The tradition in the UK is to build heels with paste and nails. The other common method is  to use paste and wooden pegs. Both are valid and both have their pros and cons. We use nails in this class.

The routine here is to put a generous layer of paste on the heel; place the lift on with a little overhang; put 3 nails in the middle to secure it; draw a line round where the nails will go; hammer in the nails; punch them; trim the lift; and peen it with the French shape hammer to make a solid heel edge. Simple, huh?
Well, not really. I think heel building is the most difficult part of shoemaking to get right - just my opinion.

Once the lift is on, you must skive the top so that is goes flat. The last is curved and the top piece must sit flat on the ground, so the skiving is to achieve this end.

Here are a few pics to give you a flavour of the day.

A lift nailed into place and a bit of skiving done at the heel breast.

Trimming the lift with the knife

One critical part of heel building is to get the shoe to sit stable on the ground. Here we are checking this with a view to knowing where to skive. We also look at the spring at the toe and the height of the heel.

The heel breast is traditionally curved and here one of the students is cutting it - very carefully!

One breast cut and the other marked and ready to go.

And finally, we had another incident with the nail punches. Now, you might think it is because they are inferior quality, which may be the case, but it just so happened that it was the same student who did it. Coincidence? You decide. Anyway, I went out at lunchtime and bought a great big monster one that not even Superman could break. Fingers crossed.

And so we have three days left to finish the heels and do the finishing. All being well, we will make a trip on Saturday to our friends at John Lobb and to our concession at Gieves and Hawkes.

Until tomorrow, happy shoemaking!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

August 2012 Shoemaking Course - Day 8

Another successful day, but this time with a lot more variety.

Everybody finished off stitching their soles and, after squashing down the stitches with the sleeking bone, they glued down the channel with contact adhesive.

The final stage was to smooth the sole surface with a polished chair leg and a strap. This is done to get rid of all the lumps and bumps created by hammering the sole.

And so to heel building. First comes the split lift or rand. This, as the name suggests, is a partial lift which starts the process of flattening the heel area. First we glassed the skin side.

Then we skived about half the width to nothing.

Next we cut 5 small nothces in it to help make it heel shaped. We then wet it and beat it on a lap iron to make a horseshoe shape and to condense the leather.

Finally we put paste on the heel area and then nailed the split lift in place with a few millimetres overhang. This is trimmed and peened with the French shape hammer to start the heel building process.

The last task is to skive the top side of the split lift flat, ready for the first full lift.

The class has moved on very quickly today and we are well on target to finish by Saturday. I am going to be demanding perfection from now on!

Until tomorrow, happy shoemaking!

Monday, 20 August 2012

August '12 Shoemaking Course - Day 7

And so week 2 starts with a major drop in temperature and some serious stitching. The honest truth is that there was not much for me to do today except monitor; jump in to save a few threads; and encourage them.

Stitching two shoes in quick succession is tiring and hard on the hands. But after the exertions of week one (the welting) it is a gentle downhill glide from here, with the odd undulation to keep it challenging.

I must say at this point that this is a lovely group, seven hard working and charming people - this summer we have Ukrainian, Italian, Norwegian, French and British students. Is it that shoemaking attracts nice people? Or are we just lucky?

Here are a few pics of what we did today

A quiet class stitching diligently

A finished sole

Lovely straight stitches (almost)

Flattening the stitches with the bone

Tomorrow we will finish the soles; close down the channels; and start the heels - excellent. I look forward to it. I like teaching!

We hope this inspires you to learn shoemaking

Until tomorrow, happy shoemaking