Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 25 January 2013

From shoe to boot

We are back in our studios and it's so quiet without any students about...there's just me and James ploughing our way through a heap of bespoke and design work. (Hopefully the snowy weekend didn't delay anyone's flight too badly getting home)?

Anyway onto all things shoe. During the course, one of our students came up with a great blog question - "How do you fit up a shoe last for a boot?"

Obviously having boot lasts for boots and shoe lasts for shoes is the ideal, but is not always possible. You can make boots using a shoe last without any fittings at all, as long as you have the necessary short and long heel and ankle measurements.

But a boot fitting is helpful for the following reasons:-

- To keep the upper at the correct angle for the foot
- To stop the boot upper being mis-shapen when you are making the boots
- To create a better fit/shape at the facings

There are many ways of making a boot fitting and this is just one of the ways that we do it.
  •  Use a paper template to cut a semicircle of leather (the fitting) from shank leather or an off cut from the insole leather. The semicircle should be long enough to overlap the cone of the last by at least 1.5" and to extend above the cone by a further 1.5 - 2". 

  •  Skive the leather a third thinner all over, so that it is thin enough to bend in half.
  • Skive the curved edge of the fitting to nothing
  • Rough the skin side with sandpaper or a rasp
  • Check the angle of the fitting on the last using the long and short heel measurements  to ensure they correspond to the client's measures. (you may need to notch the fitting to position the it correctly - see above).
  • Draw a line to mark the bottom edge and angle of the fitting on each side of the cone
  • Use contact adhesive on the corners of the skin side of the fitting and on the sides of the cone of the last 
  • Stick one side of the fitting to the last; hammer it in place and use short, wide headed brads or nails to secure it. (Punch the nail heads below the surface of the leather so that they won't scratch the lining).
  • Now fold the fitting around the cone and stick the other side in place. Hammer and nail securely as before.
Ultimately what you are trying to do is to provide the upper with some support whilst you are working on it; and to keep the top edge at the right angle and at the right height when you last the upper. We hope that this brief description helps and we look forward to hearing what techniques you use to fit up your lasts.

Until next week happy shoemaking.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Last day of January 2013 course

It is the last day of our January course and despite London's snow-covering we were all raring to go and on time this morning. After a day of rasping, sanding and glassing yesterday, we started the day with dust-free, clean floors and tabletops to concentrate on finishing.

A rahn file, plough and file were dutifully employed to sharpen up sole edges...

 then a generous coating of black dye helped to disguise any lumps, bumps, rips and stitches...

Soles were burnished and rubbed smooth and glossy...

heels and edges were waxed, burnished and rubbed smooth...

and then we pulled lasts, tried on the shoes, made lifts and socks to help them fit and it was polishing time.
The dapper Francesco

 Our maestros of the military polish were Francesco and Ruben whose mirrored toes put us all to shame!
Polishing perfection - a master class!
Fortunately there was cake and Cava to hand to lift spirits as we all said our goodbyes. I only hope that the snow doesn't delay everybody returning home. Safe travels!

Ruben, Austin, Gudrun, Alistair, Francesco, Asa and Javon

James and I have had a fantastic fortnight! We hope everybody has enjoyed it and gone away even more enthusiastic about the handsewn craft and determined to keep creating shoes.

....and their beautiful shoes!