Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 10 August 2013

London Intensive Shoemaking Course Week 1; Day 6

It's the final day of week one and today muscles, brains and much much more are tired and hurting.

Heels were stitched and welts were beaten, allowed to dry and then carefully trimmed to beautiful shapes...

enhancing elongated toes...

and curving around 'egg' toes. Shanks were glued in place to support the arches and skived smooth, then the cork was glued in place to fill the fore part of the shoe.

Meanwhile the soaked soles have been mellowing nicely...

before being cut out (with a little extra room to breath), hammered and glued on.

It was a race to the finish, but everyone is just about ready for a Monday - shaping and nailing heels; trimming sole edges to 90 degrees, cutting channels and stitching.

 I'm looking forward to seeing the results when I take over the reins again on Tuesday. James will be reporting in from the course on Monday - until. then a well-earned day off for everyone! Happy shoemaking!

Friday, 9 August 2013

London intensive shoemaking course 1; Day 5; Week 1

The forecast was right! It has been welting, welting, welting today. Threads snapped, bristles slid off, tar got sticky and talc was employed to calm everything down. A welcome lunch break and renewed energy meant that two students have finished their second shoe and the rest have only a short way left to go.

Interesting toe shapes will become even more interesting with welts on...

There was quiet in the studio today as concentration levels reached epic levels - broken only by quiet curses and prayers to the 'welting Gods'.

Tomorrow it's welting finished then trimming the welt and fitting shanks and cork before the mellowed soles are glued on. Can't wait...students will be sleeping well tonight! Happy shoemaking until tomorrow.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

London intensive shoemaking course Day 4, Week 1

Wow, a third of the way through. Time flies, especially when you are welting. In fact, we worked so hard today on our threads and welting that I forgot to take any photos until the last minute and everyone was tidying up. Oops. But we were busy.

So, essentially, the day involved the last bits of lasting the toes; making threads; attaching bristles; preparing welts; and stitching them. All by hand, of course.

Welting is probably the most challenging thing we do on the course but they all did very well today.

Here is a half welted shoe with the welt that we made at the side.

Here is a detail of the threads and welt at the toe. We make special knots here to stop the stitches pulling through.

Our trusty welting all with the slightly spooned end to make a better hole for the stitches to pass through.

And here is the forecast for tomorrow - widespread and unbroken welting will dominate throughout the day until late afternoon.

Until then, happy shoemaking!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

London intensive shoemaking course Day 3, Week 1

Day 3 already and our intrepid shoemakers are nearing the completion of the lasting stage. I tell you what though, they don't know they are alive they have it so easy. The master shoemaker who trained us spent the first two weeks of his shoemaking life straightening the nails his master had used and thrown to the floor. Baptism by fire, sorting the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, whatever you want to call it. Maybe we should introduce that into our course...

Today started with lasting the stiffener in the heel part of the shoe and lasting it down. After lasting the fore part tightly, the stiffener was pasted into place and pulled down.

The upper, lining and stiffener are pulled and nailed into place up to just behind the joint and the excess leather is trimmed off.

The nails are then knocked down with a hammer to secure everything.

Once the heel area is lasted, they moved on to the fore part. First they lasted only the lining.

From here the excess is trimmed off; the nails knocked down; and the toe puff started.

After pasting the lining, they lasted on the toe puff.

We then dried the puffs and started the process of shaping them and making sure they are a pair. This is done with a rasp.

The last stage was to get rid of the excess on the under side and sharpen up the feather edge.

Ready for the upper to be lasted over - see the pair in the middle on the bottom shelf.

Nice work guys!

Until tomorrow, happy shoemaking!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

London intensive shoemaking course Day 2, Week 1

As the courses have progressed we have gradually introduced teaching aids to help to explain what it is students are trying to achieve at each stage. Here are our toe puff and stiffener examples.

Our resident dentist / shoemaker was perhaps unsurprisingly skilled with a pair of pliers!

And with an increasing number of students wanting bespoke lasts we are getting an interesting array of toe shapes. On this course

...pointed and
 super scooped toes

are going to give the students added challenges when they are lasting and welting!

But for today, they are well under way. The blocked insoles were duly trimmed and the holdfasts have been prepared (it looks as though some will hold faster than others but we shall see!)

...and two students have begun lasting. It's give everyone a buzz of excitement as they see the shoes finally begin to take shape.

The group are in the safe hands of Mr Ducker tomorrow and Thursday and then I am taking them to the end of the course, so I am looking forward to seeing welts well under way for a second great week of sole stitching, heel building and finishing. Fingers crossed all goes well in the next few days.

Until tomorrow happy shoemaking!

Monday, 5 August 2013

London Intensive Shoemaking Course Day 1 Week 1

We're off and one of our August shoemaking marathon and as happened in New York, our students have roared ahead on day 1 skiving, blocking insoles, making knife sheaths and starting threads!

We have the Scandinavian table... Denmark and Norway...

vs the UK, US and Australia...

and there's everything to play for as we approach the more complex, challenging and tiring sections of week one - preparing the insoles, lasting and welting.

Enthusiasm and energy levels are high and long may that continue.

We've seen some neatly prepared insoles...

blocked and drying ready to prepare tomorrow....

 and everyone is enjoying the coolness of the air conditioner....

...(which helpfully transforms into a heater for winter!)

That's it until tomorrow when the hard work starts!