Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 27 October 2017

Replacing a Sole - An Experiment

Hello once again shoemakers of the world. We wish you a slightly belated happy St Crispins day. We hope you all managed to do a little shoemaking that day

We recently got a ten year old pair of shoes back from a customer who is receiving an OBE next week and who wanted to give them a service and get them fit for the Queen.

As you can see the uppers are in fantastic condition because we used the highest quality box calf and the customer looks after them regularly, but the soles, edges and heels were a bit bruised and battered.

It turned out that they needed a complete re-sole. So I thought it would be interesting to try a new technique for the repair.

Normally you would take the heel off and then the sole under the heel area by cutting it at an angle and then splicing a new sole onto it and putting the original heel back on - see this older post

This is a great way to do it, but I never liked the small diagonal line where the old and new soles meet. Plus the seat is a bit messy due to wear and tear.

So I decided to take the heel off and take all of the sole off and put a completely new sole on.

First the top piece was prised off with a screwdriver.

And then I took the whole heel off in a block to see if it was possible to use it in this form to put back on the shoe. This is unorthodox as usually you would take each lift off one by one.

Taking heel off as a block - not traditional!

Taking the lifts off one by one the traditional way

And then the sole was taken off by cutting through the stitches.

Start with a screwdriver

And then cut the stitches with a knife

On one shoe I took the sole off completely which is not how it's normally done. This means taking off the split lift/rand too which was saved

On the other shoe, I did the same but stopped at the middle of the heel and lifted the split lift/rand up. The sole was cut at an angle and removed. This is how we were taught to do it.

I saved the lifts with a view to rebuilding the heel with the same lifts. Best to number them.

A new sole was stitched on in the same way, the difference being one was spliced to part of the old sole - see above and the other was completely new.

Spliced sole

Both soles prior to be glued on for comparison

 The channels were cut as usual.

 Both were stitched and the channel closed.

The two versions side by side
Next the heels were built and this is where the biggest difference is in the two methods. On the shoe on the right above, the split lift was put back into place with paste and nails. On the other shoe, a brand new split lift was made and attached.

Remember that the heel was taken off as a block, so it was attached intact using paste and nails again. This is an experiment which it worked very well and saves time.

Original heel block attached
On the other shoe a brand new heel was built lift by lift in the usual way. This took more time! About 30 minutes longer.

Top pieces were attached  and the shoes were ready for finishing. Here are the two versions side by side for comparison. Note the spliced sole on the shoe on the right. This is what I don't like very much. It ends up almost invisible, but you can still see it on the finished shoe.

Last of all came the finishing which was the same on both shoes - rasping, glassing and sanding. The sole edges were set and the soles burnished. Here are the finished shoes with a high shine. They look really amazing for 10 years old!

You can see from this shot of the heels that the seat on the one on the left is not as clean as the other one. This is because it is the original seat which is a bit old and bruised from life - a bit like me!

It's a bit hard to tell from these pics but this is the area where the new repair method is better, where the new an old soles meet. In the first image, the sole is completely new with no join and a clean seat. In the second image, you can just see where the new and old soles are spliced together and the seat is a little less defined. It's a small improvement but for the time it took to rebuild the heel, worth it. I will be doing it like this from now on.

So there you go, another week over and something new learned. Until next time, happy shoemaking.