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Bespoke shoemaking: pics of my efforts

3094 Views 0 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  shoefan
As some of you know, I have been learning about shoemaking. At long last, I have undertaken the “making†of my first pair of shoes. Several folks have indicated interest in my escapade, so in response a variety of pictures of the process, the tools, and the (interim) results follows.

Note that these shoes are made from uppers that were purchased by me and were not made specifically for the lasts; this affects how the uppers hug the lasts, although in this instance the uppers are a pretty good fit for the lasts.

The lasts are bespoke lasts that were made for my feet by a custom lastmaker. They are a chisel-toe shape, although perhaps less severe than a Cleverley toe, for example.

The shoes are not yet finished; the left shoe needs to have a bit more sanding of the sole and heel, and the sole, heel, and the welt/sole edges need to be finished by use of a fudge wheel or stitch prick and the application and polishing of ink/’heel ball.’ The right shoe needs to have its sole channel closed, its welt fudged wheeled/stitch pricked, and its heel, sole, and edges trimmed, scraped, sanded, and polished. In both cases the shoes also have to be removed from their lasts, finished on the inside, and given a final polishing.

You may note that the soles look a little thick and clunky for the upper. This is because I used a pair of outsoles that I had available. Since I am practicing, I didn’t want to use an expensive pair of Bakers or Rendenbach sole leather.

I think the shoes look okay, but there are certainly many problems with them, partly of my own doing and partly due to the original condition of the uppers. Still, for a first effort, I think I did okay, though the folks at Lobb, Cleverley, et al certainly have nothing to worry about!

This first picture is of the right shoe, in its current state:

As is the second:

The next image is face-on; you can see a slight wrinkle on the top of the shoe, where the upper is not quite tight to the last. This picture was taken before the sole was stitched to the welt.

This shot is from above. You can see the shape of the upper and the welt, as well as the stitching at the toe (which I think looks pretty good, if I do say so myself). You can see at the heel that the upper is not quite tight to the last around the outside of the heel, as well as slight wrinkle on the front top (apron) of the shoe.

This next pic is of the welt stitching. It is pretty straight, with one or two stitches excepted. This shoe’s welt/outsole are stitched at 8 stitches/inch, pretty standard for handmade shoes.

This is a shot of the sole, after the channel has been cut and opened, but before the awl has made any holes or any stitching has been performed.

This is the sole with the stitching in the channel:

This is a picture of the ‘square’ awl which is used to make the holes through the welt and the outsole, from the welt/top down and emerging (one hopes) in the channel cut in the sole. The awl has a very small cross section, so that you can place many holes/stitches side-by-side on the welt. It is also quite sharp.

This is the awl in profile. The challenge in using this awl is not only in hitting the channel on the outsole, but also being consistent in placing the awl on the welt so your stitching lines up when viewed from above.

This is the awl and the welt, after I have made a number of awl holes before beginning to sew. The holes on the welt are much larger than the holes on the sole-side of the shoe, because of the shape of the awl (though they’re still pretty darned small).

This is what the awl looks like when it has pierced the welt and outsole â€" remember, there are 8 of those stitches per inch. This shoe has a total of 133 stitches attaching the outsole to the welt. You can also see the two threads that are used to sew the outsole. They are each pulled (in opposite directions) through the holes made by the awl. The thread is quite large in comparison to the hole, so it takes some effort to pull them through.

In order to get the thread started through the hole, it is attached to a “bristle†(traditionally boar’s hair, today fishing line), which is small in diameter yet flexible enough to go through a curved hole. The bristle is attached to the by wrapping the thread around the bristle, but the thread must first by made quite small by removing part of the fibers. The bristles are fed (from opposite sides) through the awl hole, then the thread is pulled through. You can see a bristle here:

This is what a welted shoe looks like with only the upper, the insole, and the welt attached. The welt is attached to the upper and insole by stiches that run parallel to the ground. These stitches are on the underside of the welt, and so are hidden by the addition of the outsole. The welt is stitched at about 4 SPI; this welt I had to remove, as I didn’t do a good job in stiching it to the insole; it was uneven, the stitching pulled through the insole a couple of times, and the welt and upper were not tight to the insole at the toe.

This is a picture of the insole that I removed from the right shoe; the welt sewing wasn’t very good (as noted above), so I redid the whole thing. You can see the “holdfast†through which the welt stitching goes. An outside shoulder/rabbet is cut on the insole so that the upper and welt have a place to sit; the stitching goes from the inside of the holdfast and emerges from the outsole at the base of this shoulder, where it pierces the upper and the welt. This stitching is what holds the upper and the insole together. You can see the awl marks and the linen thread which is used to do the sewing. This sewing uses a heavier thread and a different awl than those used for outsole sewing.

Another pic of the insole. Note that this is the bottom of the insole, not the side that your foot rests on.

And finally, this is the left shoe:

And the two shoes’ soles: the top/right shoe has a sole that is still rough, whereas the left/bottom shoe has a sole ready for finishing with ink/dye (i.e. it has been sanded to a very smooth condition). Both of the soles are made from the same type of leather.
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