Leather Quality and Properties - Page 49
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Well, that came as a complete surprise...I didn't see it coming. Not that it's not true. It's 100% true. I love Patrick O'Brian. I don't think you could have come up with a nicer, kinder thing to say to me. Thank you.
I would think that hand lasting and hand welting would give the cordwainer the ability to make all manner of subtle adjustments in the upper and its attachment to the insole. These might arise, I imagine, from the inherently variable nature of leather itself, from the exact contours required by a particular set of feet, changes in the tension required to stretch the leather over the last, maybe the temperature and humidity in the shop??? When this is done by machine, the process is too fast and automated to make any adjustments. In the real world, are there constant adaptations as one lasts and welts by hand?
Yes indeed. Of course there are trade-offs. A machine will be consistent in the same way that manufactured homes are consistently "ticky-tacky." Every pull is exactly the same length even if there happens to be more or less stretch in that particular piece of leather. But then that's always been the great strength of any handwork--the ability of the maker to adapt and the opportunity to bring something more human than mechanical to the process.
But you're correct, a skilled shoemaker, or even just a skilled bottom man, lasting by hand, can do a lot to make a bespoke shoe...esp. one for odd feet...look good where the machine will only make the shoe look distorted or, well, "odd."
This is just my opinion and I would be open to schooling if the premises that I am about to set forth were accepted:
I suspect you'd be hard put to find or identify a "craftsman" of the old school in any of the Northampton factories. Craftsmen in the sense of the 19th century (when men's shoes were at their best). Craftsmen in the sense of being "compleat" shoemakers. Craftsmen in the sense of it not being just another job (or hobby) but a calling...a vocation.
If there is no need for hand welting where are you going find someone who has spent his life mastering that skill? They've all been pensioned off. Years ago. Unneeded, unwanted.
And in some circles...maybe such circles...craftsmen, and craftsmanship, aren't really "the thing," you know.
I think Ayn Rand influenced me greatly as a young man...before shoes...although I can hardly remember either the Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. I read both but just now was still uncertain enough that I had to look up who Howard Roark was.
That said, shoemaking isn't rocket science or anything so grandiose as architecture. Nor am I the admirable, almost prototypically heroic protagonist that Ms. Rand depicts.
I'm just one rather common old man with an uncommon passion and love for what he does for a living--the history, Traditions, and skills.
I suspect, however, that that in itself may be the most remarkable thing that can be said about anyone.
It's good enough for me, in any case.
Edited by DWFII - 11/1/13 at 11:49am
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Calf is the staple. Not cow. In all leather the younger the animal the denser the fiber mat and the finer the finish.
Longevity is more a function of maintenance, tannage and usage rather than the inherent quality of the animal skin. Some leathers are more durable and scuff resistant with elephant and large reptiles being at the top of the list and kid/goat sheep at the bottom.
Cordovan has a relatively fine break. This is due to the density of the fiber mat. cordovan can also be somewhat easy to tear (one of the reasons I'm not fond of it). Good quality calf perhaps just behind it with better tensile strength and stretch (some is good). Leathers like bison tend to have a coarser fiber structure and generally stretch more...and in my opinion are not as successful for strictly dress shoes although if vegetable tanned they can make a very nice casual to dress shoe. The break on them will never be a non-trivial issue.
If I could only choose one leather for my "one" shoe, it would be a really good grade of calf--probably the best mix of strength, durability, finish and conformity to the requirements of the foot.
Only if you don't give any weight to ignorant speculation...
Seriously, I hope this helps.
Thank you for the answers. I always thought you work with shoes because you always answer my leather questions.
RE Purpose, i was generally thinking for boots. More of sw&d boots rather than dress shoes. I have seen Kangaroo used and it looks cool but i wasnt sure how it stacks against horse. I prefer to get a rarer leather than calf when i purchase some cool boots.
As usual, I find any direct exchage with you largely a waste of time - save for the sheer entertainment of watching you chuck stones in your great big glass house. This most recent tirade was particularly amusing. If you need any tips on how to properly sharpen a knife, I'm happy to help.
Have a nice day.
Way too complex of a discussion for Styleforum, where people already are having a hard time polishing shoes with $20 waxes.
I get what DW is saying.
In relation to what I do, I'm a classically trained illustrator, but I find myself making a living doing graphic design work for a large company.
Instead of toiling away with pen/brush & paper/canvas, I sit in front of a computer and utilize programs designed to make the mastery of such old fashion tools inefficient and unnecessary for work.
It would be comparable to hand welted and Goodyear welted. My current work would be comparable to GY shoes, even though I have the skill to do traditional work.
In the end, I can say that I am proud of my work regardless of the medium and it's inherent flaws. But I do acknowledged that I have chosen to compromise and work in mainly digital, for the exchange of being well compensated. Instead of only making traditional art pieces for knowledgeable clients, and possibly having an unstable/humble income.
My joy comes from my ability to use my creativity, even if most of what I create now is theoretical. An interesting idea in itself
I wonder if craftsmen at EG, JL, and GG considered such things and understand it as such?
EG, JL, G&G factory workers are just factory workers. Not that different than the factory workers in Shenzhen making smartphones, Bangladesh making shirts and pants, or New York banking analysts cranking out prospectus.
Now I do agree that there might be actual craftsman in those factories, such as Cliff Roberts. But even then, them not being able to work as full time outworking shoemakers for the bigger shops does suggest something. And without the accumulated experiences in making handmade shoes, they are no better than the craftsmen trained at low-labor-cost countries.
(free hand, assisted, or machine sharpening) X (synthetic, natural, and oil whetstone) X (stainless steel, blue/white carbon steel, damascus steel) x (single and double bevel) x (oil coating for patination) = (clusterfuck ^ n)X(??????????)x(Profit)
((free hand, assisted, or machine sharpening) X (synthetic, natural, and oil whetstone) X (stainless steel, blue/white carbon steel, damascus steel) x (single and double bevel) x (oil coating for patination)) / ((Profit) X (clusterfuck ^ n)) = ??????????
I have not gone through all 25 pages yet but another good topic is the difference in the tanneries world wild. In prefer to stick with the American tanneries because the hides finish in a uniform color.
The Mexican or Argentine hides are very hard to control as far as shades and the actual color. I'll make 50 or a hundred at a time and the buyer will want them all to look the same.
Unfortunately the hides skyrocketed in price this year. What I could buy for $70 in 2011 now cost $120.
The tanneries are blaming drought and China. I wish I was more of an economist so I could uncover the real reason.