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Leather Quality and Properties - Page 52

post #766 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by chichester View Post

It sounds like I will have to make a real effort to meet her, it would be a fascinating experience. Perhaps, I could also arrange a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, are such things encouraged?

Colonial Williamsburg...in Virginia--ie The colonies" cool.gif...is, AFAIK, open to the public most days of the year. It is an amazing place--most of the original building from the 17th century are still intact and a stockpile of 17th century brick is kept to do repairs on them.

I'm not a great fan of "tourist traps" or "theme parks" but I was impressed. Very much so.

The only thing that detracts in any way is the current managerial meme of politically correct history. They won't display George Washington's uniform or his sword (or so I'm told) because it's too militaristic. Again this policy is "across the board."

Other than that, it may not be of much interest to people from countries that have hundreds, maybe thousands of buildings that are centuries and centuries old. But on this side of the pond we have a particular blindness with regard to the virtues of the past. Or the lessons we can learn from them.

I once took a business associate from England to "The Oldest Pub in Australia" turned out that his house was 50 years older than the pub.
post #767 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fang66 View Post

I once took a business associate from England to "The Oldest Pub in Australia" turned out that his house was 50 years older than the pub.

nod[1].gif
post #768 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by chichester View Post

DWFII,

That the knowledge it took to build Notre Dame is now lost forever is fascinating and heartbreaking in equal measure. Reminded me to look at my local cathedral in a different way and saddened me that I will never know how they did it in 1199. It's what makes your work so important, the narrative thread of shoemaking requires real live people to continue do it or it just becomes history, something beyond living memory, dead.

Chi

I think you hit it on the head there--when you consider the mediaeval cathedrals and consider that they were working to very high and exactingly precise standards with very crude tools...nothing we would even begin to call high tech (not even in an historical context)...it's gob-smacking. And to add to all that they were more or less making it all up as they went along.

I seriously doubt that we could replicate the least of those structures with all the tools we have at our disposal. But more importantly, I am near-as-nevermind certain that no one today has the intellectual wherewithal--in the sense of desire, commitment, vision, aspiration, even obsession.

The HCC was founded to "preserve and protect" the Traditions and the skills of bespoke shoemaking. I would readily admit that despite having taken on students for over thirty years, it wasn't until I joined the Guild that my almost "missionary" zeal to "preserve and protect" came into being. In some sense I'm as much a spokesman for the Guild as an independent agent.

I do it because for thirty years I've been a teacher--intimately involved in trying to faithfully pass on to another generation, if not the specifics, at least the respect for where we (shoemakers) come from--where we've been. Teaching is part of the "mission statement."

And I do it because I can.

Does it make any difference? Will it turn back the tide of mediocrity and ticky-tacky? Doubtful. But once a feller gives up, he might's well "step all the way in and pull the sod on over, because he's already dead."

--
Edited by DWFII - 11/4/13 at 11:24am
post #769 of 1274

“One luckless adept… had chanced upon a convincingly antiquated [book] in which a mistranslated passage advised the student to refine his base metal in a small oven for forty years (instead of ‘days’). The next stage was to have been the distillation of the Universal Panacea or elixir of long life, but as he contemplated the charred nugget that had been the focus of his yearnings since adolescence, he saw with the bitter clarity of a true philosopher that the process of acquiring immortality was too lengthy to be contained within the span of a human life.”

 

Graham Robb, Parisians

 

How much better to do as the Israelis’ once did; to till the land and pass it on - a little better, a little more fertile - to the next generation. That is worthy of a life’s work. I salute you sir!

post #770 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by chichester View Post

“One luckless adept… had chanced upon a convincingly antiquated [book] in which a mistranslated passage advised the student to refine his base metal in a small oven for forty years (instead of ‘days’). The next stage was to have been the distillation of the Universal Panacea or elixir of long life, but as he contemplated the charred nugget that had been the focus of his yearnings since adolescence, he saw with the bitter clarity of a true philosopher that the process of acquiring immortality was too lengthy to be contained within the span of a human life.”

Graham Robb, Parisians

How much better to do as the Israelis’ once did; to till the land and pass it on - a little better, a little more fertile - to the next generation. That is worthy of a life’s work. I salute you sir!

cheers.gif

I liked that quote...

BTW, I meant, in my last post to invite you to check out the Crispin Colloquy and maybe consider joining (doesn't cost a penny). We have an international membership and since West End work is very nearly the gold standard on the CC...if only tacitly...anyone with a genuine love of the Trade is welcome.
post #771 of 1274

DWFII, I certainly shall, thanks for the invite. Chi

post #772 of 1274

Some pix of welt stitching for your viewing pleasure

 

More explanation needed from DWF, BS or other shoe encyclopedias.  And help needed in taking better micro pictures...

 

How the hell do shoemakers stitch 60 SPI is beyond me but it seems being a masochist is definitely a prerequisite.

 

Machine sewn:

John Lobb Prestige: Undetermined. Outsole stitching on welt is sunk into a slim channel.  See picture.

 

 

Edward Green: 9 SPI

 

Crockett & Jones, Handgrade: 9 SPI

 

Meermin Linea Maestro: 7 SPI (not sure if its machine sewn or hand sewn)

 

Hand cranked sewing machine:

Saint Crispins: 8 SPI

 

 

Hand sewn:

Vass: 6 SPI

 

 

John Lobb Paris Bespoke: Undetermined, but has 11 ridges per inch.  See picture.

post #773 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

Sometime back we had a great rush of excitement and speculation on the Crispin Colloquy about how this was done. Several people actually tried it...myself among them. Fellow in New Zealand or Australia actually came the closest, working with veg 'roo. I think he got close to 50 spi...all done by hand.

In my attempts with domestically available veg 'roo, silk thread and bristles made from 5# monofilament fishing line, I got close to 36 spi. But I can tell you it was crude, as who should...politely, charitably...say.

During this fevered round of experimentation, Ms. Swann wrote Al Saguto and told him that veg kangaroo was probably the only leather in the world today that a person might have a chance to do "64 to the inch" in....which he passed on to all of us in a CC posting.

The story she tells (if I can recall it correctly) ...and like any old man I'm probably repeating myself by relating this...is that in her position as Keeper of the Shoe Collection, she examined a number of pairs of shoes that were stitched at 50-64spi on both uppers and soles. One pair from Philadelphia had been made for an International Trade Exposition (World's Fair) and it had taken the shoemaker several years, wearing three (?) pairs of glasses, to complete. And he had never made another pair again.

Such work was never done for wearing but always for exhibition. But there was a great movement during the latter half of the 19th century to do this kind of "Prize Work" primarily as a defiant gesture to the forces of industrialization. To prove that no machine, no factory could match the quality and refinement of a skilled Tradesman (at that time, the term "Tradesman" was closer in meaning to an idealized version of "craftsman".) . Many Trades from woodworking to weaving to shoemaking shared the opinion that no "wage slave" cared enough...or was committed enough...to even come close. [BTW, the term "wage slave" is drawn from tracts and even Trade catalogues from that time.]

As for the leather quality dipping...why shouldn't it? How could it not? We can extol the virtues of bringing shoes to the masses (at a considerably lower historical proportion of the common-man's wages) through the good graces of the manufacturing sector. And believe it or not, I would be the last person to gainsay those virtues.

But along with that has come the dumbing down of everything from the quality of the leather to our ability to appreciate the nuances of quality itself. If, by virtue of expediency or the implacable pursuit of the bottom line, the demand for quality leather dries up, it can come as no surprise that the very existence of quality leather will be forfeit.

Or...as is common, esp. among those who prefer self-congratulation...we can/will just change the definitions of quality to be less rigourous.

And this kind of "slippage" is across the board...not just in the Shoe Trades but, culturally, across the board.

Nevertheless it is worth remembering that at one time there were literally hundreds of tanneries like Baker in existence from England to Europe to North America. At one time there were literally hundreds of grinderies making tools for shoemakers and saddlers and allied trades. At one time there were numerous linen mills producing long staple linen both for shoemakers and of course for lacemakers and fabric in general. Where are they now?

It's not a process that happens where we can see it...it's not a process that happens overnight. So no one takes notice until those leathers, those techniques, those skills--that knowledge, is gone forever.

"Not with a bang but a whimper."

--

Its also worth saying that in common with a decline in the quality theres also a decline in the quality of hand tools - at one time a good 14spi pricking iron wasn't that difficult to get, the modern ones just aren't them same if you have to buy new though. Less significant than the decline in leather quality (which is definitely happening as well) but a slow cancer unless some one starts raising standards again - at some point we'll run out of good Edwardian tools....

Charlie
post #774 of 1274
Hand cranked sewing machine? Wtf, is that?
post #775 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by Equus Leather View Post

Its also worth saying that in common with a decline in the quality theres also a decline in the quality of hand tools - at one time a good 14spi pricking iron wasn't that difficult to get, the modern ones just aren't them same if you have to buy new though. Less significant than the decline in leather quality (which is definitely happening as well) but a slow cancer unless some one starts raising standards again - at some point we'll run out of good Edwardian tools....

Charlie

That's right. Something that just naturally follows when makers...as a group...choose to make money rather than make shoes.

Of course once upon a time shoemakers made their own tools. I've made awls, collices, and stitch pricks, along with other mundane tools such as knives. So as long as there's people who know the Trade and the Traditions, as long as there's people who are interested in preserving the knowledge, there's hope.
Quote:
Originally Posted by chogall View Post

Some pix of welt stitching for your viewing pleasure

More explanation needed from DWF, BS or other shoe encyclopedias.  And help needed in taking better micro pictures...

How the hell do shoemakers stitch 60 SPI is beyond me but it seems being a masochist is definitely a prerequisite.

It's not easy...it's probably near-as-nevermind impossible given today's state of the Trade and the available tools and leathers.

Rees (John F. Rees : The Art and Mystery of a Cordwainer (London, 1813) (or it may have been Devlin) said that when he did this work (+50spi) he had used a hair from his daughter's head and an awl so fine that when he pierced the base of his thumb it neither hurt nor bled.

Again, it was done for exhibition work. It was never intended for wearing. It was done to make a point and prove the superiority of work done by human hands...and hearts...versus work done by machines or "wage slaves" with their hearts not in it.

I think it was also Rees who said that 18 stitches to the inch...welt stitching...was "middling work."

I might add that even if you see "ridges," as in the JL Paris Bespoke, it is not a guarantee that the number of "ridges" corresponds to the number of stitches. Welt stitching was Traditionally "pricked up" to separate and tighten the stitching. But soon enough some clever fellow invented a tool to "relieve" us all of the onerous and tedious job (yeah, right! Terrible strain, just terrible) of welt pricking--the fudge wheel. Which a maker rolls over the welt after stitching and it impresses a pattern that imitates pricking. But even if the fudge wheel is 8 to the inch and the stitching is 8spi the fudging and the stitching seldom remain congruent for long. The pricking is supposed to go between the stitches , fudging can end up almost anywhere.

When I did this work I used a fine needle that had been ground to a chisel point, mono fishing line (maybe as fine as 2lb. test) for a bristle (daughters all grown and moved away) , veg tanned kangaroo which I acquired stateside (maybe not the prime hides) and a bone folder. I made my hole, made the stitch, and then pushed the leather back toward the stitch to close up the hole. Again it was crude but I could see that it was doable.

PS...it's worth observing that in all probability in all of the stitching photos you posted, with the exception of the Vass and perhaps the JL Paris Bespoke, the stitching was done by machine.

--
Edited by DWFII - 11/6/13 at 6:10pm
post #776 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickBOOTH View Post

Hand cranked sewing machine? Wtf, is that?

Junker-Ruh? Interesting machine but difficult to control the finish as the stitching is done from the welt side with no reference or visual access to the outsole.
post #777 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickBOOTH View Post

Hand cranked sewing machine? Wtf, is that?

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post


Junker-Ruh? Interesting machine but difficult to control the finish as the stitching is done from the welt side with no reference or visual access to the outsole.

 

They show it here at the 2:47 mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uQE51-FuZg

post #778 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by MoneyWellSpent View Post


They show it here at the 2:47 mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uQE51-FuZg

No, not a Junker-Ruh but same principle.
post #779 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post


No, not a Junker-Ruh but same principle.

 

St. Crispin's isn't appreciating quality German engineering...  They should be ashamed! :rimshot:

post #780 of 1274
Quote:
Originally Posted by MoneyWellSpent View Post

St. Crispin's isn't appreciating quality German engineering...  They should be ashamed! rimshot.gif

No telling who made the stitcher...these kinds of machines were designed for tiny, little, hole-in-the-wall shops...esp. repair shops...that didn't have room for a more "professional" machine.

That said, I got even money that the pneumatic staple gun is German engineering--so. hard. to swing. hammer. crackup[1].gif

Time is money, time is money, time is money

--
Edited by DWFII - 11/6/13 at 6:43am
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