1. Welcome to the new Styleforum!

    We hope you’re as excited as we are to hang out in the new place. There are more new features that we’ll announce in the near future, but for now we hope you’ll enjoy the new site.

    We are currently fine-tuning the forum for your browsing pleasure, so bear with any lingering dust as we work to make Styleforum even more awesome than it was.

    Oh, and don’t forget to head over to the Styleforum Journal, because we’re giving away two pairs of Carmina shoes to celebrate our move!

    Please address any questions about using the new forum to support@styleforum.net

    Cheers,

    The Styleforum Team

    Dismiss Notice

Leather Quality and Properties

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by VegTan, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. Trompe le Monde

    Trompe le Monde Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2009
    the only thing i've learned here is that north americans pay too much for their Vass.
     
  2. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    8,205
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    The Highlands of Central Oregon
    

    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.


    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."
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
  3. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    8,205
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    The Highlands of Central Oregon
    
    Yes you do. Thank you.

    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.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
  4. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    33,325
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    Location:
    New York City
    DW, the Howard Roarke of cordwaining. :slayer:
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    8,205
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    The Highlands of Central Oregon
    PB,

    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.

    --
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
    2 people like this.
  6. sinnedk

    sinnedk Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    12,059
    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2010
    Location:
    San Francisco
    

    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.
     
  7. chogall

    chogall Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,564
    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2011
    Way too complex of a discussion for Styleforum, where people already are having a hard time polishing shoes with $20 waxes.
    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.
     
  8. RogerP

    RogerP Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    8,333
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario, CANADA

    LOL! Fair enough. [​IMG]
     
  9. chogall

    chogall Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,564
    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2011
    (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
     
  10. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    33,325
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    Location:
    New York City
    

    FTFY

    Simple really
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
  11. Apollotrader

    Apollotrader Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    530
    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2012
    Location:
    Paradise Valley, AZ
    Would anybody like to weigh in on preparation advice for daily use? I am thinking of letting the patina build naturally. My real question is weather or not to waterproof, and what to use?

    [​IMG]
     
  12. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    33,325
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    Location:
    New York City
    Doesn't need waterproofing, imo. Just condition once in a while. I would use Lexol neatsfoot personally.
     
  13. Apollotrader

    Apollotrader Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    530
    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2012
    Location:
    Paradise Valley, AZ
    Thank you Patrick, would you mind expanding? My experience is that, the only thing that can go bad is water/liquid stains? No?
     
  14. i10casual

    i10casual Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    721
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Texas
    It's skin. Are you not water proof?
     
  15. i10casual

    i10casual Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    721
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Texas
    This has been a great read. Thanks veg tan. I only work with the lower forms of the leather since I make gun holsters in my factory.

    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.
     
  16. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    8,205
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    The Highlands of Central Oregon
    


    Lexol NF (the same product that PB mentioned) is an homogenized version of Neatsfoot oil. It will waterproof your leather fairly well while at the same time feeding and nourishing the leather. It won't darken the leather significantly if you don't get over-zealous when applying it.

    And the obvious...don't take your case with you when you go swimming. :)
     
  17. Apollotrader

    Apollotrader Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    530
    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2012
    Location:
    Paradise Valley, AZ
  18. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    8,205
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    The Highlands of Central Oregon
    

    But there is an underlying perspective here that applies across the board. A perspective that is near and dear to my heart, at least.

    Without getting into real detail...despite having good quality grinders and sanding wheels at my disposal, I do prefer to sharpen knives with a sequence of Washita and Arkansas oil stones. I know that there are other types of stones--some oil and some water--and that many even prefer belt sanders for sharpening knives. But for me I prefer to slow down. I like feeling the steel on the stone. I like hearing the difference in sound as the angle of the blade is adjusted.

    And I can sharpen a knife so that it is "scary sharp"--no brag, fact. I have to be able to for the work I do.

    Part and parcel of the way most professional craftsmen...as opposed to dabblers and backbench-garage hobbyists...approach their work is to immerse themselves in the processes. When you do, it often occurs, even without you being fully aware of it, that you lose the almost obsessive focus on self that possesses most of us in today's world. Lose your self-absorption. In fact, that's one of the attractions of being a professional. And in the process, with self out of the way, suddenly you find yourself open to other inputs--the sound of the metal, the feel of the blade in the hand, the way subtle, heretofore unnoticed muscle tensions affect the work; and to other influences--perhaps that "creative consciousness" I spoke of.

    Speed kills...quality. From our most intimate activities in daily life to our most critical public enterprises our society can never have enough speed, enough easy, enough expedience. I sometimes think that this is the easy way to "lose yourself"--the quick and easy and convenient way--go so fast that you can never slow down enough to notice where "you" are.

    Who wants to pay for a truly hand welted, bespoke shoe? Who wants to spend the years learning to make such a shoe? Who wants to go to all that effort and work to actually understand what goes into a shoe? Just go out and buy a pair. And if...by virtue of popularity, or brand name or some superficial glitter striking the eye...a certain socially acceptable "glamour" (not in the magical sense) comes along with it, all the better.

    Who would want to go to all that trouble to sharpen a knife...especially by hand...or even to learn how, when a utility knife is $2.98 and a pack of disposable blades $1.75? And, in some sense...at least to me...using a belt sander to sharpen a blade is not, philosophically, significantly different.

    It's all about speed, you see, convenience and disposability. When the professional immerses himself in detail, in process, he puts aside self-absorption but he doesn't really loose himself. When we pursue speed and ignore that rich tapestry of experience that is in front of us, our experiences, our judgements, even perhaps our lives become just as disposable as the utility knife blades.

    When a professional craftsman chooses to sharpen a knife with stones rather than resort to belt sanders or a disposable blade, it's because he knows that when you sharpen a blade you're really sharpening your own senses.Your sensibilities. Your ability to sense more and more subtlety. And that translates into every subsequent process that you engage in regardless how seemingly disconnected it may be.

    Even writing a piece such as this, for good or ill, is influenced by the time and insights, patience and perspectives, understanding and judgment, that develops as the blade is honed. More than the blade is sharpened.

    That's part and parcel of the attraction of making shoes by hand in the 21st century. Of choosing to make shoes rather than make money. For me, it's been worth more than all the income I might have given up over the years and, again for me at least, I doubt I will never get enough.

    --
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
    3 people like this.
  19. Fang66

    Fang66 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    10,701
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2009
    Location:
    Nihon

    Very interesting post, but you discount the amateur craftsman/hobbyist or in Japan what we call the otaku (Japanese sense not pop culture sense) too readily. A hobbyist can afford the time to attain perfection, whereas for a professional there are always economic considerations. A skilled hobbyist for example will be much more likely to turn out a piece of wooden furniture that is unique, and beautifully crafted than all but the most skilled (and expensive) professional. The amateur is much more able to focus on perfection. No one is paying for their time, there is no time pressure, and as you say speed kills. You state that you are in it to "make shoes" not "money", but economic constraints must be a consideration. I am not saying that this necessarily holds for your craft, perhaps it takes you X amount of time to make a pair of shoes that you are 100% satisfied with, and you charge for your time accordingly, but that does not mean an amateur couldn't produce a piece of equal quality.


    Your comments about sharpening I think highlight the point, I think an amateur craftsman is much more likely to want, and create, "scary sharp" edges, a professional will sharpen to the required sharpness, anything beyond that is not required, and is a waste of time/money.

    PS I sharpen my knives with naka to and a shiage to (medium/fine natural wetstone) that I bought at the local hardware store for about $10 as a set. The shiage to is probably not much more than about 6000 grit because I can get a reasonable slurry off it, but just a small amount of patience will give a very very sharp edge. I almost never use the naka to.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
  20. Fang66

    Fang66 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    10,701
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2009
    Location:
    Nihon
    ..
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013

Share This Page

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by