DIY Cobbler-ing: Changing Sole Edge Color

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Orgetorix, Jun 1, 2011.

  1. Orgetorix

    Orgetorix Senior member

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    You may remember a while back I posted a thread on how I dyed a pair of boots from light tan to dark brown. Well, this week I attempted a second DIY shoe project: changing the color of the sole/heel edge. I've always thought that #8 shell looked better with a natural or lighter brown edge treatment, rather than the dark brown/black that comes standard from Alden, AE, and on old Florsheims. But having a cobbler change the edge color seemed like a waste of money for what should be a simple operation.

    I decided to start with an old pair of Florsheim longwings that have been sitting in the closet unworn because they were dried out and the uppers cracked on me. If I ruined a pair of shoes doing this project, I wanted them to be beaters already. Here's how they looked before:

    [​IMG]

    First I used blue painter's tape to mask off the uppers right where the welt meets them. I didn't want to damage the uppers while working on the edges. Next, I took some 60-grit sandpaper and sanded the black edge dressing right off, down to the natural bare leather. This was pure elbow grease, no power sanding involved, and it took probably an hour or so to do both shoes. If I had a belt sander or a cobbler's wheel, it would have gone a lot quicker. Of course, the top of the welt and the stormwelt ridge above it had to stay black; no way to change the color on those without a whole new welt. After taking all the color off, I used 120- and then 240-grit sandpaper to smooth things out. Here's what they looked like after the sanding was finished. Because the edges of the welt and the two layers of sole leather weren't completely flush all the way around, it was hard to get all the black off in some places. I would have needed power sanding equipment or a LOT more time and energy to get it perfect. But I was satisfied with this state, at least this first time around:

    [​IMG]

    Now, if I wanted a rustic, very casual look, I could just have left them like this. But I thought the #8 uppers needed something a little more polished looking. I still had some Fiebing's Leather Dye in dark brown left over from the Brantley project, so I put on a single coat with the wool dauber that came with the dye. After it dried, the finish was a little darker and "muddier" than I wanted, so I got out the 240-grit sandpaper again and sanded it back lightly, not going all the way to the bare leather as I had before. I finished with some Venetian Cream and a bit of Kiwi neutral wax polish for a slight sheen, and here are the results. It's not a professional job, but I think it looks good and I'm satisfied. They even remind me slightly of the faux-woodgrain finish that the old Florsheims originally had on the soles, so I think it's a nice homage to this pair's history.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Now I just have to work up the courage to do this to my other #8 shoes, including the BB LHS I just got. :icon_pale:
     
  2. makewayhomer

    makewayhomer Senior member

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    Well done. Total time spent ? Any idea what a cobbler would have charged ?
     
  3. Orgetorix

    Orgetorix Senior member

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    Well done. Total time spent ? Any idea what a cobbler would have charged ?

    Probably an hour and a half, all total. And no, not sure what a cobbler would charge. I've only had it done as part of an overall resoling package.
     
  4. matsui

    matsui Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for this post. I was actually thinking about this last week but wasn't sure if it was possible or what the results would look like.
     
  5. Xiaogou

    Xiaogou Senior member

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    Probably an hour and a half, all total. And no, not sure what a cobbler would charge. I've only had it done as part of an overall resoling package.

    I know what I'm doing this weekend! I do have a dremel. Think it will do the job? Also, could you post a pic from the top?
     
  6. fritzl

    fritzl Senior member

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    Well done.

    yup. cannot detect the cracking on the uppers, though.

    Any idea what a cobbler would have charged ?

    five bucks, at most.
     
  7. MyOtherLife

    MyOtherLife Senior member

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    Well done and excellent results. Makes me want to sand every sole edge in my closet[​IMG]
     
  8. Orgetorix

    Orgetorix Senior member

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    I know what I'm doing this weekend! I do have a dremel. Think it will do the job? Also, could you post a pic from the top?

    A dremel would work, but be careful. It'd be easy to bite too deep with such a small-area sander. A wheel or belt sander would probably produce more even results. If I were you, I'd find a way to fix the dremel to a sturdy surface and hold the shoe to it, rather than having the dremel in hand.
     
  9. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You did a fairly good job. But you might want to think about several things... First, when leather soles are trimmed and finished a specially shaped cutter followed by a similarly shaped collice is used to make the edge of the sole slightly concave and to create and "freeze" a set of "wires" at the top and bottom edge respectively. If nothing else these wires (it used to be there was an additional "step" or shoulder impressed into the welt) give definition and a clear, professional look to the edge of the sole. Nothing looks more amateurish, IMO, than a rounded sole edge. When the final finish is applied to the sole edge and the heel, a hard, usually carnuba, wax is burnished in, using some heat. The collice is again used around the sole, this time with heat, and another, differently shaped collice is used on the heel stack. This drives the wax into the fibers in a way that simply applying shoe polish cannot. And, in doing so, it simultaneously hardens and seals the leather to prevent water absorption. No other process works quite so well for this purpose.
     
  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    FYI: [​IMG]
     
  11. Xiaogou

    Xiaogou Senior member

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    DWF,

    What is the best way for us ordinary folk to seal the edge?
     
  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    DWF, What is the best way for us ordinary folk to seal the edge?
    If you just want to keep the edge sealed and water resistant, shoe polish is probably OK. If you want to re-colour/renew the edge, there is "Edge Dressing" being sold that is more like a shellac than a wax, which might suffice. But, personally, I don't think there is any process or substance that can take the place of doing it correctly. The edge of the sole and the edges of each lift in the heel stack are the most absorbent surfaces that the leather will ever present to the environment. Removing the previous colour with sandpaper or a Dremel, not only removes the previously applied wax, it also removes the hardened and sealed fibers mentioned above...thus exposing the leather to moisture damage by renewing the absorbency. One further point, some of the proprietary edge dressings for consumer application can "bleed" if the sole gets wet. So take off your shoes before you walk on your nice white carpet in the spring.[​IMG]
     
  13. Nick V.

    Nick V. Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    yup. cannot detect the cracking on the uppers, though.



    five bucks, at most.


    When Kennedy was president, maybe....

    Nice job by the OP. This look is becoming more and more popular.
    You may want to take a Q-tip and some dye to touch up the crack a bit. Then go over the shoe with your signature, Venetian. Great stuff.
    However, I agree with DWFII. It's not just the way the look now rather, the way they will look after being exposed to the elements after a few wears.
     
  14. fritzl

    fritzl Senior member

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    When Kennedy was president, maybe....

    actual rate paid last week. special price? maybe, didn't ask as i noticed it on the bill, when already at home. will not inquire further.
     
  15. Orgetorix

    Orgetorix Senior member

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    You did a fairly good job. But you might want to think about several things...
    First, when leather soles are trimmed and finished a specially shaped cutter followed by a similarly shaped collice is used to make the edge of the sole slightly concave and to create and "freeze" a set of "wires" at the top and bottom edge respectively. If nothing else these wires (it used to be there was an additional "step" or shoulder impressed into the welt) give definition and a clear, professional look to the edge of the sole. Nothing looks more amateurish, IMO, than a rounded sole edge. When the final finish is applied to the sole edge and the heel, a hard, usually carnuba, wax is burnished in, using some heat. The collice is again used around the sole, this time with heat, and another, differently shaped collice is used on the heel stack. This drives the wax into the fibers in a way that simply applying shoe polish cannot. And, in doing so, it simultaneously hardens and seals the leather to prevent water absorption. No other process works quite so well for this purpose.

    FYI:
    [​IMG]

    [/SPOILER]
    If you just want to keep the edge sealed and water resistant, shoe polish is probably OK. If you want to re-colour/renew the edge, there is "Edge Dressing" being sold that is more like a shellac than a wax, which might suffice. But, personally, I don't think there is any process or substance that can take the place of doing it correctly. The edge of the sole and the edges of each lift in the heel stack are the most absorbent surfaces that the leather will ever present to the environment. Removing the previous colour with sandpaper or a Dremel, not only removes the previously applied wax, it also removes the hardened and sealed fibers mentioned above...thus exposing the leather to moisture damage by renewing the absorbency. One further point, some of the proprietary edge dressings for consumer application can "bleed" if the sole gets wet. So take off your shoes before you walk on your nice white carpet in the spring.[​IMG]
    When Kennedy was president, maybe....
    Nice job by the OP. This look is becoming more and more popular. You may want to take a Q-tip and some dye to touch up the crack a bit. Then go over the shoe with your signature, Venetian. Great stuff. However, I agree with DWFII. It's not just the way the look now rather, the way they will look after being exposed to the elements after a few wears.
    Thanks for the info, pros. This is definitely an amateur job, and as I said a professional cobbler would absolutely be able to do it better. I just wanted to experiment, and anyone considering following my example should pay careful attention to what DW and Nick have said. I have some carnuba wax that I use for polishing my pipes. Maybe I'll think about a way to apply some of that for better protection, though I know it won't achieve the same results as DW's process.
     

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