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Shoemaking Techniques and Traditions--"...these foolish things..."

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by DWFII, Aug 23, 2014.

  1. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Since presumably you know more active shoemakers than I do (living in the back of beyond, as I do) how does a tacked heelseat or a nailed heel, for that matter...as opposed to a pegged heel...stay on if the nail doesn't clinch?

    Wood has a pretty high friction coefficient in leather, esp. compared to steel. What is holding the nail in place, esp. in the face of all the flexing and shear-force? My old teacher, as good as he was and as occasionally benighted as he was, simply drove common mild steel finishing nails into a slightly damp heel block and relied on the ensuing rust to hold the nail in place. Is that what it is? Rust? Holding the nails in place, I mean?

    Or are makers relying on cement to hold things together?

    The more more I know and the more I think about the problems associated with using tacks or nails in the actual construction of the shoe, the more I understand why the Old Breed (I mean the Old, Old Breed) sewed the entire heel on and never used a nail or peg...or screw...or cement.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018


  2. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, it would be for me. But perhaps I'm a bit "benighted", as well.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018


  3. Wusterhausen

    Wusterhausen Member

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    thank you for joining the discussion, ntempleman.
    Not sure, but maybe you have heard about Hiro Yanagimachi, a Japanese shoemaker, so here a couple photos:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    not sure about metal plates, but i guess they should be there in order to make it right way and clinch the tacks.

    And than, there is another famous name Stefano Bemer, and as far as i know, they use the same technique, lasting the upper with tacks and the lasts they use are with metal plates.
     


  4. Wusterhausen

    Wusterhausen Member

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    ok, thank you for the info.

    But if copper or brass pleated tacks/nails were used, would it be a better option, as long as those type of tacks/nails have higher resistant to corrosion?
     


  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, IMO "brass plating" does little beyond mollifying a vague sense of unease of the maker. In some situations...not necessarily shoemaking...where the nail or tack is not subject to flex or shear forces, brass plating may provide some benefits but in shoes, brass plating will flake off the underlying iron. And you're left with, what is again, iron.

    But beyond all that, copper and brass are too soft...or not consistently rigid enough to be reliable. Copper is, AFAIK, softer than brass, and in my experience with solid brass nails made for shoes, brass often drives crooked or even turns on hard spots in the leather.

    If someone could show me that pegs were detrimental to the life of the shoe/leather (and in some situations, they might be) I would use "extra brass clinching nails" instead. Long before I would use copper or brass plated tacks, nevermind iron tacks or nails.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018


  6. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior Member

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    What’s keeping the heel on, you mean? I don’t know the science of it, but no one here in the west end really uses wooden pegs and I’m not sure if they ever did. Heels don’t seem to fall off though, I’ve only ever seen that once and that was a pair that had other construction errors so I’m guessing a lack of technique was at fault. I would hazard a guess that all the nails or brads being slightly skewed would help keep things in place, It’s possible to force a heel away from a shoe if you really want to do that but in regular use it doesn’t appear to be anything to worry about - the only time a heel would get that sort of force is if you used a boot jack regularly to get your long boots off, in which case you’d probably want to make that kind of boot with a German seat anyway. I’ve stripped down plenty of pairs of shoes over the years and don’t remember any particularly rusty nails in any heels, you get a bit of black oxidation around them but it seems to stay localised even on very old pairs, 30 years old or more.
     


  7. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior Member

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    I don’t know how Hiro works or what level of making those pairs are for definite, they’re definitely factory lasts and the seat hasn’t been hand stitched from what I can see so they could well have a metal plate, or they have nails roughly the correct length to go through upper, stiffener and insole, not too far into the last and then trim the excess off the nails after pulling the lasts out. Depends what the next step is for those, they might be machine stitched after hand welting, I can’t say for sure because I’ve never seen anyone doing it in my tiny little corner of the shoemaking world
     


  8. Wusterhausen

    Wusterhausen Member

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    i also have no idea how Hiro works, but from that picture it's obvious, that the upper has been lasted with tacks. The only question is whether those lasts have metal plates or not. Those shoes are hand welted with sole stitched by hand:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    And the final pair:
    [​IMG]

    As for Stefano Bemer, they do use wooden bespoke lasts with metal plates for their bespoke shoes.
     


  9. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior Member

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    I just don’t know how you could make a “Bespoke” last with metal plates, unless you have already done all the fittings required on a wooden last and are confident of the fit being right, before having it copied as a last with metal plates. You just wouldn’t bother with the time and expense. The plastic last in the first picture isn’t a “Bespoke” last, there’s a great big hinge in the middle which stops you changing as much as you might want to, those are probably handmade MTO shoes on a line of standard last sizes, possibly with some light fitting up for problem areas
     


  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I don't know the science of it either. But I'm from Missouri(the "Show Me" state)--if I don't understand the science ...or at least the logic...I tend to regard it with a jaundiced eye.

    I don't know whether it is me seeing what I want to see or others seeing what they want to see, but I have torn apart innumerable boots and shoes over the fifty years I've been making, and, (as a income supplement) repairing. I've seen this problem more times than I can shake a stick at. I even have some forty or fifty year old West End bespoke shoes that show considerable blackening and brittleness in the heel seat.

    Of course, it may just all come down to how the footwear is used and where it is worn. I have specialized in pull-on boots going to people who almost universally live and work hard in their boots. Not just walking to and from the office. And that informs a lot of what I see and think about construction techniques. I tend to avoid incorporating or building-in any more weakness or potential problems than is inherent in the materials traditionally used to make a leather shoe. I don't always succeed but that's my goal.

    That said, "A man's grasp should exceed his reach, or what's a heaven for?"

    FWIW, R.A. Salaman, in his Dictionary of leather Tools (originally published in England) says this regarding pegs:
    So, presumably the use of pegs as an essential material and skill was well known in Britain and even Europe well before some country hicks in the Colonies were even born. Several shoe histories mention the use of pegs in Roman times...so an early appearance in the British Isles shouldn't be surprising
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018


  11. Wusterhausen

    Wusterhausen Member

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    ok, that makes sense. But my only question than is how you gonna use tacks/nails on the last without metal plates, because without, those tacks/nails will penetrate the wood and maybe it's going to be difficult to take the lasts out?

    Yes, i guess they are for MTO, i just showed those photos as an example of lasting by hand the back part with tacks.
     


  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, I agree with you on that except to say that mounting metal plates on a last is really no more difficult than mounting toe plates on a bespoke shoe...during the making or after the fact.

    And FWIW, it's not unusual (over here, at least) for a maker to take metal heel plates off a standard last that they happen to like.
     


  13. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior Member

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    You see pegs a lot in mainland Europe, I’m sure they were probably used here at some point in the distant past too, but west end making as I recognise it in becoming its own distinct style - Victorian era onwards, roughly - I’ve never known of a peg being used. I’ve peeked under the socks of a fair few old exhibition pieces and you generally see a few shiny bits of metal winking back at you
     


  14. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior Member

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    Nails often do penetrate through to the wood, depends on how careful the maker is. Sometimes they do make pulling the last difficult, especially if there’s lots of them all skewed at different angles, you just clip them down with nippers and flatten them with a saddler’s hammer or nail punch then sand the insole. If you really wanted you could leave them long and hammer them over bent but that seems like bad practice to me and make future repairs more difficult than you’d like. Wooden pegs in the last are a real bugger sometimes when pulling lasts out, more so than nails as they seem to expand a bit and grip the wood
     


  15. Wusterhausen

    Wusterhausen Member

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    thank you for the very helpful reply.
     


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