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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    It doesn't matter who the maker is...in fact, I don't even want to know...

    It doesn't even matter how it was done. If it's OK by you, then no problem; if not, well, that's what I call "educating your eye."
     
  2. T4phage

    T4phage Senior member

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    i thought
    it better
    to place my
    response here
    away from teh
    manufacturer's
    thread


    i have come
    to a similar conclusion
    for there is
    nothing to
    damage when
    shaving/bevelling down
    the sole at teh
    waist
    no stitches
    to cut
    (nb bestetti
    did not study how
    to make boots nor
    shoes
    he taught himself
    by dismatling boots)

    in a way
    pegging teh waist
    is an easy way
    to give a
    similar look
    as a
    handwelted and
    handsewn waist
    without the
    associated difficulty
    in the making
    but with enormous
    drawbacks
    ie an illusion
    eg even budget
    brands like
    septième largeur
    peg their waists

    [​IMG]


    i had an
    illuminating discussion
    with @DWFII offline
    a few weeks ago
    about this topic
    and the difficulties
    of making a tight bevelled
    waist
    ie:


    teh only
    supposed 'pro'
    i have been given
    is that is makes
    teh waist stronger
    but @DWFII
    would be better
    qualified to give
    a response



    when doing a full
    resole on a pegged waist
    shoe
    would you be
    working in the dark
    to some extent when
    putting new pegs
    in the waist
    since you
    would be working
    from the sole inwards
    and cannot precisely
    see where the old holes
    were?


    if i
    remember correctly
    you mentioned the chances
    of failure at the joint
    of a partial resole
    is quite high
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2015
  3. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I think pegging the waist can make the waist more solid...if done correctly. Pegging the waist as it is done in a cowboy boots is sometimes referred to as box beam construction. With cowboy boots...where pegging the waists has been a Tradition for over 150 years...the waist is relied upon as a foundation for supporting the foot--the stirrup (the traditional oxbow stirrup, for instance) cradles the boot in the waist and the full weight of the body is often directly on the waist. I doubt any shoe, even if fiddleback and beveled, could withstand the same abuse / rigours in the stirrup as a pegged boot.

    Whether one wants to define "strength" in terms of that solidity is another question.

    But even that solidity...and all the best aspects of a pegged waist...are lost if the pegs are too far from the edge of the insole or simply too far apart. In fact, in such circumstances, they really aren't doing much good at all. Kind of like lipstick on a pig. They're there more as a sop to people who might conclude (correctly) that the waist was mainly cement construction.

    That's the situation, yes.

    That's true of any half sole...the splice is not that far from the treadline and a certain amount of flexing and stress (lateral sheer) is transferred into the waist just as it is forward towards the toes. Pegging or even nailing the splice helps significantly but in the end it all comes down to the cement and the resulting bond, and just how and where the shoes or boots are worn.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2015
  4. T4phage

    T4phage Senior member

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    @DWFII
    would using
    brass nails
    instead of pegging
    be...
    'technically superior'
    than pegging
    (other than being
    historically incorrect
    for cowboy boots)
    ?

    the drawback
    that i can see
    is that the side
    of the sole
    at teh waist
    cannot be shaved
    and cut down as nicely
    compared to pegs
    because one cannot
    cut the brass nails..

    and on the
    other hand..
    is there a
    history/tradition
    for elegant
    dress shoes
    to be pegged
    at the waist
    ?
     
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    IMO, brass nails would be superior as long as they were solid brass and not just brass plated. Of course, there would have to be a metal plate mounted on the bottom of the last--not a big deal, a lot of lasts are made that way by default.

    The waist can only be "shaved" two ways--from the flesh side before mounting, or from the grain side after mounting. Most of the time when a shoe is pegged the waist is shaved after the fact...as you suggest. The problem with that is that it removes the grain and exposes the corium to moisture and dirt, not to mention the coarsening of the surface of the outsole. A lot can be hidden with waxes and burnishing but not all.

    If the outsole is thinned from the flesh side...like it often (usually) is when the waist is hand stitched...then it doesn't matter whether it is pegged or brass nailed simply because the waist will already be at the proper thickness and nothing ...leather or pegs/nails...will need to be removed.

    Personally, I know of no Tradition associating "elegance" with pegging...except perhaps in modern times by marketing and public relation campaigns. Historically pegging was always associated with "quick and dirty"--for work boots and so forth. In the 19th century, pegged boots in the West were the default if only because boots that were fully pegged (by machine) were being turned out by the thousands. Almost every boot made in San Fransisco in the post Civil War days were full pegged. The military, with hundreds of thousands of surplus boots from the war years, did extensive studies and ended up rejecting pegging as a secure means of attachment esp. in dry climates such as the American Southwest. Brass nails didn't fare too much better.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
  6. T4phage

    T4phage Senior member

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    thanks @DWFII
    for your reasoned
    thoughts
     
  7. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    :fonz:
     
  8. rallyx

    rallyx Well-Known Member

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    Hi DWFII

    I understand that most Goodyear welt is done by sewing the welt to a raised canvas feather that is glued to the leather insole (gemming). However, is it possible that a Goodyear welt be sewn to a raised leather feather that is carved from the leather insole, similar to how a handwelt is done?

    Thanking you in advance.
     
  9. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I have seen footwear that for all intents and purposes appears to have been done this way. As a result I am sure that here is a machine and a process to do it...and others (in Italy IIRC) have confirmed the existence of such a machine.

    But it begs the question...why, then, is it not done more often?

    My answer is that when you consider the underlying rationale for Goodyear--cheaper materials, easier techniques needing less skilled workers, etc.--it flies in the face of every rationale used to justify abandoning handwelting and embracing expediency. To cut a channel into an insole that is sturdy enough to inseam to, requires better quality and thicker insole leather...both of which significantly affect the cost of raw materials. And in fact, the insole must be leather--it cannot be leatherboard or a synthetic, which is what a lot of GY makers use--maybe the majority, if not the higher end makers.

    Additionally, I have been told that it takes a very skilled operator to run one of those machines...and there may be two--one to cut the holdfast and one to do the inseaming. So there's an extra step, if that's the case. And both the skilled operator (as well as his pension) and the extra step represent an additional cost of manufacture.

    Most of the GY machines in current use are similar, and in all likelihood part of a lineage of GY machine dating back at least six decades, if not more. They share a similar design and functionality. So parts, and materials are readily available simply because these machines are in demand. Machines that are in demand and readily available cost less than machines and parts that are not--every new technology starts out being almost prohibitive until the industry that produces it it can gear up for mass manufacture.

    The machines that you are talking about are rare and hardly, if ever, seen in the UK or the US. They would be expensive and hard to use and cost more to use...and then if a part broke or the machine malfunctioned who would repair it? And at what cost?
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2015
  10. rallyx

    rallyx Well-Known Member

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    Thank you DWFII, you changed my understanding of value for shoes that I buy nowadays.
     
  11. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You're welcome.

    FWIW...

    One of the most basic but essential ingredients of a Traditional handwelted shoe is the tar/pitch that is used in the "hand wax" that is applied to the inseaming threads. (parenthetically, in medieval times this wax was called "coad." Still is among some historical shoemakers)

    Handwax (in the recipe I have and use) is comprised of pine rosin, pine pitch, and a small amount of softener such as fish oil or beeswax. It is rubbed into the strands of linen or hemp yarn and twisted together to make a heavy thread. Which is then twisted onto a boars bristle to form the taw (taper and "needle").

    Here is a link to a YouTube video that details how this pitch was and is made...presumably even to this day. (The link was posted on The Crispin Colloquy by D.A. Saguto, the head of the shoemaking faculty at Colonial Williamsburg).

    It looks to be a three or four day process and very labour intensive. And this is only one small aspect of a Traditional hand welted shoe...it's not wham, bam, thank you m'am, by any means. A lot goes into it...a lot that is unseen and unappreciated.

    Of course the tar produced in the above video was and is used for coating and preserving wood as well as hemp ropes. But if you think about it, it puts things into perspective esp. when contrasted with factory methods.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
  12. Organika

    Organika Senior member

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    Hi DW, a while back there was a discussion about cork and you had mentioned how cork will not aid in creating a footbed impression or take form as it has a memory, always going back to it's original form.
    When using cold cork filler in granule form mixed with latex rubber as photo, does that still apply? I have seen many cork filler after removing the soles of worn shoes but it would be hard to tell whether the insole impression has been formed into the top of cork bed.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, that shoe hasn't been worn...none of the three in the photo have been worn....so, naturally you're not going to be able to tell anything about the nature of cork or its characteristics / response to compression.

    Granulated cork is used for several reasons...it is essentially waste from other operations that require larger pieces or sheets, so it's cheap. And also because granulated cork is the only form that has any chance of conforming to the foot. It does that by by fragmenting and moving out from under weight bearing areas of the foot. In a year or so, that same shoe you posted will have thin or bare spots under the ball of the foot. And if the latex / cement drys out just a bit (and it will) you'll be able to turn the shoe upside down and pour significant amounts of loose granulated cork out onto the floor.

    As with all these issues...from fundamental construction techniques to finishing...it is important to understand the nature of the materials and techniques we are working with. It's not magic. We can't wish cork, for instance, to respond the way we would hope or like it to respond. Cork has a memory...that applies to sheets, granules or even cork dust.

    Similarly throughout the process. Leather has certain properties--structural integrity, for instance--that cannot be duplicated or matched by other materials, such as canvas. Stitching brings a reliability to a seam...such as an inseam...that cement cannot duplicate or equal. And so it goes. Over not just a hundred and fifty years but literally thousands, techniques and materials have been tried and discarded...or developed further...and the shoe has evolved.

    The fundamental truth that emerges from an objective consideration of that long evolutionary process is that there is a reason why each material and each technique has survived--they simply make the best quality shoe.

    And for those who care about quality...whether as a maker or a consumer...that's the paramount consideration.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
  14. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I have hesitated to broach this subject in this thread, but a post...or rather a rant...in another thread, made me realize that these issues are precisely what this thread was intended to address.

    I think the case can be made (for those open-minded enough to notice) that whenever we talk about "quality" on Styleforum it is fundamentally about comparisons...and rightfully so. Not surprising actually when you consider that every "judgement" we make in real life is essentially about comparison...about choosing between alternatives.

    It is meaningless to talk about something being "good" quality or "better" quality without a point of reference--'compared to what?', in other words.

    Fit aside, and all other things being equal, why is a bespoke suit from David Reeves, for instance, better...better quality...than OTR from Men's Warehouse?

    Or more to the point, what makes a G&G shoe better quality (and presumably more desirable despite a significantly, maybe even indefensibly, higher price) than an Allen Edmond? Is it the choice of materials? The choice of construction techniques? What?

    It is hard to imagine anyone claiming (or defending) a corrected grain shoe as the aesthetic or even functional equivalent of a fine aniline French calf shoe. Yet there are those who will vociferously make just such or similar assertions. Esp. those as want desperately to look like someone of substance and taste, without having to pay the cost--financial or in terms of commitment.

    And indeed, if you listen carefully to the rationales / arguments of such people it quickly becomes apparent that they invariably all revolve around one central theme--the concept of quick and cheap, whether it be in the making or the acquisition. Objective analysis of the materials or techniques involved gets short shrift.

    Similarly, it is hard to imagine that anyone could defend techniques...such as Goodyear welting...that produce results that are, by every scientific and structural criteria, flawed by comparison to other techniques. Yet, even as apologists for GY admit that the process is not the best...not, objectively and in terms of shoemaking, "best practices"...they insist it doesn't make any difference.

    But when one sweeps aside the all the red herrings and the self-justifications / self-deceptions, every rationale, every argument in favour of GY eventually comes down to what is easiest, cheapest, and fastest to produce. Or easiest, cheapest and most accessible to acquire.

    Fundamentally unverifiable assertions that GY shoes will last a lifetime, or longer (without problems) than the upper will last, are not only suspect but objectively bogus when measured against the strengths and weaknesses of the basic materials and techniques. Canvas will never have the structural integrity of leather. A chain stitch will never have the strength and reliability that a lock stitch has. Cement will never be as enduring, reliable, versatile, as stitching. If it were otherwise, all shoes would be cemented and no stitching...even on the upper...would be necessary.

    And yes, such weaknesses can be hidden or made to look like other processes / materials that are generally considered trustworthy. Poorly made concrete, for instance, is not immediately recognizable, may even last years and decades without problems...until the earthquake hits. This is commonly known as deceit...although the supplier would loudly deny it simply because it's not in his interests to admit to using inferior raw materials or flawed techniques. To the contrary, in the mind of the supplier people must be made to believe that poor concrete is just as good as good concrete. And so the lie is born.

    Putting a veneer of real wood over a core of particle board doesn't make the cabinet the same quality as if it were solid wood. And while the particleboard cabinet may last a lifetime, it's still fundamentally ticky-tacky...by any measure, by any comparison.

    But hiding the weakness of any product does not make it "quality" except in the eyes of those for whom quality doesn't really matter. For whom appearances are more important than the underlying structural integrity...nevermind the the philosophical principle of "best practices."

    Some have said that structural and material weaknesses don't make a difference by comparison to the potential utility of a GY welted shoe. From a maker's perspective that is so wrong-headed as to be nonsense. It does make a difference--to anyone who cares about quality, integrity, truth...anything except cost, IOW.

    What doesn't make a difference is whether a GY shoe will last 10 months or 10 years before problems start to develop. What makes a difference is that at bottom, all other things being equal, when you start with inferior materials and inferior techniques the results themselves will inevitably be inferior compared to the results that can be obtained using better quality.

    GY as a technique, and the results thereby, may be good...or at least "good enough." But never "better," much less "best."

    A personal blog (more akin to self-promotion than objective analysis) is one thing...but why, in a venue such as SF, is it even marginally acceptable to extol the virtues of PVC or particleboard or GY welting. Why is it acceptable...even admirable in some eyes...to defend the mediocre?

    Because that is what we're talking about, make no mistake--good may be "good enough" but that's all it is.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
  15. JubeiSpiegel

    JubeiSpiegel Senior member

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    While I do tire of the debate, I don't pretend to defend GYW. I know what I'm getting when I buy GG shoes, I truly do.

    For me however, I have a mental shoe checklist of characteristics that I look for in shoes I want at the moment. Hand welted construction is only one of those boxes. All things being equal, if you were to tell me what construction option would I rather have, I would want HW of course. Now, if you told me that I had an option between a HW shoe that did not check off most of the boxes in my list, and a GYW shoe that checked off most of the boxes, it makes my decision easier and the GYW shoe more compelling.

    GYW shoes are flawed, we know this by now (I hope). But there are some GYW companies that make a decent shoe IMO, and some of those are appealing to me personally. I understand that this is a "no compromise" forum for the most part, but after being here for a bit, I don't apologize for finding my comfort zone and enjoying what I like (even if it is flawed).

    I still aspire to be that perfect sartorial gentlemen, with nothing but bespoke everything on his person (or home). But for now, the compromising gentlemen that I am is pleased with my choices...
     

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