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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    I've trained a lot of bootmakers (relatively speaking) and a few of them came back for shoemaking courses. Some just went on to take classes from other makers such as Janne Melkersson and James Ducker.
     
  2. diadem

    diadem Senior member

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    I agree with all this.

    And I feel like this is what causes so much friction here. Materials, construction, and labor are not the only factors that dictate price, even though I'm one of the people who believe they should be. That's why it's so hard to talk about prices in relation to shoes, especially in a thread about shoemaking techniques and traditions, because it's hard for people to just omit everything besides the materials, techniques, and traditions when it comes time to swipe the credit card.

    My solution to this was just finding a maker who can make what I want (handwelted, of course) on a customized last in any leather and style of my choice at what I find to be a reasonable price. This way I'm guaranteed to be 100% happy with the shoes I end up with. I'm done buying RTW GYW shoes -- as you said, there's too much variation in pricing for relatively the same raw materials and construction for my tastes, no matter how much I liked what I saw in terms of style.

    Quote:
    I think I get what you're trying to say here, but as it's currently worded, I disagree. I can name plenty of things made by machines that I would consider art -- electronic music, Ferraris, computer-animated movies, etc.

    Yes, thank you for providing some makers for us to look at. I'd much rather give them my business than these factories churning out GYW shoes.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
  3. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, I struggled with the wording but will stick to it.

    Yes, there is artistry in such products but it is not inherent in them. It comes from the designers...who are human beings. Once the design is done and the shoes, car, watch, whatever, goes to production...goes to the machine...the artistry is frozen. Every iteration of that product is a clone of the original. And while innovations and tweaking may take place, without the intervention and input of a human being there is no artistry. The machine cannot provide it, simply because it has no soul.

    I tell this story to my students...it may seem a bit attenuated but it is very much a real thing.

    It starts with an episode of M.A.S.H.. At one point in the series Hawkeye is giving an interview to a news reporter after an particularly stressful and prolonged stint in the operating theater. He says something to the effect that there are times when they literally do things that they don't have the skills to do.

    Similarly for every dedicated craftsman. Sometimes when you become so immersed in what you are doing and so caught up in the moment that your ego slips away from you, you find yourself open to influences that you cannot ordinarily tap into. I call it a "divine wind." The breath of creativity. Perhaps the breath of God.

    It blows through your soul and you do things that you literally don't have the skills to do. It's a state of mind that I think every craftsman subconsciously knows and yearns for. Even if they haven't been working at their Trade long enough to achieve it. Maybe it's what keeps us at our benches even when we know we have long since missed the mark as far as being "successful" in the eyes of the rest of society.

    No machine can know that state of mind. No machine process can leverage it. In fact, the more machines involved the less likely it will occur.

    It is, however, the undeniable wellspring of all creativity and artistry.

    And a blessing that cannot be commanded or called forth.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
  4. yanagi

    yanagi Senior member

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    Thanks for the heads up on Hark Weber.
     
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    If I'm not mistaken, it's Amara Hark Weber and she was one of my students.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
  6. yanagi

    yanagi Senior member

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    I think that's right.
     
  7. vmss

    vmss Senior member

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    What kind of thread is used in the average good year welt shoes to stitch the uppers and stitch the soles? And what kind of threads are being used in bespoke or higher brands?

    I read somewhere that one of the makers specifically mentioned the use of cotton thread.
     
  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Ah thread...I'm assuming you're speaking about the inseaming thread...

    For Traditional handwelted work the thread is variously 8-12 strands of linen or hemp yarn that has been rubbed and impregnated with a "handwax" comprised of pine pitch and pine rosin (both anti-bacterial) and some sort of softener such as beeswax or oil. The wax is very tacky. the linen strands are then twisted together and a thread is made. In use, it not only resists rotting but seals the holes and locks the stitches.

    A lock stitch is used.

    In the last 100 years, however, the quality of linen or hemp yarn has deteriorated to the point where it has less than 50% of the strength that earlier products had. Hand spun linen can have staple (fiber) lengths of 36"+. Staple length is one of the most important...if not the most important...factors in breaking strength for such threads. Contemporary linen or hemp never has staple lengths of more than 4"-6" and it is more often in the neighborhood of 3".

    As a result some contemporary bespoke/hand welted makers use a form of dacron waxed with a similar, if not identical, wax for inseaming. Staple lengths are essentially infinite. If I cut a strand of dacron 12' long, every fiber in that strand will be 12' long.

    I suspect that most manufactured / GY welted shoes are inseamed with dacron or perhaps cotton (although I had not heard that) waxed with paraffin--which has none of the stitch locking or sealing qualities of the hand wax. And a chain stitch (which is far less secure and/or tight than a lock stitch) is almost invariably used.

    I don't know about cotton but the staple (length of each fiber) is often shorter than contemporary linen and I would be reluctant to use it, myownself.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2015
  9. mw313

    mw313 Senior member

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    thanks for the additions. I just looked them all up and some seem to make some clean classy shoes. Some are of some "unique" styles though.
     
  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, I know them all as either students or as members of the HCC.
     
  11. vmss

    vmss Senior member

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    Thanks again for the in-depth explanation.

    What about uppers, lining and reinforcements. Are these cotton, polyester or somethin else?
     
  12. shoefan

    shoefan Senior member

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    Just one correction of the above (obviously DW knows this): hand welted shoes use a shoemaker's (or saddler's) stitch, in which two continuous lengths of thread weave in/out of the material being sewn, such that even if one of the threads breaks, the other remains intact. In a lock stitch, like that sewn by a sewing machine (or inseaming/GY welt machine, or an outsoling machine, such as a Landis), one thread is fed from the top of the seam and the other is fed from bottom; these threads are looped/'locked' in the middle of the material being sewn, but each remains on only one side of the material being sewn, and as such the seam is is mechanically different from a hand-sewn shoemaker's stitch/seam. The idea of the lock stitch is that, if one thread breaks, the seam will only open up for one or two stitches, since the seam is 'locked' by the loop in each stitch. However, in a shoemaker's stitch, if one thread breaks, even one stitch will not open up, as the second thread remains continuous and holds the material in place.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2015
  13. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Thank you for the correction.Yes, I "misspoke." In fact, devoted at least part of one post in this thread...here (towards the bottom of post #53)...to an explanation of that very issue.

    My apologies.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2015
  14. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Again, I think not for cotton...I think cotton would rot being exposed to conditioners and oils and so forth. Even cotton thread that is sold for sewing cloth is often twisted or mixed with some polyester.

    [Dacron and polyester are either the same thing or closely related]

    I would not be surprised if many manufacturers and even bespoke makers use poly but I use nylon. The cowboy boot tradition used silk...for its sheen. Poly doesn't have that. Nylon is the only thing that comes close. So having started with it, I see no reason to change--I have probably 100+ spools of different colours...all shades of browns, blues reds, greens, etc..

    White always (or occasionally taupe) in the linings
     
  15. Organika

    Organika Senior member

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    The granules pushing out from under the pressure spots leaving bare areas seems to be one of the larger probable issue you mentioned; something your sole bend leather won't do when used for a filler/shank cover.
    Thanks for the detailed reply.
     

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