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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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    Not much there that is Traditional...except superficially.

    (http://www.styleforum.net/t/412909/...aditions-these-foolish-things/45#post_7475634 illustrations at end of post)

    --
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2015


  2. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior member

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    Strange to see someone bother to turn the pincers around and use the rounded back of the jaw to drive nails in, when there's a lovely flat hammer head built in to the jaw side.
     


  3. wengxiah

    wengxiah Well-Known Member

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    may i ask, is seamless shoe significantly more durable (at the heel counter), or it has only got aesthetic advantage?
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2015


  4. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    In terms of tensile strength--the seamed shoe can be stronger, but exposed threads are always subject to abrasion and breakage.
     


  5. Mr Monkstrap

    Mr Monkstrap Member

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    Paniker also?
     


  6. Mr Monkstrap

    Mr Monkstrap Member

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    Seems like a mistake IMO, but who knows....

    There are some fancy things over there with the heels and rubber
     


  7. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    I must say that this has not only been an enjoyable, but extremely informative thread to read. I have certainly gained a great deal from it.
    I would just like to ask @DWFII for his opinion on a couple of things, if I may.

    1) Pertaining to pegging.
    This question was asked by Mr Patrick Booth on the leather thread but I thought it might also be appropriate here since it is pertaining to shoemaking techniques. He had commented that his St Crispins were made with pegging at the waist area. In your reply to him you'd said that pegging at the waist was more or less the default way that some riding boots and cowboy boots were made. Kind of a "tradition-like" thing? I am wondering, for a pair dress shoes with an aggressively bevelled / tapered waist, is pegging viewed as a "lazy" or "sloppier" option instead of really trimming the welt down and continuing the outsole stitching all the way to the heel area? Would one consider the pair of shoes with the pegged waist to be of lower quality?

    2) Pertaining to closing.
    I was recently speaking with a friend who had started learning shoemaking and we were talking about closing. He had said that not all bespoke makers do closing on their own, and that most actually outsourced it to professional "closers" who actually do only closing, day in day out. And that after the clicking, the sewing together of the different parts is usually done by machine by the closers?? I am wondering, is this indeed true? is closing a task that most shoemakers do not like to do themselves? Objectively speaking, is closing by hand stitching incredibly difficult or tedious? And is there a significant difference in quality / durability or strength in closing by hand?

    3) Pertaining to finishing.
    I have always wondered what are the exact steps / things that are involved in the finishing process. And how should I assess the quality of the craftsmanship based on this. What are the details and features I should be looking out for?

    4) Pertaining to making lasts.
    I am aware that last making is an entirely different and specific skill set in itself. Are most bespoke shoemakers trained in making their own lasts, or do majority outsource this service as well? Are there nuances better noticed / captured when a shoemaker makes his own last, as opposed to him taking the measurements and sending them off to a last maker? How would it translate into the final product (a shoemaker making his own last vs one who outsources it)?

    Thanks a bunch in advance!
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2015


  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Quality is such a relative thing even though I do believe there is also a fundamental and absolute standard of quality.... good, better, best (see my sig).

    I have done more pegging than just about anyone I have ever run across on any forum. But, for me and the shoes I would (and have) make for myself, welting to the seat is always the best way and, IMO, always yields the better quality result. Shoes or boots with a pegged waist are of a "better" quality...if not "best" quality...esp. when they are new but welting provides a superior and more stable shoe and one that is easier to resole repeatedly. It is much easier to make a beveled waist when you peg, however.

    Someone mentioned (in another thread) that certain companies which peg the waist only drive the pegs deep enough to just barely touch the insole. Fundamentally, the pegs are only for show in such circumstances and it is the cement that is holding the shoe together.


    It depends on the local Traditions, I guess. I do every step myself and I take some pride in being able to say that. I am responsible for the quality and the appearance and I put my name on every pair. Personally, I wouldn't feel right doing that if I farmed part of it out to someone else. And I'm selfish...I lust after the skill and am jealous of the satisfaction and the mastery I sometimes feel...ever now and again. In England outworkers are common in every Trade...probably more common, by a considerable margin, than makers who do it all themselves. Or even want to do it all.

    As far as hand stitching uppers is concerned, yes, it is extremely tedious and time consuming esp. at high frequencies (stitches per inch) which is where the real skill and finesse is found. And it has to be done near-as-nevermind perfect or it just looks like a hack job.There may be a difference in quality and/or durability between hand stitching and machine stitching--it is a different stitch, after all. But using a sewing machine is here to stay. Few, if any, know how to do a good job by hand and fewer still could pass it it on to those of us who don't.
    That's a loaded question and one that has too many variables to answer. I have outlined / detailed some facets of this in this thread. But finishing is individual. It's the "shoemaker's choice." More like deciding which colour of shirt you're going to wear to the ball or to the wedding. There are Traditions and Traditional techniques ...most of which serve to further accentuate the maker's skill, refinement and finesse...but beyond that, it's individual aesthetic preferences.
    Again it depends on the local Traditions. Many in Europe make lasts from scratch. It is fundamentally a subtractive process like sculpting although sometimes with too deep a cut or too much material removed it has to revert to being additive. Again, it is a skill unto itself and requires a level of mastery that not everyone can fully realize.

    In the States most of us rely on stock lasts ...probably because the last turning lathe was invented here...and we modify them primarily through an additive process, although taking off material, judiciously, is common. But by taking this approach we can be sure that the lasts have identical bottom radiuses and identical degree in the heel and identical twist, or wedging, or none at all. That's what we start with, and then we modify or proceed from there.That's the way I was taught. I can wish I had been taught by the lastmaker at Lobbs but it was not to be. And in the end I am comfortable with what I do and am fairly secure in my reputation as a "fitter."

    Hope that helps...

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015


  9. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    Hi DW,

    Once again, thanks for taking the time and effort to write such a detailed reply. I certainly appreciate the insight and yes, it was tremendously helpful.
    I've always enjoyed reading the posts you've made and the discussions in this thread and the leather one.
     


  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You're welcome. Glad I could be of service...

    :cheers:
     


  11. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    Haha. That is a terrible understatement. The knowledge I have gained, reading through your posts here, and on the leather thread over the past weeks, goes far far beyond just mere service.
    I must say I look at shoes, their construction, and their "value" a lot more differently now.
    You have explained the handwelting process (and numerous other processes) with great clarity through your writing, and though I feel I have merely scratched the surface, can say that I understand it a lot better than I previously thought I did. Thank you for that.
    I know your stand on the GYW process and how you feel it has ruined shoemaking to a certain extent. Admittedly, a large proportion of my current shoes are GYW, but certainly I will be reviewing my thought processes and considerations before buying another pair.
    MWS has touched on a similar point. And I definitely agree that GYW shoes do have their place in being able to provide the consumer with a reasonably durable, relatively accessible / affordable option. They aren't all THAT evil. [​IMG]
     


  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Of course not. I don't think they are evil at all. That's a myth that springs from peoples' tendency to "catastrophize." Anyone who has raised children and esp. teenagers is all too familiar with "catastrophizing"--you know "I hate you! Now I'll never have a date again!"

    In my view GYW shoes are probably necessary esp, when you consider how many people there are in the world (and growing). GY shoes provide a relatively stylish and certainly adequate shoe at a price (usually) that makes them readily accessible to the masses. So, instead of having one or two really good pairs of shoes we can indulge our obsession with "more" and "excess" and have twenty pairs. And, most of the time they will "look" good...look like they are really high quality. Most of the time they'll even glitter...direct from the factory.

    My sig says it all--"good, better, best." I believe it can be demonstrated (and most people here on SF agree with me...now) that even high end GY shoes are not, quality-wise, in the same league as HW. And that's OK. Not everyone can afford ...financially or spiritually...HW shoes. Maybe, esp. high end, they are "better" but certainly not, objectively not, "best." But no one denies...I never have...that all other things being equal, they are a good "value" although perhaps not so much at bespoke or near bespoke prices.

    Thing is when I first came on SF I thought I was entering an elite realm...where quality was appreciated for its own sake. I didn't realize until much later...despite my conviction that "quality" is a large, maybe even defining, part of "style"...here "style" was often just a misleading synonym for "appearance" or the superficial. For things that, at first glance, appear to be something other than they really are. For brand-name cachet and glitter. And the box.

    I was naive and as some wag here on SF has said...."a dreamer."

    I didn't realize how much more important money was than excellence for some. It still seems a little incongruous or cognitively dissonant.

    That said, I've also been surprised at how many people share my naivete'...and convictions. It's actually quite gratifying. Might be the only thing that keeps me going--trying to change the salinity of the ocean carrying fresh water one teaspoon at a time.

    --
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015


  13. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    I definitely agree with you on this. There does seem to be a "pat each other on the back" culture on SF, and I guess a lot of people do become defensive when faced with the reality that maybe what they've bought might perhaps not be the "best value for money" or "your money's worth". And in some cases, people might perhaps choose to be ignorant instead.
    Having said that, I really find your dedication to your craft, and your zeal in preserving the traditions and old ways, very admirable, not to mention your unselfishness in sharing your experiences.
    I'm definitely glad to have stumbled across this thread otherwise, and very happy to be one of those teaspoons of fresh water!
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015


  14. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    By the way, @DWFII ,
    I do have another question on the use of the stitch prick / fudge wheel.
    I am aware that after outsole stitching has been completed, a fudge wheel of a corresponding SPI may be applied to the welt.
    I have recently been looking at some of my HW shoes and examining the welt areas. On one of them (I do like this maker a fair bit), I observed that the welt indentations (I don't know how else to name this, sorry) do not completely "correspond" to where the stitch pierces the welt. As such, it appears that on some occasions, the "business edge" of the fudge wheel has gone directly over the body of the thread instead of where it enters the welt. I am assuming that this would be a unique problem of using a fudge wheel since the rolling motion may occur fairly quickly and not "match" the stitching very well.
    I am wondering if this would cause any structural instability as a result, since the fudge wheel may be applied with some heat, and will this be counterproductive and damage the individual threads on the outsole stitch?
    Thanks in advance!
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015


  15. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, that's why it is called a "fudge" wheel...because it "fudges" the results.

    Some makers will fudge the welt before hand stitching...using the fudging for no other purpose than as a guide to spacing (historically, hand stitching was done by eye, still is among some of the old timers). After the stitching is completed, the fudge wheel will be run over the finished welt again to compress the leather and the thread.

    But whether stitching by hand or stitching with a machine there is bound to be some variation in the distance between stitches. Most of the time that variation is trivial and not in-your-face noticeable. But it does change the spacing. And the spacing on the fudge wheel is set in stone, as who should say. It cannot be changed or adjusted for variations in thread spacing. And so the final fudging gets out of sync with the stitches. Sometimes you get lucky, and of course, some makers are better at fudging than others. But it is a very common problem with fudge wheels....one that, in my opinion, is inherent in the very concept.

    The only way to ensure...with absolute certainty...that the indentations are between the stitches and not on top of them is to "prick" the welt up by hand after the stitching is completed--one stitch at a time.

    Of course IMO, fudging is not capable of tightening and shaping the stitches like a stitch prick does...like the prick was designed to do. But I detailed that earlier on. The end result is for "show" only...and assumes that the indifferent, gullible and/or ignorant consumer will not look closely at the welt--as you have done. :fonz:

    Because the end result is entirely superficial and a pretense--pretending to be hand pricking but not even accomplishing the same purpose. For all the good it does, the pretense could be dropped and the fudging could be omitted.

    The thing that has always struck me is that like so many procedures and tools that evolved after the Industrial Revolution, the fudge wheel is an answer to a question that never needed to be asked. It tries to emulate hand pricking without the requisite skill or or labour. The only reason for the fudge wheel is to make the job faster and less onerous.

    And I have no problem with that...provided the results measure up.

    --
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015


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