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

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

  1. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    Well, I do read everything with an open mind. There are a good number of contributors on this thread, so I don't regard any one person's words as absolute gospel.
    But DW has definitely made a lot of sense with everything that he has said so far. I also appreciate the fact that what he says is based on more than 40 years of experience. In my trade, experience and practice trumps ANYTHING that one can ever learn from a book. So do I tend to give him more credit than another contributor who isn't a shoemaker? Yes, I do. But again, I do try to read anything with an open, objective (or at least as objective as I can) mind.

    That being said, what I was referring to, was the most recent debate on whether welt pricking (either by stitch prick or fudge wheel) indeed had the effect of tightening the individual stitches. All the parties involved brought up valid, logical points, points that I would not have thought of as a lay person. And I was merely stating that I appreciated the exchange of ideas and opinions, it made for an interesting and educational discussion.

    Do I still think the stitch prick would do a "better job" than a fudge wheel? Yes.
    Do I think that the fudge wheel can still do a decent job since we are in the "realm of aesthetics"? Yes.
    Because it still is logical to me, that, a fudge wheel with a fixed radius would be more likely to be "out of sync" with the welt stitches than a stitch prick applied to individual stitches. I also do appreciate that extra bit of hand work. St Crispin still uses the stitch prick by the way.
     
  2. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    SC uses pricks and so what? They don't use pricks to mark stitching spaces, machine stitches their outsoles, and usually their pricking marks are in sync to the actual stitching holes.

    Both are viable, fudge wheel requires advanced toolmaking skills, and makers can fuck up either method. And the claim of pricks tightening up stitches just doesn't make any rational sense unless the maker is pricking as he sews the outsole to shorten the total distance trasversed.

    It's about the maker, not the technique.

    p.s., that Salaman guy sounds like an equivalent of modern day blogger; has no making experience, gathers knowledge from interviewing or shilling for makers, and wrote a book with his third hand info. Not very convincing by @DWFII's standards.
     
  3. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    Oh and fudge wheel doesn't have to out of sync. At least not with the makers I worked with.

    And it 'fudges' the threads flat and into the welt, which should provide better wear restitance. Exposed threads suffers from more wear and tear thus its typical for leatherworkers to hammer stitching threads into the leather to prevent wear.
     
  4. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Dinna dash.

    Speaking for myself...at all but 70 years of age and having done this for so long and having been involved with a very dedicated group of bespoke makers in the form of the only recognized Shoemaker's Guild in the US and currently serving as the admin of a shoemakers forum, I am not here to show off my knowledge. Or to parade my expertise. A person tends to ...although it's not guaranteed...outgrow such nonsense out of sheer exhaustion if nothing else.

    Yes, there is an element of educating a public...in the naive hope, the dream, that the knowledge will remind people that this is a unique and valuable field of human endeavor and not just another wham, bam, thank you mam, bit of re-heated ticky-tacky cynically served up to an uninformed public to extract the most amount of profit for the least amount of energy, effort and thought expended. Despite the prevalence and currency of such.

    I post on StyleForum because I love shoemaking. I love and admire it as a body of knowledge and skill that exemplifies some of the best, most human, characteristics/traits that we possess as a species. I post because I have spent most of my career trying to preserve and protect and share that love...that reverence...with others. So that, if nothing else, it doesn't go away or become subsumed in half-ass measures designed to dumb it down or circumvent the intensity and the dedication that is required to even approach the historical and potential excellence inherent in the Trade and the Traditions.

    June Swann recounts a shoemaker in 19th century Philadelphia, IIRC, who spent three years in a garret working by candlelight, wearing two pairs of glasses, sewing a pair of shoes at 50 or 60 stitches per inch. For a show. She doesn't say whether he won or not, but he never made another pair of shoes again.

    Which one of us possesses that kind of dedication, that kind of reverence, that kind of "persistence of vision," for a hobby, a project, or even an obsession? Do we even know anyone that does?

    What kind of seriousness, what kind of reverence, does it take to do something like that? And yet we have similar examples from that time period from both the US and the UK. This wasn't a game to these people, nor was it a passing fancy. They weren't groupies.

    Just because we can't duplicate their achievements doesn't mean they didn't happen. Doesn't discount their insights, accomplishments and words. Doesn't give us the right...in the context of respect and credence...to dismiss them or the wisdom that they have so generously passed on to us. Free of charge...mostly.

    I don't find any question annoying as long as the questioner is really wanting to know the answer and not just seeking validation for his or her own already formed opinions. If a person asks a question, the least they can do is listen to the answer. Knowledge can be contagious but it is not virulent or deadly...as some seem to think.

    I think your questions, in particular, are insightful and indicative of someone truly wanting to learn.

    so again, no worries.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    The shank support functions to prevent the arch of the foot collapsing in the transition from a significant heel to the ball of the foot. At the low heel height of most shoes, wood, or even no shank is a viable solution. That said I started my career making footwear with heels above an inch and a half. We have many historical example of boots made with no shank or/and inadequate shanks, in which the waist of the boot has collapsed.

    I use metal shanks in all my footwear at any heel height. I think it provides a stability that is an element of long term comfort and foot health.

    Linen yarn is made by spinning individual fibers/strands of flax. As with wool, sometimes the fibers are referred to as the "staple." The longer the staple the stronger the resulting yarn.

    My wife spins. I have seen flax staple of 36".

    I have prewar linen yarn from the most respected Irish linen mills in the world. Seldom if ever does the staple exceed 4 inches. And as the production of yarn (for shoemaking purposes) comes closer to our own times the staple gets shorter...to the point where contemporary yarns commonly have a staple of one inch, average.

    Additionally, most of the great Irish linen mills have closed or are in the process of closing, although some of the production is moving to Eastern Europe...with not much better results in terms of strength.

    And, FWIW, as a general rule, most yarns sold or touted as "hemp" (hemp is theoretically more rot resistant) are really flax.

    Linen thread is still available.And I bought some hemp yarn from Poland (?) recently. It looks like hemp as opposed to flax but despite being sold as "long staple, wet spun" it was no better than linen yarn as regards the length of the staple or the strength of the yarn.

    Now a story....some years ago, when I was still using linen (Campbell's Best) I made a pair of boots for a farrier (a man who shoes horses). I skeined off ten 12 foot strands of yarn and waxed it in bundles of three strands before twisting and burnishing it into one coherent lingel. I was using a hand wax composed of pine pitch (antibacterial) and pine rosin (ditto) softened with some beeswax and a bit of cod oil. Some time...some remarkably short time...after I delivered the boots the customer came back to me with the welt coming loose. The threads appeared to be breaking.

    I took the boots in to repair them and found that I could literally rip the welt loose by hand. The threads had, despite being inundated with pitch and hand wax--every strand was black with pitch (a sign of how well the wax had penetrated)--literally rotted. His boots also stank. (stunk? smelled awful bad)

    Questioning the customer, he told me how heavily he perspired in these boots manhandling his customers (horses) and how his boots sometimes got hot from being too near the fire. The only answer that came to me was that the linen, being an organic fiber, had been eaten by bacteria that thrived in that hot, humid and perhaps not entirely sanitary environment.

    Although this was, and has been, the only instance I ever had of this kind of thing, and I knew from the literature that properly waxed linen was remarkably strong, I started searching for an alternative. I have never had a failed inseam since. Never.

    And the staple on dacron is not only invulnerable to bacteria or rot, it is fundamentally as long as you want it to be. If you make your thread 12 feet long, each fiber in each yarn will be 12 feet long.

    Is there still good quality linen yarn available? I don't know. I have not been able to find it. And none of my colleagues here in the US or in the UK have been able to show me anything encouraging or even out of the contemporary ordinary.

    And the real question is..."compared to what?"

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  6. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    Thanks again. [​IMG]
    Until I'd stumbled across this thread, which apart from addressing shoe making techniques, also threw in a few interesting bits of shoemaking history, I couldn't help but draw certain parallels with a few other aspects of how we have evolved (or ? de-volved) as a species.
    I'm no expert on architecture, but on some recent vacations to Europe couldn't help but marvel at some of the buildings that were made in the 1600s-1700s or even earlier. Buildings / churches that took years and years to build. Heck, the ancient Roman aqueducts had me flabbergasted! And no pumps! And these structure, were made, not by machine, but by human hand and "primitive" techniques. I was astounded by the beauty and intricate detail some of these buildings had. And I think one of the other forum members also talked about this. That we are capable of building huge skyscrapers now, but we have forever lost the "know-how" to build the church of Notre Dame.
    I'm sure there are other examples of how we have regressed but I also think a lot of it was borne out of necessity and how much our population has exponentially grown. I never expected though, that it was the same with shoes. It's a bit of a shame really, so I can understand how fervently you must feel about preserving your art form.
    Don't get me wrong though, I'm not saying modern day shoemakers are crap, not by a mile. There are plenty of shoes that still take my breath away.
     
  7. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    Thanks again for the detailed write-up!
    It's certainly nice to know that there are reasonably good synthetic alternatives for materials that are in more limited supply now. Well, at least modern chemistry has got us somewhere!
     
  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Yr. Hmb. Svt.

    :cheers:

    --
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  9. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Just wanted to say...for the record...that one thing I have always respected about you is your willingness to listen and learn and discuss without taking it personally.

    We don't always agree. In fact, we probably disagree (about small stuff, in particular) more often than we agree. But somehow we always get along and I can say that from my perspective I have never sensed anything but respect coming from you.

    I can only hope you feel the same.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. taxgenius

    taxgenius Senior member

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    Does anyone have experience with T.O. DEY (NYC) or know what method of construction they use on custom shoes?
     
  11. vmss

    vmss Senior member

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    I have a shoe that has like a very small cut pinch at the back seam in the heel area. It looks on "purpose" as both pairs had it. Is that part of the machine lasting or what is the reason for this minor cut?
     
  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You need to post a photo, but it sounds like a standard "darting" procedure...used to make the upper at the back of the shoe conform more closely to the back of the last.

    BTW and FWIW, aniline finishes are called that because the main colouring agent is an aniline dye. These dyes are petro-chemically derived but make very bright and fade resistant dyes. They are generally carried (dissolved) in alcohol or something similar.

    They also tend to "strike" a little unevenly...if applied by hand, for instance, overlapping swaths of dye will be darker than areas that only received one application.

    When applied with an airbrush or in a soak, areas of the leather tend to absorb the dye more readily than other areas and so the leather ends up a bit darker or lighter in places. This gives a very three dimensional effect--it is almost as if you are looking "into" the leather.

    Usually such leathers are usually given a transparent wax as a top coat and they are marketed as aniline finished leather. If an opaque acrylic top coat/dye is applied over the aniline dye...like a paint job...the leather would be semi-aniline, although there really isn't much difference in an semi-aniline and a fully top-coated leather.

    Any dyed crust ("crust" refers to any leather that is not finished, not even with a wax) would almost certainly be "aniline dyed" simply because the "aniline" refers to a specific kind of dye.

    --
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
  13. vmss

    vmss Senior member

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    Thanks Dwfii!

    Yes, I believe is darting procedure.

    Can you please explaine what is darting procedure.

    I will try to take a pic.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
  14. vmss

    vmss Senior member

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    [​IMG]

    Here is a picture (sorry for the bad quality) the poke or minor cut is right on the first teeth stitch dunno the exact term.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
  15. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Oh that! Looks like a tack hole to me.

    Some makers insist on driving a tack through the back of the heel during the initial stages of lasting to anchor it and prevent the back seam from twisting. I've never thought it was necessary and I always thought it was unsightly. But like anything, there are those who wouldn't think of doing it any other way.

    And no, it's not a darting procedure. That's a full on back seam.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015

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