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

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

  1. sleepyinsanfran

    sleepyinsanfran Senior member

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    ^ I think you would find a similar focus on self-fulfillment in many people who do research. It doesn't always have to be about bragging rights, or the perpetual search for optimizing your work for making the most money out of your limited time on the planet. You might not understand it but railing against someone who does seems petty
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
  2. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Everything I do is a learning process--that's very simply a state of mind that I deliberately choose to cultivate. But more than that, it is a quest--a search for "mastery" and excellence. To limit myself would be self-defeating. Metaphorically, spiritually suicidal, even.

    Is that your "professional" opinion? Or just more fantasy?

    I have no doubt that you'd prefer I didn't post such inconvenient facts; prefer that I left the field for scavengers like yourself. That said, even though I am 70 years old and slowing down, focusing on other things such as philosophy and helping others understand shoemaking, I'm not dead, not dying and still in the game.


    Here are a couple of my efforts at hand stitching / closing--my "professional" credentials, so to speak:

    12spi on waxed flesh

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    How about showing us some of yours? (just to establish your "credentials," so to speak)

    --
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
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  3. Whirling

    Whirling Senior member

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    My gosh! I am still amazed that people want to argue for short cuts. Is it that hard, at the very least, to respect a man's dedication to doing something as well as possible? Of course, there are easier ways to make shoes or movies or chairs, or whatever. Of course, the money is to be found in the efficiencies of the easier ways.

    We should be incredibly grateful that there exist in this world some small number of people who have goals higher than broadening profit margins. Where would we be without the great paintings and novels? None of them were manufactured based on sound business principles.

    When you go in for heart surgery, do you want the surgeon who is trying to make the most money with his career or do you want the one who will sacrifice nearly everything to build his skills over decades to do the best job humanly possible?

    If forum members want to celebrate the second-rate, then surely they could atart threads dedicated to this topic: "Second-rate shoemaking and the pleasures of mediocrity." I bet DW wouldn't feel compelled to participate in such a thread. Then, y'all could wax poetic, uninterrupted, on GYW 3D-printed shoes made out of recycled soda bottles or whatever.
     
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  4. Trqmaster

    Trqmaster Senior member

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    Life long apprentice? :embar:
     
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    That's me, I'm afraid.
     
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  6. Trqmaster

    Trqmaster Senior member

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    :cheers:
    With the way most things are in life, life is learning.
     
  7. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    Sure. Let's limit the 'best' to a solo shoemaker making things from last making to finishing and exclude pretty much everyone in the bespoke/HW shoemaking business.
     
  8. Whirling

    Whirling Senior member

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    That isn't how I would advise we handle the discusion, but I will go along with it, if you insist. :)

    I am in absolutely no position to judge whether it is best to have a solo shoemaker do everything from soup to nuts or to have multiple shoemakers who specialize in different parts of the craft. I think that would be an interesting topic.

    Other topics within the general topic of making the best-possible footwear probably can be discussed without too much time spent on whether they are all done by he same person.

    My point is that we should spend most of our time talking about how to achieve the best results; not how to achieve the most profitable or most expedient ones. This is a preference only. I will try to understand if people prefer to talk about money and efficiency.
     
  9. bdavro23

    bdavro23 Senior member

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    One must know (through experience of doing) what is worth doing by hand and what is able to be expedited through other means. Process improvement on paper or in a boardroom leads to catastrophe in practice.
     
  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Hahaha!! Put down the pipe, get real! No one is "limiting" anything. In a "free" society, we none of us have the power to limit anything or anyone. And...in case you've been on vacation...there is no bespoke makers police.

    However, the fact is that many...maybe even most...of the "best" makers do most or all of it. That's the reason they are the best--all these skills are interrelated and interdependent.

    I have never, in all the 45 years I've been making claimed to be the "best" or even among the best, much less a master.

    But I, personally, don't care to work in a factory...not even a deconstructed factory. And I don't admire or find anything admirable in the "factory mentality."

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
  11. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    I think DW's main point is for a new shoemaker not to immediately close his mind to the idea of closing uppers by hand, that there is always something potentially to be learnt or gained in the process, or in any process, no matter how small.
    He's not saying that someone who eventually chooses the sewing machine, is a second rate, or lousy shoemaker. Ultimately, it's the shoemaker who decides what's worth his time, and what isn't. Not for us to decide.
    He's merely offered his personal (and professional) opinion.
    I'm no shoemaker, and most probably won't ever be one. But I must say the idea of having to close the uppers, by hand, all by eye, at 22 spi, for the whole shoe, is simply mind blowing. And deeply admirable. If we all did only the things that we deemed as practical, where's all the fun then?
    Anyway, the person who started this conversation did say, that he is just trying to get his hands dirty and experience what shoemaking is, he's not indicated any commercial interests. So what's the harm in learning closing by hand, and by eye?
    I think, the whole point of this thread, that DW started, by the way, is to encourage these things. These "foolish" things.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
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  12. mw313

    mw313 Senior member

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    Well put!
     
  13. globobock

    globobock Senior member

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    I am pretty innocent in all this themes, but cannot deny that those are exciting Topics.

    A dumb question Comes into my mind: Is there a production style that stitches the gemming to the insole?

    I believe that in Blake/Rapid, it is the welt that is stitched to the insole.

    BTW, a common critic Point for GYW is the Need for Corc filling. Why don't replace the cork with a thin layer of leather?

    I haven't considered the cost/time/benefit Impacts though...

    Dumb, uninformed thoughts, I know, but where else could I unload those thoughts if not here. At least it will be spit upon by experts :)
     
  14. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I have seen gemming stitched to the insole but it doesn't add much in the way of either stability or strength. Part of that is simply that fabric has relatively little structural integrity when compared to leather.

    As for the cork, GY creates a deep "cavity" between the ribs. It would take a thick piece of leather to fill that cavity. Then, too GY is most often done on thin leather or leatherboard insoles that have little ability to take acquire and form a footbed. The cork...as long as it lasts (it's highly fugitive in most cases)...substitutes for a footbed. Foam rubber is often used as well.

    The overarching consideration here is simply a perspective / philosophy that prefers the least amount of input, in terms of materials and time, and the least amount of human involvement, as possible for the greatest amount of profit. Profit is Job One. Quality ain't in it. And that means a constant, on-going effort / drive to reduce or minimize the cost of production whether it be labour or materials or techniques.

    Bottom line is that factories have no financial incentive to introduce (or reintroduce) additional techniques (or steps in the process), or better materials, or more employees in pursuit of quality. The quality that exists in GYW factories today (such as there is, what there is of it) sells quite well to a placid and docile and un-informed (or deliberately ignorant) public as it is, thank you very much. No need to change anything. Except to perhaps shave a few more pennies off the cost of thread.

    --
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  15. globobock

    globobock Senior member

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    So how about constituting the fabric-gemming with a leather Strip, sewing it to the insole, than fill in the cavitiy with something better than cork? Thus my Suggestion for using leather, so that we actually have a stacked leather-insole?

    I also don't understand why the gemming has to be rectangular to the insole (causing said cavity).

    I know you don't like ccompromisses, DW, but there must be some way to significantly improve the Quality of industrial (GYW) shoes while still keeping the production cost at a reasonable Level.

    It would never reach the Quality of HW-Shoes, obviously.

    The Topic has been beaten to death, but my ideal world would be that pyramid with top-Level bespoke on the Price/fit/Quality top, followed by handwelted/handsewn RTW or MTO (no individual last). And than Quality machine-welted shoes for the broader mass.

    I'm sorry if this is OOT from this thread (which is about the traditional techniques)... I didn't find any other more appropriate thread for this and didn't want to open a new one.


    BTW, since you are a (Cowboy)-bootmaker. I've read in the book "Texas" that in the early days, Cowboy boots were highly uncomfortable, not really based on lasts, and basically even without distinction of left and right feet. Is that so?
     
  16. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    With all due respect, you missed the critical points in my previous response:

    And:

    At what point, does it get so involved and so expensive in terms of cost of materials and labour that it starts cutting into profit? The correct answer is "when you first start thinking about it."

    A leather filler would be heavy and stiff.

    The gemming creates the cavity because it is not part of the insole--it sits on top of the insole.

    For over a hundred and fifty years, Goodyear welting and Industrial shoemaking procedures have been evolving (or devolving, depending on your perspective). What has resulted...what is extant today...is the culmination of the best minds alive striving to cut costs, maximize profits and still offer a product that at least looks good--which is all that most people care about anyway.

    This is the way things go--the slippery slope, the highway paved with good intentions. And the end result is always, always, ultimately something akin to cement sole construction, corrected grain or bonded leather and paper insoles. Such shoes are common today. Some are even part of "non-premium" lines being offered by cachet brand RTW makers.

    But the bottom line is that real quality, real excellence, always costs...and always will. Again, there is no financial incentive...much less righteously indignant mobs, armed with pitchforks and torches, demanding anything better. So the beat goes on.

    As far as your pyramid is concerned, it already exists. But consider the pyramid for a moment, the top, where you place the HW bespoke shoes, is a thin and narrow point and the most vulnerable part of the whole artifact. From a distance, most people can't even see it clearly.

    In the early days, all footwear was uncomfortable...the foot was not well understood and even a relatively good fit was rare.

    As far as cowboy boots are concerned, they came along fairly late in the evolution of the shoe (mid to late 19th century) and were directly descended from from European boots. Most early cowboy bootmakers were German immigrants. So whatever faults they had, were borrowed...and common.

    Lasts...as a concept...are very old and probably began as lefts and rights. When people decided that they wanted higher heels, the problems involved with making lefts and rights became so difficult that "straights" were adopted.

    Then too...like today...fashions came and went and when society as a whole became enthralled with more "natural", organic, forms, lasts and footwear changed too. From what I know and have been led to believe, lefts and rights, as well as straights, appeared and disappeared several times during the history of the shoe.

    With the invention of the last turning lathe, lefts and rights at any heel height became commercially feasible.

    As far as boots not being made on lasts, esp. during the 19th century...don't believe everything you read, esp. from people who don't have any first hand experience with the subject they're writing about . They're corbies on the cooling field of battle.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
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  17. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    PS...I categorically reject the notion that I am a "cowboy bootmaker." I am a shoemaker.

    Boots are shoes and some shoes are "boots"--it's the same Trade.

    To think otherwise is to surrender to the "factory mentality" where every thing and every one must be compartmentalized and pigeon-holed. A shoemaker that cannot make pull-on boots is limited and incomplete; and a bootmaker that cannot make shoes is similarly crippled.

    Present company included.
    --
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
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  18. Zapasman

    Zapasman Senior member

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    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Is there any possibilty of the inseaming here being made by some kind of GYW machine?. Its my cobbler´s idea, he could not repair them by hand (no holdfast/feather) cause the insole was too thin/rigid and the inseaming was poorly executed. The shoes went to the trash.
     
  19. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I suppose...anything is possible, I guess. I'd rather believe that it was a machine than a thinking, human being. But, that said, I've never run across such a machine and work like that is not commonly seen, either. Not in my experience, at least... not in this country
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  20. Zapasman

    Zapasman Senior member

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