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

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

  1. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior member

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    Making a great looking shoe that doesn't fit is super easy.

    Making a lumpy, foot shaped shoe that fits like a second skin while you're sitting down is also super easy.

    Making a great looking shoe that fits and wears well at all times can be a challenge, should never be a compromise, and should be achievable - that's what you're paying top dollar for.

    Even that's not the hard part though. I know what I think looks and feels good to me, the real trick for a fitter is in figuring out what looks and feels good to you, and providing you with it.
     
    3 people like this.
  2. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well said.

    :cheers:
     
  3. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    Sounds like a trial shoes rather than in-welt fitting. Usually makers cement cork or leather outsole/heels for trial shoes. They are definitely wearable but just not for long periods of time.

    Guess your maker is going to cut it open as well?
     
  4. dan'l

    dan'l Senior member

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    ^ I'm not sure, actually. I guess I'll have to wait till the fitting and see if he's holding a big knife behind his back!
     
  5. Nick V.

    Nick V. Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    DW, forgive me if this question was raised in the past.
    How do you pick a last? Do you modify something out of stock? Build it up with cork and leather?
    Either way.....I would think that you have a nice inventory on hand.
    For regular customers, do you save their lasts? Who owns them, they -or you? It's just a question of policy.
    To me the real artwork and time is in making the last right.
     
  6. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Yes, it has been asked...and beaten to death, mostly by people who have never made a shoe or a last.

    (And yes, I'm suspicious of your question...we do have a history, after all, and you do have a modus operandi. But I will hope and pretend, for the sake of those other readers who might really be interested, that this isn't a "too clever" way to instigate.)

    Yes, I use stock lasts. It's not a secret. I've made no bones about it. I think that in the right hands, it is a very good way to model a foot and achieve a fit and a stylish shoe. Its primary drawback in my opinion is that it limits the maker to specified heel heights.

    I have also said that I envy and admire those who can and do carve lasts from blocks of wood. That's how I started, actually, but never had the benefit or good fortune of formal training or proper tools. I think last carving/making, if done properly is nearly as difficult to master as shoemaking itself...if not more so.

    And I think that, in the right hands, carving a last from scratch is a very good way to model the foot and achieve a fit and a stylish shoe.

    I think that to a great extent the two approaches overlap more than amateurs and shoe groupies know or would like to acknowledge.

    One is additive and other is subtractive. But the objective is the same. Anyone who can do the one well enough, can do the other.

    It goes without saying that the carver will often add material to alter the last after the fact, and by the same token and for the same reasons, the stock-last-modder will very often subtract material.

    I have even money that if a carver were to start with a stock last he would end up near-as-nevermind with exactly same shape and size...same bottom radiuses, same toe shapes, etc, as if he had started with a chunk of wood. And vice versa--if I, as a modder of standard lasts, were to start with a block of wood I have no doubt I would end up with a last that was identical to to what I would have if I had started with a standard last.

    I currently have a size 7C (?) last that I am converting to a roughly 6A--it is a custom last and dedicated to one individual. I don't recommend that beginners do this but I myself often reshape and alter lasts significantly.

    When I choose a last I look for much the same things I look for, and focus on, when measuring the foot.--heel seat and treadline width, heel-to-ball length, girths at 6 -7, 7 places that correspond to bones on the foot, etc..

    If the last I have chosen is way out of range I chose another that is closer. If it is still too large or too small I either cut it or build it up with scraps of leather.

    If I have not cut the last...relying on build-ups only...I do not retain it as a dedicated last for that particular customer but pull the build-ups, tag them, bag them, and save them for the next time the customer comes in. That allows me to reuse the last.

    I own the lasts unless the customer wants to pay an additional fee for them--either to ensure that they will remain set up for their foot alone or to take...as is their preference.

    There is "art", or at least aesthetics, in making a last. For the carver, it is like "finding" the shape within. For the modder, it is like the lost wax sculptor.

    But the real artistry is in arriving at a last that embodies the salient measurements and features of the foot and yet creates a visually appealing and graceful shoe.

    Again...the concept of "fair curves" is the key, IMO. And, much like the Golden Mean, if you don't understand what a Fair Curve is...even if only subconsciously...you have no basis for understanding art...or Art...either one.

    --
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2016
  7. Nick V.

    Nick V. Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Thanks DW. And yes I understand your suspicion of me asking the question. I would like to qualify. You and I have differed along the way. To Me it's always based on our differences from our experiences. So be it.....
    Building a last as you explained, per person/client is a huge time commitment. To simply have a few lasts on hand and for you to be as successful as you have been is certainly a tribute to you're
    abilities.
     
  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well thank you for that.

    I hope I have provided some insight. To you and to those reading these posts.

    That's why I get paid the big bucks. :lol:

    PS...FWIW, I actually have around 200+ lasts on hand in four heel heights and at least four different styles. I don't buy half sizes ( I can make a 7 into a 7-1/2 in less than five minutes) so a run is roughly 50 pair.

    --
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2016
  9. Nick V.

    Nick V. Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    That makes more sense, thanks.
     
  10. vmss

    vmss Senior member

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    I have a question. I have been reading several blogs lately and certain bloggers highlighting leather board heel stiffeners as an upgrade over celastic heel stiffeners. We already know that leather heel stiffeners iare what we should be looking for.

    However, I was wondering if there are any differences between leather board heel stiffeners and celatic heel stiffeners?
    Some manufacturers has been highlighting this leatherboard heel stiffeners feature as an upgrade over celastic heel stiffeners.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2016
  11. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Do you know what particle board is? It is sheeting made from sawdust or woodchips and a binder (glue). It has no real structural integrity.

    Leatherboard is fundamentally the same thing--it is ground up leather, held together by some sort of binder and pressed into sheets. it is the modern equivalent of "shoddy"--a type of fabric made in the the mid 19th century from woolen mill scraps.

    I don't believe it has much more structural integrity that particle board has. And, in my mind, it is no better than celastic...and maybe, in some circumstances a little worse.

    An "upgrade"? I don't think so. Just another bit of cheap, expedient, no-brainer, ticky-tacky.
     
  12. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    It costs more than celastic. But celastic is better in terms of rigidity.
     
  13. vmss

    vmss Senior member

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    Makes sense thanks.
     
  14. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    The more I think about it the more I suspect I shouldn't have answered that question--I'm not exactly objective about either leatherboard or celastic.

    IMO, they both represent a significant dumbing down of not only the shoe but shoemaking itself...maybe even the definition of what a shoe is or should be.

    That said, both are cheap, expedient, no-brainer and ticky-tacky...esp. when compared to leather.

    But they are the future, I'm afraid. I see way too many young, novice, and amateur shoemakers embracing their use simply because it takes too much time and energy to develop the skills to the same thing (but better) with leather.

    When craftsmen and artisans embrace the factory mentality it's a bad sign.
     
  15. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    That's quite pessimistic. I think a lot of the newly founded or aspiring shoemakers are learning to use the traditional materials. Online media helped tremendously in propagating useful information and generating significant interests from the younger crowd.

    Those hand welting gemmed insoles or hand sewn inseaming with lock stitches you've observed are most probably from factory workshop settings.
     
  16. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You might want to look in on the Facebook shoemaking forum...I suspect you'd find a home away from home there.

    --
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2016
  17. emptym

    emptym Senior member Moderator

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    Vmss, are you sure the bloggers and manufacturers were recommending leatherboard and not regular leather? It would make sense that they doit for leather.
     
  18. vmss

    vmss Senior member

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    I never said they recommended leather board over leather. They recommended or praised leather board as a superior alternative over celastic stiffener. I wondered if that leatherboard was superior than celastic as I find both of them cheap alternative.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2016
  19. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    Other than your Crispin Colloquy, where else do you find that many established Western shoemakers in one place? Just to name some, Mrsan, Gadd, Melkersson, Wegan, Sorrell, Ducker, all follow and comment in that group!! Hell that forum even got an apprentice Clogmaker from UK! On the not-so-DWFII-approved shoemaking front, there are also members trying to learn how to make sneakers, sandals, fashion shoes, industrialized shoes, etc.

    Forums like those will definitely attract people with commercial interests such as dealers/suppliers/entrepreneurs trying supplies, machines, or even shoes. Or at the other end of the spectrum, you have makers/educators like Mrsan/Shanor/Ducker promoting their course, books, exam, and forum on there.

    Pretty awesome group I would say.
     
  20. emptym

    emptym Senior member Moderator

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    Right. I didn't say you did. I agree that both leateherboard and celastic are cheap alternatives to leather, which I why I thought they may have recommended leather, not leatherboard, over celastic/plastic. Would you mind posting links to the blogs and manufacturers you were talking about? Or pm'ing them if you'd rather.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2016

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