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

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

  1. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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  2. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Sometimes you're caught between a rock and a hard place.

    I start off with the assumption that pegs do no more damage than nails. And less damage if the nails are iron. I think that the case can be made logically and scientifically.

    So...how do you attach the outsole in the heelseat area? Nails or pegs? How do you attach the heel stacks? Nails or pegs?

    I believe that pegs are always the better choice.

    Beyond that, inseaming in the waist is almost certainly a better approach than pegging. But I have pegged the waist for 40+ years simply because the style of footwear that I made demanded / expected a pegged waist. And because the functionality of the "western" boot in a stirrup is enhanced by a pegged waist as opposed to an inseamed waist.

    I do not peg the waist on shoes or boots that will not be ridden. I do not believe that pegs are as secure a method as inseaming (although it is pretty good esp. the first time around) and I think that over the long run, pegs tend to be destructive of the insole in areas that require replacement and re-pegging, in a way that inseaming never will be.

    As I may have said in other threads, I have probably driven more pegs than any other maker, current or past, that has ever posted to this forum. But I am not blind nor defensive about it.

    The objective truth is that pegs will never be as secure or as structurally benign as sewing. If sewing is a viable alternative.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
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  3. Whirling

    Whirling Senior member

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    Could one build and attach a heel stack completely with sewing? Would it have any advantages? Basically, could one have a top quality shoe made with no nails, tacks, screws, or pegs?
     
  4. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    For: easier to achieve a beveled waist and still claim handmade compare to blind welting. Faster to make compare to hand sewing. Traditionally the method to use for cowboy boots waist. Interesting pictures if you search for pegged waist.

    Against: less secure, prone to have pegs falling out, half sole resole.
     
  5. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    Again, DWF, thanks.
     
  6. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, it was done once upon a time. But again aside from the few who specialize in 18th century work, few know how, much less are skilled enough, to pull it off.

    Whenever I hear people talk about "modern" techniques and "efficiencies", etc.--all that exculpatory BS...I think about high heeled womens shoes made in the 18th century. The heel (sometimes quite high) was a block of wood that was covered with brocade or leather and sewn on--hand sewn to the upper and to the outsole and a leather toplift sewn on as well. No nails, no screws. Just sewing, sometimes at quite amazingly small spi..

    And, according to current understanding, quite secure and stable.

    Today very few makers of women's shoes can make a shoe without leatherboard or fiberboard insoles, tucks and massive screws driven, from the heel inside the shoe, into the high impact plastic heel block itself. I don't know any who do it any other way, actually, unless they are stacking leather lifts and even so, some sort of core stabilizer is generally resorted to. And no one...zero...making anything but historical reproductions who can or will sew the heel on.

    How far the Trade has fallen...or been dragged down.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
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  7. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    Thanks for your answer.

    How would sewing through several layers of hard leather even be physically possible with the technology of the 18th century at a relatively high spi? What technique was used? Were their needles and awls hard enough not to bend under the pressure? Sheffield steel is legendary for its strength...but how strong was it?
     
  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well as regards the men's boots / shoes, it is well to remember that the leather lifts were probably not as hard as they are today. . Beyond that, I'm not sure how it was done. It's not my specialty. You could post over on the CC in the Boots and shoes in History topic and ask DA Saguto about it.

    And just to be sure we are on the same page, sewing through several layers of toplifting was not part of making the women's shoes. Maybe a relatively thin outsole and one leather toplift. Most of the stitching that was exposed was on the side of the heel and in a brocade or upper leather.
     
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  9. Whirling

    Whirling Senior member

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    Even on the factory side, things appear to be declining in quality.

    There is a local vintage shop with an interesting array of old clothing, footwear, and accessories. I have visited several times, but never found anything that was both my size and my style. Still, I wanted to support the shop. The owner is a knowledgeable and decent guy who charges very fair prices for his goods.

    Thus, I decided to look through some shoes and found some Florsheim Imperial LWBs in my size. They fit well and appeared to have a lot of life left in them. I am not really one for second-hand shoes, but bought them anyway--for $60. I think they are from somewhere between the 60's and 80's. They have the "v cleat" on the heels and five nails in each waist.

    Anyway, after comparing the vintage Imperials to my pairs of new Allen Edmonds and Aldens, all cordovan, all firsts, I despaired that the Imperials were just better made...the stitching, the soles, the heels...the uppers still look good after 30 years.

    The Imperials were not the cheapest shoes around, but they also were not rare or exclusive...I guess men just expected more for their money back then, at least as far as shoes go. Sad...
     
  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Speaking about women's shoes and the way heels were mounted here are a few photos. (it is fairly easy to fine photos of these kinds of shoes but not too many are large enough or in colour to be inspected.

    Not a few men's dress shoes were done the same way but again some were stacked with the first or first two layers sewn to a "rand" and the outsole. I see some that are like that on the 'Net but all are too small to really get a good look at and be sure. The white pair are the men's shoes.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    --
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
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  11. rbhan12

    rbhan12 Senior member

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    Question for Nicholas and DWF or another shoemaker or person with extensive knowledge:

    If I'm understanding it correctly, on a handwelted shoe a small portion of the insole is turned out at the edges to stitch the insole, upper and welt together. I understand that canvas gemming is cemented on not to imitate that little rib of leather at the insole.

    I also understand that there is a machine that cut and turns up a rib on the outsole that allows for closed channel stitching. Could that same machine be used to turn up a ridge on the insole, then the same machine already used to stitch the insole to the upper and then the welt? If there's a machine that already cuts and flips up a piece of leather for the outsole, why isn't there one for the insole?

    I'm looking for an answer regarding feasibility, not the standard "factory" and "cost-savings" answer.

    If I'm not making sense, I'm happy to clarify.
     
  12. sleepyinsanfran

    sleepyinsanfran Senior member

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    ^ I'm not a person with extensive knowledge - but cutting an insole rib was the original goodyear welt method (as DWF and perhaps others have mentioned)
    from what I understand, teh fact that some makers "handwelt" by splitting the insole and stitching the uppers to an upturned rib by hand (instead of creating a holdfast) is either a matter of lack of knowledge or in some cases for historical reasons
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2016
  13. rbhan12

    rbhan12 Senior member

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    ^ Can you explain what a holdfast is?
     
  14. sleepyinsanfran

    sleepyinsanfran Senior member

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    can't explain better than this post from the past (point #2 shows an insole with a holdfast)
     
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  15. rbhan12

    rbhan12 Senior member

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    So it's basically the ridge that's been cut or shaved off, so to speak?
     
  16. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, the broadest definition would have it as simple as an almost arbitrary area / section / "strip" of leather around the edge of the insole designated to hold the inseam stitches. A maker could just draw a somewhat inset line around the edge of the insole and begin the inseam stitch along that line, emerging at the edge of the insole. This is "stitching aloft" where the stitching is exposed and on the surface.

    The way it is more commonly done is that a channel or vertical cut is made in the insole along that line mentioned in the previous paragraph and the stitches sunk into that "inside channel." Sometimes a wedge of leather is actually removed in order to facilitate the entry of the awl into the channel.

    Additionally, another vertical channel is cut somewhat closer to the edge of the insole and a rectangle or square of leather is removed from the cut to the edge of the insole. This leaves a "rabbet" or rebate along the featherline of the insole. In fact, this rabbet is called the "feather." This is where the awl (and the inseaming thread) coming from the inside channel will emerge prior to entering the lining, upper and welt.

    The "strip" of leather sandwiched in between the feather and the inside channel is called the "holdfast." It is what "holds" the inseam "fast"...or securely.

    And if you go back to post #93 (the post that sleepyinsanfran linked to is #94) you can see the evolution of the welt and handwelted inseams and the "f" illustration shows the simplest (and earliest) form of holdfast...as describe in my opening paragraph above.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
  17. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I suspect...although I don't know for sure....that that specific approach was unknown and or unused prior to the invention of the GY welting machine / process. It seems to have been more or less unique to GY.
     
  18. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    Shoemakers uses nails, pegs, or stitching to attach and secure upper to insole heels. I know @DWFII advises against using nails as they rust. Some makers prefer pegging while some don't use pegs at all.

    For stitching, I've seen two different methods. The latter of which is also used if makers decide to welt all the way around or to attach rand by stitching. Picture linked from DWegan Instagram as he makes one of the
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    What are the rationale in choosing between the different methods?
     
    1 person likes this.
  19. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I don't know that there is any rationale...except the rationale that it is better than nails. I suspect it is just what you're taught.

    I, myself use the method in the first photo. my thoughts have always been that it allows me to lay the skived margin of the heel stiffener flat on the insole--that way it acts and functions just as any other overlapped seam. And everything stays relatively flat.

    I have often been tempted to try the method in your second photo. I have in the past been worried that it leaves the stitching a little too close to the edge of the insole in the heel area and thus more vulnerable to whatever...pegs or nails...is used to attache the heel seat and the outsole and heel stack. But of course I suppose that can be varied according to where the holdfast is located.

    I've also wondered if less of the heel stiffener has to be turned over the insole...simply because stitching like that gathers the leather--upper and stiffener--into an upright configuration. This could not only get a little bulky if the stiffener were incorporated, it does raise some concerns about the amount all this "gathered" leather will be above the surface of the holdfast, nevermind the insole. That too might be just a matter of trimming. But it does no more good to create a cavity in the heel area than in the forepart.

    In any case, those are the issues that concern me and have held me back from trying the second method.

    Many times perfectly good techniques are more dependent on the mindfulness and care of the maker than the mechanics of the technique itself.

    I wouldn't cast aspersions on either method in the right hands.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
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  20. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    Is it possible to do a blind welt around an entire shoe? I know this is the preferred method of welting for a bespoke shoe's waist, but why don't more shoemakers prefer blind welts around the front part of the shoe?
     

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