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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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    I am not faulting you for choosing nails. I am seeking to understand your thinking. The suggestion was made...offhand I am sure...that neither is superior to the other. Which begs the question of why you or I make the choices we make.

    I understand that you have not seen what I have seen in this regard. Maybe my repair experiences give me some insights and perspectives that a pure maker doesn't have? No matter, I sincerely thank you for acknowledging that it might be so--that I am relating real experiences that I have had, and consequently don't have to scrounge up photographic evidence to support my assertions.

    I meant, and mean, no offense but my remarks about "passing fancy" were only to suggest that "I do it because that's the way I do it." doesn't reveal much. If we don't...or can't...even acknowledge that nails do rust, incontrovertibly, and that rust is destructive to vegetable tanned leather, then, in my mind we too casually dismiss the most important information we need to make a choice.

    Let me ask you...you say the reason you choose nails is because you "like the way they hold work together solidly." Fair enough (although not quite what I was hoping for).

    But have you ever pegged a heel together? Do you have any evidence, or even individual experience, that pegs don't hold work together just as solidly? Just as solidly as nails?

    I've been pegging shoes and boots for near on 45 years+. In the waist for boots...and heel seats and heels on both shoes and boots up to 2-1/4" height ...and I've never had a heel come apart, even in extreme weather and under the duress of hard riding. That said, I know the weaknesses of pegging and will be (and have been) the first to admit to them. Here and elsewhere.

    I also have seen nails used on manufactured boots and shoes in similar if not identical circumstances and I know both the solidity that you speak of (often because of rust and the clinching of the nail) and the weaknesses (for much the same reasons).

    I admit the weaknesses of pegs...I'd like to have some insights into why the inherent weaknesses of nails (specifically the rusting issue, which is a scientific fact) don't matter. And esp. don't matter to people...such as Nicholas and yourself...who, and whose opinions, I respect.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  2. Whirling

    Whirling Senior member

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    So, in terms of heel stacks and their attachment, I am not sure I have heard a reason why nails are better than pegs, other than that they potentially make rebuilds easier or that they save time or they are somehow less expensive, overall. Do pegs when used by a skilled maker ever break or rot? Do pegs fail in any conditions more frequently than nails do?

    It would make sense to me that a man who makes boots for people who spend a lot of time outdoors might be more familiar with the effects of challenging conditions, as compared to men who spend most of their time making dress shoes for wealthy men, who probably wear something different when visiting the country. Nobody expects dress shoes to do well in rough conditions, so they probably put them through a lot less, than guys who figure boots, even expensive ones, are meant to be worn in even wet conditions while caring for one's horses or riding them. It would also seem that boots being slid in and out of stirrups would place more stress on heels, or, at the least, a different stress on them.

    As a guy who knows nothing about shoemaking, I am just commenting on what has been said in this thread and asking questions so I can learn a little more about the topic from a consumer's point-of-view.

    One issue is how a person represents himself and his products. If I say "I make good shoes; here's what they cost; they should work well for you," I can cut plenty of corners and improve efficiency as long as the product functions "okay." If I say, "I make some of the finest shoes in the world, with all the best methods, and charge 20 times what a basically functional shoe would cost because this takes a lot of extra time and expertise" then I darn well better have a reason beyond something being "good enough" for using it in my products.

    So, how about somebody tell me why I would want nails, instead of pegs, in the heels of my shoes? Otherwise, I can only take DW's word for it, based on his experience, that pegs are slightly better.

    Edit: I wrote this while DW made the above post, so it doesn't incorporate that information.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
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  3. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Those are good questions...I think you've driven to the heart of the matter.

    Two points of clarification...one in response to your question in the first paragraph. Yes, pegs are at risk in very dry conditions..such as the Arizona desert (a point Brinkerhoff makes). Balancing that is that they hold extremely well in moist or wet conditions--they swell up and hold even better. Foot perspiration is usually sufficient to keep them swollen...again except in very dry environments.

    I don't want to give the impression that I am advocating pegs over nails (even if in my heart of hearts, I probably am) simply because I want to keep an open mind about this. I want to learn and believe I can learn from almost anyone. Saying outright that pegs are better than nails suggest a bias that precludes other data...just as dismissing the rust issues precludes any other perspectives.

    That said, I will again observe that IMO neither is a perfect solution for mounting heel seats or outsoles or heel stacks. Pegs have their strengths, nails have their strengths.Stitching has its strengths. They are different. We each must decide whether, in any given situation, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
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  4. Whirling

    Whirling Senior member

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    Can pegs be treated in some way to make them withstand dry conditions better?
     
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I've heard of peg wax...never seen nor known what it was. I used to think dipping then in hot pine tar would help...and maybe it does but all these additives simply make the peg more slippery. It's the old frog in the well scenario--one brick up, two back.
     
  6. j-mac

    j-mac Member

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    I'm sure your boot heels are excellent and yes I have pegged heels together I prefer nails , the rust issue has not degraded shoes I have worked on maybe the beeswax is a help.
    I have worked repairing pre my formal training and also in my early years to suppliment my income.Every material has weaknesses, wood rots , leather cracks and rots, metals degrade.
    I put shoes together with the best materialsI can find and workmanship to my best ability ,if I see a method that I think will improve things I change my ways, it's not that weaknesses in materials don't matter to me but I trust in what I have seen works and has stood the test of time for me.
    I can't really speak for manufactured shoes as the quality of materials varies so much and I'm sure many leave a lot to be desired.
    I guess I have a lot to learn and only have limited time to ponder here, shoemaking demands time, lots of it and I have shoes to make. I contribute my opinion and experience to give another angle on the subject. I leave it to better men than me to resolve the question.
     
    3 people like this.
  7. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    We all can learn.

    I'm 70 years old and while I stay busy at shoes and boots much of the time, I've slowed down considerably. And, sadly but probably inevitably, I sometimes feel that I'm spending as much time dealing with medical issues as any other "leisure" pursuit.

    That said, with age comes a more spiritual, more contemplative perspective. And that's as it should be, I think.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Whirling

    Whirling Senior member

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    For a shoemaker who had not regularly worked with pegs, but who was experienced and talented, how long would it take to learn to use pegs well, so that he might be able to satisfy the request of customer who wanted his shoes made with them? Is it something that one could one learn on one's own or would one need to have a skilled peg user there in person to teach their use?
     
  9. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    It's not a matter of skill really...no more than driving a nail is. It takes a knack but all that is just practice.

    What it requires mostly is time. It probably takes 3-4 times as much time/work as driving a nail.
     
  10. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    @Nick V. probably has seen the most shoes being repaired on this forum to chime in regarding nail rusting issues. But then @DWFII will just discrediting his experiences as he's not a shoemaker nor worked on every single pair of shoes in his shop.

    As a consumer I had bad experiences with outsole pegs coming loose/falling out but never nails or toe plate screws.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
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  11. Whirling

    Whirling Senior member

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  12. OzzyJones

    OzzyJones Senior member

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    Saw the finished article on Nick's FB page. Just awesome work! Wish I could come close to affording it!
    Maybe follow DWF's advice and reduce the quantity while increasing the quality
     
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  13. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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  14. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    Why not have aluminum nails? They don't rust, are light, and are strong.
     
  15. OzzyJones

    OzzyJones Senior member

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    Aluminium oxidises, not sure of the rate versus steel tho.

    Interesting; aluminium oxide is a stable protective layer only in the ph range 7-9. Outside this it breaks down and is prone to pitting and fractures.

    Probably not the best material for shoes then!
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  16. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    If you were to commission a pair from NT, would you request he used pegs for your shoes? :)
     
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  17. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    The only thing I have ever insisted upon in all these exchanges is that anyone...such as you in this and myriad other posts...belligerently contradicting or confronting me know, first hand, what he is talking about.

    If pointing out the gracelessness...the ignorant, adolescent disrespectfulness...of pretending to knowledge or experience that you don't have is discrediting, too bad. Oh well, so sad.

    I grew up believing that you had to earn what you lay claim to. That no one is entitled. I think posing and embezzling respect that hasn't been earned, is discrediting all by itself.

    --
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
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  18. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You can request, he may not accede.

    But the real question is...if Whirling asked and /or if Nicholas agreed, what harm?
     
  19. Nick V.

    Nick V. Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Years ago these were very common:
    http://www.dbgurney.com/product.php?productid=18237
    They are shaped more like a spike than a nail. Very hard steel. Once they clinched they were a bear to loosen.
    They have a very small head but gripped very effectively.

    These days the high-grade makers use threaded nails.
    I have seen the black stain (that DW mentioned) around the head of some of these threaded nails. It's rare though. I wouldn't call the stain rust it rather looks like mildew. Of course it takes some sort of moisture to create mildew. How much?

    When you think of it....the entire shank of the nail is embedded into the leather insole then the base. There is no exposure to moisture. Therefore the only part of the nail that has even a remote possibility of being exposed to moisture is the head of the nail. Add to that most high-grade makers add a pad of some sort over the heads of the nails. That pad is attached with rubber cement. Rubber cement has a property that is water resistant. Next a heel seat, 3/4 liner or, full sock is attached over the pad. That lining is also attached using rubber cement. So, aside from the pad and liner there are two layers of rubber cement. The threaded nails that we use are also coated to resist moisture.

    Having said that, from my experience I would have to agree with Nicholas T. and J-mac. Although there is a very slight chance of a mildew stain the chance of actual rust is even slighter. So much so that I consider it consequential.
     
  20. Whirling

    Whirling Senior member

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    I am not sure I whether I would ask him to use nails or pegs...it's a bit hypothetical until I decide to talk to him about making me shoes, at all. His work is beautiful.

    Although I respect that a lot of people get bespoke footwear in order to get shoes of a style and shape that can't be had RTW, my main interest would be to get footwear of the highest-possible quality that would fit me exceedingly well, hold up well to years of regular wear, and look extremely good, though not in a "flashy" way. I worry that some of Mr. Templeman's aesthetic mastery would be lost on my plain tastes and my desires for highly durable leathers...though I have little doubt he could accommodate me.

    One reason to delay ordering bespoke footwear is that I have had ongoing foot trouble this past year. Previously, I had a hard time finding footwear that was comfortable, but had not had any serious pain. In the last year, I had a horrible bout of plantar fasciitis, which went away just as I developed metatarsal pain on the other side--obviously closely related...I have been working on all of this in various ways...I should see a doctor, but I generally don't trust doctors. :)
     

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