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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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    Well, round closing is a somewhat difficult technique and requires a leather that is both firm enough and thick enough to do it.Personally, I don't care for using a needle--another instance where a bristle is superior if only because there is less strain on each individual stitch.

    And round closing can be done well or not so well...it's all in how tight you pull the stitches.

    Having said that round closing produces the strongest seam known to man.

    And having said that no seam is always stronger than any seam.

    In the end however, nothing says 'exceptional' like round closing done well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2016
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  2. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior member

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    We call that a flat seam over here.
     
  3. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior member

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    I made a post a while ago (this one here -http://www.styleforum.net/t/445708/mto-bespoke-shoe-plans-for-2015/390#post_8332523 ) about why a split toe on a shoe like the Dover you posted is a necessity.
     
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  4. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You see that "overlapping" of the patterns on certain oxfords esp. at higher heel heights (women's work), as well. Coming from a little different perspective...right or wrong...I have always just blocked the vamps before cutting the pattern. I would think the same could be done for whole cut derbies....??

    I thought this might be welcome...it is part of an essay on 'skin stitching' written by my friend D.A. Saguto at Colonial Williamsburg. He is a Certified Master Shoemaker and considered one of the foremost shoe historians in the world having been a close friend and disciple of June Swann.

    And he does this work on a near daily basis.


    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  5. vmss

    vmss Senior member

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    "finding it increasingly difficult to get leathers that will hold high numbers of stitches per inch without cutting through. Eight to 12 per inch is about as fine as you dare try, though in the "old days" perfectly utilitarian uppers (not prize work at all) were commonly edge closed at 12 to 15 or more spi. Chrome leathers are not as satisfactory for edge closing as veg, but then chrome leather is not as satisfactory in most respects, as it is about as close to lifeless plastic as one could make from an otherwise perfectly good animal skin."





    Very interesting essay. I read recently that some makers don't do round stitching on thicker leathers such a cordovan and tarnjo veg leathers, while you friend suggested that the thicker is better and he sounded skeptical round stitching on chrome thinner leathers.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  6. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Up to a point...he clearly states "We routinely round close uppers varying in weight from 3.5-4 oz. to 5-6oz. maximum thickness. "

    3.5 ounce is getting a bit problematic, IMO. Most kangaroo, for instance, is around 3 ounce. But he also said in an offhand response to another poster on that forum that it was not necessarily historically or Traditionally correct to round close 8-9 ounce leathers.

    That said, cordovan is an entirely different beast. I'm not sure it counts as a leather in the strictest terms. It is a muscle sheath, not a skin.

    FWIW, I have round closed 4 ounce French calf (chrome tanned) and it was fine. But prefer veg tanned as well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  7. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior member

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    Cordovan tends to pull through when try these sorts of stitches, so the reason for not doing it isn't related to the thickness.
     
  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    No, and I don't think I've ever seen a cordovan that was much heavier than 5 ounce anyway. But that said, I've never been tempted to try round closing on cordovan...something about the grain structure and temper and the way it skives has always made me leery of it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  9. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    Thanks for all the sharing.
    Made for some very interesting (albeit quite technical) bedtime reading.
    DW, Master Saguto had seemed to express quite a bit of ire towards chrome tanned leathers.
    I know veg tans are definitely the best for insoles and outsoles.
    But for uppers, as are discussed in this context, are chrome tans really so reviled? Apart from the greater expediency (I know, not a good thing) when tanning stuff with chrome, aren't chrome tans also a bit more supple and "easier" to work with for upper making?
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You're right, chrome tans and esp. the chrome tanning process, are toxic...and can be extremely so. Some people even have allergic reactions to the finished leather.

    On the other hand, chrome tans take brighter dyes than veg tans. Frankly, however that's about all that can be said for them that cannot also be said of veg tans. Although like many industrial derivatives some would argue that chrome tans last longer. But the effluent and even the leather dust last longer in the environment, as well.

    Truth be told veg tans take and hold a shape better than chrome tans. As for supple, it depends on how the tanned leather is processed post tanning. A milled veg is every bit as supple as any chrome I've ever run across. Veg tans don't stretch as much as chrome, in general, however, and all too often people rely on a shoe stretching to fit their foot rather than having the shoe fit properly right out of the gate.

    That aspect in and of itself may account for a great deal of the popularity of chromes. it relieves everybody of responsibility.

    It must also be said, if only in passing, that for centuries all shoes and every part of every shoe was veg tan--upper, lining, insole, outsole, stiffeners, heels. If I'm not mistaken it wasn't until the mid 19th century that chrome tanning was discovered and most high end shoes continued to be made with veg tans right up until the early part of the 20th century.

    Veg tans are still used for uppers and some of the most revered leathers being used in high end shoes today are veg. If I'm not mistaken, most crust uppers are veg. And in high end shoes, the linings are almost always veg.

    "Reviled?" Probably not...esp. among manufacturers the opposite is probably true. But among those who respect and value the Traditions veg tans still hold an attraction.

    The real problem there is the same as for the Trade as a whole--with the demand for chrome surpassing the demand for veg...just by virtue of manufacturing...the availability of good veg tans diminishes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  11. ThunderMarch

    ThunderMarch Senior member

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    Thanks DW.
    It seems though, that nowadays it's relatively difficult to find makers who have ready access to fully veg tanned hides. Though there are a good number of use hides that are chrome tanned and veg re-tanned.

    Pardon the ignorance, but what is milled leather? Is this something that can only be done specifically for veg tans?
     
  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I hear you, but as mentioned most crusts are, AFAIK, veg tans. So a good many of those fancy patinaed Italian shoes have veg uppers.

    Milled leather is simply a leather that has been "tumbled" to soften it. I'm not sure of the exact technique but I use a lot of milled veg lining leather when making Full Wellingtons.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
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  13. Threeputt

    Threeputt Active Member

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    [​IMG]

    Hi DW, Thanks for your generous posts over the years. I recently received these hand welted shoes with shell cordovan uppers. You'll note some puckering around the toe inseam. Also, the left shoe is showing some of the inseam stitches themselves. Would you be so kind as to describe the causes of this and what problems I can expect should I decide to keep and wear them?

    Other opinions are of course welcome.

    Thanks Again.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
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  14. ntempleman

    ntempleman Senior member

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    Im seeing a whole lot more veg tan coming through in the last couple of years, some interesting stuff. It is all a bit rustic though, and not really suitable to, probably not intended to, replace that silky smooth chrome finish. I'll be in the minority on here when I say I prefer a good chrome tanned aniline over just about any leather currently available. My personal ideal are those sharp, glassily polished city shoes you see in old black and white photos from the belle epoch, though I've yet to find a veg tan that makes up like that and wears like a chrome does. The problem chrome tanning faces now is the legal element - all those Freudenberg calfskins of the past that are held up as a benchmark were chrome tanned, and as supple, stretchy and alive as you could want. You can't make those now, apparently the choicest chrome isotopes that were used back then are no longer permitted and less desirable but environmentally safer variants are now used, at least that's what Weinhiemer told me. Maybe that's why I'm seeing more of a push for veg tan offerings, with a bit of luck we'll get to see some of this veg leather of old reappearing one day.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
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  15. j ingevaldsson

    j ingevaldsson Senior member

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    ^^^Interesting thread and interesting and informative discussions of lately!

    Regarding crust mostly being veg tanned, I don't believe that to be the case, most crust leathers are also chrome tanned. Also in Italy, although they use more leathers that are first chrome tanned and then veg re tanned. We use a lot of those for the Italian brand I'm working for, and it has some great properties, but I have to say that the full chrome tanned leather we use is preferable in most ways when it comes to suppleness and overall quality (for example the veg re tanned tenned to easily get small cracks in the finish, don't know if it's just the ones we use, they are from two different tanneries, or if it's an overall thing with veg re tanned).
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
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  16. shoefan

    shoefan Senior member

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    The puckering comes from the lasting of the toe -- when you go around the toe, there is excess leather that needs to be 'chased' away from the edge and into the interior of the insole. That can be a fair amount of work and, with a thicker leather, a bit of a challenge, but (obviously) makers know how to do this, as most shoes/boots, including those made from heavier leathers, don't demonstrate this flaw.

    More troubling are the visible inseam stitches. This would appear to be the result of two factors -- the length of the stitches and the tightness of each stitch. When you are inseaming around the toe, you have to really crowd the awl holes in the inside portion of the insole, because the stitches get much further apart where they pierce the welt (due to the nature of a curved toe -- the inside curve is much shorter than the outside curve). If you don't do this, the stitches in the welt are long -- in this shoe, I'm guessing the stitches are 1/2 inch long. The best practice is around 1/4" - 1/3". Also, when you inseam, you need to pull the stitches in really hard to tighten the welt and upper down to the insole. Finally, if the toe hasn't been well lasted, there may be a bit of excess material in the toe. All of that combined means it can be a bit challenging to really tighten the welt and upper down while also avoiding tearing through the holdfast.

    To me, those grinning stitches makes these shoes unacceptable.
     
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  17. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Regarding veg tans...I'm not saying you're wrong because you're not. I like using veg when I can get decent leathers and finishes. But I mostly I use chrome. Most of the kangaroo I use is chrome and it is gorgeous. And I use Annonay French calf when I can get it in preference to almost anything else and it is one of my premium offerings.

    That said, I think it is a little "incomplete" or backward to extol chrome tans or diss veg tans without looking objectively at their strengths and weaknesses. And veg tans are getting better and better.

    The St. Crispin Calf that AA Crack carries is veg tan, for instance. and though I wish it were heavier, it seems a fine leather....although without that heavy glazed surface that characterizes many chrome tans.

    It also should be noted that many of the leathers so revered here are either veg or veg retans. Both the vintage and the contemporary Russia calf as an example.

    And, by some definitions, all that veg tanned lining leather is really just crust. [Parenthetically, I've never seen any real problem with it cracking, but you would think that would be a real problem inside the shoe if it were a major weakness of veg tanned leather itself. ]

    With regard to crust being veg or not...I don't know. We don't get much crust...if any...in the States. (That's why I qualified my remarks with "AFAIK.") But I have crust that was sent to me from Europe...the UK I believe (thanks @shoefan)...and it is veg. And when you get right down to it, the St. Crispin Baby Calf is just pre-dyed crust. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a chrome crust suitable for making shoes. (Doesn't mean there isn't any or that you're wrong just that I haven't seen it. )

    I am sure both @ntempleman and @j ingevaldsson know more about what is available and choice in Europe and the UK than I do.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
  18. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    @Threeputt, @shoefan

    I agree with everything you have said, shoefan. And well said it was, too.

    re: the stitch length--this is an issue I just addressed recently in another thread. Inseaming at 2spi is not "best practices" by any definition and certainly not Traditional. And this photo is an excellent example of why it is not best practices.With good insole shoulder a competent maker can inseam at 4 or even 5 spi and it makes for a tighter and better looking and more reliable inseam.

    Of course...to underscore your other remark...the stitches have to be pulled really tight to draw the leather into the feather and a good rosin based handwax must be used to prevent slipping of the stitches. All the good handwax I've ever seen, both commercially made and made by respected masters, was black (or technically bronze) from the pitch in the wax. I am always suspicious of white hand wax...I've only seen rare examples of "summer wax" being anywhere near as tacky as winter wax. Of course, the "grinning" of white threads could also be simply a sign of very little, or no, wax.

    Some of the "puckering" is residual tool marks from the awl, in my estimation (been there, done that bought the t-shirt), but much of it is, as you say, simply improper lasting.

    Some of the hardest leathers to last are the reptiles .Especially around a very narrow toe. The leather is stiff...each "tile" a dense, hard plate... and eliminating the pipes and wrinkles can be very difficult. But it can be done. If the toe is properly "wiped," even shoes or boots with very narrow toes (cockroach corner killers) can be successfully lasted with no sign of the "surplus army goods" that has to be dealt with in the toe.

    And on a shoe with a wide round toe...my own personal opinion is that such puckering is not only entirely avoidable but an indication of a shortfall of skill and / or experience. It is not happenstance.

    When we look at the issues of stitch length, the wax, and the lasting--three relatively isolated, insignificant techniques--it becomes clear why the Traditions are Traditions and why "Best Practices' make a difference.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
  19. j ingevaldsson

    j ingevaldsson Senior member

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    ^^^DWF, did you make shoes in St Crispin's Babycalf? Curious, when I was at Janne we made the shoe in that leather, and it was super supple and sweet to touch, but extremely sensitive to most everything. Janne hated working with it :) And I've heard similar things from others, Meccariello being one if I remember correctly, who also found it very sensitive and hard to work with. My shoes got wrecked due to the last factory making faulty lasts, and I chose other leather for the remake pair, so never got to experience how the StC Babycalf held up in use.

    There's some great clean crust chrome tanned leather from both France and Italy, but it's more common to use pre-coloured crust hides with a base colour applied on the entire skin. Also for patina, many use hides that are pre-coloured I believe, but then in a tan color.
     
  20. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I recall the problems you had. Whether that was an inherent character of the leather or just a one time problem, I don't know. I wasn't there. It's a "word to the wise," for sure.

    I have a small stock of it on the shelves but have not gotten around to using it. That said, I thought it might be a bit delicate...mostly because it is a little thinner than i like for men's shoes...but didn't really have any other reservations.

    I use a lot of veg and veg retan. I line all my Full Wellingtons with a 3 ounce veg. To block a three ounce veg leather....and the blocking is a bit extreme for the front of a "long work" boot...requires some caution and finesse. Bottom line is that I don't think you can treat veg like you treat chrome...it doesn't have the elasticity, for one thing.

    And, yes, I know Janne hates it. No disrespect meant, but it doesn't really signify--I hate working with shell. What does that mean?

    Who knows? I've got several pairs of shoes in my field of vision that I am thinking of using the St. Crispin for...I might very well end up red faced.

    --
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016

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