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

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

  1. ecwy

    ecwy Well-Known Member

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    Thanks but the ribbing makes sense for gyw to attach the welt. I don't understand how it works with Norvegese though. There isn't any way that I know of to do a norvegese welt by machine.

    It also justifies why that model is so much more expensive.

    Anyway i was actually more curious about the insole preparation especially from a rtw maker. I'm just thinking why there isn't a machine invented that can create the holdfast (heresy in this thread i know).
     
  2. mw313

    mw313 Well-Known Member

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    I agree.
     
  3. Nikolaus

    Nikolaus Well-Known Member

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    I have a question regarding the finishing.

    In the centuries past the finishing of leather shoes and especially the boots was considered an important part of shoe/boot making art.
    Once the boot was made it went through a very laborious process that was also very dirty; making a Santa descend through the main hearth chimney leaving considerably less marks, wax calf aside.
    How it's done today, with modern chemistry?

    After a black or a chestnut boot is made, does the shoemaker treat it with a conditioner, how many cream layers and polish (wax) layers?
    Some use alcohol based pigments made "in house", some Saphir products.

    How would it look like? For a Wellington or a riding boot made of first grade thick leather.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016
  4. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    ^ Not all boots and shoes were finished with chimney black--that was generally reserved for what was known as 'waxed calf"-- a vegetable tanned best grade "Best India Kip" that was stuffed with lanolin and cod oil and left to "cure" for up to a year. The flesh was then scrubbed with a lye soap and impregnated with chimney black (pure carbon) and then burnished to a mirror shine with flour paste.

    Granted, there was a time when most men's shoes and boots, esp. for utility...were made of such leather. But concurrent with such work, boots and shoes of finer leather were made...esp. for women.

    Today there may be no one in the world making this type of waxed flesh leather the way it was Traditionally done. Some tanners/curriers offer facsimiles...reasonable or not. Usually based on veg or veg retanned cowhides, aniline dye, and a solvent based lacquer finish applied over the flesh.

    As for "what it would look like," I made my own "waxed calf" at one point using a Traditional recipe for the stuffing...omitting the extended curing time...and using an aniline dye instead of the Traditional chimney black and lye soap. No lacquer.

    The results were acceptable...although perhaps not exemplary...although certainly better than the common commercial offering.

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. Nikolaus

    Nikolaus Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the picture DWF-II [​IMG] the boots surely look as an exposition piece on historic footwear.

    The modern leathers used for bootmaking, how do you treat them? only a few layers of paste and wax, or are there special methods for the first creaming?
     
  6. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    I don't use modern iterations of waxed calf much, but since the finish is generally lacquer based, when I do use them, I just treat the leather like an ordinary finished calf. Keep them clean and occasional applications of Bick4 and occasional cream or paste wax if colour has been lost. And regular, even frequent brushing.

    I still have some old-timey waxed calf, bought and paid for by customers. But they don't want the Traditional mirror shine that comes with burnishing the whole boot by hand with wheat paste. So I let them satisfy themselves in that regard...mostly they use something like Montana Pitch Blend and call it a day.
     
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  7. Zapasman

    Zapasman Well-Known Member

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    I am not fun at all of mirror shine, but could you please post a pic of that kind of finishing to see how it looks like?
     
  8. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    You'd have to go to a museum or perhaps Colonial Williamsburg to see what it looks like. I've done it but have no photos and as Nikolaus said, it is dirty, dirty work if done from scratch as the Traditional recipes call for. Once upon a time shoemakers were divided into two camps--men's work and women's work. A maker doing man's work--using waxed calf was ne3ver allowed to do women's work , which often involved delicate brocades and silks etc.. The men's work makers had so much chimney black on their tools, under their fingernails, and deeply embedded in their finger prints and their aprons that they would have irreparably soiled any fine work.
     
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  9. Zapasman

    Zapasman Well-Known Member

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    I see. Glad to see things have changed at least in some countries !!. Thanks.
     
  10. Nikolaus

    Nikolaus Well-Known Member

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    ohh, and was hoping there were still some hidden recipes for that final stage, when you cream and polish a new made boot for the first time [​IMG]
    The waxed calf has gone out of favour a century ago; that thing was really, well saying it to the point, the maintenance would scare even Cruella De Ville.
    The only practical aspect of that thing was the scratches issue; the boot was always like new after it was bone-smoothed.

    The modern French Calf leathers are easy to maintain, however hiding the scratches with layers of shoe paste or other high-resin scratch-hiding paste products is just non effective; so even if boots are a symbol of sturdiness, one has to dance in them like if made of satin (and then you get a scratch from some hard decorative plastic in your car).
    I've just put a pair of my black boots through the "renovating" maintenance; Saphir RenoMat to remove the old layers and then 4 coats of Saphir paste; I think I'l have to apply one more layer of cream before putting on the wax (polish). Some work; 1 hour for each coat. And there was this small cut I've got in my city car; grrr.

    The worst part of it all is that the art of bootmaking is disappearing. My last boots were made in Germany; now they don't make them anymore; they've even got rid of the equipment.
    Asked the Italians; they warned me, that they would base them on a shoe and that the result might be slightly different from my expectations.
    Now one has to travel to Rome, where there is one master left, or go to England to visit Horace Batten. Practically one has to travel across half Europe for a pair of walking boots (not riding).
    At least Hollywood saved the Western boot in The States.
     
  11. ecwy

    ecwy Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]


    http://scontent.cdninstagram.com/t50.2886-16/13347517_762206953921164_156046590_n.mp4

    Mystery partially solved? Looks like some leather rib of sorts similar to their GYW models?
     
  12. Nick V.

    Nick V. Well-Known Member

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  13. bdavro23

    bdavro23 Well-Known Member

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    I have been wondering what, if any, part the upper plays in providing arch support. Is support a function of the insole construction or can a narrow waist provide some additional structure to support the inner arch?
     
  14. bdavro23

    bdavro23 Well-Known Member

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    While I am wondering things...

    Is it possible to relast a handwelted shoe to a narrower or wider width? How about shorter or longer? I ask because conceivably one could keep and wear a pair of shoes for 20 or more years. During the course of that time, the foot may change. Thoughts on this for the uneducated?

    Calling @DWFII and other professionals to chime in. Thanks!
     
  15. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I think the upper...or at least the way it fits....does have at least a small role to play in foot and arch support.

    Of course, if the foot is damaged or just inherently incapable of supporting itself, nothing will help short of a purpose-made arch sup[port.

    And esp. in such circumstances, the width of the waist of the insole is almost immaterial.
     
  16. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    If a hand welted shoe can be relasted, it can be rewelted. This generally means shorter and narrower can be done but longer and / or wider, not so easy.

    Of course, both operations need a suitable last and a new insole.
     
  17. bdavro23

    bdavro23 Well-Known Member

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    Interesting, thank you.
     
  18. ecwy

    ecwy Well-Known Member

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    Wouldn't the pattern be affected? How do you ensure the proportions stay correct?

    Thanks
     
  19. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    Yes, of course. If the shoe is relasted on a shorter and / or narrower last...or a longer and / or wider last... the pattern will be affected and the shoe will not sit on the last the way it sat on the original last. And probably just as importantly, the proportions will be thrown off.

    But no one asked if it's a good idea...only if it could be done.

    I even relasted several pair of boots...making them longer and a bit roomier in the toe... that I made for myself when I was a lot younger and my feet more compact (feet generally get longer and narrower as we age, unless we simultaneously put on weight). To relast a pair of hand-welted boots or shoes on a larger last (in any dimension) is a fairly difficult business and nothing is guaranteed.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2016
  20. Steven Cash

    Steven Cash Well-Known Member

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    I have two questions.

    1)I have heard a lot of talk regarding the science involved in using the correct cut and orientation of leather for specific parts of the shoe in bespoke making as different parts of the hide have different characteristics and obviously different parts of the shoe require different qualities. Does this mean that a wholecut is an inferior design or are we splitting hairs with the whole "this cut is best for this part" and in reality as long as quality leather is used there is no "issue"?

    2)I have seen the term "notched heel" in reference to where the heel stack is wider than the waist and is stepped. This is apparently common in Japanese bespoke however I have quickly googled this but could not find the link. The pair I saw was a bespoke George Cleverly wholecut in crocodile (gorgeous shoes).

    I wonder what the additional skill or benefit involved in this would be over smoothing the waist in line with the heel stack. I must say I find it looks nice but that may be because I have only ever seen it done on very top end shoes.
     

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