attempt at leather shoes?

Discussion in 'Historical Re-enactment' started by Deferr, Jul 9, 2004.

  1. Deferr

    Deferr A big

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    With Gamigar (I'm his brother)
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    This question is aimed at anyone with more leatherworking experience than me (more than a year). I'm new around these parts but have made two pair of successful all leather flip flops that I'm very proud of and plan on posting pictures of when i get the chance. Anyways my question is I'm interested in making shoes. Not medieveal style shoes but leather shoes i could wear around. Upon examining my brown leather shoes I bought from the store i noticed that the leather on the toe was very tough and thick and somehow was curved and then hardened into a shoe shape. How would one go about shaping this out of one piece of leather. Any help in experience or places where i could find out about shoe construction would be great. I'm hoping to challenge myself.
     
  2. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Western North Carolina
    Ratings:
    +5 / 0 / -0
    Deferr,
    Somewhat complicated question there. First off, if you get leather wet you can form it. If you get it wet and hot, i.e. put it in very hot (not boiling) water for a few minutes it becomes all most rubbery and is very easy to form. However, if you use the heat/wet technique when the leather dries it will be very stiff. Typically modern shoes, since the colonial days, are built on wooden lasts. The shoe maker, using a special pair of pliers that have smooth jaws, pulls the leather around the last then nails it to the bottom of the last (where the sole would be). After this is accomplished the leather is then stitched in place and the nails removed. From here the mid-soles and sole is attached. This assumes the shoe is made without a welt. Bass Wejums and Doc Martins are examples of welted shoes. It's where you can see the stitching around the sole of the shoe on the outside.

    The other part of the shoe that has to be reinforced is the heel. If you don't use a heel counter you will literaly walk right out of the shoes. A heel counter is nothing more than a stiff piece of leather in a somewhat half round shape fitted around the inside of the heel of the shoe. Leather shops sell heel counters that have a bottom sewn in to them. Pick up any modern shoe and press around the heel. You can actually see the heel counter under the top leather.

    Making things to fit the human body is a challenge. The most challenging is gloves. Next most challenging is shoes. I made a pair of pull on Medieval style boots for me and my wife. My vamp (the part that goes over the forefoot) looked like the tip of a lead bullet. My wife's looked like the cap of a mushroom. When finished, both pairs of boots looked exactly the same.

    I've developed a trick for making a last of your foot (model of your foot). If you still want to make shoes, post here and I'll share. (I tend to write l-o-n-g responses!)
     
  3. Deferr

    Deferr A big

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    With Gamigar (I'm his brother)
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    Christophe,
    Yes I am definitely even more intrigued than before. Thanks for the help by the way. I have a few more specific questions. First of all I'm interested in which is easier shoes with a welt or without. I'm also interested in how you say that you make the lasts you're talking about. And the heel and toe area are there necessary reinforcements in the toe and heel or is it just formed and hardened leather. More specifics would be great or if you could point me in a direction where I could find information that would be awesome. This is an example of the kind of shoes that I am interested in constructing. http://www.zappos.com/n/p/dp/1033503/c/1596.html. I realize that me as a relatively inexperienced cobbler they will not be identical to this but these are the types of construction I'm interested in. Thank you very much and any help at all is awesome.
     
  4. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Western North Carolina
    Ratings:
    +5 / 0 / -0
    Deferr,
    For starters, the type of shoe you sent the link to is a welted shoe. Somewhat more difficult to make. You have to wet form the vamp, the part that goes over the forefoot, over the last, then stitch it to the midsole, the layers of leather between the shoe (your foot) and the actual sole material. In the case of your link, the thick shoe bottom with the tread on it. This basically means, for a finished shoe that will be very comfortable, choose your outer leather. Line this with a liner leather that is smooth, not split grain that is rough. Pig skin doesn't work here either as the hair side of pig skin is still rough. Then wet this layered piece of leather and form it over the last. Once you have it sewn to the midsole material you will need to put an inner foot bed in the shoe. This is a layer of leather between your foot and the midsole material. It will lift your foot above the seam created by the welt.

    The issue of making a last is really quite simple. But that's what they all say AFTER they figure it out! Put on the socks you will wear in the shoe. Cover your foot in plastic bags like you get from the grocery store. Using duct tape, tape the bag close to your foot. That is, tape out all the excess bag. Now completely cover your foot in duct tape. Actually you are covering the plastic bag around your foot. Be sure there are no gaps in the duct tape. Cut down the inside of the ankle just enough to slip your socked foot out of the duct taped bag. Now carefully duct tape this slit closed. Fill the duct tape foot with paster of paris. You can get this in hardware stores. It's used to patch holes in walls. Like spakle but dries much harder. Set the "foot" asside for about 3 or 4 days to dry completely. You now have a last of your exact foot.

    Now this method of making a last will work OK for a welted shoe. For a non-welted shoe it's more difficult because you have to nail the vamp down as you stretch it over the last. Plaster of paris tends to chip out when you nail into it. Instead of nailing, just sew the vamp. That is, stretch the leather over the last and sew it on the bottom, where the shoe sole would go. Takes a bit more time than the nailing method but works as well ultimately.

    For my period shoes I always put in a thick, 10 - 12 oz leather, midsole and a Vibram outter sole. The Vibram sole is the one used on Rockports and the like - no heel. Heels didn't come into shoes until about the late 1700's - 1800's, Henry VIII time frame.

    Now when you get to the point of having multipe midsole layers and the outter sole, let me know and I'll tell you how to get a nice clean edge like "them thar store bought" shoes. (Learned this trick from a cobbler.)

    BTW, a cobbler does not have the prestige of a cordwainer. Cordwainers make leather things from scratch, they create the items. Cobblers simply repair cordwainer things when they wear out. In period, cordwainers looked down on cobblers and they had two distinct guilds.
     
  5. Deferr

    Deferr A big

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    With Gamigar (I'm his brother)
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    Christophe,
    Thanks again forall the help! Hey I have created a diagram of how I desribe what you're talking about. I'm wondering if this is what you're talking about or if I'm mixed up somewhere or if I'm missing anything. I want to have a plan cemented in action before trying it with expensive leather.
     

    Attached Files:

    • shoe.bmp
      File size:
      206.9 KB
      Views:
      93
  6. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Western North Carolina
    Ratings:
    +5 / 0 / -0
    Deferr,
    You should be an architect or a draftsman. You have a great eye for putting words into pictures! That's the exact idea. Here is a link, http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/shoe/SHOEHOME.HTM, that talks at great length about making shoes. It is mostly focused on Medieval shoes but you will be able to see the relation to the making of modern shoes. It also does a great job explaining what a true welted shoe is. While I have never made a true welted shoe, I understand the process and see it as not terribly difficult. In fact, I see the hardest part as cutting that @#$%$#@&* triangular piece of leather used in the welt! The idea is that period shoes only lasted about three months at best. With the welt it helped to protect the stitching and thereby increased the use of the shoe. You may consider buying a yard or two of heavy denim material and making your shoe out of it first. It acts somewhat like leather and helps you to figure out what works and what doesn't at a considerable cheaper cost than leather. I often make a "first run" shoe out of denim first for this very reason. Then when finished, I cut up the denim shoe and have a great pattern for the leather one. Realize that denim will not stretch and take on the new form like leather will though.
     
  7. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Western North Carolina
    Ratings:
    +5 / 0 / -0
    Deferr,
    Just as an add on - You had asked previously how to harden the toe and heel. The toe on most dress shoes is not hardened. If you use leather of 6 oz or heavier it shoe be sufficiently hard/stiff for the task. Use a heel counter though for the reasons mentioned previously. It's easy to make one out of the same weight leather. Just cut a half round long enough to fit around your heel bone. Then glue it inside the shoe - techincally, and to look good, between the outter leather and the liner leather. BTW use Barge cement. It's what's used by the cobbler industry. You can get small tubes of it in crafts stores. It is fantastic leather cement. Let it dry at least one full day. When you try to separate the two pieces the leather will rip before the seam comes apart! Great stuff. Best when gluing rough side to rough side but also works smooth to rough, or smooth to smooth. A little scoring on smooth to smooth helps a great deal though.
     
  8. Deferr

    Deferr A big

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    With Gamigar (I'm his brother)
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    hey here are a few pictures of the second pair of sandal I made for Christophe (and whoever else may stop by) to see. most is self explanatory except for the picture of the bottom is to show how i cut a shallow groove in sole as a slot for the stitching to sit in so it wouldn't wear through as I walk on them. comment as you see fit
     

    Attached Files:

  9. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Western North Carolina
    Ratings:
    +5 / 0 / -0
    Deferr,
    NICE JOB!!! Cutting that groove in the bottom is a smart idea. If you look on the bottom of a pair of Bass Wejums or Cole Hans you will also see that groove. Classy. Like you say, it protects the stitching. As and idea for your next pair, you could get a set of Vibram soles, the kind used on Rockports, no heel, and make that the bottom piece. You would be gluing rough to rough so get a great bond. As the Vibram soles are rubber you would also get about 1/4 of padding. The Vibrams also have a tread so the sandals wouldn't be as slippery. I started doing this, Vibram soles, on my Medieval shoes while living in Florida. Stepping on oak leaves with a plain leather bottom shoe is worse that walking on glare ice with gum soled shoes!!!