Disclaimer: This post contains a very old attempt at shoemaking, during the very beginning of my journey. I really didn’t know what I was doing at this time, and the post is left online for archive purposes only. Please do not “learn” anything from it, as the post is certainly riddled with mistakes. It’s just a documentation on some of my thoughts as a beginner in this venture. For a more updated view of my shoemaking, please see my latest posts instead.
This week, I’ve had vacation from my day job. Since I’ve primarily spent the free time in my secret workshop, Waxholm has been coming along nicely. I estimate that the shoes will have taken around 65 hours in total by the time they are done, but no more than 70.
After lasting was completed, it was time to remove the nails from the heel area and put a rand on. The ink line is a tracing for the wooden pegs. I tried drawing the line as far towards the outer perimiter as possible, without being visible from the outside of the shoe.
Once the rands were pegged tight, with two rows of wooden pegs and a symbolic drop of wood glue in each hole, it was time to welt the shoe. I really like my curved awl for this task.
After welting came the corking. The footbed was filled with three layers of 2 mm sheet cork, stuck with contact cement. I put a shank in, and covered the shank with three layers of vegetable tanned leather, each layer slimmer than the one before. The first two layers are 4 oz (1,6 mm) while the third strip is 5 oz (2 mm), skived to be just a long tip. This will not produce a fiddleback, but it should provide a nice bevelled waist. (As preparation for the waist area, I also cut and sanded the outsoles down on the nap side of the waist.)
It’s often a good idea to plan ahead while making shoes, I have found. Hence, I made the heel lifts at this stage by putting together five layers of 5 oz veg tanned shoulder with Hirschkleber. I purpousely didn’t press them with a clamp, as I’ve found that makes them too level. If they instead maintain an ever so slight curvature, it will be easier to get them to connect nicely to the slight curvature of the outsole.
I later found that even though they are quite slender as far as heel lifts go at 2 mm per layer, five layers of lifts would be too much for this shoe unless I’d skip the 1/4 rubber top lift and go for an all leather heel. While an all leather heel sounds romantic, I do want that 1/4 rubber top lift – mainly for the superior durability, but also due to vanity (as the top lifts are JR branded). Before putting these on, I tore off two layers per block with a cobbler pliers, one layer at a time.
Then it was time to cement the outsole onto the shoe. I used a healthy amount of Kövulfix, applied straight from the jar with a toothbrush, and let it cure for a good while before attaching. The outsole was then firmly hammered into place. Once dry, I cut it down together with the welt, to an appropriate size for welting. There needs to be enough excess to allow for sanding the edges later on, but leaving too much excess will make opening a flap under the outsole very difficult. As this balance is a question of around a millimeter, I cut it very carefully – holding the shoe with the left hand and using small, drawing motions with the knife in my right hand.
I opened a channel from the outside and in, to a much better result than my previous attempt on Wenngarn. I did slip up, once per shoe, but as far as mistakes go when opening an outsole flap they were very forgiving. The worst flap on this pair still turned out a good deal better than the best flap on Wenngarn. It was very close to being a flawless result on both shoes, which is what I’ll aim for next time.
With the outsoles welted and the channels closed with cement, I put on a horse-shoe shaped second rand (5 oz veg tanned), as well as the heel lifts. I pegged the lifts to the second rand and outsole with two rows of wooden pegs. Through the heel lifts, second rand and outsole, there’s a good amount of room to the inner layer of pegs on the first rand, so I could pound away with confidence. At this stage, I found it important to make a trace for the outer row before putting the pegs in, as a lot of heel will be cut off.
With the heel blocks in place, I carved the edges and heels down with a knife to where they need to be before sanding and finishing. (Note the difference of leather left around the pegs.) I’m now getting ready to nail on the top lifts and finish the shoes. Instead of going straight at it, I decided to experiment with dying the outsole a bit. This is several layers of Fiebing’s medium brown, still almost black looking before it’s fully dried.
How this all turns out will be shown in the summary, when Waxholm is ready to go out into the world.
Continue reading the Summary of the finished shoes ⇨