Gotham: Part 2

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.

With Gotham lasted and dry, I removed the nails at the heel and trimmed off the excess. To my aid I had my sharp old friend Erik Anton Berg from 1946, in pristine condition…

trimming heels.jpg

I pegged a rand/welt combo piece onto the shoe, with the pegs going rather high into the waist. Then I hand welted the shoe. I still use this combination technique of rand and welt as I like the endless excess you can create with this method – I guess it gives me confidence. It may waste leather, but it also produces a seamless transition between rand and welt. The combo piece was made out of 5 oz veg tanned shoulder.

hand welted.jpg

As far as I can deem, the result was satisfactory pertaining to durability as well as the aesthetics of the feather edge. (And yes, that is a lot of excess welt. Hence, a lot of confidence for a self-taught amateur.)

hand welted shoe.jpg

Like with my last shoe Lisa, I used only one layer of 6 mm sheet cork to fill the footbed. I’ve previously used three layers of 2 mm sheet cork, and have then had to put an extra layer of skived leather into the toe area to even the surface out. Not this time – the one 6 mm layer covered the thickness required perfectly. (The black edges here and there isn’t empty space, but black upper leather poking through the snug fit.) The plastic shanks were covered with vegetable tanned leather, trimmed and sanded to fit with the rand and cork filling.

corked footbed.jpg

Then came the outsole. I went for a thinner option of veg tanned calf butt (3.8 mm, 9-10 oz, or ca 7 iron). Gotham will have Vibram stick-on rubber outsoles, and I didn’t want to build the heels too high later on.

When it was time to sew, I for the first time used a home-made “nylon solution” to do the work. I’d like to say I made nylon bristles, but I couldn’t quite work out how to do bristles. With my limited patience in the heat of the moment, I bluntly knotted some nylon fishing line to the 1 mm waxed polyester thread and went to work.

The only fishing line I had readily available at home was rather thin, which made it slightly tricky to guide through the holes. Still, I found it much easier than using curved needles around the waist area. For my next pair, I aim to pick up some slightly thicker nylon fishing line (and hopefully learn how to make bristles).

outsole stitch.jpg

With the outsole sewn, it was time to build heels. I used 5-6 oz veg tanned split shoulder for the horse-shoe shaped second rand, 9 oz veg tanned shoulder for the heel lifts, and then the same 5-6 oz leather for the final heel lift to even out the height (before the top lift).

heel trimming.jpg

As usual, I sanded the edges with various sand papers after trimming, moistened the heels and outsole edge with warm water, hammered them, trimmed them with an edging tool, burnished them with wood, and burnished them again with gum thragacanth and a wood burnisher.

Then I applied some black vintage shoemaking wax to the heels and outsole edge. To get the wax to spread ‘evenly’ (even though it looks quite crackled on the heel at this point), I pre-heated the wax block on a regular tea light. Only ever so lightly: less than a second in the flame, then scrape off the half-molten wax onto the heel for a few seconds, then back to the flame, etc.

shoe heel wax.jpg

Then I heated up a heel iron to melt the wax with. Since my workshop is home-based, I use what I have at hand. Luckily, I have a Sievert burner in the kitchen (which is an amazing tool for melting cheese – or anything – at instant speed, or torching raw salmon directly on the plate). After about 8 seconds in the flame, the heel iron was well hot. (I know the heel iron is usually used at a vertical angle on the heel – I took the image below while working around the rubber of the JR top lifts.)

edge iron.jpg

The steps above left the heels and sole edges in a terrible looking state, with dried up molten wax splattered all over. To proceed, I simply used an old and ripped up cotton t-shirt (shout out to Fruit of the Loom), and rubbed the hell out of that wax.

polishing wax.jpg

Continue to the summary of the finished shoes »

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