List of materials for shoemaking
On this page, I will tally the things I’ve obtained to get started making shoes at home. I’ve tried to list the items somewhat in ‘order of appearance’. This list is under construction so some items may be missing. This is not to be viewed as any ‘complete guide’ to shoemaking materials – it’s only a list of what I got to first get started, from scratch.
It all starts here – without lasts, one can’t really start working. To get started quickly, I obtained one pair of vintage lasts from ebay for a small price. I also ordered the production of a new pair from Springline. Springline takes around three weeks to manufacture new lasts, plus delivery time, but it is well worth the wait. I steered clear from plating underneath – a lot of vintage lasts on ebay will have metal plates beneath the lasts which prevents nails from being pounded into the lasts. I would strongly recommend Springline lasts. Their sizing is true, at least in my experience. If your ready-to-wear size is UK10F in say Crockett & Jones, chances are you will have it in Springlines own last range as well.
Regular, eggshell masking tape, available everywhere. I got mine from Swedish Bauhaus. I currently use 30 mm width.
To draw the patterns on the lasts, I first use a regular graphite pen (easily erased) and one 0,3 mm fine ink pen. Once satisfied with the pattern drawn in graphite, I fill it in with the ink pen to make it look sharp and clear. Pens are available everywhere.
Any ol’ erasing rubber that takes off graphite without leaving ugly traces will do.
Easy to obtain. I bought mine in store from Swedish Ohlssons tyger.
I got a snap-off blade knife from Swedish Bauhaus. Knives is a chapter of it’s own when it comes to working with leather, but a regular snap-off knife (with a couple of replacement blades loaded) is enough to get started.
Self-healing cutting mats are ideal, but I started out with a regular 2€ cutting board from IKEA. (This is to be considered a ‘disposable cutting board’, as it will not outlast the making of one pair of shoes. Cheap plastic cutting boards may also be used for punching out brouging holes. (That will eat through cutting boards.)
Marble skiving board
When starting out, I found that it was agonizing, uncomfortable and unnecessarily difficult to try and skive leather on a plastic cutting board. Having a smooth marble board to skive on made all the difference. Marble boards are usually available from kitchen equipment stores.
The cardboard needs to be flexible and just the right weight (not too thin or thick), as it’s used to make pattern shapes to place on the leather. I bought mine from Swedish Panduro.
Most people already have scissors at home, but this still deserves a mention. I use a small one from Fiskars.
This is a big one. Leather is used for uppers, lining, beading, toe puff, heel counter, side-stiffeners, insoles, welt, rand, outsoles and heels… Which is pretty much the entire shoe. For many (but not all) of these parts, different types of leather is needed. I figure that one needs at the very least four different types of leather to make a shoe, but usually around 5-7 different types. (My personal record is 12 different leather types in one shoe, of which only 2 types were used as upper leather.) See my separate page on this blog with my current thoughts about choosing leather.
Leather dye (optional)
This is relevant only if you want to dye the leather yourself. I personally have only dyed vegetable tanned leather, with dyes like Fiebing’s Pro Dye. I hear good things about Saphir teinture francaise for chrome tanned crust, but haven’t tried it myself.
Extra daubers is handy for dying. I bought a big pack of Fiebings wool daubers off ebay, to use with the leather dye.
Needed to make holes for stitching. I bought vintage awls from ebay. (Search for “cobbler tools”, “awl” or similar).
Hole punches (for brouging)
While this is optional, most shoes will have some form of brouging on them.
I bought a 10 piece set off ebay, from 1 mm to 10 mm.
For closing the upper, ie stitching the pieces of upper leather together.
Readily available, I bought sewing needles in store from Swedish Ohlssons tyger.
Used to close the uppers. For hand sewing, I’ve used bonded nylon. For machine sewing, I use Amann Serafil 40s.
Used to close the uppers – I use Renia Gummilösung.
Universal contact cement
I mainly use Kövulfix and Casco contact cement, depending on my mood and on the job. (Kövulfix straight from a jar with a toothbrush for attaching big stuff like outsoles, and either Kövulfix from a small tube or Casco from a tube for cementing smaller jobs.)
Cheap toothbrush (or equivalent)
For applying contact cement from a jar onto the shoe and outsoles. (Don’t use your own toothbrush.) I get big packs of cheap toothbrushes that I wouldn’t dream of letting touch my teeth.
Various kinds and pliers are available online. I have tried a ton of different types with much agony, and have settled to kind of like YKK eyelets with the YKK eyelet pliers. Then again, the most elegant dress shoes do not have any visible eyelets.
Just regular needle-nose pliers will suffice for a first project – I got mine in store from Swedish Clas Ohlson. I also got a vintage pair of lasting pliers from ebay, which I really love to use. I’d recommend having at least two sizes: one narrow and one slightly broad.
If you’re only going to buy one type of nail, I think it should be blackbird nails. This nail can be used for lots of stuff, but it’s the best nail I’ve found for lasting.
Beginning with the hammer I have at home, I’ve also purchased a George Barnsley No. 3 hammer from ebay. There’s also reasonably priced shoemaker hammers out there, like this one from DS-leder (which is the one I mainly use today).
For using on the lasts before lasting. I use Dialon body powder from Swedish Apoteket.
Hirschkleber shoemakers paste is used for inserting the toe puff and heel counter, as well as (potentially) between the heel lifts. I bought my jar from ds-leder.de, a German site not available in other languages, and it arrived within a week from ordering.
Wooden pegs was one of the harder things to find when I first got started. Andrew Wrigley uses Blau Ring wooden pegs, so I thought I might as well. I couldn’t find an easy way to get them to Sweden, and ended up ordering them from Panhandle Leather, even though they don’t normally ship internationally.
Cork paste, cork sheet or tar felt
Used for filling the foot bed. I started with 2 mm sheet cork. Nowadays I mostly use tar felt, or cork paste filler for experiment shoes.
Optional for stitching the welt and sole, I got mine in store from Swedish Ohlssons tyger.
Waxed polyester thread
For sewing the welt and outsole, I got mine from ebay.
Every shoe needs a shank. I usually use plastic or metal shanks from Leather & Grindery.
Unless you’re consciously going for 100% leather heels, having 1/4 rubber top lifts is recommended. I got my J. Rendenbach top lifts from Leather & Grindery.
Used for finishing the outsole edges. I first got powdered gum thrag from Swedish retailer Kakburken.se (a powder you mix with water yourself), and then realized there’s a pre-mixed option from Fiebing’s.
- Lasting pincers – I bought a vintage George Barnsley No. 2 from ebay.
- Pricking wheel – to mark stitches. I’ve bought several vintage pricking wheels from ebay.
- Fudge wheel – for decoration. I’ve bought vintage fudge wheels from ebay.
- Edging tool – for clean outsole edges. I’ve bought two; one of which is from artisanleather.co.uk.
- Pre-made soles – instead of buying whole butts or bends to make outsoles, it’s possible to buy cut out pieces of vegetable tanned outsole leather. I bougt JR Rendenbach full leather outsoles, 9 iron, from Leather & Grindery. They also have budget options, heel blocks, top lifts, etc.
- Etc. etc. – The sky’s the limit.