Your Shoe In The Making

The many advantages of the hand made-to-measure boot or shoe over its factory ready-made counterpart are too self-evident to need description but the skill and care which go to the making of such footwear and the great individuality of, and reason for, each operation in its construction is not often appreciated; it is hoped therefore that the following brief notes may be of interest.

Measures are taken either direct from the foot or from a well-fitting comfortable worn shoe. In both cases the measures are interpreted by the fitter whose trained fingers can tell from the foot its distinctive features who ore whose practised eye can read the story told by used shoe. Oscar Ashe, in The Cobbler’s Song from Chu Chin Chow, wrote:-

And as I cobble with needle and thread
I judge the world by the way we tread,
Toes turned out and toes turned in,
There’s food for thought in a sandal skin.

And doubtless appreciated the truth of this. The care and experience of the fitter determine the success or failure of the operations which follow.

The skin or hide is selected by the Clicker, who bears in mind the type of shoe to be made and the weight and individuality of its wearer. Great skill is necessary in cutting out (clicking) from the chosen skin the pieces best suited to the particular part of the uppers which they are to form. No less than eight pieces of upper leather alone are used for one shoe of the simplest type – and each of these are selected for colour, grain and weight. Good Clicking ensures the use of correctly selected leather to that the best advantage, and this results in the best possible uppers.

Lasts are made by hand by the Last Maker from the world of Hornbeam, Beach or Maple every customer has his own lasts made from four basic measurements, details of any peculiarities that may have been noted being especially considered.

First, the last is roughed out with a special knife, then it is rasped down to more accurate measurements and finely sandpapered down to the desired shape and size, all surfaces including the underside conforming to the contours of the foot. An accurately made last is the first essential to combine comfort with a good appearance.

Paper patterns of the pieces of leather which are to form the uppers are made with the aid of the lasts and these patterns are used by the Closer to cut the several pieces of upper leather to their exact and final shape. This craftsman then sews these pieces together, incorporating all the necessary linings, stiffness, tongue, etc., so that they fit over the last, thus forming the upper in its correct shape and proportions. Good closing more than any other single operation gives lasting distinction to the handmade boot or shoe.

The Maker completes the you by putting on the sole and heel; the mellowed dampened inner sole is moulded to the bottom of the last and the uppers, linings, stiffness, etc., comprising several thicknesses, are sewn to this and to the “welt” – a narrow strip of leather running round the front part of the shoe. This entails “lasting”, i.e. drawing very taut every part of the uppers, keeping them close to the wood of the last and finally securing them. The sole, in a moist condition, is then stitched to the welt with a wax thread comprised of a number of strands of either hemp or flax, the exact number depending on the type of shoe. It is interesting to note that the length of each stitchin the welt is governed by the weight of the soul and upper – only the correct number to the inch giving maximum strength and either more or less stitches resulting in a weaker shoe.

Finally the leather heel is built up piece by piece with rivets and the last, which is in two parts, removed from the shoe. It is the maker’s task to ensure the strongest union of sole and upper and in doing so, to use the fullest advantage the skilful workmanship that has preceded his own.

All that remains is to punch the eyelet holes smooth out the inner sole and cover with a thin sock, and apply the first polish to the dress leather.

Such are the chief processes resulting in the production of boots and shoes which combine comfort and good appearance with long wear; only natural aptitude and long experience can produce the craftsman capable of carrying out work of the highest merit.

Upper Leathers are obtained from a very few specialist Leather Merchants whom we have dealt with for a great many years. This enables them to cater for our exact requirements.

At any one time we were able to offer a minimum choice of 50 different kinds of leathers. Given sufficient notice on the dimensions will seek out special skins if required. Our leathers come from many parts the world where different processes are carried out by experts in the country of origin.

Sole Leathers The best is Oak-Bark, English tanned, and this is used in all our boots and shoes.

Trees are handmade to fit the individual boot or shoe. They greatly assist in prolonging the appearance and life of all footwear and also facilitate cleaning.

Hollow-hinged shoe trees are the most popular and convenient when travelling but three-piece trees are more solid and better for home use. For very light-weight trees, extra hollowing can be done.


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