Bootmaking Week 4 and 5

posted in: WIP (work in progress) | 10

The boot making continues.

In week four we finished the lasting, and made our heels.

We had to work hard to get all the leather to fold over beautifully in the toe area. Again I used my dressmaker’s skills of easing and shaping, creating eight or nine little pleats over the toe area. As the leather is fairly tough this is best achieved by applying heat which softens the leather and makes the glue (which was applied seven days earlier) sticky again. Once this was done the three staples that we used to attach the insole to the last were removed because we will be taking the last out soon. Then the shoe is sanded down so that we don’t have a lumpy area under the toe, or anywhere else, a small rubber insert is added and then the shoe is sanded again.

Next we got to work on creating our soles and heels. The soles are bought ready-made, roughed up a little on the sanding machine and then cut to size with a particular “cookie cutter” in just the right size. The leather to cover the heels is also cut out at the same time with the same machine. The plastic heel form is covered in glue and we then wrapped the leather around the heel neatly pleating, cutting and tucking – you will have done these processes as you make collars for example.

You can see how I have a nice little pink tab on my boot, as I try out the heel for size, ready for attaching the sole.

Ladies boot making
Beginning to look like a boot

In week five we basically soled the shoes and attached the heels.

I enjoyed this bit of the process. First we stuck the heel to  the sole so that both can be attached at once. Attatching the sole to the back side of the heel was quite hard work as we had to get it into the curve. Then once everything was dry and recovered in even more glue we were at the stage of sticking the sole to the shoe. Both shoe and sole are warmed and while everything is flexible and sticky you have to get a good match of sole and shoe bottom. Then it all gets a good whack with the hammer.

The next step was so exciting as we got to remove the last. I hadn’t realised how the modern plastic lasts are jointed. The boot is put onto the stand that you can see above and the toe is pushed up with some force. The last “breaks” and with a bit of pushing and pulling it comes out of the shoe, which now feels very light!

Despite the surprisingly large amount of really strong glue, plus hammering I was really unsure how well the heel would fare, with just being stuck on. All those awful evenings came back to me where a heel had come off on a night out. Maybe it was just a 1970s thing but I remember the shame of walking home on one tip toe, with a kind of limp, caused by a heel becoming detached by a curb. I remember all my friends taking our shoes back to the shop if this happened on the first few wears. Does it still happen?

Anyway my fears were soon assuaged when Nafi, our tutor, took us into the workroom to attach our heels with a special heel nailing machine. This shoots six screw type nails into the heels up through the inside of the shoe. This is obviously what keep the shoe in one piece. One that was done I was able to whack in the heel cap with my hammer.

The men obviously were creating a different shape of boot. Here is Nick working first on the sander to create his sole so that there is about 1mm of sole visible on the outside. In the second picture he has created the heel with a piece of thick belly leather sandwiched in between two pieces of sole material.

Finally the men painted their heels black and spent some time polishing their shoes.

Next week, the final lesson, we create a sock for the inside of the shoe to make it comfortable and to cover up the inner workings. I can’t wait to try on the boots and show you what we have achieved!

10 Responses

  1. Mary Funt

    Very interesting process but probably not one I will try at home due to the need for all the specialized machines. Can home shoemakers buy time at the studio and use the equipment? I’m looking forward to seeing your completed boots.

  2. ceci

    Reading about all this glueing I’m thinking back to a couple of very nice pairs of shoes ruined by rain and snow. I didn’t realize how much depends on glue vs stitching……


  3. Brenda

    Wow! Wow! Your boot looks amazing and what an interesting process. It’s great to have all of the professional equipment available. Do you imagine making another pair of shoes?

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