Every now and then, you find yourself put in a position where you simply have to purchase a tool, no matter what the price. I was fortunate enough to find a smith who was making pinking punches and chisels, and requested a zig-zag blade if that was possible. Not only did he make one, but he made one exactly according to my specifications, and that matches the period example that I was going for perfectly! Below, you can see a picture of the punch, and next to that, an image of the 1600s Ashmolean shoes that we know and love. I am so thrilled to finally be able to replicate these with a zig-zag punch, as was originally intended. If you are interested in pinking punches or chisels, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I will gladly put you in contact with the smith.
Archive for the ‘Learned’ Category
As you might imagine, specialty tools used in shoemaking are getting harder and harder to come by. Although there are some makers out there who do sell the real deal, there is also a real price tag to go with it. As a result, every now and then you luck out and find a cache of awls or tools that turns out to be incredibly valuable. For example, last year, I was able to find a whole box of about 80 inseaming awls. Recently, I just discovered a box of about 40 square awls, which seem to be very suitable for outsoling, possibly even for 18th century ladies’ shoes, which require very fine stitching. If you have an old box of awls picking up dust in your basement or garage, drop us a note and let us at them!
In the past two weekends, I hosted a three-day Renaissance Shoemaking workshop. I had both beginners who had never held an awl before as well as some who had made a few pairs of shoes already. In general, I think the class was an excellent success. The students all learned a great deal, and I even came away with some improvements in my technique. Here is a shot of everyone with one of their finished shoes.
We started the workshop off by choosing appropriate lasts and modifying them to fit each student’s feet.
As part of shoemaking, when closing an upper or inseaming, one has to pull two ends of your stitching cord tight. Many of the illustrations show a shoemaker in the process of swinging their arms out to pull their stitches tight. But, as you might imagine, this repeated action of pulling tightly on stitching cords against bare skin can wear down the skin, causing blisters and cuts. The palm, or hand leather, is typically worn on the left hand and is used protect the shoemaker from the constant stress of tugging stitches tight. In this 16th Century German sculpture of St. Crispin and St. Crispianus, altar figures from the shoemaker’s altar in the Marien Church in Delitzsch, a palm is visible on the left hand (what may look like a narrow palm on the right is actually the cuff of the sleeve).
Interestingly enough, evidence for hand leathers in the medieval arena is somewhat scant.