Archive for the ‘Learned’ Category

Currying Leather Properly…Part II

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

After looking at the four pieces, I discovered that there was something of a difference between the piece of leather that had been oiled on both sides rather than just the front, so I decided to go with just the one which had been oiled on both sides. For the tallow, there might have been a slight difference in tallowing leather that had been wet – it didn’t take the tallow as well. As a matter of course, you kind of want as much oil and grease in the leather as you can get, which will keep it in the best shape. So, dry is certainly the way to go, and you will get more tallow into it when dry.

I also noticed that to get a rather darker look than I was looking for, I had to apply a couple of coats of fish oil. I also found that if you dunked the leather in a bucket, it did NOT take the fish oil very well, so I ended up simply spritzing it down with a spray bottle and using a rag to apply the fish oil. Essentially, the dryer your leather is, the darker the oil will make it look. Dark leather is lovely, but you don’t want streaky dark leather, so I would err on the side of a bit of dampness and several applications. I let this leather sit for about three weeks, and although I am told that it is supposed to “jelly” up a little, I did not notice a significant difference. Possibly, I did not oil the leather enough. In any event, you can see below the leather I started with and how much darker it is now. Quite a difference!

However, tallowing made the leather beautifully supple and smooth – I cannot say at this time if the leather will retain its suppleness and smoothness over time or if the tallow will leech out too quickly, but I will be sure to keep you in the loop and update this post accordingly. From now on, all of my shoes will be at least tallowed, if I do not have the time to oil them as well. Neatfoot oil might have a similar effect, but it is modern, and I’d rather go for something that has some historical appeal to it. We are, after all, reproducing history!

Currying Leather Properly…Part I

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

It’s been a while since I posted something on the topic of actual shoemaking rather than just showing off finished products, and we’re long overdue. I’m going to talk a bit about currying leather.

It’s not what you think – I’m not going to the Indian market to pick up the proper spices. Nor am I performing a mathematical transformation of a function with multiple arguments into a chain of functions, each with a single argument. In fact, the verb “to curry” is actually much older, and comes from the 13th century, from the Middle English currayen, from Anglo-French cunreier or correier, which was to prepare, curry, from Vulgar Latin conredare. It means to dress tanned hides by soaking, scraping, beating, etc. in order to make them supple and resistant to water. So, how does one do this, exactly? First, a history lesson…

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1780s Shoes – Teaser Pics

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

I’ve been hard at work on a pair of 1780s shoes – I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but I thought that you deserved a teaser pic, at least! I’m modeling these on an old sample shoe that I was incredibly fortunate to get from one of the shoemakers at Colonial Williamsburg. These teaser pictures show the inside and outside strap closing stitches, at a modest 10 stitches per inch, just about what the sample shoe was measured at. This has been, by far, the most challenging piece for me to date, and I’ve learned an incredible amount over the past couple of weeks. As always, you also find our exactly how far you have yet to go, but if one never starts the process, one never improves. I look forward to writing up the actual lessons!


Zig-Zag Punch of Awesome

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

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.