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 shoe 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 learn 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!
Archive for the ‘Learned’ Category
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.
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.