Posts Tagged ‘learned’

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…


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.

Rare Swag from the Internets…

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

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!

Cover it with your apron…

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Many of the illustrations of the medieval and renaissance show shoemakers working without any visible form of apron to protect their clothes. However, as you get to the 15th and 16th centuries, aprons become more common, and once you are in the 17th century, one is hard pressed to find a shoemaker or cobbler without an apron. By the 18th century, it is documented as an essential part of the shoemaker’s kit in Garsault’s work on shoemaking. As such, let us focus on the earlier examples which are fewer and far between.

There are many tradeskills that require the use of an apron, from bakers, cooks, and black smiths, to name just a few. Their aprons differ from each other in some ways, but as this focus is on shoemakers, we will focus on evidence accordingly, but noting that other trades can often wear similar aprons. As a cookie, here is an image from the 1555 “Das Hausbuch der Mendelschen” in the Stadtbibliothek N├╝rnberg showing a waist-tied apron.

Most of the bona fide images of shoemaker’s aprons come from the 15th and 16th centuries, though the aprons styles reflected could also have been worn by other trade skills as mentioned above.