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.
Posts Tagged ‘learned’
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!
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 Nürnberg 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.
Another essential tool (at least for me) used in many parts of the shoemaking process is the stirrup. The stirrup is basically a long, belt-like strap with a buckle in it to allow it to loosen and tighten. The idea is to act as a second pair of hands to hold something in place while you work on it. Let’s place the stirrup in historical context first, and then explain how I use it.
The earliest pictorial evidence of stirrup use that I know of is from the donor stained glass windows dated to 1205-1225 in the Chartres Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Both Marc Carlson and Larsdatter have several images of these and other images of shoemakers with (and without!) stirrups.
Many of the illustrations show the shoemaker strapping a shoe (or something – sometimes, we cannot tell) to the top of their knee or thigh, with the strap passing underneath the foot to provide tension.