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Shoes and Craft

A shoemaker's blog about shoemaking

Category Archives: Shoe Making Tutorials

Somewhere a wingtip derby take a special place in our heart, reserved for those day, when we need a little attention to our footwear. this will get that for sure. Recently I met a famous fashion designer – we have regularly some of those at the college I work for – and I have seen a Budapest shoe in his foot. Somehow it looked familiar. Shoes are just shoes for an untrained eye, but you cal tell if you had a closer contact with one. So I asked him, how does he likes his Budapest shoes? He was shocked that I know the name. Then I asked him: did you buy them from this and this company around 20 years ago? Yes, he said and seemed even more surprised. Then I described him how the sole looks like without taking a look and the little decoration which were at the side. Well, I was cheating – I was in that little Hungarian workshop many years ago an an apprentice, so that very shoe could have been my work (very unlikely though, but I made many of those). Triangular brass nails decorations – 4 on the lateral, 3 in the medial side, wide sole painting, little burnishing marks on the heel edge – typical from the Austro-Hungarian school, etc. By the way the shoe was in a amazing condition.

I believe he got the special attention he took that shoe for in the morning.

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Recently I receive a mail from a former student, about struggling the heel and sole edge finishing. Let me share a few tricks and a story.

Years ago, I was considering myself a decent craftsman, not a great one (I still don’t) So, I met an old master, who offered some tools, lasts, leather for sale and let me take a look at  his work. I was shocked. The “decent” work I have done suddenly seemed crafty and rough. His heel edge was just perfect. I have only seen that quality work from only the most prestigious workshops. It was just amazing. Neat, sharp edges, impeccable finish and straight heel top – just like it should be, just like in the textbooks. I am the type of person, who doesn’t give up  too quickly, even if I felt that there is no way, that I can produce this quality ever, so I asked him to teach me. He was pretty old, but agreed to do so. Let me share a few tricks with you about this special topic, so you guys might benefit from it.

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Let’s make the next steps. Design and create! We make 3 simple designs – you can choose which one you like, but just for practice, we are going to make all three, OK? Read the whole lesson before you start.

1. Cut out the sole shape you made from a piece of (preferably a bit heavier) paper

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… which is not that easy, as it seems. So, let’s do it!

1. step – step on a piece of paper, like this:

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You asked about, where you can join to the Facebook community. Here:

Why it is good? Because we can communicate, because more than 800 soulmate can help in resources and some encouraging words, and because I can comment your progress. For the hesitating ones: Facebook use ONLY those information, what YOU provide them.

And some update…

1. There are way more applications what I could handle in my free time. It is great! On the other hand it also means, that I can give less feedback – that is why I ask you to join to the community. I will ask some of my friends to help me in advising and giving feedbacks.

2. You also asked how much leather you should order. Well… usually you need to order a full hide. If you are in that lucky situation, that you can order less – than order enough for a pair. Twice, 4 times of your feet shape… and don’t worry, we will use the rest, soon.

3. I will keep on posting more advanced tutorials – those might be too much for a beginner, so just focus on the posts, which are tagged “online courses”. Some of my students saved and printed everything from the blog – even if I don’t plan to erase it, printing the course handouts might be a good idea.

4. First assignment comes in days, be prepared with some pencils and A/3 (approx. double letter size) papers!

First of all a little warmup – a flip flop. I know it sounds simple, but.. it can be artistic, sophisticated and comfortable, also a great present for the family and finally: people make living of it, so why not? Let’s make flip flops!

Before we would start let me suggest to buy a few stuff:

1. leather for upper. You need to get a thick upper leather, preferably a 2 – 3 mm thick  oil tanned leather. This will let us use it without stitches and reinforcements.

2.  get leather for insole – you can even use your upper leather here, if it is thick enough (2 – 3 mm).

3. midsole leather – I would suggest veg-tan, but not too thick. 3 mm s great. (you can calculate in oz too: 48 oz = 1 inch = 25.4 mm Good luck!)

4. outsole leather or a thinner EVA. 3-4 mm.

5. utility knife (a strong one – you need to cut those thick pieces as well)

6. Master Cement – buy a small box, 1 quart, this will be enough for several flip flops.

7. Sandpaper. Buy different grits: 40, 80, 150

8. and finally find an old flip flop, which fits you – that will be a big help for the sole shape. You can even make it – I will teach you how, in the next lesson.

I can imagine, you are somewhere between “made some shoes” and “soon I am gonna make shoes like professional” in your carrier. Trust me, I know how it feels, I did not born with a gift to be able to make shoes. It took me years to get here. Several years.

The problem, if you don’t have anyone helping you, it is highly possible that you are just heading to the wrong direction, just losing time, money and energy on staff you don’t need/you should’t buy/you should have just avoid. A master can help to save that, so at the end of the day it will be more effective and way cheaper with a good teacher.

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Let’s talk about this a little bit. Why we have to see all the layers? Maybe it is a mold shoe heel, so they just want to fake leather layers – in this case it isn’t our business. But sometimes our handmade end up like this. What we can do against it?

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Let’s start to make some more difficult patterns – a derby this time.

What we have to know about a derby shoe?

- Casual and not a dress shoe, so a real gentleman would’t wear it at evening.

- relatively easy to find the lines – as this is the school-example for the pattern guidelines – but not easy to find the right proportions.

- it can open wide, so the one most used construction for comfort shoes.

- still holds the foot well, and can fit a wide range of foot.

After this let’s jump to the middle. I enclosed a gallery – the photos made in the classroom by on of my student, Mary – so I believe you can pretty much learn the steps (if you have any idea, what happens there). This time let’s just get until the mean form, then we continue next time with the pieces.

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OK, I won’t post a lot of pictures this time, but I believe this will not going to be that difficult. Usually I teach a flip-flop making for to make students understand about the cemented construction, and how to get the product from scratch to finish.

Step 1. – pattern

Flip-flop is most probably the easiest pattern you will ever meet. A simple footprint to start – you need to make it slightly longer and a lot wider. Upper pattern – that is also not difficult. If you don’t know how to make it – just copy an old piece and tune it up a bit.

Step 2 – materials

Choose something heavier for upper – the same can be the insole lining as well. For midsole I would suggest a 2,5-3,5 mm thick veg tan leather, sole can be leather or rubber. Maybe rubber is better this time.

Step 3 – Asembly

Cut the materials to the right shape, which means insole lining should be a 3 mm bigger, midsole should exact. Glue them together and cut off the extra from the insole. Adjust the size of the upper on your own foot (do not make it tight, it is not an oxford), and mark the right place on the upper. Now you just need to glue the upper to the insole + midsole combo and put the sole on. You are done.

Step 4 – make it personal

Use your mind to be creative, paint, use crystals, metal stuff and don’t worry if it not perfect – the next one will be better.

Step 5 – Post the result to “shoemaker’s community” on Facebook ( (and feel free to join to it)


ps. no, your are not a shoemaker yet, but I am sure you are on the way.



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