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Shoes and Craft

A shoemaker's blog about shoemaking

I have loads to discuss from February until now!! So I will do my best to brevity my post.  Without further ado, let’s begin…:)

February.

The lease was signed for the new workshop. We began packing up the old workshop and moving smaller items into the new space. Then, we began painting the new space and adding wooden shelves.

Late night: Painting new workshop

Late night of painting new workshop…

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Sanding countertops & staining the cabinets…

Things are coming along...

Things starting to shape…

When we were not moving, MM and I did a bit of knife sharpening, pattern-making and grading.

MM showing me how to properly use a wet stone since I refuse to use the death machine (aka sander) after breaking it and nearly gutting myself.

MM showing me how to properly use a wet stone since I refuse to use the death machine (aka sander) after breaking it and nearly gutting myself…

Making a boot pattern using a German pattern ruler, better known as a Modellwinkel.

Making a boot pattern using the German pattern ruler, better known as a Modellwinkel…

Grading a pattern (which means making a pattern a different size without re-drawing the pattern on the last).

Grading a pattern…

March.

More packing up old workshop, unpacking new workshop, adding wood tables to house machines and building other furniture. I must say I have become quite handy and developed biceps (more like baby biceps, but whatever. Pretty excited about my new found super strength… ). By the end of March we had all the large machines added to the space and were able to return the keys of the old workshop to the landlord.

March 20-25 a high-heel course was offered in the new workshop. MM had me help teach parts of the class. The students were great additions to the new workshop.

MM teaching high-heel course

MM teaching high-heel course…

Class demo of pattern making and upper making of a high heel

Class demo of upper making on a high-heel…

Course example of different pattern-making techniques for high-heels

Course examples of different pattern-making techniques for high-heels…

After the class concluded, I returned to: pattern-making, clicking, upper-making, skiving, lasting and heel building. Good news, Juki and I are no longer frenemies. I actually enjoy my time with Juki. I have started to use the post-bed sewing machine, Adler. Adler and I need more practice before I comment on our relationship status. I began to find skiving to be meditative and fun (and my counters look less like dog chew toys each day). However, there are times, I just hate skiving. The times that I hate skiving, I blame the knife, marble or leather for the mess I created. But 99% of the time I am struggling with skiving is because: 1) the leather was not properly mellowed with water, 2) my knife is not sharp enough or 3) both. I am pretty excited about some grey mid-heels that I have been working on. We didn’t have a heel that was the correct height, so we made one using leather and sanded it to size.

Creating multiple patterns on one last and clicking…

Heel Shaping...

Heel shaping and gluing…

At the end of the month, I took my first customer’s measurements which was pretty exciting. And, I thought I would share two important points. To ensure the most accurate fitting: 1) measurements should be done in the morning 2) two sets of measurements should be conducted on the client (one while they are sitting and one while they are standing). If interested, Vass and Molnar discuss this in greater detail in their book, Handmade Shoes for Men.

April. 

Pattern-making course was held April 1-3. Since I was flying to Europe on April 2nd, I tried to tie up some lose ends which included finishing a pair of test shoes for a customer. I completed the lasting before I left for my trip, but ran out of time to put the soles on. (Since my return back, I completed the test shoes. We use cork for the bottom of test soles rather than leather; we try not to waste leather.)

Rasping the cork sole

Rasping cork sole…

Before my trip to Germany I reached out to fellow shoe enthusiast, Bob Getty. He gave me some great suggestions of places to go and people to meet. First, I visited a shoe supply store where I bought my very own pattern ruler and some other miscellaneous supplies.

Next, I went to the outdoor market and got amazing deals on some old tools (e.g. knives and lasting pinchers).

Lasting pinchers.. The gentleman that sold them to me said he thought they were dental pliers to remove teeth... (TRUE STORY)

Lasting pinchers:  The gentleman that sold them to me thought they were dental pliers to remove teeth (TRUE STORY)…

My knife haul from the market... Thankful they all made it back through customs!

My knife haul from the market… Thankful they all made it through customs!!!

I then visited Meisterschuh, a shoe shop in Berlin that does orthopedic and traditional shoes in-house and employs several “meisters” (masters of the craft).  Here I met shoemaker, Theo R Hassett. Theo is from New Zealand, had a shoe shop in Australia and currently works at Meisterschuh. He showed me around the shop.  It was interesting to see a large scale shoe shop that does all their own work in-house. We then had drinks at a cafe down the street and talked about the craft.

Their workshop

Meisterschuh workshop

Next, I met Korbinian Ludwig Heß. Korbinian is originally from Munich, worked at Rudolf & Söhne Scheer in Vienna and recently moved to Berlin as an independent shoemaker. If you don’t know Scheer, google it and be impressed (FYI: Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on Scheer from 2013). We had coffee at a local bakery, talked about his past work for Scheer, what he has been up to now and our passion for the craft.

I did not know what to expect when meeting these shoemakers. Frankly, I was nervous. I have never reached out to someone by social media before nor chatted at length with anyone in the craft (other than MM). But, I must say both men were friendly, approachable, kind, knowledgable and just cool (and wore their own shoes!). I had so much fun talking to them. On a personal level, speaking to both shoemakers was very helpful.

If you had asked me several months ago about my business plan I would have said I want to be a shoemaker. No leather goods. No repairs. Shoemaker, only. After speaking to them, I recognize: 1) there are several other aspects to shoemaking as a business 2) it is nearly impossible to be a viable business if you are exclusively shoemaking 3) even if it is viable as a business to exclusively make shoes, you may not want your shoes to be repaired by someone else’s handy work and 4) the future of shoemaking is in good hands because there are warm, caring, friendly shoemakers everywhere that support one another and want to see each other succeed.

Until next time – E

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