Friday, September 30, 2011

Thread Wax

Preparations for our trunk shows in Chicago and New York are in full flow. It is not long now and we are very excited. If any of you wish to come, or know anyone who might like a pair of our bespoke shoes, then please spread the word or make an appointment. Carreducker needs you!

Over the last couple of days, our friend the Shoe Snob has been polishing the shoes we are going to take. So they are gleaming, And today we started packing them. We are really looking forward to this trip - can't wait!

We were asked about the wax we use on our threads. I did do a post on this but I am going to repeat it for those newer readers amongst you.

The threads you use are very important. You can buy ready made, pre-waxed threads which work fine, but they are not made of natural fibres, I have been told. Being very traditional shoemakers, we prefer to use a natural fibre like linen or hemp. As a result of this, we need to use a thread wax to coat and preserve the threads. The wax penetrates into the fibres and stops them breaking or rotting.
We make this wax ourselves. And here is how.

For the natural colour wax, you will need colophony (distilled turpentine), beeswax and tallow. We buy ours from the marvellous LCornelissen & Son, artists suppliers. Love the packaging!

If you want black wax, substitute tar for the colophony.

So here is the recipe.

200g colophony

300g beeswax

a tiny fingernail of tallow

This is a winter wax, so I added about 20g more of beeswax. This has the effect of keeping the wax softer in the cold weather. In summer, add about 10g extra of colophony.

Place all the ingredients into a pan and place on the heat. Continue until all the ingredients are liquid. This gets quite hot and smells a bit, so open a window.

Next pic is about half way, with some melted and some still solid. It looks like liquid honey when finished.

The next stage is the fun bit. I don't know why you have to do this, but you do. It will not work if you don't. It stays brittle and unusable.
Get a plastic washing up bowl, put it in the sink and nearly fill it with cold water.
Pour the liquid wax into the water. It disperses a bit. You have to push it together with your hands. Be careful as the wax is very hot. The water helps stop it burning you. Turn the tap on when you start touching the molten wax. When you have a ball, start kneading and massaging it for about a minute. This makes it mix properly.
This next bit is a video, so don't miss it.

Now divide the ball into smaller ones, about 5 for this amount.

Having just watched the video, I think there is a way to improve the process. I think if you stir the water in the bowl round with a big spoon and when it is spinning really fast, pour the liquid wax into the middle, it will stop it dispersing so much. Like doing a poached egg. If any of you try this, let me know how it works. I am curious.

And that, my dear readers, is a wrap. Have a fantastic week, and until next Friday, happy shoemaking!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Walk 10 miles in our shoes...

Blog fans it is time to dig deep and to do a little giving. I am taking a 10-mile stroll along the River Thames riverside on Saturday night all in the name of charity - a very important charity that helps children with disabilities in Russia.

Anyway, to make things more interesting I will be doing the walk in a pair of our carreducker shoes (whilst my fellow walkers will no doubt be in trainers with gel pads, cushioning, wadding etc.)

My money's on the leather shoes - is yours? If you would like to find out the results of our footwear experiment and to show some soul whilst I am wearing through my sole, please sponsor me.

I promise to post pictures from the finale at Tower Bridge.
Taxi home anyone?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

US Trunk Show Dates and The Leather We Use

First off, a piece of very exciting news. We are going to start doing trunk shows in the States with the head cutter (and her under cutter) at Gieves & Hawkes. This means that you can get your bespoke shoes and bespoke suits in one place, two birds with one stone and all that. As far as we know, this is the first time that both services have been offered at one trunk show in the States. So it really is going to be a head to toe service at this unique one stop shop.

We will be going three times a year starting this October (then further trips in March and June). Our first visit will be to Chicago and New York. The dates are the these:

Chicago, The Intercontinental Hotel, Michigan Avenue
Friday 14th and Saturday 15th of October
From 9am till 6pm

New York, The Plaza Hotel, 5th Avenue
Monday 17th, Tuesday 18th, and Wednesday 19th of October
From 9am till 6pm (9am till 11am only on Wednesday)

This is a very exciting project for us and we would be very happy to meet any of our fans over there, whether it is to get measured up for a pair of shoes or to discuss the courses we run.

If you want to come and see us, please email us to make an appointment,
It will be busy, so please don't turn up unannounced.

We will have a series of sample shoes for you to look at, along with leather samples and other shoemaking paraphernalia, so we will be able to design you the shoes you have always dreamed of.

We look forward to meeting you!

This week we saw a notable article in the September issue of The Rake about the refurb at Gieves and Hawkes flagship store at Number 1 Savile Row by Permanent Style creator Simon Crompton. He wrote at length about ourselves, with particular emphasis on our crocodile loafer, which we are very pleased about, as it a shoe we are very proud of.

Notice the matched scales (2 large skins needed); the way the hand stitched lake continues around the back; the military ribbon tug; the matte finish on the skin; and the purple lining. Yes, I'd wear those.

On to all things shoemaking. We often get asked about the leathers we use for making our bespoke shoes, so I am going to start an irregular series of posts on all the leathers. Starting with the rough stuff, which is the name given to all the cow hide we use for the insoles, soles, heels etc. This leather is from adult animals, and as a result, is very thick and dense. We buy ours from J & FJ Baker & Co Ltd  which is the last tannery in England which uses the traditional oak bark tanning method. Their hides are extremely high quality and used by all of the West End shoemaking firms in London. Very durable and hard wearing

So, first off is the toe puff belly. We use this for toe puffs (obviously) and heel stiffeners. You can also buy shoulders, but we prefer the bellies. Many shoemakers buy a heavier iron (4-6) leather for stiffeners, but we find that the toe puff weight (3 - 4 iron) serves very well for most shoes. If we are making a heavier shoe or boot, we will use the thicker skins.

The belly is very long and thin, as you can see, and is the thinnest part of the cow hide. It is also the worst in terms of quality, stretch marks and blemishes. But this does not matter as we skive it and it is an internal component.

Here you can see the surface. Many stretch marks! Yes, other animals get them too. Imagine what a calf does to your belly.

And this is the typical thickness of a 3-4 iron belly.

Next time, we will look at insole shoulders. I know the wait will be unbearable, but contain yourselves.

Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Antiqued Pigskin

Greetings fellow shoe nerds of the world! Another week passes and we at carr├ęducker have been very busy little elves. Are we older? Certainly. Wiser? Doubtful. But we are still as passionate about our beautiful trade and happy to share our knowledge with you. So here goes.

Just a little plug as India beckons for our bespoke expansion. Check this article out, but be patient, or just skip to the end if you can't contain yourself.

This week we started an interesting pair of wholecuts. The principle interest is the upper leather - pigskin.

A few months ago we made a handsome pair of derby shoes in the same pigskin and they were universally liked. This new client saw the shoes and decided to have his new pair of bespoke shoes in the same leather.

His choice of style was a wholecut and the last shape he chose was this:

So you can imagine how the shoe is going to look - pretty striking, I'd say!

But let's start at the very beginning. We have the lasts and the upper leather.

We started with a tan pigskin. First we deglazed it. This allows the dyes to take better on the skin. We use Fiebings Deglazer and rub it with a cloth. The harder you rub, the paler the effect on the skin.

You can see that the leather has a natural grain to it which is the secret to achieving an interesting result.

Now comes the colouring process. Leather dyes are not good if they contact the skin, so please wear latex/protective gloves.

We use Fiebings dyes which are very good.

We start by applying the darkest colour and for this effect we use a cotton cloth to apply it.

Continue to add the dyes layer upon layer. We used Mid Brown, Light Brown, Mahogany, Dark Red, Yellow, Orange and Red.

Build the layers.

This is a detail of how it looks. You can see that the pits of the grain do not take the dye.

To get the dye into the pits of the grain, we use a thinner to wash over the top. This also has the effect of mixing the dyes to soften the antique effect. The more you do this, the more uniform the colour.

And this is now ready to send to the closer. What happens from here is that as the uppers are handled by the closer and ourselves during the making, a little of the colour comes away from the surface, so that the pits of the grain are dark and the surface in between is lighter. The effect is very pleasing.

Really looking forward to getting the uppers back and getting on with the fitting process. We will keep you updated on the progress of these shoes.

And that is that for this week. So, until next week, happy shoemaking!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Finishing The Sole

Isn't life funny. There is me telling you all last week about putting in a sock and some foam in the heel. Well, the lesson was on me. This week we received a pair of shoes back from a client because the nails in the heel were showing through and hurting his feet. Ouch! And not good on our part.

We have put in the foam and sent them back, so it has all ended well, but it just goes to show how important all the stages are in making bespoke shoes.

We have had some contact from an aspiring shoemaker and this week he sent us his first shoe. Considering he is self taught, with some help from our blog, the result is very impressive. So, to all of you shoemakers out there, you too can do it!

Matt (who made the above shoe) asked us to do a post about finishing the soles. Your wish is my command! So, here goes.

Here you have a shoe with the edges set and the heel finished. Time to finish the sole.

First off is to glass the sole. This takes off the top layer of the skin which is hard and impenetrable and would stop the ink staining the sole black.

You have to hold the glass at an angle of about 60 degrees leaning forwards and scrape in short movements. Over the channel near the edge, there tends to be a little ridge, which can make the glassing difficult. Also, depending on the leather, you can end up with tiny lines on the surface. Like this.

In this case, glass across the ridges 90 degrees to the direction you started with. Use a light touch and the lines should disappear. It is important that you get all the skin surface off.

The area around the heel breast is tricky and you need to use the pointed tip of the glass.

Glass the top piece too.

Next comes sanding. I like to use the 120 grit aluminium oxide paper that I used on the heel because it is a little less abrasive than a fresh piece. Sand lightly and concentrate on the parts where the lines are. I tend to sand in one direction, backwards and forwards. Others sand in circular motions. Experiment and decide what you prefer. A light touch is essential.

As you sand, all the blemishes should start to disappear.

Next comes two more grades of paper. We use foam sanding blocks available at DIY stores. These have 2 grades and are very useful. Also, as you use them, they get less abrasive and achieve a better finish.
Again, a light touch is needed.

It should look a little like this.
Note, however, that you can sand too much, and if you do, you will not get a good finish from the next stages. So don't do it too much. What is too much? Hard to tell you. Keep going till it is smooth and even, but stop when it is.

Next comes the ink/dye/stain. We use Quick Black or Brown made by WH&B from Algeos. I would be interested to hear from you about what other people use because they have changed the recipe and we don't like it as much.

Paint it on in even strokes with a fine paint brush. It has the effect of smoothing and hardening the surface.

Let it dry thoroughly and then apply a generous layer of shoe polish. Rub it in and let it dry for 5 minutes.

Next we burnish the polish with the heel iron. But it must be heated on your burner, but remain relatively cool or else you will get marks in the polish. Move the heel iron over the polish in even movements. It has the effect of making it shiny. It also prevents the polish coming off on people's expensive white carpets.

This is how it will look. The toe part is done, but the rest isn't.

You can see the little marks where the iron has been.

Now apply a regular coat of polish and rub it in hard. You want to generate some heat so that all the ironing marks are removed. The heat will do this. You will start to get a shine. We usually do 3 layers of polish but the more you do, the better the shine you will get.

Finally rub the surface with an old pair of tights or pop socks. This gives a final lustre to the finish.

It should look a little like this.

Next time I do one, I will show you a natural finish on the sole.

So, until then, happy shoemaking!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Put A Sock In It

Right, you have finished your shoes. Done the seat wheel and the single lipped iron and everything is looking rosy. You feel exhilarated and excited and can't wait to get the last out and either wear them yourself, or deliver them to the client. But hold on a minute, there are a few things to do yet.

Well here are a pair of our signature Half-Cut shoes in just such a position.

First thing to do is to remove the laces. Carefully with a knife is what I do.

Lasts can be with a cone or a spring. This one has a cone, so the first thing is to remove it. Undo the screw and take it out.

Now you are ready to pull the last with a lasting hook. We made this one. Put the foot rest on the floor and the hook through the hole in the last. Holding the heel with both hands, pull the shoe up towards you. When you feel the last out of the heel, start pulling the shoe towards yourself and slide the last out. Be as quick as you can, to avoid creasing the waist of the sole.

And the last should come out easily, if you have used chalk or talcum powder.

If you have built your heel strongly, a few of the nails should be sticking up through the insole. This is no bad thing as it means the heel is strong and will not pull away from the shoe. But you need to get rid of them as they will hurt your feet.

Any really long ones, clip them off with nippers, and then hammer them flat with this special hammer. Hit them hard to sink them below the surface.

They should look like this.

In theory you could wear the shoes now, but they do not look great, so we put a sock in them. You would be surprised how much difference a sock can make to the fit, so use either a through sock (all the way to the toe) or a half sock. Use the same leather as the lining.
You will need to make a paper pattern with the last. Cut it out and test it inside the shoe for fit.

When it is fitting correctly, cut out the socks in leather. Remember to turn the pattern over to get a right and a left. You might need to make two patterns if the lasts are very different.

You will need to skive the end of the half sock to avoid an uncomfortable ridge.

We generally put in a piece of foam at the heel for extra comfort. Glue it in with rubber solution.

With the sock, we do it in two parts, the forepart first then the heel part. Put a generous amount of rubber solution onto the insole  and also on the sock. Put it in straight away while the glue is wet. This allows you to move the sock around and position it correctly.

Like this.

Now lift the heel part up and put rubber solution on both surfaces. This time, let it dry for five minutes.

Glue it down, and, hey presto! The sock is inplace. It looks much better now. If the client has problems with his foot slippiong within the shoe, you can use the reverse of the leather to give more grip.

This shoe is now ready to be sent back to the last maker for the bespoke trees. This will take a couple of weeks, and then we can deliver them to our client who is very keen to get his feet into his beautifully finished bespoke shoes.

That's all folks! Until next week, happy shoemaking!