Friday, August 29, 2014

Bakers of Colyton 1

Back from a lovely week in Sark and with Mr Ducker relaxing in the Peak District we wanted to share our recent trip to Baker's of Colyton...a trip that has been far too long in the offing. 

Anyway, we finally made it by train and then local bus to Colyton for some Devon sunshine, hospitality and surroundings that even my camera phone makes look idyllic.

The buildings may vary in age but Farrow and Ball would have a field day with the textures, colours and hues. The atmosphere is one of quiet, steady work with good natured chaps going about their daily work with the minimum of fuss in bucolic surroundings; creating the finest leathers in an entirely sustainable way. 

This site has been a tannery since Roman times and has been in the Baker family since 1862. The only oak bark tannery remaining in Britain, Bakers' tanning methods have been perfected over the centuries to create leather that is unrivalled - hard wearing, strong and with distinctive colours - that we use throughout our bespoke shoe construction and for students on our courses.

James arriving at Bakers

The original  thatched building at the entrance to the Bakers' site housed the original currier - responsible for dressing the tanned hides
A painterly palette

An scythe, hoe, spade and sickle keep nature at bay
Where the waste water from the tannery runs away; no chemicals or pollution
Looking down on the oak bark store

Dressed hides in beautiful mocha, caramel, sable and honey
Rows and rows of nails in the beams - a story of past activities

Even the floor vents are beautifully designed

The brass roller
Andrew Parr sharing his knowledge with James
Unsorted, stacked bends

Ropes from the tanning pits, preserved and strengthened with the tanning process
More from Bakers next week. Until then happy shoemaking!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Some New Shoes August 2015

Hi guys, it's been a tiring August with teaching our Intensive Shoemaking Course - we are getting old! We hope you enjoyed watching the students progress. Has it inspired any of you to give it a go? We have another Intensive starting in October and a weekly class which takes place on a Monday night from 6 - 9 pm in ten week terms. Details are on our website

I am on my own this week with Madame Shoe in Sark on her annual holiday (it's a tiny island in the English Channel near France and it's where she's from - hence the French name), so I am ever slightly rushed off my feet. Luckily, it's my turn to be away next week - Derbyshire Peaks here I come!

Anyway, here is a selection of recent bespoke shoes which I like, starting with a pair I made for myself - the first new pair I've made myself in ten years. This may seem a little shameful (which it is) but I like to argue that our shoes are so durable that they last that long and more.

They are a saddle Derby made from Woodpecker Autioneer reverse suede (that's the good stuff with proper skin on the reverse, not a split) and Dove St Crispin's Baby Calf which is a lovely veg tanned calf which comes unglazed so you can burnish it yourself. It takes on a lot of sub tones and has a lot of life in it. We have used a lot of it recently and it's our new favourite leather.

These first two are with the leather unburnished. And the next two are after it has been polished.

It's quite an unusual colour combination, but I really love them .

Still with the St Crispins Baby Calf, here is a simple wholecut where the colour does all the talking. It's called London Brick and it's vivid. I love these shoes but am not sure if I would have the courage to wear them. The customer was delighted and wore them to a wedding - I hope he didn't outshine the bride

Last are a pair of burgundy Oxfords, fairly conventional apart from the canary yellow lining. I have a dilemma with burgundy shoes. I really like the leather when I see the skin laid out and this is a particularly nice shade, but when they are being worn (burgundy shoes in general, I mean) there is something about them I don't like. Maybe I should make myself a pair and get over it. It is certainly a very flexible colour and can be worn with most colours of clothing.

The black finish is unusual here as we usually finish burgundy shoes in brown.

And that is all folks. Have a good week and until next time, happy shoemaking!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Carreducker Intensive Shoemaking Course August 2014 Days 10, 11 and 12

And so our brave students started the final push to the summit of their shoe making mountain. With the heels built, they were ready for finishing.

Here are their finishing packs complete with rasps, sanding blocks and various grades of aluminium oxide paper.

Heavy rasping was followed by glassing and then the 3 kinds of paper until a smooth, blemish free finish was achieved on both the heels and the sole edges.

It was Blake's 21st birthday so the cake and champagne was enjoyed a day early. He even had the pleasure of some balloons!

With the sanding done, it came time to set the edges. Here are a selection of the tools of choice.

The final stage is inking and polishing, starting with the soles.

Last of all, late on Saturday afternoon, they pulled the lasts on the lasting jack and tried the shoes on. The moment of truth, as it were. Because the lasts are standard sizes, some fitted well and others required a bit of tweaking, but we managed to get a decent fit for everyone. Of course, if you give us enough time in advance, you can have a bespoke pair of lasts to work on if you decide to do the course.

What a sense of achievement for everyone. It really is something to have made a pair of shoes by hand in two weeks. All the students were very happy with their hard work and results. Well done to all of them from Deborah and myself. You guys were a lovely group. Nice work or jo da ho ho (spelling?) in Cantonese.

If you would like to try your hand at shoe making or pattern making with Carr├ęducker, our next courses are in October 2014 and January 2015. Get in touch or look at the website

We will be setting exact dates for 2015 in September and will announce them here and on the website.

Until next time, happy shoe making!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Carreducker Intensive Shoemaking Course August 14 - Days 7, 8 and 9

And so we move into the second week and our intrepid students have finished the welting and moved onto the soles. Their shoes are really looking like shoes now!

Monday saw them finish any welting not done on the rest day and get their shanks and cork filler in.

After shaping the shanks and cork to achieve a gently domed surface, the students trimmed their welts in preparation for attaching the soles.

These were glued on and trimmed in readiness for stitching by hand.

Of course before this was attempted, the channel (which hides the stitches on the underside) had to be cut. Much fun was had by all!

After much hard work and effort, everyone finished the soles and we moved on to heel building.

First off we made the split lift or rand.

Hammering the split lift into a horseshoe shape

Skiving the plit lift.
Today saw us attaching the split lifts and the two heel lifts; shaping the heel with the knife; peening with the French hammer; cutting the seats and, for some of them, cutting the heel breasts.

You will see how the heels progress in the final exciting installment of our coverage of the 2014 August Intensive Shoemaking Course.

Until then, happy shoemaking!