Back in June of 2011, my friend Matt and I worked up a batch of shoemaker’s wax, often called “coad” in the medieval jargon. We started with pine pitch, pine rosin, and a bit of beeswax to make some nice little balls of coad that were perfect for shoemaking. Fast forward to today, and unfortunately, our source for excellent pine pitch has dried up (pun intended). What is commonly available today is pine tar, a similar formulation, but with a great deal more volatiles still embedded, which makes it into a thick, viscous liquid rather than a gummy, solid substance. Below is experimentation to come up with some shoemaker’s wax using what we have available today. As always, if you find a source for solid, but slightly soft, gummy pine pitch, please let us know!
Archive for the ‘Tools and Techniques’ Category
If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll note that I’m using vintage modern lasts, typically for men’s shoes, when making my reproductions. This has a variety of issues, the modern look notwithstanding, but also when it comes to closure types other than those that happen over the front of the shoe. I’ve observed that in nearly every instance that I’ve made a shoe with a side closure that the heel ends up being unnecessarily large, and has a propensity to slip off. Giving it some thought, I do think that it has a great deal to do with the last itself. As a result, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some reproduction lasts, both medieval and Elizabethan.
What makes a last so important, you might ask? Everything! The last is truly the “soul” (no, I’m not falling for that particular pun =) of the shoe. It is more than just a representation of the person’s foot, because if that was all it was, then we would all be wearing foot-shaped shoes (as opposed to just some of us!)
I thought it might be illuminating to describe the manner in which I currently outsole a shoe, since I’ve recently started playing with a new technique and rather like the results. In two separate instances with two different and very knowledgeable individuals, I’ve had welted stitching described to me as “rice grains laying against each other,” or a similar variation thereof. As a result, I think I’m getting rather close to the ideal, as I hope the images will soon describe.
But, just to be sure that we’re on the same page, let’s first remind ourselves the construction of a welted shoe.
It’s been a while since I posted something on the topic of actual shoemaking rather than just showing off finished products, and we’re long overdue. I’m going to talk a bit about currying leather.
It’s not what you think – I’m not going to the Indian market to pick up the proper spices. Nor am I performing a mathematical transformation of a function with multiple arguments into a chain of functions, each with a single argument. In fact, the verb “to curry” is actually much older, and comes from the 13th century, from the Middle English currayen, from Anglo-French cunreier or correier, which was to prepare, curry, from Vulgar Latin conredare. It means to dress tanned hides by soaking, scraping, beating, etc. in order to make them supple and resistant to water. So, how does one do this, exactly? First, a history lesson…