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 ‘Learned’ Category
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.
If you saw the first half of my Europe trip, then you will recall that I was in Munich for business, but had the opportunity to do some exploring and visit some museums while I was there. As it turned out, I had some vacation time coming up, so I decided to stay in Europe a bit longer. And, coincidentally, Dr. Marquita Volken, of the Musee de la Chaussure in Lausanne, Switzerland (the Museum of the Shoe) had recently published a manuscript, “Archeological Footwear: Development of Shoe Patterns and Styles from Prehistory til the 1600s.” On a lark, I looked up how far away Lausanne was from Munich – only about 330 miles! That’s about the same distance from San Francisco to Los Angeles! I was sold – I booked a train and routed my return flight through Zurich instead of Munich. And, after my last day of work, I found myself on the train headed for the beautiful city of Lausanne, Switzerland.
The very day I arrived, I was already in shoemaker heaven – I met up with Dr. Volken, her fantastic husband (also Dr. Volken), and their charming daughter, and travelled together to the Chateau de Chillon, probably one of the most fantastically preserved chateaux in the area.
This pair is based on a 1350s extant piece documented in “Archeological Footwear” authored by Dr. Marquita Volken. The pattern comes from an unusual extant shoe which has an oval cutout on the inside of the shoe, along with a buckle strap to close the shoe around the foot. This shoe also has a binding strip all the way around the shoe including the strap, and is quite a pretty example of a medieval shoe. A few points of note – the original has the buckling on the inside of the shoe (it is easier to buckle your shoe this way while sitting down or standing up), but it unfortunately hides the pretty cutout and the buckle. As a result, the recipient asked that the buckle be placed on the lateral (outside) of the foot, rather than the medial side. Further, you will notice a rather thick sole – this was constructed as a turn-welt shoe, even though that particular style doesn’t really start to come about until the third quarter of the 15th century. I took several cues from Dr. Volken’s book in the construction of this pair, and I’m particularly pleased with the way they worked out. The decoration is inspired by several extant 14th century pieces with lines of decoration across the vamp of the shoe.
Let me share some of the techniques that I tried, starting with the binding strip. Although I’d done binding strips in the past, this was the first time that I’d done it in this manner.