Shoemaking research

We’ve got snow, I’m waiting for more leather to arrive (sow hide, goat skin and goat kid skin), I still don’t have needles and I’m bored.  So, let’s research!  <grin>  It is one of my favorite things.

I was reading up on leather needles and different cords and what threads others use for stitching leather stuff.  I was wandering through the forum at and I ran into a link for a forum for shoemakers.  I kid you not, I have seen some of the coolest shoes and boots!

There are masses of people there making sandals, shoes, chukkas and boots!  It is an AWESOME forum!  I’ve seen everything from Roman soldier footwear and huarache sandals to award winning cowboy boots!  Before you go visiting, make sure you’ve got the time because there’s a tremendous amount to see!  The shoe pictured to the left is an example . . . and the pattern is really neat and conserving of leather!

Kangaroo shoe

I got a good buy on a gray kangaroo skin.  It’s tanned as shoe leather.  I may use it as the liner.  It’s nice leather and I don’t have anything else suitable to use for lining except black, but with the black, if my feet got wet the liner would transfer black to my socks.  <wince>  I’d be better of using the gray.

We’re skiving, we’re skiving . . .

Rough shape ready to skive
Skiving complete
A judicious spray of water . . .
Starting to shape . . .
A few twists and more nails, more hammering . . .
Sufficiently trussed


Lots happened today . . . and now we wait.  While we’re waiting for the leather to dry, let me give you a recap of the steps.

The day before yesterday I cut stabilizers from light weight soling.  These are to replace the toe box, side stabilizers and heel counter.  This  may not work, but you know me . . . I have to try.

I got the stabilizing mid-sole (the one between the inner and the outer) wet and wrapped them in newspaper overnight, then tied them to the bottoms of my lasts using strips of t-shirt material.  I wasn’t worried about perfect at that point, I just wanted the general shape so I could see if I needed to do any additional trimming before I skived the edge.

Yesterday my skiving knife came.  After carefully sharpening the knife, I skived 1/2″ of the outside edge, feathering it down to nothing.  I only cut myself twice!  <LOL>  Neither was serious enough to require bandaging so the job got done.  I want the edge to not show on the outside of the shoe so the quality of the skiving job was important.

The I sprayed the leather on the grain side and set my last into place and, using a piece of t-shirt material began conforming the leather to the last, spraying with water occasionally as I worked.

Next came lots of nails, some rubber bands, some more strips of t-shirt material, more twisting and hammering lumps to make sure all was smooth and lots more nails.

Now we wait for them to dry.

I need to get the other pair of lasts lengthened so they match this pair.  With two sets of lasts I can do two steps at the same time.  I could be shaping the uppers ready for gluing . . . Or, if I’d been smart enough to lengthen the other pair of lasts and use them for this step, I could be gluing the liner to the insole on this pair of lasts.

Hindsight.  It’s a beautiful thing.

New growth update

New Wood Fern frond
New fern growth
Another fern with different shaped fronds
The above fern with the base showing additional growth
Vine fastened on with runner roots showing new off-shoots
Lovely spatulated ends on the heleocerius

Fern in the gutter

Check all the new growth!

The wood fern frond is still small in comparison to the dirt-rooted version but I really chopped the heck out of the root structure to get the pieces into the wall.  I expect the robust growth to take a while as the root structure reestablishes itself.

Beside the planting of the wood fern is one of the new ferns I got from eBay.  I won’t know what the fronds will really look like until all the frondlets uncurl.

Up near the top of the wall is another new fern and the fern fronds have a completely different look with the ends of the fronds looking almost purple/black.

At the base of that frond the plant shows new growth that looks different from the frond.  This will be an interesting one to watch.

The bi-colored vine at the bottom of the wall has rootlets growing off the vine into the wall.  It’s showing three or four new shoots.

The heleocerius has got a lot of really good growth with the longer bits showing lovely spatulated ends.

The fern in the far corner of the gutter is really getting stretchy.  I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like once the fronds unfurl.

Gutter avocados

A split and company

I’m trying to determine if the warmth of the water and the flood and drain have a big influence on how fast an avocado seed will sprout.  I’ve actually got three seeds in the wall gutter now.  We’ll see how it goes.  The split in the original seed is growing larger each day.  I don’t want to pull it up for fear of damaging the root.

I really need a deeper/bigger gutter.

Babies and seeds

Baby peppered corydoris catfish

Gutter avocado

Well, we’ve got a new baby.  Our Peppered Corydoris catfish have a youngun.  I noticed it this morning.  It’s about an inch long, so it’s been around a while.  I don’t pay too much attention to the aquarium.  The sun was out early and bright and there that little bugger was . . .

As to the attached plant wall, I’m in holding mode until my Rex Begonias arrive.  I dabble.  the current dabble is a gutter avocado.

I eat a lot of avocado.  I have already given away a 5′ tall many limbed avocado tree.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself . . . this was one of those “what if” moments.  I just had to set the seed in the gutter to see what happens.  I checked it this morning and it looks like it’s starting to split!

I’ll give this one away as well once it’s established.  I don’t have room for an avocado tree.

Pattern making

Getting ready to draw the pattern

The ;attern cut off the last.

I’ve got my shoe last stuffed into a crappy Hanes NOT 100% cotton sock.  When you wear kid sized socks and you buy a low end brand, don’t expect the content to be consistent from year to year – this purchase was a really unpleasant surprise.  I’m using them up any way I can until all six pair are gone.

With the socked last covered in ~3 layers of painters tape, I’m ready to start drawing lines for the pattern breaks.

Once I cut the pattern off the last (cut right through the sock) I traced the parts onto card board (cereal boxes work great) and added seam allowance where appropriate.

I need to do more to this pattern.  I need to figure out whether I will use a separate tongue or draw a tongue onto the front portion of the pattern.  Decisions, decisions.

I’d like this first pair to be fairly simple.  I’ve got a bunch of fairly thick really good quality leather I might use to make a pair of kickers while I’m waiting for my shoe leather to show up.

Shoe leather

I bought some shoe leather yesterday . . . gray kangaroo.  I’ve had kangaroo leather gloves before (different tanning method for glove leather) and they’re tough.  I also bought a skiving knife that can be sharpened.  I did not want the kind that had replaceable blades.  They may be safer but they’re more costly over the long run and they take more passes to get the job done.

The leather won’t be here for a week.  That gives me time to play with patterns.

And the beat goes on

My foot shape versus Doc Martin lasts

How much can I stretch this and make it work?

I found a pair of Doc Martins at Goodwill for $5.  While I couldn’t comfortably wear them for very long as they were (they tipped me forward and squeezed my metatarsal bones too much and have zero support in front of the heel on the outside of my foot), they will hopefully provide something I can work with for a pattern.

Once I got the bottom deconstructed I stuck the upper on my last.  You can see the difference in shape between my foot and the Doc Martin last.  I can wear them but they’re really uncomfortable.

I would re-last this upper onto a new sole, but the trick here is, I don’t know if there’s enough material at the bottom edge to fasten the upper to the sole.  The second part of the problem is, the lining of the toe is fabric that doesn’t stretch.  I either re-line the front of the upper or build a new upper using the disassembled upper as the starting point for a pattern.