Super awl

Crewel needle chucked into the drill press.

Crewel needle

I have a short hand awl I like to use for opening holes for hand stitching.  It’s got a nice slender shaft and the hole is ample for accepting needles carrying 7-strand waxed linen.  The problem with using it is the amount of time the process takes.  Punch three holes, sew three holes, punch three holes, sew three holes.  The left foot took me two days as my neck would wear out from fighting the awl out of the hole once I managed to get it into the leather to make the hole.

Some really bright guy on the Crispin Colloquy (shoemakers list) used a drill press to punch leather. The drill press wasn’t running, it was used as a press (leverage).  Insert the tool into the chuck (he was using a three gang chisel punch) and pull the lever.  Instant hole. I thought it was such an exceptional idea I just had to try it.

It took less than five minutes to punch all the holes I needed for stitching the shaper to the midsole for the right shoe.  There’s no way I could have done the job that easily or quickly with my hand awl.  I had previously marked all the holes so jumping from one to the next was a breeze.

The crewel needle I used held up really well to being chucked in the press.  I didn’t turn the drill press on to see if I’d managed to chuck it completely straight.  I don’t know how much the difference in symmetry was an issue.  It worked and that’s what I needed to happen.

Second pair of “real” shoes

Lining stretched and drying
Inner tube added after drying to hold lining in place while trimming and gluing
Trimmed, lifted and glued
Glued and set to dry

Rasped and ready for filler

So here’s where I’m at on the second pair of “real” shoes.  These are oil tanned bison outer and vegetable tanned kangaroo lining.

I sewed the upper and lining pieces together then joined them via a row of stitching around the opening.  The rivets I got with the speed lacers where too small so I sent them off to Albert at Sunshine Shoe Repair for rivets to hold on the speed lacers I got at an online shop specializing in fittings for those who build S&M harness and clothing.  <wince>  What can I say, it’s where I found them.

After a good soak, I stretched the lining over the last and nailed it in place.

After it dried I added a ring of inner tube to hold the lining in place while I denailed, trimmed and glued the lining to the insole.

After the glue had dried I trimmed off the excess and rasped the bottom to a fairly regular surface.

Now I need to add the filler, a piece of leather the thickness of the lining leather.  Once the glue holding the filler in place is dry, I’ll build the shapers.  My butt stitching is improving and I hope to have a not too lumpy shaper over which the outer will be stitched down to the midsole.

I’m using 7-cord waxed linen thread for the hand sewing bits.  I’m using nylon upholstery thread for the machine sewn bits.


Outer Shaper

Outer shaper molded and trimmed.
Ready for sole trim and rhino-coating.

I’ve got a pair of shoes in the works.  I don’t know how successful this design will be.  The upper is a single layer of bison and all the support is built into the insole. The single pieced shaper is stitched through the bison layer.

The sole still needs to be trimmed very close to where it joins the upper.  Once the sole is trimmed, I will reinsert the last, get the shaper wet and reshaped.  This will close up the awl holes I made stitching the shaper to the upper.

Once the shaper’s completely dry I’ll paint bed liner over the shaper and the side of the sole.  The end result should be a funky looking sneaker.

There are two things I didn’t do that I probably should have.  I didn’t add a welt around the ankle opening.  That may have been an error and only time will tell.  This is something I can go back and do if I feel I must.

The second maybe oops is, I didn’t stitch the outer sole to the shaper before applying the shaper to the upper.  The one person I know with the machine to do that has developed a really mean case of early onset Alzheimer.  <wince>  Sadly, avoid is the name of the game there.

The side rings are to accommodate a strap that goes around the back of the shoe, through the side rings and across the top of my instep to secure the shoe for heavy duty things like running after horses.  The strap under the foot is, I believe, too long, but I won’t know for sure until I wear the shoes for a while.

Cydwoq (‘sidewalk’)

Cydwoq boots

What would a shoe look like if a California architect designed it?  Trust me, it gets pretty interesting.

Cydwoq produces some pretty interesting uppers and I’ve gotten some really interesting ideas from looking at the footwear on the site.

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any awareness of the connection between toe spring (how much the toe of the shoe lifts of the ground) and heel height.  Some of the low heeled or heelless shoes are made on lasts engineered to have more heel than provided on the shoe.


I had an epiphany last night.  I need to rethink how I’m making my shoes.  I don’t need to change a lot, but what I need to change will make a significant difference to how my shoes fit and my feet feel.

Because I have a really high arch and correspondingly high instep, I can’t wear a regular shoe and expect it to not hurt my arch.  Any pressure I put on the arch is downward as the lacing tries to press my arch down to fill the void left by the arch of my instep.

I need to do one of two things.  I either need to make an orthotic to fill the void or I need to build the shoe to fill the void.  Of the two choices, I prefer the later.  I hate having to move supports from one shoe to the next.

I’ve started on my first pair of *real* shoes.  I’m going to make a glued “sneaker”.  This will take one additional piece of leather.  I’m going to glue the lining to the insole, add the fill to level off the bottom, add the fill for the instep, glue the upper down over all that, add the fill for the upper, glue on my shaper (yeah, I’m gluing it outside the outer) and then add the final outsole shaping it to come just to the feather edge.  The last bit I’ll have to have Sunshine Shoe Repair do as he has all the wonderful shaping machines.

That should give me an all leather sneaker with superior support.  It should be fun.  Let the games begin . . .

Second pair of fitters

I finished the second pair of fitters this morning and overall, I’m very pleased. They aren’t fashionable, but they do tell me how I’m doing getting my lasts adjusted. I initially thought I would need to narrow the toe box but they’re just right. As to overall fit, the right shoe is perfect. There is nothing I would change about the fit of the right shoe. The left, though close, isn’t quite perfect. My left heel slides up and down just a little and the shoe is a tiny bit short. I occasionally feel the end of the shoe with my left middle toe. Once I fix these two issues, I think I will have great fitting shoes.

I want to add a little to the height of both lasts at the top front of the cone. I think the fit would benefit from having that part of the shoe cut ½” higher.

My next pair of shoes will be a “real” pair with pig skin lining and 4oz outer leather. I’m not saying I won’t wear the fitters. I will. The first pair will work great as house shoes and I’ve already been running around outside in the second pair. They’re not pretty, but otherwise they’re great; light and supportive without being rigid. I’ve added the pair of supports out of my dress clogs to keep my knees and hips comfortable. Picture me happy.

Ultimately, I want to reshape the lasts so the supports can be built right into the shoes. When I get the lasts perfect, I’ll make a mold and recast them in the final shape. That will give me a clean feather edge, something that would make the process of creating shoes on the lasts easier.