Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 16 February 2018

Attaching A Sticker Sole

Once more unto the breach, dear shoe folk of the world. We hope you have had a good week

We have had a great week of shoe making and teaching our one to one students, so plenty of time in the workshop getting our hands dirty.

Sometimes, customers want the look of a leather soled shoe, dressy, elegant, but they find that they slip in them. In these cases, we always suggest a sticker sole and occasionally a completely rubber heel top piece.

This week, we had just such a customer who wanted both.

So we made the shoes as we normally do and then did the following to attach the sticker soles.

And here is how to do it. Firstly, draw a curved line from just behind the joint. In this case it is where the bevelled waist starts and the measures are half an inch back from the joint on the outside and 3/4 of an inch back from the joint on the inside.

Next cut a vertical line with the knife and then an angled cut to get a strip of leather out.

Then skive away a section of the sole to rebate the place where the sticker sole will sit. Try to cut to the same depth as the sticker sole so that it sits flush with the sole when finished.

Next make a paper pattern of the forepart of the shoe and the rebate. Just push with your fingers - it helps if they are dirty. Try to get an impression line in the paper. And then cut out the pattern piece with a small margin around the edge.

Cut it out, reverse it and draw the silver pen line on the other shoe so they match.

 Here is where I admit to an oversight. I had forgotten that he wanted a sticker sole so I finished the whole forepart - always look at the making ticket!
Saying that, I like to finish the sole well past the point where the sticker sole site so that when you come to cut the line, you get a really nicely finished sole right up the rubber. It's harder to finish the sole after you put the sticker sole on.

So now take off the finish with glass and sandpaper - it must be a rough surface for the glue to work better.

 Cut out the rubber you want to use - this is 2mm thick and hard wearing.

Put contact adhesive on all the surfaces and leave for 2 hours and then add a second layer. I like to leave it overnight as I think you get a better adhesion.

First thing next morning, revive the glue with a hairdryer or heat gun. It must be hot - you can feel the glue getting tacky to the touch.

Before it cools down, stick the sole on.

Hammer the edges and trim off the excess with a knife.

If the edge is not smooth from the knife, use a small piece of sandpaper to smooth the edges.

And that is the sticker sole attached. I think the rebated edge where it meets the leather sole looks and feels better than just sticking it straight on. If you do this, you should skive the sticker sole down to nothing on the curved edge - but it doesn't look as nice!

And that is it for this week. Until next time, happy shoe making!

Friday, 9 February 2018

A Closing Family

Hello once more to one and all, welcome to the Carreducker Blog

Sometimes in life you feel like you know someone even if you have never met them. This is the case with some of our suppliers.
You speak to them, sometimes weekly, and build up a rapport with them, have a bit of banter, find out little snippets about  their lives, but you can't put a face to the voice

Well this week that changed with these guys who are a true closing family - Bev, Andy, Steven (mum, dad and son) and long time right hand man, Kevin.

These guys make our uppers for the Carreducker Shoe Making School and have done for many years.

Andy started as an apprentice pattern maker at age 15 and took over the business in 1996. Bev does the admin and son Steven is also a clicker and pattern maker and looks set to take over the reigns when the time comes.
They make uppers primarily for the orthopedic trade but can turn their hands to anything - they make consistently fantastic uppers as many of our students would agree.
They have also done a few weird and wonderful one offs like these shoes we made for an ad campaign in the interiors magazines for a carpet company, all made from fabrics from the shop.

I finally went to Bristol to meet them this week and what a pleasure it was to put a face to the voice.

We started with a tour of the factory

The closing room where the magic happens

Two lovely old Singer machines a the back

I was particularly taken with their punching and gimping machine, a real old beauty.

Look at that lovely solid wood handle
And the gimping/punching attachments were great - you just can't get these any more

In order - ladies' gimping; men's gimping; large single punch; small single punch; and the 2 and 1 brogue punch -lovely!

Really liked this back seam moulder with the lever handle - we are used to seeing these mde of wood and used with a hammer but this does the job faster.

These are their toe medallion punches, large and small

And the mallet they use to use them, although for us, they do our designs by hand.

I went because with the expansion of the Carreducker Shoe Making School this year, we wanted to see all their stock leather colours and get samples of all the things they can do so that we can offer you more choice in the uppers you use on the courses

It was a massive pleasure to have lunch with them and find out more about their lives - shoe people are, in general, and definitely in this case, absolutely lovely!

Thank you to the Sterling Upper Company for such a great welcome and visit.

And with that bombshell, ladies and gentlemen, until next week, happy shoe making!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

New Year New Shoes

Hola a todo el mundo! That is for our dear readers in Ecuador whose numbers have spiked this week - we hope you like the blog and find inspiration.

Good things come in twos, so this week we are posting two new pairs of bespoke shoes.

First up is a pair of Barkan desert boots from our Bespoke Editions service. This is a range of wardrobe essentials for existing bespoke customers - they are hand lasted and hand welted on the customer's last and then the sole is stitched on by machine or cemented depending on the style.

This pair is in dove grey St Crispins Baby Calf which is a pure veg tanned burnishing leather. We love it because once burnished, it has a depth and variety of tone which is truly beautiful. Think browns, pinks and creams - gorgeous!

And the second pair are these claret red, Horween Shell Cordovan monk shoes with gold buckles and a sticker sole for those slippery, wet city streets. After a generous clean and nourishment with Saphir Cordovan cream they have been given a good polish and military shine on the toes. 

Rather handsome don't you think?

That's all from us for now, so until next week, happy shoe making!

Friday, 26 January 2018


How finishing a pair of shoes feels...

Welcome, once more, to one and all - old timers, curious newbies and those who are starting their shoe making journey....we hope you have had a good week.

We have had a great January with the January Intensive Shoe Making Course ending on a high, the second delivery of Tor boots wending its way out via numerous couriers 

and a further delivery due very soon...never mind catching up with things in the workshop and our new one-to-one student joining us from Korea! Welcome Jove!

We have also started the year with two fabulous pieces of coverage both in hot, new terrestrial magazines. 

The first is on our collaboration with William Lennon to create the Tor boot in Riddle magazine - a great on and off-line read with an intelligent look at style, fashion and life in general

Photo courtesy Riddle Magazine by Andy Barnham

...and the second is in the launch issue of The Maker's Atelier, founded by former shoe making student and seamstress extraordinare, Frances Tobin. The magazine is principally about making clothes and includes a full pattern for a garment in each edition. We love the make it yourself ethos. We also love that it is print only - buy it here.

So we've finished the month feeling excited and enthused for the year ahead! Wishing you all a great weekend, until next week happy shoemaking.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

January Intensive Shoe making Course 2018 - Week 2

Hello once more, dear readers, we hope you had a good week and that you have not suffered too greatly waiting for part 2 of our Intensive shoe making Course blog. Read on and enjoy...

Week 1 finished last Saturday with shanks and cork. The students prepared leather shanks and put cork filler in the forepart.

After a much appreciated day off, the students came back on the Monday full of energy and enthusiasm and tackled stitching their soles.

They also made threads using hemp, homemade thread wax and some elbow grease.

Aleksander making a thread

Stitching the sole
Once the sole was stitched, we moved onto heel building using a spit lift (rand) and 2 leather lifts. This is done with paste and nails which are punched below the surface so that the heel lifts can be skived flat.

Checking measures

Valivann balancing the heels

Shaping his heel with the knife

Once the heels were built, the heel breasts cut and the seat trimmed, they attached the top pieces using glue and nails.

Punching a nail

 With the heels built, we moved on to the finishing which is rasping, glassing, sanding and dressing.

Sanding the sole edge

The sole is dressed with polish for a natural finish

Sanding the heel breast

More polish for a natural finish

Burnishing the wax on an inked finish
  Once the finishing was done, we removed the lasts by breaking them on the lasting jack - push!

And here are the finished shoes which we reckon turned out really well. The students would say that despite some struggles and hard moments, the course was a great success. The sense of achievement is amazing when those shoes go on your feet. Fantastic! Well done all of you.

Finished! Nice job Valivann

Beautiful collection of handmade shoes made by the class of January 2018
One happy Russian, well done Aleksanders

Proud shoemakers Rob, Valivann, Pamela, Margot and Melissa

And so it ends. Another course in the bag.

We are running plenty of shoe making courses throughout 2018, so check out the dates and sign up! We are happy to answer questions, so email us at

Until next week, happy shoe making