Pair Number 23

Custom shoe number 23. Blue nubuk handmade boot, rubber hiking sole. Top and side view.I’ve been meaning to make a pair of ankle boots for myself. I gave the last three pair to others. Hmpfh. Well, it was really because I bought a pair of Blundstones that always got clammy when I wore them in the cold and wet. I wanted a pair of shoes with a rubber sole so I wouldn’t worry about the wet, and might walk a few trails in something other than very comfortable dress shoes.

These were made from the Otto Bock lasts that I used for Pair Number 15. That toe shape should be familiar. I am a big fan of double stitching, which gives a really fine finish to welted construction. The first set of stitching goes directly into the insole through the welt and upper. Then the next set attaches the midsole to the welt, but the stitches loop through the first set.

The waist on this last is fairly wide. With limited offerings by local suppliers, it was hard to find a unit sole that would fit. I ended up with this Vibram monster tread which I like for this application. The upper is blue nubuk lined with vegetable tanned goat leather.

Pair Number 22

Custom shoe number 22. Orange brown handmade shoe with iridescent finish. Front viewOctober was a busy month for me. So busy in fact that I have only now just recovered. Here’s the last pair of the series in Italian vegetable tanned leather that I purchased in Spring of 2006. One reason for delaying this post was the awful photograph of these shoes. Bad color, bad background. Ugh. Well, they are constructed with a hidden welt and the welt is stitched to the sole straight through. I used a groover to cut a track in the bottom of these soles just to try it out. It did make stitching a bit easier.

Pair Number 21

Custom shoe number 21. Handmade shoe in two tones. Yellow quarter, green vamp.I have been thinking about two-tones for some time now. OK, ever since I started making shoes I’ve been thinking about it. I read about the process of brogueing in the book “Handmade Shoes for Men,” and have worried about it ever since.

That book talks about the rhythm the skilled hand gets into when punching the holes. Doing this by hand with a hole punch, I understand now how you develop a rhythm. Two tiny holes for each big hole adds up to 96 little holes for each shoe of these semi-brogues. Full brogues have more holes along the toe cap and along the lines of the heel counter. There’s an awful lot of punching going on to make a pair of full brogues.

These are deep green with yellow quarters. Dyed green vegetable tanned Italian soling leather, leather heels, and calf skin liner.

Pair Number 20

Custom shoe number 20. Handmade shoe in blue Italian leather with iridescent finish and 1.75 inch heel.Ever since I started making shoes, my wife has had the notion that I would make her the perfect pair of heels. With this pair, I got one step closer. We ran out dancing the second they were finished. She loved them.

They have been a long time in the making. I tried many different lasts and learned a lot about the small amount of tolerance allowed for this type of shoe to fit. Fairly small additional allowances in a lace up shoe end up being greatly magnified when there is so little shoe overall.

These shoes are the basic low tango heel that a lot of tango dancers are after. Of course once you’ve mastered dancing in the 2 inch heel, 3 and 4 inches seem to beckon. When I started making shoes, I said to myself that I wouldn’t make shoes with heels higher than two inches, but I’m sure I will.

This is a modified size 36 last that I reshaped forward of the instep. It has a two inch plastic heels wrapped with the same Italian vegetable tanned leather as the upper. It’s also the same leather that I used for pair number 18. German soling leather and English kip lining.

Pair Number 19

Green custom shoes with different colored pants.

Green. I like green. All the shoes I’ve made so far have had a lesson to teach. I put a lot into each pair, and they always take something out of me.

When I learned welting from Pietro in San Francisco, he was really unhappy about the German awl I was using. I really liked it because the point was very sharp and the shape of the awl easily went through the leather. Pietro still took issue with it. Suzanne told him to lighten up on me. “If his master taught him to use that awl and he likes it, let him use it,” she said. Sure when Pietro used his awl it looked easy, but I had tried that type of awl and didn’t really like it.

Making this pair I broke my German awl. I’ve made quite a few pairs of shoes with that awl and I’ve stabbed myself many times with it (this pair was no exception). I will really miss it. Ever since I got that awl from Ad Horvers in the Netherlands I’ve been looking for another one, just in case. I still haven’t managed to procure one. I do have an awl like Pietro wanted me to use (which Ad also gave me), and what do you know? When forced to use it, I found it did the job just fine. I’m still looking for another German awl, but for now, I know I can use this awl.

These shoes feature yellow dyed Italian soling leather that I’m experimenting with. Subtle up top, playful on the bottom.

Pair Number 18

Pair 18This pair is a revision of pair number 16. I made some changes to the lining pattern and the top line. I also welted this shoe. The welt is the piece of leather that you see on the outside of the shoe stitched down to the sole. The part that you can’t see is shown here. The welt is stitched together with the upper to the leather insole.

Using this method of construction, you can cut the sole off and the shoe will still keep its integrity. A new sole can then be stitched on. The stitching goes through the welt and the bottom of the sole. It can be cleverly covered up with an old shoemaker’s technique and the edge ornamented with a fancy wheel. I dyed the sole of the shoe orange, but it came out rather red and much darker than I wanted.

The upper leather is an iridescent blue vegetable tanned leather that I purchased while in Italy. The lining is vegetable tanned calf. German soling leather, leather heels. Size 43, width 7.

Pair Number 17

Pair 17Girl skate shoes. It’s stingray really, but skate when you buy it at the fish counter. I found some stingray leather at the local leather store about 8 months ago when I was shopping for leather for pair 12. I found a black one that I wanted to use for my first pair of “heels.” My friend Jim, owner of Pair 12, bought a black one and held on to it until I was ready. Last week we went looking for a mate and all the black stingrays were too narrow. They had some in red, however, that were wide enough for the custom lasts I was using.

On my last trip to the Netherlands, my friend Mischa taught me his casting and last making techniques. These red shoes were the first shoes made on the pair of lasts we made together. Since the lasts were based on a cast of my wife’s feet, I was confident they would fit.

I finished them up only a few minutes before we left to go dancing in Portland. My wife danced the first set with me in the new shoes and kept them on for the rest of the night. She was reluctant to take them off when we got home! It was a real compliment. The compliment really belongs to Mischa who did most of the work on the lasts.

Custom size approximately 37, custom width. Stingray upper (two small stingrays were used, one for each shoe), German soling leather, leather heel, pig skin liner.

Pair Number 16

Pair 16I bought the last for this pair from my good friend Mischa in Holland last year. He chose the size. For over a year I did not make a shoe on this last because when I brought it home and measured it, I decided he had made a mistake. The last was clearly too small.

When I saw him again in April this year I asked him about sizing of the last. He was clearly annoyed that I hadn’t even tried. “Make the shoe”, he said. So I made the shoe, and he was right. It fits just fine. It’s a different sort of fit than I have been working with so far. I wore them out the door after cutting a footbed liner and danced in them all night. I think that proves the fit is fine.

They are green, of course. I bought the leather as a sample at the shoe show in Bologna. Vegetable tanned, it is great to work with. Leather heels, Italian leather sole, pig skin liner. Size 43, width 7.

Pair Number 15

Pair 15This is the result of a joint effort with a shoemaker that I met when I missed my flight from San Francisco last year. When I first met him, he gave me a crash course in welting which took all of five minutes. I was too afraid to try it on my own, and I finally got some time to go back and work with him.

Pietro, who is in his 80s and has been making shoes since his teens, agreed to work with me if I was not too much of a pest. I made the uppers from water buffalo leather that I bought in Holland last year and have been saving for a special occasion. Pietro lasted the right shoe and stitched the first three stitches on a 4″ piece of welt. Then he sent me home to finish it. I had to find enough welt for both shoes, last the left shoe, then remove the little sample he left for me, and stitch them both up.

They are size 43, width 9, soled with J.R. soling leather from Germany. Heels are leather and finished with SnoSeal. The welt is ornamented by the fancy wheel I bought on my last trip to Holland.

Pair Number 14

Green black ankle bootGreen suede and black embossed leather. After making a few pairs of ankle boots, I’ve learned a few things. My wife has also been envious of the pairs that have walked away. So this pair was for her. She liked the style of the tooled leather and suede that I made for her before (pair number 9), so here it is again as an ankle boot. I kept the heel counter low like I was told to do before and I think it has made them very comfortable for her. There is no shank and I cut out the center of the heels to save weight. This pair is constructed using the San Crispino style and the midsole is a soft foam. It was not a lot of fun to work with, and the black tooled leather was really too thick. It was very hard to get a wrinkle free curve around the toe of the shoe. Leather heels, Italian soling leather. Black cherry wood stain on the heel and sole edge. Size 38, width 8.