Mentoring an Arbor School Student

Steph hard at work on the sewing machine.I first met Steph when she sent me an email in August of 2008 about her 8th grade senior project due before graduation in June of 2009 – she wanted to make a pair of shoes. I was first impressed that she was thinking 9 months ahead and contacting me before the school year had even begun.

At the end of September I met her and her parents in person at an open house we had in the ActivSpace building where my shop is located. All the studios were open so people could come in and see what we all do in there. Steph was clearly interested and seemed very motivated, so I agreed to take her on.

To figure out how much time we’d need to spend on her project. I did a rough calculation based on how long it takes to make a pair of shoes, which is about 40 hours. No problem. We would only need to meet one hour a week every week and we’ll have time to spare. Hmm. Oh yeah. 8 months, 4 weeks, that’s only 32 hours. Ok, for some of those weeks, we’d need to meet for more than an hour.

As if making shoes was not enough, she also wrote a book. I had a great time learning from her about her research into fashion and shoes. I love her book!

I knew she finally understood what it takes to make shoes when she brought her bag of supplies to the shop one day, and there was a fabric pattern attached to one of the lasts. She was reproducing a design she had seen. I’ve now heard her tell people how shoes are made. She says it with confidence and it makes me proud.

Steph's stingray flatsSteph became interested in stingray leather after I showed her a piece that I had and the pictures of the custom stingray shoes I made with red stingray. Here is Steph’s first pair of shoes. They were made with black stingray leather for the vamp and kangaroo leather quarters. Lined with veg tanned calf. They are certainly nicer than my first pair of shoes!

Saddle #6

I owed a saddle to Marty Krogh of Art & Sole from way back. When I first moved to Portland I burned up a lot of his time discussing ideas with him. He also did some of his cool multicolor spraypaint work on a giant multi-spring Brooks saddle frame that I’ve been playing with.

When I received an e-vite the other day, I realized it was high time to finish the saddle I promised him. I’m not done with frame development so I got out my only other vertical spring Brooks frame and set it up for him. I never reply to e-vites, but sometimes go anyway. When I showed up unexpectedly at his party carrying a little red gift bag, the first words out of his mouth were “Is that my saddle?” Ok, so he clearly hadn’t forgotten. So much for the surprise.

It was a great party, with music by Trashcan Joe. Featured in the band was none other than shoemaker Bill Crary’s brother Mike Danner! And he was not the only shoemaker there beside me. It was like a shoemaker extravaganza.

Marty’s seat will go on his Lucky Bike, which is also red. Happy birthday Marty!

Make an Xtracycle Pad

Ok, after many hours of editing, the first amateur how-to video co-production between Jeff Mandel of ExIT Shoes and Matt Menely of Mountain Soles is ready for viewing!

In this video we present how to make a pad for an Xtracycle. It’s basically a fabric slip or box cushion, wtih elastic straps to hold it to the Xtracycle Snap-Deck. I got the idea from a pad I tested from Clever Cycles. The first run of those had some room for improvement in the padding. I believe the maker of those pads may incorporate my suggestion for some more robust padding.

Whether you want to buy one or make your own, you may be interested to see how we made ours. There are a lot of design possibilities here. Let us know what you think.

Materials: Fabric and or leather for top, bottom and sidewall. Elastic, closed cell foam, contact cement and (optional) zipper. You can recycle jackets for good outdoor fabric and camping pads for closed cell foam.

Tools: Single edge razor blade or box knife, rotary cutters or scissors. Sewing machine.

This assumes some basic sewing skills and if you want to put in a zipper, it does not contain all the info really needed to face the zipper to match the material. We left that as an exercise for the viewer!

The movie!

Creative Commons License

Make an Xtracycle Pad by Jeff Mandel and Matt Menely is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Xtracycle Pad

I recently added an Xtracycle Free Radical to my old GT Transit Express. I got it specifically to carry an adult passenger after consulting with the mechanics and other nice folks at Clever Cycles. Clever Cycles did the installation and let me test one of their pads. The pad had a beautiful floral pattern, but the padding was totally inadequate.

I decided to make my own pad and after some research chose closed cell foam for the padding. I found a great piece of outdoor fabric with a floral pattern at the Mill End fabric store and some elastic from my friend Matt Menely at Mountain Soles. After I finished my pad, I had plenty of foam left over for Matt. We thought it would be fun to make a video showing how you can make your own.

I spent quite some time editing it down. It is still slightly longer than Lord of the Rings, so I’m still working on it. Stay tuned and we’ll have it posted for you. There are probably some better designs out there, but this one will work.

Bike Saddle Prototype #3

Seat prototype #3During the open house there were a lot of questions about the bike saddle prototypes I’ve been working on over the last several months.

Mostly I’ve been working on the leather and finishing. Some of my favorite shoes from Italy were finished by hand. I’ve been developing a finishing style for the saddles. Here’s saddle prototype number 3.

This saddle was handed off to a local guy for testing a few months ago. You might see it around Portland if he ever puts in on one of his bikes, which he had not the last time I checked in with him. I’ll give you a hint, he was in a story on in December.

The leather work is just about done. Before long it will be time to refine the frame.

Open house review

Thanks everyone who showed up for the open house! I really appreciate the show of support from the people I invited and it was real treat to have so many new people come by.

Thank you Jonathan Maus for the story on Your story brought in quite a few people to see the seat prototypes, and at least one person who just came to talk shoes.

I’d like to send out a special thanks for Ariel for the lovely handmade mugs she brought as a studio warming gift.

Now it’s time to get to work!

Open House

I will be hosting an open house at my new workshop in the ActivSpace building (google map). My workshop is actually visible from the picture on the ActivSpace page. It’s the corner on the second floor.

Date: January 19, 2008
Time: Noon to 4pm
Address: The ActivSpace Building
833 SE Main St. #201
Portland, OR 97214

The building is kept well locked. To enter, select ExIT Shoes from the directory next to the elevator on the ground level. That will ring my workshop and I will send the elevator to let you in. I’m on the second floor.

I will be displaying some shoe prototypes, leather, lasts, tools and other shoe related stuff. My bike seat prototypes will also be on display. Please come with your shoe questions or just to say hello.

The space is small, so expect a crowd even if only a few people show up.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Moving to Portland

I am excited to announce that I have moved to Portland, Oregon. I will be posting the details of my new address and shop information in the next two weeks. While the website may have been quiet, a lot has been going on behind the scenes. Stay tuned for more!