Cutting the insole

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Cutting the insole

#1 Post by admin » Mon May 06, 2002 6:58 am

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Re: Cutting the insole

#2 Post by gcunning » Wed Jan 15, 2003 6:33 am

Anyone,?
I cut my first insole this weekend without help. It did not turn out to well. The outside cut (at the feather line??) as I tried to clean it kept getting wider. It's about 3/8" wide. The channel I was so worried about it being correct I now only have about 1/4" of leather (between my channel and outside) to hold my stitch. Do I need to start over or can I do something to make it work? Which is the greater mistake not having enough leather for the stitch to hold or too much from the feather line in?

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Re: Cutting the insole

#3 Post by dw » Wed Jan 15, 2003 7:12 am

Gary,

Three-eighths is a bit too much for the feather or outside channel, in my opinion. And the holdfast ought to be a bit more than a quarter inch.

You might get by with the wider feather...especially if your vamp leather is heavy...and especially if you are making a round or wide round toe. All it does is put the inseam a bit further under the insole...which, theoretically, should protect it. But it also allows the edge of the insole to curl up a bit, too. And that's not so good.

The holdfast is another matter.. Actually, on really good insole leather--like the Baker's--a quarter inch is just fine. The real issue is will a quarter inch holdfast hold the stitches? Or will you be breaking through every time you really bear down to tighten...and pull the welt and vamp into that wide feather?

The best thing might be to start over. You'll learn from your mistake--how did the feather get so wide? What were you doing that allowed you to lose control? Etc.. And then you'll have an insole you can rely on and that you have confidence in. That alone is worth the cost of the discarded insole. Be gratefull for the practice. Image

And, of course, you could split the rejects down and use the splits for build-ups on lasts...that's what I do with all my scrap insole bellies, shoulders, etc..

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Re: Cutting the insole

#4 Post by gcunning » Wed Jan 15, 2003 1:06 pm

Oh, I have a nice "leather lesson" stack! It grows exponentially.
I don't have the device on my Sutton finisher to do the outside channel. So, I had to hand channel it. That was not the problem. It was when I tried to clean the channel it grew as I shaved (what an amazing fact).
I figured I would just be starting over but I was hoping I could find a way out of it.
This is on an old pair of Justin that I wanted to see if I could put a foxing on. I'm trying to make this my first project without any hands on help. Maybe they will be finished by summerImage
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Gary

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Re: Cutting the insole

#5 Post by bultsad » Wed Jan 15, 2003 9:13 pm

Gary,
Is there a reason why you cannot use a sharp french edger to "clean the channel"? That particular tool offers a lot of control, especially if you grind the inside edge down a little. I can see the "leather lesson" stack. I have a space on the wall in my shop, it's called the "wall of shame".
Helps to keep me and the guys here humble. I clean it off every January 1st.
Jim

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Re: Cutting the insole

#6 Post by dw » Thu Jan 16, 2003 7:22 am

Gary, Jim,

I use a French edger in conjunction with an American Channel Knife to create and clean up the feather. The ACK makes a vertical cut in the insole...to a set depth and at a set distance from the edge of the insole. Then the French edger is used to remove the block of leather that creates the 'rabbett". And what's left is the "feather." Done this way, there is actually very little need for clean up and little chance for a mistake.

Salaman includes an illustration of an American Channel knife as well as an illustration of a Barnsley "Feathering Knife" in his "Dictionary of Leatherworking Tools c.1700-1950". The feathering knife appears to be nothing more than a French edger with the right-hand fence ground off. And indeed, that is essentially what I use in lieu of a real feathering knife.

If you don't have, or can't find, an American Channel Knife you can even use a simple groover to initiate the outside channel.

Sometimes, I will use a four-in-hand (or "shoemaker's" file) to clean and level the feather. But beware! The file can fool you. The cutting action goes right up to the very edge of the file and if it is not held pretty precisely level those teeth will slowly but surely widen the feather...almost without you ever realizing it is happening. Much like what you describe, Gary. Better to follow Jim's advice and stick with a feathering knife for clean up.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#7 Post by gcunning » Thu Jan 16, 2003 8:29 am

I'll try and post a picture of the tools I used. One I need a replacment blade for and don't know where to get it.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#8 Post by jake » Thu Jan 16, 2003 10:48 am

Gary,

Danny Marlin----Blanket, TX.

I'll try to dig out his address/phone #.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#9 Post by gcunning » Thu Jan 16, 2003 1:54 pm

I have his number somewhere. I ordered a head knife from him in '97 and it took over a year to get it. So a company in south Tx carries his stuff now. I think there name is Hadlock and (Fox??).
What tool does he make for the outside channel? Do you use it?

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Re: Cutting the insole

#10 Post by das » Wed Nov 05, 2003 7:18 am

Sorry for the delay getting back to this topic. Without quoting chapter and verse [the books are at home anyway], the "dead guys" from the 18th c. were mixed on whether to channel the insole for welted work, or not. And, as I think I posted earlier, many of the surviving insoles from that, and even Rees' period, were only averaging around +/-5 iron thick, and almost always belly leather--so we're talking thinner, cheesier leather to begin with. Without re-reading all the 19th c "dead guys", my impression is that when a channel is cut, it's cut with a knife, not a groover that removes material. The 18th c. likewise.

This channel is only used when the insole will bear it--if it might weaken the insole or tear-out it's often omitted. From what I've seen, as well as what I was taught to do, the insole channel can be made in two ways:

1) older method: make a very shallow vertical incision, just deep enough to bring the sewing thread [size matters] down level with the surface, then open it with a channel-opener, and even burnish it open further with the tip of a suitable stick, and hole the insole.

2) later method [say 1750s on]: on heavier insoles, make the vertical incision--again it needn't be any deeper than the thickness of the sewing thread--open it the same as above, then carefully skive away the inner wall to form a slope, removing material. This is well-illustrated in Golding, et al.

I've accidentally cut them to deep so that the stitches show "ladders" on the grain, but I've never had one bust through. Also, on the visible "laddering" on the grain, according to most of the "dead guys" this is more a result of inseaming while the insole it too damp/wet, and not so much inherent in whether there is a channel or not. Try sewing with a dry insole, not ringing wet in any event.

I've never seen the single, angled, cut channel that closes over the inseam, you guys are discussing, except on US cowboy boots. Years ago one guy explained it to me that it was developed to protect the inseam when repairers got a-hold of the boots, and sanded the bottom filling, almost like how to make hand-sewing that would stand-up to modern mechanized repair techniques. IOW, it was a response to mechanization, and not really a hand-sewn technique, like jerk-needle sewing is borrowed from machine chain-stitching, etc. I'd be interested to know if any of our European folks have seen this kind of inseam channel over there?

I have seen the channel [#2] go way wrong when done by amateurs. They cut a vertical incision, then use the knife to cut an angle to meet it at the apex of the angle created. An over-cut, or too deep a cut on either will ruin the insole. You gotta cut the vertical channel no deeper than necessary or than the leather will bear [judgement/exprience], open it, burnish it, and only then carefully skive away the inside wall or flap to form the angle. Trying to make a tilted "V" cut by eye is courting disaster.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#11 Post by dw » Wed Nov 05, 2003 6:20 pm

Al,

The slight vertical cut method you describe meets just about all of the standards and spec that a shallow groove will yield. I would think that the shallow groove would be simpler, easier to control, and easier to execute for a novice. When did races come into usage? Reason I ask is that I wondered if the shallow vertical cut was preferred because groovers weren't available. I guess that might be a bit far-fetched now that I think about it. but I went to the shallow groove after your visit, you know...and the demonstration you gave me on inseaming on a thin insole. I'll never forget that...it was a real eye-opener.

Having said that, I would like to try the shallow vertical cut. It has a certain appeal once you follow the logic through. Heck, I might even switch (again) if I can master it. Image

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Re: Cutting the insole

#12 Post by jake » Wed Nov 05, 2003 6:36 pm

Al,

Dad-burn-it! Here I go again! Image

Honestly, I'm glad you came back for the follow-up, because....it makes perfect sense.....now that you've mentioned your philosophy about the subject.

Well now.....guess I'll go unpack that new knife I made the other day. Image I'm like D.W., I might even switch (again) if I can master it.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#13 Post by das » Thu Nov 06, 2003 5:13 am

DW,

As to the origin of the "groover" or "race knife" for shoemaking you got me--wild guess that it's from the early days of MacKay-sewn [c.1860s], unless it was borrowed from harnessmakers, and when they started grooving, as opposed to channeling....?

In teaching my apprentices the knife-methods, they've had little trouble mastering it. Sure an insole gets ruined once in a while, but that even happens to me Image

The main reason I stick with this [method #1 and #2] is because it's historical, and after all I'm mostly making historical repros. Method #2 is just traditional, even "West End", so I've never tried anything else.

I think the key to success with whichever method is, 1) only remove as little material as possible [a "groove" means some is removed], 2) don't go any deeper than necessary, and 3) don't hole or inseam the insole when it's too wet, else the curve of the awl will lift the softened insole off the last, digging too deeply, and causing those bothersome "ladders" on the grain side. And, if protecting the inseam from the grinding wheels in repair is a concern, I'd just Barge a neatly-laid thin leather bottom filling in to cover the inseam, before the cork/felt filling goes in.

A couple of welted insole variants you might want to know about, even if you never try them, are: "under-cutting" [Rees advises against this, admonishing one to always "work square to the last", but it was a legitimate older method]--cut the insole shy of the last's featherline by, say, 1/4 around the forepart and waist [not in the heel-seat], and cut no beveled feather at all. With this method the lasting margin wraps further under the last, and makes a really close welt that doesn't jut out much. The other technique is to make the insole out of c.5-6oz, and actually bend the edge upward into an "L" configuration, so it's shy of the last's featherline by c. 1/4", and "stab" [technically] the inseam through the insole's bent-up lip edge. This is a very strong way to inseam, and overcomes the inherent weakness of using thinner [yet] insole leather. The latter method seems to have been largely abandoned around 1780-90s in favor of the "modern" feathered, heavier insole. There are a few other ancient tricks, but probably with little practical application.

With the 10 iron insoles you're using, I'd stick to what gives you the effect you like. I don't think you oughta bother with the vertical channel, or vertical channel with the inside lip skived off unless you drop down to the thinner insoles, like 5-6 iron. Maybe for a light weight dress boot?

Oh, on the historical side, the heavy "modern" feathered insole, with inboard channel like "West End" for welted...The "first" ones I've recorded are c.1750s, so it's an "old" technique too. Several techniques were used simultaneously, but this seems the "newest", if, like me, you think of 1750s as "late" in the scheme of things.

Anonymous

Re: Cutting the insole

#14 Post by Anonymous » Thu Nov 06, 2003 6:00 am

Peter Monahan from Canada here. (Can't get past the password thing to post in my own name, DW - I'm a real techno-peasant in some ways.

Messers Frommer, Saguto and Dobbins:

Thank you one and all! This is what I joined the Company for - a serious discussion of shoemaking done in a spirit of honest enquiry ("nuff said abouth that, though.)

I'm a REAL tyro at this: just starting my fourth pair of from-the-sole-up shoes and am really fascinated by this discussion. The first pair I ever made, I used Vass and Molnar "Handmade Shoes for Men" for my instructions and didn't even realize I should feather the outside of my inner sole, just channelled it and bulled on through. Boy do I feel dumb! Image

I think I'm going to try a groove - 'cause I can control my groover and I hate to waste sole bend - I already lose money at this (hobby)! I may also try laying a line of thread into the bottom of the groove as a belt and suspenders thing. I'll also let my soles dry out a lot more before I stitch this time.

(Al -there a pair of women's work shoes circa 1812, but I'm concerned with historic outsides only at this point - I know what I propose isn't "H.A.) Image

One real beginner question here - so obvious that no one I've read talks about it. When one holes a sole, if the stitches are a uniform distance apart on the INSIDE they get farther/too far apart around the toe and heel on the OUTSIDE of the sole and vamp. What to do? I think I see on one of Jake's (?) photos of a channel that the stitches are closer together around the inside of the toe. Es verdad? Comments, answers or (figurative) slaps on the head grattefully received. Image

Yours in cobbling,
Peter Monahan

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Re: Cutting the insole

#15 Post by jake » Thu Nov 06, 2003 6:36 am

Peter,

First of all, Welcome! I'm sure D.W. will work on the password problem. But it's good to have you aboard.

Secondly, you're exactly right on the inseaming notion that your feather holes will be farther apart than your inside channel holes. Just like the lanes on a track, the inside lane is shorter than the outside track. That's why they stagger the runners on a race. The way you try to solve this problem is to angle your awl. Look at the pen marks on my insole. See how they are angled? Around the toe, your inside channel holes are always crowded, and you sometimes even have to resort to some "trick" stitches.

Hope this analogy helps.

Once again, Welcome!

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Re: Cutting the insole

#16 Post by dw » Thu Nov 06, 2003 6:52 am

Peter,

If you're having trouble with the password contact me in private email, I'll try to help you get it resolved.

A few tips with regard to shallow groove channeling (a made-up term to describe it)...be sure it *is* shallow. I don't groove down more than a sixteenth of an inch, if that. The groove doesn't need to be any deeper than the thickness of your inseaming thread. Maybe you don't need to lay in another line of thread? What Al says is true, you are removing material...maybe a problem.... but you are replacing that material with thread. That's the theory, at any rate.

I spritz my insole with water just before holing, not a lot...just enough to make the leather a little more pliable.

And I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to waste any leather. I use soling bellies (still pretty firm...ask Al Image ) for my insoles. I actually buy 9 inch "insole bellies" from Westfield Tanning, I think it is, right along with TR 11-12 soling bends. They are not as firm as the heart of the soling bend and are much more apt to form a good footbed than the soling itself. And I use the scraps...any piece bigger than a credit card, for example...to build up lasts.

One other tip that may help...when I hole the insole I insert a thin, bent, inch and a quarter long wire brad into the hole from the outside. This gives me visible "line" that shows the angle of that hole. When I make the next hole, I can line my awl up with the brad such that I can see how far apart the stitches will be--both on the inisde "track and the outside track. Then just like playing cribbage, you move the brad into each hole as you proceed. Kind of funky...maybe not needed...but convenient and easy.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#17 Post by jake » Thu Nov 06, 2003 6:53 am

Peter,

D.W.'s pic is better than mine to illustrate the correct angle of your awl holes to compensate for the difference in "circumferential" distances around the insole. Go to: By DWFII on Monday, October 20, 2003 - 08:22 pm, under "Tools of the Trade". You'll see a good pic.

Adios

Anonymous

Re: Cutting the insole

#18 Post by Anonymous » Thu Nov 06, 2003 3:14 pm

Jake and DW

Thanks for the answers/clarifications. Yo're right about DW's photo too, jake, though all of them, now that I look at them again, help. Last (I hope) question: "trick stitches", Jake? Two holes converging on the inside in a Vee, maybe?

Thanks again gents.

Peter Monahan in the not quite frozen north
("Snow flurries tonite" the radjio sez. Image )

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Re: Cutting the insole

#19 Post by jake » Thu Nov 06, 2003 5:10 pm

Peter,

Well, Thank ya Sir.

Basically, the two "trick" stitches to help someone put more stitches into the same area is a "tunnel" stitch and a "over" stitch (for lack of a better name). For the record, D.W. taught me both of these stitches, so I can't take the credit. I must say, I probably need to take pics of these to help explain their formation.

I'll be back......

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Re: Cutting the insole

#20 Post by das » Fri Nov 07, 2003 5:15 am

Yup, DW's insoles are harder than flint to my hand, when I tried sewing through one years ago up at his shop Image

I use strictly oak-bark, pit-tanned, shoulder leather, 5-6 iron, for insoles [with tarred felt bottom filling when I can find it, otherwise cork or leather]--part out of habit, and part out of a preference for a "looser" leather. I feel it molds to the foot in wear better, takes a deeper impression, faster, and makes that "custom foot-bed" even Birkenstock would envy.

DW,

Is it traditional for western boots to carry such heavy insoles, thicker it seems than the outsole in some cases? This might just be an East meets West thing?

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Re: Cutting the insole

#21 Post by dw » Fri Nov 07, 2003 6:10 am

Al,

I don't know if it's "traditional" or not--that's the way I was taught. I suspect, from what I've seen, that heavier insoles in Western boots, are more common than lighter ones. Even "off-the-shelf" boots tend to have heavier insoles than commercially made shoes. And manufacturers are always looking for ways to save a penny or two.

My theory has always been that boots...western boots, English boots...any kind of boot, are fundamentally a tool and a piece of protective clothing more than an ornament. So...a heavier insole is appropriate. How heavy? I guess that's a matter of judgment.

I'd use the Baker insoling exclusively if I could. You have the advantage of working for a large non-profit organization that has the money and the leverage to buy insole shoulders from abroad. It's harder for the bespoke maker who owns his own shop. The one time we used a Crispin Colloquy Buyers Consortium to purchase Baker insole shoulders, I got three. I really like them but it was such a hassle purchasing, importing, and distributing them, and the whole process took such a long time, that no one has been eager to do it again. So...I dole them out to my family and good, good customers. And tallow my domestic insoles real thoroughly. Image

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Re: Cutting the insole

#22 Post by paul » Fri Nov 07, 2003 7:40 am

DW,
Could you please discuss 'tallowing' your insoles for us? I get the concept, but don't really know what you're talking about.
Thank you, PK

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Re: Cutting the insole

#23 Post by dw » Fri Nov 07, 2003 5:16 pm

Paul,

Glad to...

Nothing mysterious about it, I just warm some beef tallow (but it could be sheep tallow, too) so that it's liquid and paint it onto the roughed up grain surface of the insole--never to the flesh side. I let it soak in, and paint another coat. When it gets to the point where it's no longer soaking in, I will take a hair dryer and gently warm it up again to help it soak in. I may apply as many as six coats this way.

Remember though, hot oil holds heat real well--better than water--and heat can damage the leather. So "gentle" heat is the watchword.

When the tallow has been applied, I usually let the insoles sit for a day or two. The tallow will slowly spread through the grain surface and into the fibers at the center of the insole, and, believe it or not, channeling and holing will be easier.

I think tallowing will mellow out the domestic belly that I use and help it to form a better and quicker footbed. If nothing else it provides a reservoir of conditioners that will keep an insole from drying out and cracking.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#24 Post by jake » Mon Nov 10, 2003 6:32 pm

Peter,

Here's the first of the two "trick" stitches I mentioned.

Let's say you "popped" a stitch (pulled the thread completely through the holdfast). First, take that stitch back out. Then place your awl inside of the inside channel and make yourself a tunnel stitch inline with where you popped the previous stitch. Then use this tunnel stitch as if it was the holdfast. The leather created by the tunnel stitch will act as the holdfast leather.

I'll try to remember to take a pic of this and the "over-stitch" when I inseam these boots.
2621.jpg
2620.jpg

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Re: Cutting the insole

#25 Post by petemonahan » Tue Nov 11, 2003 5:51 am

Jake

Thanks again for taking the time! Image More good pics to add to my files. Now all I need to do is get out in that cold old garage and do it! (Frost every night now, but so far the threatened snow has held off.) Thanks again.

Peter

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