Cutting the insole

Share secrets, compare techniques, discuss the merits of materials--eg. veg vs. chrome--and above all, seek knowledge.
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Re: Cutting the insole

#101 Post by dw » Sun Apr 06, 2014 5:58 am

Lance, Jake,

I like Carreducker's approach but in the past I have most often just cut the sock to cover the arch support.

I borrowed some photos from another forum to show the range of approaches to this issue.

Here's an example from well regarded Japanesse maker Masaru Okuyama:
masaru_okuyama_insole.jpg
Here's an English maker's (unspecified) take:
English_Insole_up2.jpg
English_Insole_up1.jpg
And although not strictly insole-up-in-the-waist, here's an example of the way Anthony Delos cuts his insoles:
delos_insole.jpg
delos_insole.jpg (16.33 KiB) Viewed 1028 times
If you're building shoes (as opposed to boots), one alternative is to cut your heel stiffs such that they extend all the way to the ball joint on the medial side. This will give much the same support as the insole-up technique--perhaps a bit softer, depending on the substance of the heel stiffener. The heel stiff gets sewn into the inseam, and it is well pasted, so it can be fairly formidable in terms of adding support.
extended_heel_stiffener.jpg
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Re: Cutting the insole

#102 Post by homeboy » Sun Apr 06, 2014 7:29 am

Dee-Dubb,

WOW.....thanks for the additional pics/guidance. I have to tell ya, I REEEALLY like this insole. So comfy!

Lance,

Yeah, I follow James' blog pretty close. It's where I got to thinking about this technique of cutting the insole. Hopefully, I'll see you in October!

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Re: Cutting the insole

#103 Post by lancepryor » Sun Apr 06, 2014 7:47 am

DW:

Both of those are by Jim McCormick, for different UK firms. I guess for one of them he is always doing the extended counter (or at least was, as of a few years ago); the insole up in waist was for a different firm.

I've done one pair with extended counter but haven't done it in a while. Maybe I'll do it for my next pair.

Like you, I've just cut my sock liner to cover the insole up in waist; I cut my insole to only come up in the arch area, much more semi-circular as opposed to the longer, sort of straighter cut shown in the pictures.

Here are a couple of pics of my most recent pair, insole up in waist, then the other shoe w/ the sock liner:

Image

Image

Lance

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Re: Cutting the insole

#104 Post by homeboy » Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:23 am

Lance,

That's nice looking!

I notice the "tiny" pegs points. I had forgotten I was using the thinner Bakers insoles I got from Lisa on my recent pair. Damn near didn't get my last out!!! On one I actually flip over backwards on the concrete floor! Thank God for Dick Anderson's last puller!!! It has never failed me!

You and Dee-Dubb better quit holding out on me. Didn't know anyone here was doing this technique. :wink_smile:
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Re: Cutting the insole

#105 Post by Janne Melkersson » Tue Apr 08, 2014 2:30 pm

Nice photos!

You know I am commiing from the orthopedic trade so I had to jump in here :) This old method for giving support in the arch area was used much in the orthopedic trade when i was apprentice. The time before the vaccum eva inserts, we made the insole all the time like this. The bottom of the last was made according to the imprint of the foot and we used heavy insoles so we could level out the bumps and irregularities, that reumatism and diabetic and other foot illness could casue. If the bumps where to big we build in an insert made of cork

To get the best result the highest point of the support should be in the area where the calcaneus/heel bone ends, this was made by grinding of wood on the last to make a lift on the insole. This together with a long stiffener to the ball, as the one on DW 's photo, will give extra support. To adjust a fllexible flat foot or a pronated foot this gives in most cases to little support.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#106 Post by dw » Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:12 pm

Janne,

Do you have a photo of one of the insoles you cut like that...from the side? I have always thought that to be effective the shape had to be more than just an arc in medial waist. I'd be interested in seeing how an orthopedic shoemaker would cut the insole.
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Re: Cutting the insole

#107 Post by lancepryor » Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:40 pm

Janne:

I would be interested in that as well.

My insole up in waist is really more of a comfort thing, rather than any orthopedic solution. I do like the way it feels, giving a bit more firmness to the waist/arch area.

I can imagine for a situation of over-pronation, my approach wouldn't help much.

My daughters over-pronate, and we've bought some inserts for their shoes. The shape of the medial padding is much more like what Carreducker and the J.McCormick insoles look like, rather than what mine looks like.

Janne, it makes sense that the highest point needs to be at the front of the calcaneous, since that would appear to be the axis of rotation for an over-pronated foot. Could you explain a bit more about where the last is ground away?

Thanks,
Lance

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Re: Cutting the insole

#108 Post by Janne Melkersson » Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:44 pm

DW, Lance, I am about to make a pair later this week and will post a photo of the insole. Mine will look like Lance's but with the highest point about an inch back and about the same in lenght

If the client want the insole high up in the waist on bespoke work the reason for making the highest point at the same place as on ortopedic work is that making it more forward where there is no bones want add anything other then it makes the waist area of the shoe heavier which could look kind of odd on bespoke work. A long stiffener to the ball will do the same job.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#109 Post by Janne Melkersson » Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:29 pm

I just want to add that generally speaking, on bespoke work where the foot doesn't need to be corrected, a snug fit in the waist and a long and hard stiffener will hold the foot and will give as much comfort as a high insole in the waist. Probably even better then with a short and soft stiffener!

If a foot fall down in the waist the forces that it creates is to much for a relatively soft insole to hold.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#110 Post by Janne Melkersson » Fri Apr 11, 2014 2:05 pm

Thank you DW for the gueidance and your patients :) Here is two photos of an insole cut high in the waist the way I use to do it. As I hope you can see the peak is about where the heel normally ends. Which also is the place for the end of the heel bone. Doing the lift closer to the ball will just lift up the flesh and even though it might give a comfy feeling it will not give much support. If real support is needed this want do good, probably anbulid in insert is the next step and sometimes the shoe has to be modified on theoutside but that is another topic.
bindsula2.jpg
bindsula.jpg

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Re: Cutting the insole

#111 Post by dw » Sat Apr 12, 2014 11:30 am

Janne,

I don't do much in the way of orthopedic work...so I don't have any basis for the following, but I was taught that the arch support should come up to support the arch.

On my lasts there is a pronounced arch which is visually under the cone of the last mirroring the structure of the foot--the way the bones from the medial cuneiform through the first metatarsal form the arch. So I've always thought that arch cookies or insoles cut up in the waist should follow that arch structure...see the photo:
up_in_the_waist.jpg
The insole would not be visible from the top of the last and would blend into the lines/surface of the cone. Could you comment on the pros and cons of doing it more like the way I have illustrated? I would appreciate the insights.
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Re: Cutting the insole

#112 Post by Janne Melkersson » Sat Apr 12, 2014 2:41 pm

DW, before we make an insole high up in the waist we should first ask us why! I think it is a relevant question becasue if the cllient needs support this will probably give to little of it.

If it is support we are looking for then it is better do make an insert. In the "old" days we did it by covering the bottom of the last with a heavy veg tan lining. Then cement a layer of cork and grind it down so it will give the support the client needs. If this method is used then it is the insert that goes high up in the waist and the insole will be cut straight.

When I make a high up in the waist insole as on my photo I normally don't cut it as high.

The way you cut yours will work as good as mine when it is for feet that don't need support in the orthopedic meaning. I do it on all my shoes and boots, it adds a comfy feeling to the shoe.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#113 Post by dw » Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:44 pm

Janne,

Is there a downside to cutting it as high as I've illustrated?

Thanks for taking the time.
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Re: Cutting the insole

#114 Post by Janne Melkersson » Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:52 am

DW, the short answer will be no, I don't see any downsside the way you cut the insole. The longer answer will be, as long as not the angle of the clients foot will be changed! Unless, that is the reason why making a high up in the waist insole of course.

One thing to think of is that if the waist is builded up with so much leather in the waist as the Japanese maker did, it will show of on the finnished shoe. If not the same amount is taken away from the last that is. By doing this the high up in the waist will of course give more support. But as I said if the reason is for support, in the ortopedic meaning, it is better to move the highest point back towards the heelbone for better effect. By doing this the support will straigthen up the clients foot angle back to normal on a pronated foot, or at least that is what we strive for.

Hope this helps and that I don't confuse you, I don't find the right words for this in English

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Re: Cutting the insole

#115 Post by dw » Sun Apr 13, 2014 5:16 am

Janne,

Thanks for your insights.

Things to think about.
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Re: Cutting the insole

#116 Post by leech77 » Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:32 pm

Hi folks!
Been a long time since I posted or had enough time to work on shoes, but I'm back into it.
I've been having a heck of a lot of trouble with the insole and need some advice.
I'm using pretty thick stuff (about 3/8" to 1/4") veg tanned for the insole. but I keep breaking the feather when I run my awl through it. I'm keeping it damp, but not sopping wet. Is my awl too dull? Should I be sharpening the tip and sides of it to make it slice a hole rather than just push through the leather? Any help you can offer is much appreciated. Until then I guess I'll keep on with stitch-down shoes :)
Thanks!
-Eric-

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Re: Cutting the insole

#117 Post by dw » Tue Jul 29, 2014 3:35 pm

leech77 wrote:Hi folks!
Been a long time since I posted or had enough time to work on shoes, but I'm back into it.
I've been having a heck of a lot of trouble with the insole and need some advice.
I'm using pretty thick stuff (about 3/8" to 1/4") veg tanned for the insole. but I keep breaking the feather when I run my awl through it. I'm keeping it damp, but not sopping wet. Is my awl too dull? Should I be sharpening the tip and sides of it to make it slice a hole rather than just push through the leather? Any help you can offer is much appreciated. Until then I guess I'll keep on with stitch-down shoes :)
Thanks!
-Eric-

Probably need some photos. I use a pretty thick insole for boots but I know of a few of shoemakers who use insoles not much thicker than 6 iron (1/8th inch)...and hand welt.

A lot depends on the quality and temper of the insole leather itself.
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Re: Cutting the insole

#118 Post by leech77 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:18 pm

Hello again folks!
I've been experimenting a bit in what little spare time I have these days with a bit of a different insole technique and I wanted to see if anyone has tried it. I've always had trouble breaking through the hold fast. I think its the quality of leather I was using. Any guidance on what kind to get and where to get it is welcome. I live and work near Amish communities here in Pennsylvania and have been grabbing any thick veg-tanned I could find. I'm guessing that was my first mistake. Anyway, what I tried recently was to cut out an insole, cut another one slightly smaller and glue them flesh sides together with barge. This gave me a ready made feather edge about 3/16" wide. I then cut my groove in the smaller, glued on insole and made my holes. this seemed to work pretty well and when I lasted my experiment upper and welted it everything seemed hunky-doory. Now, I'm not a shoe maker and I'm pretty green to the whole process, but I still feel like this method is a bit like cheating and think there has got to be some reason I shouldn't be doing it. Any thoughts?
God rest,
-Eric

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Re: Cutting the insole

#119 Post by das » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:46 am

Eric,

While your trick sounds like an innovative "adapt and overcome" solution, I'd be leery of how long such a laminated insole might hold up in hard wear--you tell us. To my knowledge this technique has not been tried before. Factory Goodyear Welted construction relies on a glued-on holdfast "rib", stuck to the bottom of a leather insole by machines. When properly done this "rib" can hold-up OK, but since you're not a factory, and doing things by hand there is no real reason to resort to this dodge.

If you are having problems with the sewing thread cutting-through the holdfast when you pull the stitch in tight, try the old time-honored trick of "bracing". Take a 5" length of an old thread, and when your sewing approaches the curve at the very toe, which is apt to cut-through the holdfast with even the best of insole leather, as you form each stitch, slip this extra thread through, around and behind the loop on the inner/holdfast side before you pull it up tight so it forms a spiral around each toe stitch. This way the inner thread bears against the "bracing" thread, which reinforces things on the holdfast side of each stitch.

Also, be sure to cut your holdfast fully wide enough: it should be equal to the thickness of your uppers (including any lining and stiffeners), plus the thickness of your welt. Having the holdfast equal to the width of the bulk of material being joined to it, you now have a balanced seam. An imbalanced seam will always tend to ply/flex on the thinner/weaker side of the seam. Imagine sewing a two pieces of leather, one thick, the other thin. IOW the thin side will resist flexing, the thin side will get over-worked flexing.

As to insole leather, the best today is oak bark pit-tanned cowhide double shoulder, 6 iron (up to 9 iron some prefer). Only manufacrurer is J. & F. J. Baker Co., Devon, UK. HCC member Lisa Sorrell imports this, so contact her for details.

Good luck!

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Re: Cutting the insole

#120 Post by dw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 8:20 am

Eric,

I don't disagree with a thing that das has said--it is good advice down to the last bit.

That said, a few observations: first and foremost is that what you're ending up with--the inseam and strength of your shoe--is fundamentally dependent on the cement.

So why not just cut to the chase and do cement construction rather than handwelt? You're not gaining anything over cement construction by taking your approach, and losing much...IMO.

Properly done, handwelted is the strongest and most reliable means of putting a shoe together. It is a solution to a problem that is the culmination of 10,000 years of evolution.

When I first got into the Trade I was using the margins of outsole bends for insole. Das can tell you how horrified he was when he saw me doing that. But I didn't know any better. That said, there were really only a few drawbacks--the outsole was short fibered and prone to breakthrough. Ring any bells? It had also been, like most outsoling, rolled or compressed, so it was hard to hole and never made a good footbed.

But it worked and I made many pairs like that some of which are still kicking around. It was, for the most part, just hard, hard work.

Now I use insole shoulder--Baker in preference, when I can get it. IMO, the main criteria for an insole is that it be shoulder...or less optimally, belly...simply because the fiber mat will be comprised of long fibers, rather than the short densely packed fibers of a bend (and chances are that most of the saddle or bridle or harness leather you're buying is not shoulder).

Long fibers will hold a stitch better--three to the inch (the standard) to even five to the inch--even when tightened down strongly. To the point that you see the welt and the upper being drawn into the feather.

Loosely packed long fibers will compress to not only make the stitch more solid but the insole itself will also form a footbed.

Finding insole shoulder is a problem...maybe the most critical one we face as makers...and it's expensive. One of our members--dearbone--uses shoulder he gets from Warkov-Safir in Canada (Toronto?). It's a bit expensive coming into the US and a bit soft for some people's druthers but with some care in cutting, it actually it meets all the above criteria for what makes a good inseam and footbed.

IMO
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Re: Cutting the insole

#121 Post by leech77 » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:09 pm

DW,
Indeed the fibers of the stuff I've been getting are very short. In fact it wasn't often I'd even get past holing the insole because my awl would break through so often! The veg tanned I was using was definitely not fluffy at all either. I guess I could swing by the tack shop and ask if he has any shoulders now that I have a better idea of what I'm looking for, but even if I find any, it probably wouldn't be of boot-grade caliber. Seems kinda pointless to put in the time and effort to make a pair of boots that may or may not hold up. I'm going to try some of the Baker shoulder leather and see how that goes. I think I've been trying to chop down a tree with a sledge hammer over here.
Quick question about the shoulder leather. Which direction should I cut the insole? Should I the length of the insole leg to shoulder (up and down) or in the head to tail direction? I'm guessing that makes a big difference and I certainly want to keep my mistake scrap bin as small as I can. By the by, why is shoulder leather so expensive and rare? Or is it the oak bark tanning process that makes it special?
Das, DW, thanks a million for your help! I'll keep you posted on my progress and post some pics if I can. Hopefully I'll finally get to use those lasts I made so many years ago :)
-Eric-

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Re: Cutting the insole

#122 Post by dw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:16 pm

leech77 » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:09 pm wrote:DW,
Indeed the fibers of the stuff I've been getting are very short. In fact it wasn't often I'd even get past holing the insole because my awl would break through so often! The veg tanned I was using was definitely not fluffy at all either. I guess I could swing by the tack shop and ask if he has any shoulders now that I have a better idea of what I'm looking for, but even if I find any, it probably wouldn't be of boot-grade caliber. Seems kinda pointless to put in the time and effort to make a pair of boots that may or may not hold up. I'm going to try some of the Baker shoulder leather and see how that goes. I think I've been trying to chop down a tree with a sledge hammer over here.
Quick question about the shoulder leather. Which direction should I cut the insole? Should I the length of the insole leg to shoulder (up and down) or in the head to tail direction? I'm guessing that makes a big difference and I certainly want to keep my mistake scrap bin as small as I can. By the by, why is shoulder leather so expensive and rare? Or is it the oak bark tanning process that makes it special?
Das, DW, thanks a million for your help! I'll keep you posted on my progress and post some pics if I can. Hopefully I'll finally get to use those lasts I made so many years ago :)
-Eric-
Eric,

It doesn't have to be "fluffy." Long fibered leather, even if it is not as dense as outsoling, can be free of loose "stuff" on the flesh side. If not, some makers would say that you should scrap or use a shoemaker's file to remove the fluff.

I don't know that there is a lot of difference between the tannage of a naturally tanned saddle / harness leather shoulder and insole shoulder. Both would be bark tanned and both un-rolled / compressed, AFAIK. In fact, at one time, the leather that shoemakers used for outsoles was relatively soft, and probably not marketed exclusively to shoemakers. It needed to be hardened on a "lap iron." Das would be able to address the historical aspects better than anyone else on the forum.

I am sure some tannages will be "softer" than others but not if the same agents are used. It's the same raw material, after all. So all other things being equal.... Most modern saddles leathers say they are "vegetable tanned" but there are a lot of synthetic tanning agents involved.

The real issue, in my mind, is thickness. If I'm buying insoling that is graded by ounces I want 14-16 ounce. If I am buying it by the "iron" (an old and venerable way of measuring substance that is specific to soling) I want to buy 10-11 iron. Even if what comes in is a little thick I can split some off, "no names, no pack drill." I like that flexibility for various reasons.

But many shoemakers in particular want insole to be somewhere between 6-8 iron. Again, no harm no foul, if you can control the depths of your channels and the path of your awl. Since I make men's and women's boots and dress shoes for both, I like the flexibility of being able to split the leather to whatever thickness I want. I also use insole shoulder for toe and heel stiffeners...sometimes splitting the leather to four irons or less. I use the splits for build ups on the last and thus use as much of it as possible.

Parenthetically, if you learn to sharpen your inseaming awls properly (and yes, there are some varying opinions on that issue, as well) using the thinner insole shoulders becomes a bit easier.

What makes insole shopulders so expensive and hard to find? To get a hide that will yield a shoulder that is uniformly (relatively) 11 iron, you almost have to start with Argentinian or American hides--the breeds are primarily meat animals and the raw hides tend to be thicker than European hides which come from multi-purpose animals bred as much for milk as for meat. In the latter case, I am led to believe that the shoulder won't even yield a uniform 6 iron, so many tanners simply don't fool with it.

That means the raw materials are perhaps more scarce.

Then too, even though the best hides...IMO...come from the new world, the best tanneries are in the Old World. Baker, for example, leave their hides in the pits (all natural oak bark) for up to a year. That's cash flow deferred and not considered a good business model in contemporary Western Cultures.

Cutting insoles--Traditionally the insoles are cut running perpendicular to the backbone...and match-booked. But esp. with modern shoulders that are often heavy creased with fat wrinkles, which run parallel to the backbone, this increases, if not ensures, that those fat wrinkles will run parallel to the flex / treadline of the insole. Which in my estimation, at least, makes it more difficult for the foot to break the shoe in correctly. So I always cut my insoles parallel with the fat wrinkles. Also match booked on either side of the backbone.

I may be the odd man out in this regard...and it may be "splitting hairs," but the journey from neophyte to shoemaker is one of paying attention to details...as well as making a commitment.

Which in turns leads a person to the inescapable conclusion that proper tools and proper materials and best practices aren't just bragging rights, they quite literally yield the best results.
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Re: Cutting the insole

#123 Post by leech77 » Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:58 pm

DW,
As Per your last line, I hear ya. I've been a "leg maker" going on fifteen years now and I try to inculcate that very notion into any of my residents. There is always room for innovation (which is why I tried my insole trick) but fundamentals are.....uh, well, fundamental. I'm going to spend the winter months getting a better feel for the tools used to shape leather and the leather itself. I'm sure lots of trial and error will be involved, but as my pappy always told me, experience is expensive. Any suggestions on insole tools? Right now I have been using a french edger for the feather edge and an adjustable V gouge (American style?) and they both seem to work well. Let me know if I should look to use/make something different. I'm using a welting awl from thorn apple river and I like it just fine. It seems to push through pretty stubborn leather without a problem.
On a side note, I've read your posts that talked about tallowing the insole leather. Where might one find the proper tallow for this task?
-Eric-

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Re: Cutting the insole

#124 Post by dw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:29 pm

I just used rendered sheep tallow or maybe lanolin--I melted it and then painted it on. From my understanding this wasn't an uncommon practice at one time. With a good quality shoulder you probably don't need it.

The real masters probably would use a common curved shoemakers knife for both the feather and the channel. I use an American Channel knife and a feathering knife for the feather and a race or a shoemaker's knife for the channels. Unlike other work i have seen (and admired) I don't remove any leather on the channel side of the holdfast.
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And without the recognition that there is a hierarchy of excellence in all things, nothing rises above the level of mundane.

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Re: Cutting the insole

#125 Post by tjburr » Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:48 pm

Eric,

I do not know your experience, so you may already know this, but I feel strongly about the subject.

I will let the much more experienced people on insoles speak about the best leather for that since much of my shoemaking experience has been more with soft moccasin's without a leather insole. However, I will add my own piece of advice about the leather for shoes in general since I have handled thousands of square feet of leather.

You are doing right in understanding and getting a feel for leather. But as you are learning, spend the money to buy what the experts feel is the best or at least one of the better leathers for the task at hand. Do this based on suppliers, the names of exact individuals at the supplier if you can since sometimes the salesmen try to guess what you want and it is much better if you can say "give me the same as xxx buys", etc. to make sure you are getting the exact item. In some cases, even leather with the same stock number can vary greatly until you learn to describe to the salesman exactly what you want. Going by a description and looking for a leather based on that will likely only be correct a small portion of the time; leather is such a feel, look and in my opinion smell thing that two peoples description is always hard to agree. (It's like describing a fine wine or my preference scotch: I never understand the "fruity" descriptions that others give to scotch descriptions:( but friends who do have the problem that 75% of the time they get a fairly different fruit flavor/smell than each other)

After you have used that leather as a baseline, at the very minimum you will know what to look for when you are trying to look for alternatives. We all get lucky once and awhile, and at least I myself am always looking for cheaper or better alternatives, or in many cases just alternatives for when the last source runs dry. But until you really know what you are looking for, you will be adding leather to the scrap bin, getting frustrated, or ending up with a product less than you have the ability to do.

Warning: after you use the good leather it is very hard to go back. I recently tried Baker leather insoles. I used something I would call an ok product previously, but would never consider going back now. I would likely consider trying other products that experts felt were good alternatives since even the better stuff has different feel and I might like those as a small personal preference, but I would pick the better products.

Warning : In almost all cases I have found it worth the extra cost to get at least fairly good leather from 1) ease of use 2) the look of the end product 3) how well the finish holds up 4) the overall quality that to me just shows. The only exception being a fitter pair or trying out a new design to see what I think. In those cases I would accept something with poor finish, but would still want a good "structure" since in my opinion that changes the end product enough that it is hard to evaluate. Each to their own though.

Sorry for the long post, but this is something I believe strongly in.

Terry

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