Civil War Shoemaking

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Mick Nesseim

Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#101 Post by Mick Nesseim » Tue Nov 15, 2005 9:50 pm

Peter,
There is a book that i believe the name is "Lords
Civil War Equipment". I will try to find out the proper name for you. But I recall when going through a copy of it there were some heel plates pictured. There was the standard iron hoseshoe typs and some brass heel plates if I recall there was one with a club cut out I believe it was the corp insginia. I think they were dug out of a cavalry camp some where down south.
I will try to find a copy of it let you know more about it.
Mick

peter monahan

Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#102 Post by peter monahan » Wed Nov 16, 2005 4:32 am

Mick

I know the various corps or brigades used club, heart spade and diamond as insignia, so that sounds reasonable. If you do find the reference I'd appreciate it, thanks, but don't knock yourself out. I do War of 1812 re-enacting & cobbling, so the query on my list was in the nature of "Is it our time period or someone else's?" and I think you and Al have answered it. Again, thanks for being generous of your time.

Tight rivets!
Peter

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#103 Post by marc » Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:50 am

Well, ok, it's not civil war, but it is in that century Image

I've recently changed jobs and am now in special collections. While sorting some materials for a local author, I found these...
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The hand written note with them reads "Slippers worn by Florence Rushmore when she married J. M. Goudy, Oct. 1877 - Coonneautville, PA.." (note by Bess Rushmore Grove, Aug. 6, 1938)"

They are straight lasted, in tawed goat, and most of the thred in the uppers has disintegrated. If people ar einterested, I will be happy to put up better close-up shots.

Marc

peter monahan

Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#104 Post by peter monahan » Wed Dec 14, 2005 4:25 am

Marc

Very nice! Are the "flowers" on top in leather as well or just a very good colour (or color)match? Are they turned or lasted?

Peter

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#105 Post by marc » Thu Dec 15, 2005 9:08 am

I thinnk the flowers are silk, but let me check...

Nope - they are also tawed goat, stitched to a an oval of what looks like buckram, which is then sewn to the vamp.

Interestingly, the uppers were machine stitched, since one of the threads still exists intact on the inside of one of the shoes (or lese it was hand sewn with a lockstitch Image )

The lining, which is the same weight of leather as the upper, was sewn on inside out, then folded back and stitched through,

There is a stiffener (a counter?) beween the outer upper and the quarters lining, that I think is pit-tanned leather, as is the sole, and the pegged on top-piece of the heel. The vamp lining looks to be a cotton twill.

Ok, I'm pretty sure they were not turned work. I had thought that the seam on the sole was just pasted over (which I have seen in 19th century work). Now I see that wasn't the case

Without taking out my tool kit and wetting down the edges, it looks like there MAY be a very fine channel along the edge of the sole, but if so it's been sealed in so it can't be separated out (without altering the item). The sock (also tawed goat) has been heavily pasted in and it's not coming out.

All in all, except for the thread around the top edge and the back seam, these shoes could be worn right now.(well, that and the fact that they are REALLY narrow).

Marc

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#106 Post by marc » Thu Dec 15, 2005 9:16 am

Wait. Some of the sock will come up enogh to see the inseaming around the waist (4.5 per inch, Al, and the nasty green-brown color-- oh crap, I think these are turned.

Let me see if I can borrow the library's digital camera.

Marc

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#107 Post by das » Thu Dec 15, 2005 12:05 pm

My bet is MacKay-sewn, if there's a wide flap of leather on the bottom covering the stitches????

peter monahan

Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#108 Post by peter monahan » Fri Dec 16, 2005 4:11 am

Marc

Sounds interesting! I wasn't expecting turned, but the look put me in mind of the "Every Woman her own Shoemaker" pattern, which was turned: the really narrow and superthin sole and the lack of visible seams on the sole. Just a thought - obviously erroneous.

Excuse my ignorance on this, but what is "tawed" goat?

Peter

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#109 Post by marc » Fri Dec 16, 2005 9:58 pm

Al, it doesn't look like that to me (unfortunately the library's digital camera is down and I keep leaving my camera at home. However a sketch of the seam looks like:
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the upper curls up on the inside of the sewing. I don't actually see any clear sign of a channel on the outside, just that there might be .

Peter,
Not to worry about not knowing what tawed leather is -- unless you spend *way* too much time studying historical leather making there's not much reason that you should know about it. It's really not commonly found these days.

There are a variety of ways of transforming animal skin or hide into something useable. These include drying, smoking, oil dressing, pickling, tawing and tanning or some combination thereof. Many of these however are not true tannages, but are, at best, lightly cured pseudo-tannages and partial tannages (have I mentioned I’m writing a book on some of this? Image )

Drying is probably the oldest form of processing skins and hides for used and consists of taking the raw or green hide and stretching it out to dry out. There is no chemical alteration of the skin.

Mineral curing covers a wide variety of treatments ranging from simple salting to tawing to the more modern industrial chrome “tanning”. Basically these serve to dehydrate the skin and preserve it.

Tawing is generally done with alum, and can make a very supple leather. With most of the mineral curing, since there is no chemical change to the skin, the salts can be washed away and revert the skin to a raw form (part of the chrome process, about which I know very little, seems to have rendered it permanent). Cordwain, from which the term Cordwainer comes, was an alum tawed leather. I won’t bore you with the fascinating history of red dyed alum tawed leather …

Oil dressing (sometimes called chamoising and oil curing among a lot of other things) is a technique where various oils and fats are stuffed into the skin. Massaging and working the skin can trigger an oxidization and decomposition of the esters of the fatty acids contained in the oil, all of which can make some chemical changes to the collagen by releasing aldehydes. This process yields a more supple and pliable product than simple rawhide. Curiously, although this was patented in 1898, the actual process goes back to at least the third millennium BCE.

Smoke tanning is a partial tannage where the wood smoke impregnates the skin with various aldehydes and phenols chemically altering the collagen. It is often used in combination with oil dressing.

Tanning actually chemically alters the substance of the skin making it permanently a different sort of substance.

Marc

peter monahan

Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#110 Post by peter monahan » Sat Dec 17, 2005 6:20 am

Marc

Got it! "Tawed" = alum tanned (roughly).

Some day I will ask about red dyed alum tawed goat leather. We're talking "Morrocco", right? I spent 2 years with our version of the Peace Corps in Nigeria, where much of the "Morrocco" once originated.
So I actually own some items in what must be "tawed" goat. It sure is red, and "lightly tanned" would be a polite way of describing it. I had a lovely bag I carried shopping and for overnights for years until I got tired of smelling like a wet goat every time it rained! Works great in the dry season, though.

Fascinating thread, BTW.
Peter

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#111 Post by das » Sat Dec 17, 2005 6:53 am

Peter,

Careful. Trade terms like "Morocco leather" have changed meanings. In the 18th and 19thc. "Morocco leather" was sumac-tanned goat, dyed vibrant colors, and made in Europe, the US, etc. Moroccans may have been alum-tawing it in recent memory, but I don't think so. Your bag was probably tanned [with tanin] from some native tree bark or nuts.

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#112 Post by marc » Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:42 pm

I have to agree with Al. If it got rained on, and didn't turn back to red-dyed rawhide than it probably was tanned not tawed. But even so...

Marc

peter monahan

Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#113 Post by peter monahan » Sun Dec 18, 2005 5:49 am

Al

I sit corrected! I was thinking back to the earliest days of the African trade when the "Morocco" acquired it's name and actually came from there. Most was apparently produced in Nigeria and Niger and traded north by the salt caravans but in typical European fashion we named it for where we found it. Or so my Nigerian history books told me.

Marc

Tawwed sounds like scary stuff! Shoes that one daren't get wet? Sounds like a strange proposition. What quality was it that made tawed skin acceptable/desireable for this use?

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#114 Post by marc » Sun Dec 18, 2005 1:28 pm

I don;t know about Nigeria, although there may have been a point where Nigerian leather was cheaper to import than the others (which wouldn't surprise me -- could you give me a cite on that please so I can add it to my information on leather history). The really good stuff was at one point made in Ghadames in what I believe is now Libya (this leather was called guademeci). Other places started trying to make their own version, and that's how Cordoba got into it, which is where the term Cordwain comes from (and later "Spanish leather&#34<IMG SRC=$html_url/clipart/wink.gif".

Tawed leather is soft and pliable, doesn't rot readily, and because it's white, it's easy to dye and will stay that color. OTOH, it's not really good for making work boots out of Image

peter monahan

Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#115 Post by peter monahan » Tue Dec 20, 2005 8:50 am

Marc

Unfrotunately, I'm depending on my memory (which is usually pretty good) rather than any source I can put my hands on. It was many many years ago that I was in Nigeria and I did all my reading up then or after I came back, in books long since lost track of.
Or, as they'd say in West African pidgin English, "Sorry for the citation, sah. Citation done finish." ('There is no citation / We're all out of citations').

But I'll look for the book when it's out!

Happy Christmas to all!

Peter Monahan

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#116 Post by brian_buck » Mon Apr 09, 2007 12:59 pm

This questin is off the subject of shoes but I'm a student of the two piece boot through the civil war and early frontier times. My question with my boots I'm having a problem getting a true waxy flesh finish can anyone help? our at least explain the true meaning of a waxy flesh finish.

Thanks
Brian

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#117 Post by jesselee » Mon Apr 09, 2007 1:37 pm

Brian

That is my area and what I do, Civil War to 1890's period. First off, you have to start with the correct leather, and when you purchase, look at the flesh side, make sure it is smooth. You should use Oak (veg) tanned at a 4/5 weight for the boots.
For officers boots a kip or calf is good and you can go to 2 oz. That gets those really authentic cool wrinkles around the ankle area.

To get the right finish, make the boots and turn them outside in. Then use wallpaper paste, the simple warm water with flour mix. i do mine on the stove, NOT tap warm.
NOW, spread the paste over the flesh side (outside) and smooth it down with a bone folder. It will get really smooth, no matter how suedey the leather was before.

After they dry, apply the dye sparingly. It should not go through the leather. Let it dry. Then polish with black shoe polish. Let it dry again. lastly, use more polish afterwards and you will approximate the effect. Thats the shortcut ie. using the polish. I make my own polish and wax, it's a long and laborious boring process.

Your main goal is to 'pack' the flesh side with the flour paste. Run a demo on a 6x12 piece of proper leather and do half of it, you will see remarkable results.

Since we are into the same period 1860-1890, send me an email and we can discuss techniques.
jesseleecantrell@yahoo.com

JesseLee

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#118 Post by admin » Mon Apr 09, 2007 7:47 pm

From the Archive CD, originally posted by D.A. Saguto:

I have since found the original source again that describes the first-class British process best: 'A Treatise On Tanning, Currying, and Leather-Dressing' by Hippolyte Dussauce [London,1865]. This is excellent and very highly recommended for anyone interested in reproducing the finest grade products.

For those who are interested in American Civil War era army-grade waxed-calf, I also found a US Army formula in 'Ordnance Notes--No. LII', Washington, May 2, 1876, that describes making "wax leather" thusly: "...2 lbs. of grease per side of leather... 2 parts neatfoot oil and 1 part tallow... 1/4 lb. lampblack and 5 gals. soft soap, applied to the flesh with a brush... glassed and sized with paste with a sponge...", elsewhere this paste-sizing is given as: "2 gals. paste = 1 qt. flour + 1/3 lb. soap, either brown or castile + 2 oz. beeswax + 1 pt. linseed oil + sufficient water to make the paste of proper consistency". The final topcoat gum-sizing is given as: "1 gal. gum shellac in thin solution + 1 qt. of the above-mentioned sizing", then hung to dry. Don't let your wives catch you doing this in the kitchen, it's bloody messy.

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#119 Post by das » Tue Apr 10, 2007 6:30 am

DW,

Thanks for digging that out...I'd have never found it that fast.

Brian,

While I agree with Jesse that paste is a very essential part of achieving the wax-calf finish on the flesh, my experience is a little different. I've worked with real English waxed-calf leather, made in the 1960s, and have handled boots and shoes made from it that date back into the 1700s.

I think the key "trick" is, as Jesse says, starting with a good smooth flesh, with a minimum of "fuzz". Historically, the leather was curried first, before any flesh finish was laid on--various mixtures of cod-oil, tallow, and lanolin applied warm, until fully penetrated. Thus, this leather was double-treated, tanned,plus "oil-dressed" with the cod oil which oxydized, preserving it further like chamois or buff.

The old English stuff was so well stuffed with grease in fact, you could pinch the cut edge between your thumb and finger nails, and a tiny bit of oil would still ooze out, even after 150 years.

The old formulas seemed to start filling the flesh in with the blacking, before the paste. I've tried leather dye, but if you apply it heavy enough to get a good solid color, you run the risk of it bleeding through and showing as blotches on the grain. IOW, the old stuff is only black on the very surface--not penetrating very deep at all.

I've gotten the best results using "smutting" as Dussauce gives, and also there are simpler formulas in H.C. Standage's book of leather formulas. Basically it's thick, black, jellied soap, scrubbed-in with a stiff brush to load the flesh. This dries like a hard black wax. If you've ever tried to clean accumulated, old soap-scum off a bathtub, you know how tenacious this stuff can be.

Alternately, you can buy black waxed-calf ink "Blacking #231295" from: Nuera Products, 7 Radnor Rd., South Wigston, Leicester, LE18 4XY UK. This is a water-based black ink, but I think it's a wee bit too thin, and it takes many coats to get a solid black color going.

The paste is laid over the blacking the way I do it, and is burnished hard to bring up a nice shine (that lasts until you wear them a bit).

Note: the blacking, and "sizing" (paste) over it, remain somewhat water soluable. If you wet it to crimp or last it, you will get blacking all over yourself--this is just part of its charm Image

djarnagin

Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#120 Post by djarnagin » Tue Apr 10, 2007 8:30 am

I would like to dispel a myth.
There is no such thing as fully oak barked tanned leather. After the blight in 1904 the chestnut oak trees were almost completely destroyed. There are a few who use a oak re-tan and these are spotted by the yellowish shade to the leather and not a flesh tone appearance. The main two barks used today are wattle and Quebracho. Since Quebracho is a heart wood and not a bark the amount that can be gathered from a tree is much higher and this keeps down cost.

A good waxed finish should have a finish equal to better than black bridle. This is after looking at period mint shape pieces that you can see the level of finish done at the time.

Be very careful when reading period books on tanning and military papers because very often it is a way that will work but not what was done by the tanners. In the 1870’s and 80’s the Ordnance Dept studied the tanning processes more closely in order to understand it better and not make the same mistakes made in the Civil War but there is holes and mistakes in the information gather by these officers. This is all due to the secretive nature of tanners both now and then. I have run into this at times when I have talked to different tanners because when you get close they stop the conversation and you are left with many guesses.

This link may help a little. http://www.jarnaginco.com/leather%20definitions%20index.htm

David Jarnagin
19th century leather tanning researcher.
djarnagin@bellsouth.net

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#121 Post by dw » Wed Apr 11, 2007 6:51 am

David,

Interesting...I assume you're speaking only of upper or harness leathers, and/or domestic leathers?

Tight Stitches
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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#122 Post by djarnagin » Wed Apr 11, 2007 8:55 am

D.W.

I was trying not to get too deep in the subject and confuse everyone. I know England and the US began changing barks as early as the mid 1870. France does have a source of chestnut but is it the same as the chestnut oak or rock oak found in the US, which is what both used here and England.

When Quebracho began to be used in the latter part of the 1800’s the industry grew to the point that they began to extract the wood itself and sell tanneries either as liquid or in a dried powder form. This tannin source already in a extract form freed the tanning industry from the need to do all the work of gathering, dyeing, grinding, and leaching bark to be used in the vegetable tanning pits or drums.

Today even the logwood that is being used for dye process is an extract, but very few people know how to handle an extract, and this is the cause of most dye problems.

There are a few areas of the world still doing tanning the old ways but that is mostly in the middle east and most other areas have gone the easier extract methods of tanning since labors is the expensive part of the tanning industry now.

The other big change in the leather industry happened in the middle 1880’s when the measuring machine was invented and most of the leather changed from sold by pound to square feet. The only two that are still sold by the pound is skirting and sole. The tanning methods for weight and square footage is totally different and this causes a change in the feel of the leather and the amount of oil needed is not as much as the earlier leather.

I hope I have not confused you.
David Jarnagin

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#123 Post by paul » Wed Apr 11, 2007 11:25 am

David,

When you said you didn't want to confuse anyone, I had to make a phone call, because I was confused. So I had to do some research myownself.

I recently bought a dozen pair full soles from Keystone Leather, Williamsport PA., 570 329-3780. I've really liked it and have been thinking I need to post a comment on the forum under Sources.

The leather under discussion is their Belgian Tannage which they say is Chestnut. These soles are clean and tight. Furthermore, the soles are unbranded! And they cut in sizes 10, 12, and 14. (They also have pre cut CB heel lifts that are 4 3/8" long X 3 1/2" wide.)

I don't mean to be contradicting you, as I failed to ask if it was the chestnut oak or rock oak, as you mentioned. And Belgium is neighbors with France. I just had to share my pleasure with these soles.

But I guess on the other hand, to be really contrary, I also need to say that I have bought skirting by the square foot and horse butts by the pound for years.

I mention these to illustrate that really it's impossible to be absolute in a trade that has contradictions at every turn.

Respectfully, PK

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Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#124 Post by jesselee » Wed Apr 11, 2007 1:29 pm

Paul, David

Many years ago when i corresponded with the Confederate Museum in Richmond about leathers and boots. I was told they used 'Spanish tanned' leather for soles. Have not been able to find it, nor information on it. Sure would be nice if someone had a 'bespoke tanner'?????
JesseLee

djarnagin

Re: Civil War Shoemaking

#125 Post by djarnagin » Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:30 am

Paul,
I have had and used a little of the chestnut sole leather from Keystone. I know it has chestnut in there due to the color but it did not have the look of the 1800’s chestnut which had a very light yellow cast, so I chose a different one instead. Look at this link on the fourth picture and you will see where the loops sat on this original musket sling and it is a very good picture of what oak looked like. http://www.jarnaginco.com/hemlock.htm Sole leather could have been a little darker due to the extra time required but not very much since the leather used for sling was a very special process and it was designed to be very durable. If you will look a little closer under the curried samples you will see one that I did in a re-tan after a bleach and the under lying tannage is Quebracho and wattle. This could be a re-tan or what I was trying hard to keep from explaining a union tannage. A union tannage is when two different barks are used in place of only a single bark.
Union tannages are thought to be better since you can get the qualities of both barks and lesson the bad effects of that bark. During the 1800’s a very common re-tan was sumach of which there are more than one type but I have not been able to find anyone doing this but this does not mean it is being done somewhere.

I never meant to be absolute but in trying to keep it simple I have left out some thing that require more explanations then was needed. I know of one tannery out west that still gathers all the bark, grinds, and leaches like done in the old days. This leather is liked in the horse trade but looks and has little to do with what was common in the 1800’s but there are more of these specialized tanneries out there. Germany uses syntan in it vegetable tanned leather, but not fully, and the differences go on from there area by area.

Here is one of the most confused parts when it comes to leather and the term russet. Russet seams to be an American term and the English used brown, but tanneries used several but not either one of those. The tannery terms were fair, and stained.

For further reading I might suggest this link. http://www.jarnaginco.com/cmharticle.pdf
I am sending two other articles on leather to be printed one on russet and the other on dyeing blacks.


Jesse,

Off hand I wonder if what they meant was Spanish oak. I do know there was a type of oak tree at that time called a Spanish oak, but this is just a guess.

David Jarnagin
djarnagin@bellsouth.net

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