"...a great way forward?"

This off topic area is a place where, while you are visiting the Crispin Colloquy, you can talk about beer, whiskey, kilts, the latest WWII re-enactment, BBQ, grandsons, shoes in the media, and even the odd meandering essay on "why we make shoes."
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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#26 Post by kemosabi » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:13 am

To whatever extent I've contributed to the concerns being discussed here, I apologize.

Respect.
-Nat

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#27 Post by dlskidmore » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:15 am

"And quite often our novice approaches or attempts to cheat and reinvent are great opportunities for the masters to step in and point out our errors. "

I agree. If the masters do not step in, the newbies will fumble among themselves and get on as best as they can.

There is a disconnect in that those spending the most time actually making shoes the right way have the least time for the internet and vise versa.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#28 Post by elfn » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:16 am

Sadly, all this discussion of purity of technique is very depressing and stressing to those of us who just want to make shoes to solve whatever our personal problem might be. And while you might not see it, the thread smacks of hypocrisy to the point I have to speak out.

At what point in history are you setting the stop in the name of tradition? Wooden heels? There was a time in history when that was cutting edge. No heel? That's historically accurate as well.

Are there are some who personally draw the line at pre-glued construction? There was a time when glue was not "traditional." Should they be the ones to set the bar? Who is voting for the stop being set at using the new more effective cements? That certainly isn't traditional yet many are willing to embrace that alteration of tradition while still eschewing others. Are you purists mixing your own glues?

What about pegging versus stitching? Who is on board for that line in the sand? Let's all do away with the welt and use pegging.

Some of you stitch with boar bristle when others will use a guitar string. Is the end result any different despite the tool used? Are you just protecting this historical technique because you've mastered it?

Is stitch down construction not okay? Historically, when did stitch down construction get added to the tool box of the shoemaker?

What about the people who used synthetic material for soling? Are they to be banned because they're not "traditional" even though synthetic traction soles are a huge improvement for some types of work boots. Are you banning grippy soles to the point you'll turn work away if that's what someone needs?

Are you setting the bar where each of you feel history should be respected or are you saying "my way is the only way and everything else is to be denigrated"?

If we can't come to the forum to ask questions and discuss our work-arounds for our specific problem and discuss techniques for making the work easier/faster for those of us who don't make shoes for a living, it no longer acts as a meeting places for acquiring knowledge. It becomes a meeting ground of elitists and snobs each with their own line draw for what is historically acceptable.

Maybe the answer is to have a "traditional techniques only" forum with carefully delineated parameters for what techniques are allowed to be discussed. This would provide a place for the purists to meet unpolluted by those of us who don't find the expediency of punching holes with a press offensive.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#29 Post by dw » Wed Feb 06, 2013 11:55 am

Sadly, all this discussion of purity of technique is very depressing and stressing to those of us who just want to make shoes to solve whatever our personal problem might be. And while you might not see it, the thread smacks of hypocrisy to the point I have to speak out.


OK this rankles...but it is part of the problem...if it doesn't actually define the problem.

Before I begin I have to say that it irritates me when people do not read what other people post but rather scan for phrases to take issue with and with which to promote their own agenda.

This forum is a public forum. And as such it is open to everyone. But it's fundamental purpose is not to cater to do-it-yourselfers and hobbyists or even those who desperately need non-standard shoes. If such people can benefit by accessing the information and the "experts" here, great. If not, sincere regrets. Bottom line the forum simply does not exist for that purpose. There's no hypocrisy in making that clear (and it has been, right from the beginning) anymore than there is hypocrisy in defining the clear cut distinctions between an educational organization and a commercial organization. It's all part of the same package.

The accusation of hypocrisy is well off the mark...especially when you consider the salient facts...many of which have been outlined in the previous posts on this subject:

This forum was created for and remains focused on the concerns and interests of sincere students of the Trade and the so called experts who can elucidate and pass to future generations a knowledge that is quickly being lost and/or diluted beyond recognition.Who, by-the-by, so willingly and freely give of their time to answer questions from newbies. That's as much a "fact of life" as the weather. And I can tell you that with some assurance because I was there.

The next point is that even the "experts" need something to keep their interest piqued. Why should people who have knowledge to give...to share...do that when at every turn they are confronted with subjects that are uninteresting at the very least, and so fundamentally amateurish that it's hard to begin to explain why. Esp. to people who, like baby birds (that analogy did not originate with me, BTW), often feel entitled to an immediate and unequivocally supportive answer.

Or when their answers are dismissed as too old fashioned or "too difficult" or too "expert".

People simply leave...the Volkens, the Dr. Obuvs, the many real treasures who simply got bored.

What's left...if not a chat room?

They say that actions speak louder than words...everywhere but on discussion forums. Look at the history of this forum. Look at the things that have been said with legitimate authority in this very thread. Nothing said or done justifies the feelings of persecution being trotted out. I suspect such misinterpretations stem from unmet expectations. Which is another way of saying "entitlement" in my opinion.

This discussion is not about Traditions, not about techniques, it is about attitudes--attitudes of, yes, I'm sorry, entitlement. About using a wrench to drive a nail. And as much as anything, as Richard said, the idea that people who choose to use a wrench to drive a nail should feel, again, entitled or arrogant(?) enough to advise people who might be sincerely trying to learn shoemaking and not just "fake it" or address personal problems.

No single person has been singled out. It was said (for those who missed it)...and remains true...that the respect and professionalism that accrues to this forum is all of our responsibility at least on the most basic level.

Finally, I would encourage anyone who wishes to continue this discussion to think hard about and answer Richard's question--which in my mind strikes to the heart of the matter, if my own remarks do not...
Advice is given to newbies by people who haven't even mastered the fundamental skills associated with shoemaking or leatherwork. Anybody besides me see something wrong with that?




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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#30 Post by walrus » Wed Feb 06, 2013 11:58 am

Nori
Amen!
Thank you for saying or posing the Question about limiting this forum to 19th century techniques , or we going to take hand shoemaking into the 20th century? our by laws, are traditional practices. There is large part of hand shoemaking in the 20th century as well, where is the line? I do think that it is important to have a clean stream of knowledge ,not filled with shortcuts. or we could loose it all. There is no substitute for learning the craft and with out that base under our belts we would be very limited in our abilities ,but that being said there are a lot of changes that have come to the craft in the 20th century that those of us who are, or plan to make a living making shoes or boots should be aware of ,I am not talking about short cuts. But differences in materials and techniques That can make it possible to make a living at this craft without having to make a vow of poverty.Waht do you think?
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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#31 Post by dearbone » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:19 pm

Richard, Thank you for bringing this subject up for discussion, IMHO shoe making is an oral tradition,that is to say it is passed on,no one will get to be a real shoe maker worthy of the name without learning the tradition first,That is the best of the dead shoemakers,the first shoe appeared some 10000 years ago and we have been building them based on that tradition until today,There is no easy way and it can not be faked,the shoe either fits or not,it is okay if shoe making is your "Hobby" and not your living wage,It takes a life time,full time to be a shoe maker and we shoe makers say it is not enough time ,hence we are always thirsty to know how they did it? No young law or medical student goes to college with his or her own way of doing things/tools/drill presses, They learn the tradition first,the text books of the lawmakers and doctors before them,why would it be any different with shoe making? The tradition is the foundation,mastery over it may lead to innovations,very rare but only than and not by some accident made by a new person trying to figure things out. it crossed my mind to suggest a membership entrance credentials, something like 15 pairs of shoes or boots made before joining the forum, Strict adherence to traditional shoe making must be respected and aimed for, I remember my old mentor used to plea with me, "Do it my way and if you don't like it ,than do it your way", and all along he knew my way was the wrong way,little by little i started to see the light.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#32 Post by walrus » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:23 pm

DW
A agree with the Richard as I stated in my last comment that the knowledge stream must have the highest of level of of process ,because as the old saying goes zx#$p in zx#$p out. My opinion is that we should respect the 20th century handmaking processes as well ,if this progression had not been practiced over time we would all still be making sandals out of reeds.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#33 Post by gshoes » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:25 pm

I am so glad that there is no 15 pair rule here. We are all learning at our own rates and have been given so much valuable advice, instruction, corrections and encouragement with even just our humble efforts. I would have never made the cut and I would have been cut out.

Geri

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#34 Post by dw » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:38 pm

DW
A agree with the Richard as I stated in my last comment that the knowledge stream must have the highest of level of of process ,because as the old saying goes zx#$p in zx#$p out. My opinion is that we should respect the 20th century handmaking processes as well ,if this progression had not been practiced over time we would all still be making sandals out of reeds.


Again, actions speak louder than words...or should, if one is capable of taking others at face value.

The forum (and that means you know who as much as anyone) has never excluded any techniques. Frank Jones posts here regularly (or used to.

Personally I use all kinds of techniques from 13th century to 21st century. Some I value more highly than others. But that's all personal.

The important thing, as much as anything is to realize...and accept...what the forum's mission is what its goal is. As was discussed in another thread...if you join the Catholic Church you accept its precepts. Even the one about papal infallibility. If you don't agree...it is neither right, rational or or respectful to expect things to change to suit you.

PS...I'm so happy you weighed in on this...you are sometimes in danger of becoming one of those "lost treasures."

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#35 Post by dw » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:43 pm

Geraldine...

[sigh] I guess I'm going to have to repeat this until...as unlikely as it seems...it registers.
Again, actions speak louder than words or should..if one is capable of taking others at face value.


I don't know where the 15 pairs comes from but it's not consistent with the reality of this forum.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#36 Post by dw » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:54 pm

I take that back I do know where the 15 pairs came from but it has no application to this forum...not now, not ever.

That said, I respect, and frankly, agree with Nasser and think this forum would be much, much poorer without his contributions.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#37 Post by lancepryor » Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:17 pm

DW:

I think you make some very good points about the 'raison d'etre' of the HCC. Perhaps the basic premise of the HCC should be e-mailed to all members on a periodic basis, just to remind us all of why it exists.

For folks who are here for other reasons, perhaps it makes sense to think about other venues. For example, there is a Facebook shoemaking group that has no particular charter or set of objectives AFAIK. Certainly there are also folks who teach shoemaking classes, etc. Perhaps we should even set up a section of the Colloquy to point these folks to other sources of shoe/bootmaking information. This is not to denigrate others needs or motivation; it is just that the HCC was not established with any/all aspiring shoemakers in mind.

I think one challenge for any group like the HCC is that the experts often do get bored, and they may start to question why they are participating. If they feel they aren't learning anything new, and they don't have a personal commitment to teaching others (for no compensation, by the way), then they quit participating. Introducing lots of tangential topics, discussion, etc. only serves to exacerbate their dissatisfaction. Of course, for these folks, typically time is money, so they choose to devote more time to practicing their craft and less to participating on the HCC. We have had a few incredibly well-trained folks join the Colloquy, only to abandon it shortly thereafter. Being deluged with e-mails from HCC members, in addition to the Colloquy queries, help drive them away. I don't think they felt like they were getting any benefit in return.

Unfortunately, I think at some level anything like the Colloquy will have a natural life-cycle; when it is new, there is an incredible amount that people can share, and there is real excitement. Over time, most topics are covered and there is little new information to be added. New posts tend to cover stuff that has already been covered at some time in the past; experts don't want to write about the same things over and over. New participants show up, and they ask many questions that have been addressed in the past. The experts are not interested in answering the same question for the Nth time, so the less experienced folks try to fill the gap. So it goes....

I do, on the other hand, think there is a legitimate question about what constitutes 'traditional' practice of the craft; I hand-sew my outsoles, and I don't use any machines besides my sewing machine. As I see it, I am adhering to the standards and tradition of the West End shoemakers of London. Most folks here use a curved needle outsole stitcher, line finishers, naumkeags, etc. Not sure I consider those 'traditional.' Still, closing used to be done by hand also, so who am I to say?

I will say I am grateful for the existence of the HCC and those who contribute their expertise. I have learned alot here, and I look forward to learning more in the future.

Lance

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#38 Post by dw » Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:48 pm

Putting on my philosopher's cap (yes, I have one of those too) and riffing off Nassers' remarks...

A couple of years ago I asked on this forum what people thought was the most important skill a shoemaker could have. Not all that many answered but of those that did the responses were all over the place. My own thought, in that regard...and you may or may not agree...is that learning how to sharpen a knife was the most important skill.

First, if you don't have a sharp knife you can't do clean work, from the first step to the last. And with every successive step the problem compounds.

Second...and much more importantly...learning to sharpen a knife teaches you so many things about Craftsmanship. About how to use your hands and have them be at the command of your mind/heart. About how to "see". About how to hear. About how to feel.

Yes, you can go buy a razor blade utility knife and take a pass on all that knowledge.

But then where will you find the wherewithal when you need to "see" a fair curve? How will you ever be able to hear it when your peg bottoms out? Where will the insights come from when you need to gauge the temper of a piece of leather or feel how tightly to draw the tape measure?

It's all of a piece. It's all connected. Ignore it at your own peril(or loss).

I'd like to see the forum honour its mission. I'd like to see the conversation be elevated some...at least some of the time. I'd like to see those who can help...do so and those who are still "experimenting" use a little caution in advising others.

But how someone actually prepares a side seam for closing is of less importance than the recognition that there are good, better, best...and even poor...ways of doing it. As for the rest...

Isaac Asimov said something that seems apropos:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”


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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#39 Post by dw » Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:50 pm

Lance,

+1...as always.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#40 Post by das » Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:11 pm

Just a couple of points:

1) "History", "tradition" or traditional, as I intended it, merely means tried and true, based on a body of knowledge of what went before, passed down. I have no love-loss with 19thc techniques. The twentieth century (especially early) saw some superb footwear produced.

2) Bristles have for most folks been replaced by nylon, or guitar strings, because these functtion in the traditional way. Try to get straight steel harness needles through a curved awl's hole (e.g. welt sewing) without deforming it, or resorting to pliers to yank them through, slowing you down and spoiling the seam.

3) There's no impluse for artisanal shoemakers to come together and form a group focusing on pioneering fresh new ways of (cheating) making footwear--the modern industry is doing that. What is needed is a group dedicated to preserving the body of skills and knowledge that has been passed down to us, lest it be forgotten.

Can anyone make a case promoting willfull mass amnesia as great way forward?

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#41 Post by marika_vchasse » Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:28 pm

Hi you all - I am fascinated by this discussion that has taken place below my radar! I came to shoe making through the cemented construction and lost my heart to the hand welted craft. I believe all ways of making shoes have their place but as it becomes more apparent that it is a time of recognition of the art of something handmade that lasts and makes the wearer happy for more than just a brief sunset I seize the moment sitting down with my bristles and waxed thread to sew my soles knowing that these shoes will be cherished for their making and fit. I have thought of making small runs that have a machine stitched sole etc. and it probably would help with my finances but I really enjoy sitting down on my little chair in my tiny studio. That said I just had a student that I guided through a pair of cemented ankle boots and we had really lots of fun together and I have learned quite a few things through the work process with someone new to shoe making.
One might ask if there is a point to all this rambling ? I just wanted to let you all know how much I enjoy reading these posts! We all came to this trade on different journeys but are all enamored with the making. Happy New Year from Brooklyn!

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#42 Post by das » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:24 pm

Nori,

Here's the info you asked for (retrievable simply because lonely wonks have searched out the history, remembered it, and called it back into being):

No Heels, pre-c.1580
Heels (wood & leather), post c.1580 W. Europe
Cement construction, first patents, US 1850s
Welted, starts c.1450, Germany
Pegged, starts c.1820s US (nailing starts 1800s)
Stitch Down, starts c.1500s? (Bavaria?)

If you loved the smell, taste, and happy memories of your grand ma's cookies, you must carefully replicate her receipt. If you'd rather make up your own distinctive cookies, do as you like. Comparing apples to oranges there, nothing hypocritical. Just don't throw out your granny's cookie receipt, or it's lost for all time coming. Publish/archive it for posterity for others to enjoy on a website, and then forget about it Image

I in no way was advocating we turn this into a historical repro forum in any way shape or form. All I'm defending about "tradition" is, who are we (you or me) to decide what we (for all mankind) "forget" for all time coming, especially when it stretches back 10,000 years, and BTW still works fine? When I asked the audience at the '12 AGM, "how many of you sew with bristles/nylon/wires?", most of the hands in the room shot right up. It's hardly some esoteric skill that few have mastered. If you're going to sew with a curved awl, you gotta use one of the three, or you're torturing yourself and spoiling leather. And moreover you're doing something shoemakers have done since at least the 13thc, often better and far faster than any of us can duplicate. The attrition of passing centuries takes its toll--no need to speed that process up IMO.

Shoemaking is a terrible "hobby"--the tools and materials are nigh but impossible to find anymore, and without a mentor to guide you, odds are not good. But better the HCC Forum than struggling all alone, no?

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#43 Post by dw » Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:52 pm

Al,

Both of your posts were impressive to me. Well said. But the line that left me gobsmacked was:
Can anyone make a case promoting willfull mass amnesia as great way forward?


I'd have to say that with a few minor exceptions this has been a fairly collegial discussion. Thanks to all. How to improve the atmosphere so that those who want access to "experts" will actually find experts here, is another question.

In passing, however, I'd paraphrase a certain famous Union general (who won't be named in order to spare the innocent)...

Shoemaking...no, "Craftsmanship is elitism, it cannot be democratized."

When this discussion begins to peter out or within the next day (whichever comes first) I will move it to a more appropriate subforum.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#44 Post by elfn » Wed Feb 06, 2013 6:49 pm

Larry, after a bad day (mother died, we're struggling to clean out her house) your post gave me a boost. Thank you.

DA, thanks for the time line. I have a niece who is in SCA and she's replicating circa 1580. The shoes we worked on for her used a pattern from that period.

I've learned SO much from the HCC forum. Many here have helped me with the shoes I've made and nodded wisely when I learned something they were trying to impart. Because my needs are so far from main stream I've had to do a lot of editing and innovating and the information shared with me through that process was truly appreciated. I will never be a shoemaker, other than for myself, but I continue to enjoy tremendously the work done by others.

To those who object to those of us who use a press to poke holes in leather for stitching I remain unrepentant. Until you've walked in my shoes and experienced my life, I'd advise you take a more Libertarian approach and endeavor to live and let live. Console yourself that there is no teacher like experience. While you're working on that I'll continue to plod around in my little duck shoes looking funny while striving to get healthier. I promise to give you suitable time to gloat when something I try fails spectacularly. I don't have an ego about this and sharing my failures should provide a suitable horrible warning.

Nori

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#45 Post by walrus » Wed Feb 06, 2013 9:49 pm

To Al,Dw,Nori,All.
I cannot respond at this time to todays posts and this whole line. I will post tomorrow .We have something special here and today I have been reminded of that,you have all had a part in it .thank you all every day I learn more about my craft and my journey .More tomorrow .Love you,thank you all for sharing your journey.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#46 Post by amuckart » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:25 pm

I've just come back from holiday and have found this discussion fascinating to follow as I read it all in one go.

Even though I'm not in the trade, I've learned most of what I know about shoemaking from reading this site and from people on here. I'm still very much an amateur (though hopefully no longer quite as rank as I once was) but what I've learned has allowed me to produce some halfway capable reproductions of historic shoes.

Working, as I do, on shoes that utterly predate mechanisation (1590 is late for me), I've done everything by hand by default because the things I was seeking to do cannot be done with machines.

Several years ago I made a pair of medieval shoes I was terribly proud of. They took a lot of effort to pattern and make, they were of a type I'd never seen reconstructed, they fit well and they looked great.

They were junk.

When I finished and turned them the seams gapped, when I wore them for the first time they stretched horribly and became baggy on my feet, and soon the seams failed altogether. I didn't understand why, the tools and techniques I was using were as good as anything anyone around me was using, but obviously something had gone wrong with them.

I put those shoes in front of a bunch of people, in person and online, and the picture came together for me. I'd used the floppy leather from too close to the belly of the side I had, the awl I was using was the wrong shape (diamond) and too big for the thickness of the leather, the stitches in the sole seam were much too long.

I didn't make a pair of shoes for quite a long time after that. Not because I was put off, but because I realised that if I wanted my next pair to be better, I needed to gather the tools that would let me build the skills to make my next pair better.

I spent the next several months making a stirrup and a straight round-bladed awl; making and learning how to use hand leathers; and getting my hands on single-strand linen and learning how to make hand wax.

David Kilgour showed me how to attach a bristle to linen (thanks David, that was a watershed moment for me) and I took all of those things and spent even more time making a mess of scraps all over my workshop as I built seam after seam in little bits of leather.

The next pair of shoes I made were so much better they were barely recognisable as being made by the same hands (despite my very makeshift closing block).

For all that, the improvement in quality wasn't the biggest change; the second ones were far, far, easier to make than the junk pair.

Certainly practice played a part, but having the right tools in my hands and on my knee for the techniques I was trying to perform meant that those techniques worked to the limit of my ability, not the limit of my tools. Ultimately it wasn't that I went away and made tools that made things so much better, it was the step before that where I had people point out what I needed to do to get better and I listened.

Eventually I reached the limit of the first tools I made, so I made a better awl and a better closing block, and my seams got tidier and tighter and I started being able to concentrate on the details of what I was doing and the patterning and so on without having to worry about whether the seams I was building were going to tear out the first time the shoe was worn.

It's only a first step, but it's an incredibly liberating one to take as a craftsman. Everything that comes after builds on that and I think it's a cycle that every craftsman, and everyone who's ever worked on learning a manual skill, repeats over and over and over again until they stop (one way or another).

What's even better than having taken that step myself is that I can go to people who are struggling to make shoes, or who want to make shoes but don't know where to start, and say to them "build these tools and practice these things, then make a pair of shoes" and their first pair of shoes will be better than my fifth, and they can start their learning process from a place that took me a long time to get to and they can get into that cycle faster.

I get a huge amount of pleasure out of being able to teach people, especially since illness means I can't use my hands properly now. I can't tell you how much fun it was to see the first person in ages I taught how to put a bristle on linen pick it up and learn to wrap them more tidily than I ever have.

Most people come to me wanting to use the diamond awl or scratch awl they got from the saddlery shop, or a speedy stitcher, because they don't know any better and they went to the shop and asked for an awl. As DW says, they're not stupid, they just haven't been taught yet. That's why I wrote the recent posts on my site about awls and how to use them. I was that 'go to a shop and ask for an awl' person once too.

I do my best to show people how I do it, and explain why I think they should let go of the tool they have, even though they spent money on it, and most of the time people take that on board. Now I've taken to making sets of awl, closing block and stirrup to give to people so they can make their own hand leathers and go from there.

The real beauty of what I've learned, and now have to teach to others, is that in exchange for a slightly slower start, and a little more practice up front, you don't just get something that's functionally better, you get something that's easier, too.

das
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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#47 Post by das » Thu Feb 07, 2013 5:49 am

DW,

All I meant (you look cute when you’re “gob smacked” BTW) was: history, tradition, the past, etc. is our collective memory—wisdom; what worked, what didn’t, when and why, so we don’t have to reinvent the proverbial wheel with every generation. When folks challenge me on the practical utility of history, or its relevance, I’ve lately turned to answering them with this question: “well then, describe for me the positive utility of collective amnesia, ignoring/forgetting history altogether?”.

I’ll bow-out of this on this thought: since time immemorial every clan, tribe, and people has had its “historian”, someone who is the full-time “memory-guy” (or gal), who, like “the book people” in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ become living-books, memorizing every jot and tittle. Not every clan member is expected be such a historian, they have other needful pursuits, but they all work together to survive. History teaches don’t drink downstream from dead things, don’t run with scissors, useful stuff IOW. That said, great innovations and leaps forward happen when folks get “outside the box” and try new things. But of those, without exception that I can see, the ones who innovate best, are the ones who’ve studied and are conversant with all that came before, and aim to start innovating where predecessors left off (while not drinking downstream from dead things, or running with scissors)—not those who reject and stay willfully uninformed of the past (no dig Nori).

Tale told out of school: when I was around 10-12, I was charged with mowing the lawn. One day the mower wouldn’t start, so I methodically disassembled it as far as I could. Soon I was sitting in the grass surrounded by parts, and no idea what to look for, much less how to put it all back together before dad got home. After much fussing and cussing, dad gathered all the parts and took them to the small engine repair shop in town to have the mower rebuilt. Lesson learned which has served me well for 57 years, chances for success are very low when you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. When taking complicated crap apart, label things and make drawings what went where, and follow the same sequence in reverse to get it all back together. When it still won’t work, own it, and take it to an expert. It’s all just accumulated historical wisdom. Shoemaking is unique. Footwear is the only form-fit garment we wear, besides brassieres only some of us wear. It’s thrilling brinkmanship in the extreme. Like the appeal of designing jet fighters it isn’t easy. If we do well, folks can walk comfortably in style—if we fail people can get hurt really badly, or permanently crippled. If a bra is a bit “off”, it pokes, pinches, doesn’t support, or does not flatter as it should, but nothing more dire, it’s a more forgiving garment. Undertake your shoemaking like a aeronautics engineer would a new fighter jet design, little room for fudge-factor, and no room for failure.

If hole-cutting chisels in a drill-press-like gizmo—both technologies that date petty far back—were not hit upon as an improvement to the generations of boot and shoemakers who did this stuff ever faster, to a far higher degree than any of us, hungry like wolves, making their livings, don’t you think it would have appeared in our bag of tricks before now? Nori and Rick, I’m not knocking you guys at all, just saying it’s a dodge—a neat dodge--to avoid both awl and clams, or a sewing machine, but the cut slits are going to prove inherently weaker than a pierced round hole, and the over-sized holes. Just trying to save you leather and heartbreak down the road—not saying “my way or the highway”.

poorboy

Re: "...a great way forward?"

#48 Post by poorboy » Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:03 am

isnt there a remote chance that many of the techniques heralded as traditional came in part from makers who used to use traditional techniques in their time? necessitie is the mother of all invention nay HUNGER is the mother of all invention. would not the trade have more of a slugging opportunity if people were able to enter into it? if "Masters" didnt charge exorbidant fees for learning to make a pair or two. the man who taught me didnt charge a dime. he informed me of traditional techniques and showed me some. he also taught me how to make a living at this trade. am i still improving? you bet. how? trial and error. he also has the patience to help me when i have a problem. he has also trained many great shoe and bootmakers for FREE. his payment comes he says from keeping the trade alive. if we all recess to the old way of doing things then why not barter for you knowledge. or take an apprentice. teach people to make a living at this then refine their skills as you refine your own. their is not a shoe maker out there who is not constanly improving. if you feel that you are an expert or master or call yourself either then you are gravely mistaken. their are many techniques that are artful but are simply not as good as some newer techniques. many boots that i have rebuilt for clients where made by masters and students of masters that where very easy to break down and pull apart. sadly the insole could not be reused because the traditional pegs where so numerous that they perforated the leather. not to mention all the pegs in the heel stacks. they came apart like a stack of pancakes. i screw my heels on with drywall screws. you cant get them apart with a freight train. traditional? no. take a long time? no. superior quality? yes sir. there is a place for traditional techniques and they must passed down mostly in my opinion for when #$%@ hits the fan and we have no electricity or commerce. in the capitalistic world we have created and participate in i dont see a way for a new student to enter this trade rellying solely on traditional technique. unless of course a master or expert would be willing to hire new students or teach them for free. in the interest of the trade right?

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#49 Post by jon_g » Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:10 am

Thanks Richard for getting this discussion going, I think it was due.

I don't think it's a question about which tradition of shoemaking one uses, or how ancient your tradition is. It's more important that you work from a tradition. Otherwise you are making mistakes, whether you know it and recognize it, or even care.

To this day I ask myself if I feel I am qualified to answer a question or join in a discussion.

The responsibility lies with the professionals here, if we want the Colloquy to remain an archive of quality shoe (and boot) making technique then we need to participate more. I can think of a few voices that have been absent that I would like to see again.

I use needles. Although I learned using natural bristles and get them out once in a while, I think needles are much faster and simpler to use. To start you have to soften them over a flame. Then you can shape them roughly to the shape of your awl and then once in a while tweak them while you're sewing.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#50 Post by dw » Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:52 am

Poor Boy,

Again, it comes down to...as so many have said here...having a base of knowledge and skills.

No matter what you come up with to "fake it", it's not innovation when you don't know how to do the foundational technique properly in the first place.

I've pegged for over forty years for real life working cowboys. I have never had a heel come off or a sole de-laminate in the waist. On the other hand the use of iron nails will...as Al pointed out (and I have done too many times to cry about)...chemically burn an insole and shorten the life of a shoe or boot. Sheet rock nails don't bring anything to the party that good pegging technique doesn't already address. It's a "dodge". That's all.

And that applies, in my opinion to all of this. If the use of a drill press resulted in a better and/or faster job...well, I have a drill press in my shop.

But all tools are, at bottom, variations of the simple lever. The only thing the drill press technique...fully optimized with tiny round punches (which nevertheless remove leather rather than pierce it)...brings to the party, over the use of a straight needle stitcher, is a ten-fold increase in the time to complete the side seam. I suspect it would be difficult to make any case that the result is an objectively better job. Nothing is being leveraged--not time, not quality, not even the bottom line.

And again, my main objection is that these are still "experimental" techniques. Advising a newbie to use them rather than learn and master more Traditional techniques--real, non-fake, shoemaking techniques--is the blind leading the blind. It is anathema to what the CC stands for and at some level irresponsible.

If you want to use sheet rock nails good, on you. That said, each of us has the responsibility to at least acknowledge, if not mention the drawbacks...such as it taking four hours to close a side seam using a drill press or that sheet rock nails will carbonize your insole.

Presenting these techniques as "...a great way forward" does a disservice to the Trade and everyone here.

IMHO


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[center]Without "good" there is no "better," without "better," no "best."
And without the recognition that there is a hierarchy of excellence in all things, nothing rises above the level of mundane.[/center]



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