"That old sweet song..."

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: "That old sweet song..."

#26 Post by hidesmith » Tue May 01, 2007 7:25 am

I think "That old sweet song" has become "Eye of the Tiger" (visions of Rocky Balboa).
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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#27 Post by firefly » Tue May 01, 2007 7:42 am

Hey Bruce,

You better keep your eye on ol' Tight Stitches. I think he is more WWF than WBF. He might throw dust in your eyes or have his manager hit you with one of those metal folding chairs while you are turned around pumping up the crowd. Image (my personal favorite).

Mark

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#28 Post by hidesmith » Tue May 01, 2007 10:52 am

Mark,
From what I've observed about DW, he is a honorable man, and would not stoop to such actions. However, there is no accounting for what some crazy fans might do. (insert your personal favorite here)

DW

I just re read my last posting, and I feel the need to say that you are 100% accurate about everything you say - AS PERTAINS TO YOUR PRODUCT. YOur opinions, assessments, materials and methods are the best that you can possibly make, and your quality is above reproach - AS PERTAINS TO YOUR PRODUCT, as well as FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE. While there are MANY others who also say you put out a top-of-the-line product, your quality is defined by you. It is agreed upon by many, but it is defined by you. Other makers have come to conclusions of quality in their product based on their own experiments, education and experiences. Their definition of quality is different than yours. Are they any more correct than you are? Are they any more wrong than you are? No, they are not, nor are you.

Let's face it - anyone trying to make shoes by hand today takes pride in their workmanship. Any hand maker today aspires to excelent quality. Shoddy "hand-made" shoes have no place in today's market - that niche has already been filled by factories in Bangledesh, etc.

From MY perspective, it looks like you are suggesting we make YOUR standard THE standard. That is only an observation, not meant to be taken as fact.

You are correct, in that we should all be increasing in our abilities, education, and - well, quality. In that, you are 100% correct.
HOWEVER -
Best methods for a western boot of the 1880s are NOT the best methods for a Medieval turn-shoe, or a Colonial shoe. The definition of "quality" is ever changing, even in our own endeavors, MANDATING that each maker define "quality" differently than other makers.

I don't think any of us will claim to be the best shoe or bootmaker of our time, there's always someone better than us.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#29 Post by dw » Tue May 01, 2007 11:16 am

Bruce,

I agree with you...if your era and the shoes you are making are colonial, then you cannot reasonably be expected to look to the 1800's. But I've never seen crepe or plastic or "soft foam" or even paper in colonial era footwear. Have you?

On the other hand, if you don't recognize an external, objective standard of quality, you're not really bound by any definition of quality, are you? You don't even have to factor it in...nor seek the skills and experience that result in recognition of quality.

Beyond that, I don't think that the "cowboy boot" as we know it goes back to the 1880's. Sure there were cowboys but the full wellington was the boot of choice and the boot that "won the west." The cowboy boot "as we know it" doesn't come along until the 19-teens and in some ways what we see today may not have been either possible or very popular among bona fide cowboy during the heyday of the open range. Pinks and yellows didn't really show up until Hollywood got their licks in...with all the implications of that.

My point was, and is, that cowboy boots or no, the late 1800's was the high point of bespoke shoe and bootmaking. I've never claimed to be a "cowboy" bootmaker--just a bootmaker. Which gives me a little more freedom than if I limited myself.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#30 Post by kadwart » Tue May 01, 2007 11:24 am

Being a glutton for punishment I thought I would stick my relativistic and ambiguity loving finger into the waters again, and see if it came out intact this time around (Image

Basically, I just wanted to see if I am following the discussion ...As far as I understand it, you are talking about two interrelated definitions of quality. One is empirical - quality as standards of work - and the other is moral or perhaps metaphysical.: what guarantees the empirical standards is the human being behind it (the "honourable maker&#34Image.

So what I see so far is that for DW the moral quality of the maker guarantees - cradles? - the quality of the work because that morality neccessarily takes precedence over what the customer might want or think acceptable (the customer's ignorance shouldn't be allowed to determine one's standards). If my failing memory is correct isn't this a classical moral/ethical approach (my brain is saying Aristotle but I can't remember why)

So as I see things so far, there might be some agreement that empirical standards of quality differ because of the different type of shoe or boot involved, but the moral standards of quality should be congruent because they involve the integrity and morality of the artisan.

Where things get tricky is the area of what grounds that morality. DW seems to be saying that relative standards are unacceptable, which is where I see things moving more in the direction of metaphysics and theology.

Moral relativism allows for no absolute rights or wrongs, in other words. I think in this framework crafting a boot is an act of devotion because it allows for the expression of a moral absolute (craft + ethical craftsmanship + grounding in absolute higher authority). Which is why I sometimes prefer use of the term "vocation" to either art or craft.

Now Bruce, be gentle with me... Image
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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#31 Post by dw » Tue May 01, 2007 12:19 pm

Mark, Bruce,
*announcer: "What an attack by Hidesmith! That series of blows certainly landed....


A pretty conceit, but one wonders who Hidesmith is sparring with? Hidesmith's camp must not have gotten the word that TightStitches is neither WWF nor WBF. In fact, TightStitches never even showed up for this match!! When they went to look for him all they found was a seemingly unmoving heron...standing on one leg.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#32 Post by hidesmith » Tue May 01, 2007 2:54 pm

It is my hope that everyone sees the humor, or at least the attempt at it, in my previous posting. There is no ill will intended in any of my postings.

Many times, I read DW's postings and think that we are very close in out ideas. Other times, I think I see dogma where none belongs (my personal opinion) and feel the need to address it. It is fun, "sparring" with members of the forum, and DW is just too easy to get responses from. A boring forum is, well, boring.

If I acknowledge that DW is right, then it naturally follows that I am wrong.

Speaking only for myself, my ego will not allow THAT to happen! Besides, I KNOW that I am right! It must naturally follow that DW must be wrong! My own stubbornness doesn't allow me to back down, and besides, I KNOW I am right!

I'll try to follow this with a more serious response.

Bruce

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#33 Post by jesselee » Tue May 01, 2007 3:03 pm

Bruce

That play by play was hilarious. Yes there are several genre of footwear makers here. Mostly contemporary cowboy boo makers I think. I have to say the fight was a mis-match, because your styles differ, so the ideals differ. Can't compare a contemporary shoe with modern cowboy boots with 19th century cowboy boots with Colonial shoes. Whats better, a Cadillac or a peterbilt truck???? Well what do you want the danged vehicle for? Thats the point, but each in it's own genre should be to the best quality of the maker.
I love my old antique hand tools and awls and my original CW period crimping board, but when I make a tool, I want it ornate and made of the best materials, art unto itself.
I have preserved that 19th century boot making ethic of quality and won't even use a machine made after 1920 (I think my 29K-2 is 1906) very modern!
And admittedly, most of the schlock quality items out there are 1800's repros, which don't even bear any resemblance to the worst quality of the 1800's. So essentially, we all try to maintain the integrity of the piece we make, to the best standard of excellence that we can. I compete with the dead bootmakers, they give me the standard that I want to reach..
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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#34 Post by hidesmith » Tue May 01, 2007 3:13 pm

Sue,

When the discussion started, if I'm not mistaken, DW was suggesting we have and adhere to a certain standard - perhaps as a guild might have provided in Europe. DW, feel free to correct me.

MY view was that the aforementioned standard doesn't work in today's shoe making shop, because of the myriad diffrent materials, construction methods and products we each have chosen to make. My view says that there are as many different "standards" as there are different construction methods, footwear products, mentors and shoe making shops. My view says that we NEED all these different standards, because none of us are trying to do the same thing, and in fact, many of our footwear products are so vastly different that there is no comparison between them.

My late father in law used to say "A wise man changes his mind - a fool, never."
Does that answer for my stubbornness?
Image

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#35 Post by hidesmith » Tue May 01, 2007 3:53 pm

Jesse Lee,

You have grasped what I'm trying to say. There is never an excuse for shoddy workmanship - each shoe we make needs to be our best. I think DW and I agree about that.

In fact, this has gone on for so long, and has circumnavigated Robin Hood's barn in so many different lanes, I don't really know where he and I digress, other than to say our opinions about the correct definition of "quality" differ.
In fact, after these exchanges, I don't know what we can SAY to each other any more. It's nearly all been said! Oh, heck! I know, I'll just repeat myself. Again. I'm good at that!

Then, the next time a new person asks a question about quality, DW and I will have this discussion all over again.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#36 Post by dw » Tue May 01, 2007 4:48 pm

All,

I don't know that Bruce and I agree or disagree. I don't know whether it matters except as a kind of interesting exercise for the brain. (and of course, that's what I like about these discussions--the exercise Image )

But, that said, my take on all of this is that it is not just metaphysical belly-button lint...all of what I have said and all that I believe are both practical and important to the way I approach the Trade.

I will say this in an attempt to encapsulate it all--"quality may vary by context but it must not be so lacking in substance..so ephemeral...that it is subject to the vagaries of personality and whim."

Narrowing that down just a little...the context is not repair, or orthopedic work or mass manufacturing--each of those might have their own standards of quality simply because their ultimate objective is different than any other. But our topic is, by virtue of our forum and our community and our stated objectives (and the essay that started this discussion), bespoke shoe/bootmaking. And in that context I do think we can and must look to a fairly well defined standard.

And while the next may seem a little off subject it is very much to the point in my view:

I offer the following which, I submit, could not be written today...which by all appearances cannot, and is not, even universally understood today...and which is the very antithesis of relativism yet the wellspring of all we are as a culture and a nation...and a reflexion that has been the engine of change world-wide for the last 200 years:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident..."

Think about it. I do not mean to be sententious here. Think about "truth" and "self-evident" and whether what is being referred to is really "truth" and really "self-evident." How can it be so if everyone has their own narrow view of what is truth and what is self-evident? Relativism (in all its manifestations) is a sad and ultimately corrosive impulse in our society.

And Bruce...to articulate an idea...even, or maybe especially, repeatedly...is to plumb its depths and understand its significance. If nothing else it is a remedy for superficiality.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#37 Post by kadwart » Tue May 01, 2007 7:02 pm

Bruce - your father in law seems to have helped bring about a "right nice" son in law... Image

DW - I'm not sure the appeal to axiomatic thinking is going to be sufficient, given that the term axiom is surely nuanced depending on context and origin i.e. in math and logic it can mean something much more fixed than in general use. Does your thinking allow for anything inbetween "shallow relativism" and "grand truth?" (I'm afraid I can't really comment on US culture and nationhood, being a transplanted Brit in Canada)Image Hope you don't mind the question, I'm just curious)
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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#38 Post by hidesmith » Tue May 01, 2007 7:42 pm

DW,
I don't think I need to say how much I'v enjoyed this discussion, or to re-iterate my lack of harmful intentions. I hope I have caused you no heart-burn. This is an enjoyably animated discussion. If it has not been, I apologize and will stop (who am I kiddin'? I'm not gonna stop until I get the last word!)

Thanks to all who weighed in, or even read these postings. It's quite an ego feeder!

I'm not saying I'll shut up, but I can't think of any other ways to make my points, at least for now. On top of that, all this thinkin' has left me quite exhausted. I may need a vacation to recuperate!

*I* know what let's do now, let's talk about religion!

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#39 Post by hidesmith » Tue May 01, 2007 7:52 pm

Sue,
That was most kind of you to say, thank you. He has influenced me quite a bit. I think one of the wisest things he ever said to me was as a result of his being cheated by a friend.
"I s'pose it's good to know what friends you shouldn't do business with."
He was much loved and respected in Epsom, NH and the surrounding area. If you wish a more intimate introduction of him, contact me off the list and I'll give you an advertisement for the book I wrote about him, available in paperback.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#40 Post by dw » Tue May 01, 2007 9:38 pm

Sue,
Does your thinking allow for...


I don't know. I don't think that I have any monopoly on "grand truth, " if that's what you mean nor do I see where I've asserted even a passing familiarity with "Truth," much less "Grand Truth."

On the other hand I do believe in logic and empirical thinking and I do believe that there is such a thing as "truth." Not "your" truth or "my" truth but simple objective truth. Just because we can't always easily and conveniently determine what it is doesn't mean that we should give up....or assume that it doesn't exist or isn't worth pursuing.

An equivalent rejoinder to your question might be "does relativistic thinking encompass any values that aren't inherently solipsistic?" Frankly, I don't see it.

Bruce...
let's talk about religion


I thought that's what we were doing Image

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#41 Post by dw » Wed May 02, 2007 6:47 am

Bruce,
...to re-iterate my lack of harmful intentions. I hope I have caused you no heart-burn


No worries, mate.

I hope my temporary metamorphosis into a blue heron didn't cause you any confusion or embarassment, grasshopper. Image Image

Feel free to jump in and out as you please...and as you recover your energy. Image

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#42 Post by kadwart » Wed May 02, 2007 9:38 am

DW - I would have replied last night but domestic responsibilities interfered. Take what follows with a large grain of salt and ascribe it to too many years watching Dr Who and Star Trek, but:

"I'll see your empirical rock and raise you an uncertainty principle" - at least at the theoretical level (and a subatomic theoretical level at that!) Image

Actually, I think the uncertainty principle is a bit of a red herring, I also think that even presuming an independent empirical reality exists our knowledge of it is finite and limited It exists but how well do we really know it, and how well can we really know it). In other words I am ascribing to a scientific version of a theory of the sublime.

To say that something is generally acceptable is not the same thing as saying that something is universally acceptable - axiommatic in a pure sense. And philosophically wouldn't solipsism pursued with scientific rigour also hold value, if only for the rigour of its pursuit...?

So I do think you would be able to find some generally agreed on criteria for quality in bespoke bootmaking but if bootmaking is a tradition then it has to be flexible and mutable to a certain degree (I'm not a bootmaker so I don't know what that degree might be) otherwise it stops being a tradition and starts be a frozen cultural artefact, an anthropological "objet d'art". Which is why I am always cautious about neo- Romaticism, seing nostalgia as a great a potential danger as either relativism or solipsism.

Just promise me you'll leave me with at least a handsworth of pinkies, 'cos my brain is not up to early morning meditations and musings. Now beam me up, Scottie ... Image
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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#43 Post by jesselee » Wed May 02, 2007 6:02 pm

Bruce

I see where the difference is, but I also see the similarity. For a while I, errr.. Hmmmm, ok... I made desert boots! Ha ha, people will say> But I emulated the military quality and used materials I never used before.
Within out own areas, the quality is within that area. Can't compare a Cadillac to a Peterbilt, both are top of the line, yet different and have a different demand structure.
To me quality is all about 'authenticity', so I have to do a perfect mid to late 1800's pair of boots, you have to make better than on the shelf, and DW has to do better than that wonderful Hollywood cowboy boot standard that brought us a new romance to the Craft. it's so easy to graspImage
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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#44 Post by hidesmith » Wed May 02, 2007 8:34 pm

Jesse Lee,
Exactly my point - Cadilac defines its own quality, Peterbilt ITS own. Quality is defined by the maker. The market then agrees or disagrees, as it learns about the product's durability. The only way they can be compared is if Cadillac adds a fifth-wheel to their luxury line.

I might not make a Cadillac, but the Ford Escort I make needs to be the best darned Ford Escort that has ever been made. My choice might be to make the Ford, yours might be the Rolls. As long as there is nothing wrong with the quality of my Ford - it proves reliable and durable, it is an exceptional quality product. If my choice is to make the Caddy or the Rolls Royce, it must be proven the same way as the Ford. The difference is the whistles and bells - the ego and the convenience. What the buyer is willing to pay for his ego is specific to the individual buyer.
Mind, I am not talking about wheelchair ramps in the van, or those in need of a custom vehicle, I am talking about regular drivers.
I'm going back to my nap now.

B

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#45 Post by jesselee » Thu May 03, 2007 2:39 am

Bruce

The car comparisons say it all, makes it easily understandable. For each need, requirement and budget, as well as adding for style (the ego), there has to be boot and shoemakers to suit across the board.
Then again, there is quality of customer. I know guys who but cheap cowboy boots, average price across the board for store bought, mass produced, and they think they have the best and the bespoke is too high priced. And I know they can afford bespoke work. I also know another guy who owns his own buisness and gets by and he only buys from me, when he wants a fine pair of boots. In his case he was an apprentice of mine in both bootmaking and bookbinding.
It is all to our needs and desires. I have met people who can not even fathom that boots and shoes can be made by one man in a shop and not in a factory. People need to be educated.
My desert boots were fitted, ie. custom sized, and still really affordable. They don't take much work and the suede is consistant. Not pretty butfunctional and I can sell 'em all day. Can't get the proper soling anymore.
JesseLee

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#46 Post by dw » Thu May 03, 2007 5:46 am

Bruce, Jesse,

I owe a response to Sue (still trying to compose what I want to say) but I have to remark on this one...
Cadilac defines its own quality, Peterbilt ITS own. Quality is defined by the maker.
Wrong! Sorry, just wrong! Image Cadillac defines its own brand! Peterbilt defines its own brand. Bruce Graham defines his own brand. But quality is quality and if Cadillac were to switch to vinyl upholstry, it wouldn't be quality in anyone's book even if it had "Cadillac" printed all over the inside.

No, I take that back...it might be "quality" in the confused mind of the CEO who decide to cut costs and destroy the reputation of the company (seen that done too many times to cry about it any more)...but only because that same CEO has no sense of tradition, no sense of perspective, and a whopping big sense that all it takes is some glitzy advertising campaign to completely brainwash the customer into accepting the downgrade as an upgrade.

Which may be true in today's market, I'll grant you, but all it does is reinforce my point about relativism...how corrosive it is and and how absent any sense of personal or ethical responsibility.

Make your Ford Escort...that's fine...but understand that it is a Ford Escort (hey, I'm just following your own metaphor) and you can neither price it nor present it, as a Cadillac. Not in good conscience.

And also understand that if you never aspire to anything more, you need never worry about what weird old, "one-eye-rolling-crazy-in-his-head" DW has to say on any of this. So that's a relief!! Image

Now all that's just my opinion and I sincerely apologize for personalizing it...or for offending you, if I have. That was not my intention. I have no problem with anyone choosing their own course and doing as they dern well see fit! Nor do I have any kind of cachet that might give my opinions more weight than someone else's, but mine is a different perspective, and one that is apparently very rare. So, perhaps, it's worth considering if only for novelty.Image


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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#47 Post by dw » Thu May 03, 2007 6:00 am

One other quick point...

I'm not saying everyone should make Rolls Royces (heaven forbid!!), but if everyone did...??!! The world would be a, what??...a better place? Not only because we would all have a very different sensibility about what was valuable and worth aspiring to (to own, to emulate...) but we might not have a problem with global warming...

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#48 Post by dw » Thu May 03, 2007 7:16 am

Sue,

This is pretty far afield for me...I'm no philosopher in the strictest sense of the word and I've no practice in articulating the better part of this.

That said, you'll forgive me, I hope, if I respond in a general way rather than to each point specifically.

At one point in life (or maybe just in my own life) one reaches a point where one realizes...whether one is religious or not...that the universe (I didn't say "God" ) is pretty indifferent to humanity's concerns. And from there, perhaps in a round-about way, one comes to the further understanding that in the larger, universal sense, nothing we say or think...or could possibly say or think...has more than the slightest possibility of being even remotely true. Our most ethically noble, most scientifically precise notions, almost certainly fall well short of cosmic reality.

So what's left for these poor mud dwelling creatures that swarm upon the face of the earth? I submit to you that we only have ourselves. Any perspective that sets us apart from or above our fellows is bound to be destructive. This is not to say that we are bound to the herd or that we need to get approval from our neighbor before we eat lunch. But any ideology that does not factor in our frailty, our aspirations, our penchant for cruelty and even our need for consistency in an inconstant universe, fails to address reality as we know it and makes socio-paths if not psycho-paths out of those who cannot embrace these concepts. Solipsism is, by very definition, a sociopathic perspective. It postulates that the individual is paramount. Relativism postulates that individual judgment is paramount. Solipsism admits to no higher authority than self; relativism admits to no higher authority than self's.

I reject the notion that bespoke bootmaking is, by default, somehow in a privilege position vis-a-vis standards of quality. I think we are just in a very unique position with regard to history and particularly the history of the Trade, in that we none of us, if we were in our right minds, would pursue what is fundamentally an archaic and arcane endeavour. We are privileged by history to be able to reflect on the whys and wherefores and make footwear as a passion, rather than a occupation--we are history's accidental dilettantes.

But the thing about history--and this goes a long way to explaining the "re-enactor" phenomenon--is that history, despite relativist's attempts to "interpret" it, is not...adamantly not...relativist. The historical facts are immutable--heels were unknown in the middle ages...the Hollywood (there's a hotbed of interpreters and relativists, if there ever was one) producers of Timeline, Braveheart, and other fantasies, not withstanding.

That's also a good portion of what lies at the heart of "tradition" and our traditional notions of quality--the constancy that we all need and seek.

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Re: "That old sweet song..."

#49 Post by paul » Thu May 03, 2007 8:14 am

All,

I feel like a ninkinpoop, writing on the same thread as you thinkers with the gift of ten fingers.

However, I want to say that the real value of this discussion for me, is the conversation in my own head. And I think that that is the intention. Don't you?

Just asking myself the question, "is this the best piece of leather I can find in here for this job?" Or, as I set my stitch length for my top piping, "am I a stitch length away from the edge?" Is'nt that how we should process it?

What I'm understanding, is this is the attitude I want to have as I strive for more quality from myself. So I need to continuously examine my choices and commit to taking the higher road. I'm willing to do that. I don't know about "continuously", but I'm willing to work at it.

Now if we just had some quality makers to keep that example in front of us...hmmm? Image

Thank you all for your input,
Back to the bench,

PK

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Full Name: Larry A. Peterson
Location: Ephraim, Utah, USA

Re: "That old sweet song..."

#50 Post by big_larry » Thu May 03, 2007 1:09 pm

WELL!,

This is very interesting! As a somewhat new boot maker I am particularly sensetive to the "standards of quality." I must admitt that I have violated every standard I can think of through ignorance and lack of skill. Now that does not mean that my boots are not well made, or have any structural problems.

I have experienced a great learning experience about choosing the best leather. I have paid tuition at the school of hard knocks with sewing machines. I am still trying to teach my sewing machines to sew in a perfectly straight line and to sew the decorative stitching on the uppers.

It has been a learning experience balancing the heel with the exact amount of toe spring. The positioning of the counter for foot comfort took a little work. I am still not happy with my inseaming the welt to the insole. This is the short list of challanges that are not up to the " standards of quality."

I will explain my level of expertise to my customers and price accordingly until I reach that "higher standard of quality."For now I will build a solid boot with the best quality material I can get and muddle my way through the medeocraty. Sir Arthor Connan Doyle said "medeocraty knows nothing higher than itself, but that genious can tell the difference."
I hope I can tell the difference.

Well, after that said, I wish to extend a true felt gratitude for the sharred information about welting material, Horwqeen knew what I wanted as soon as I mentioned D.W. Frommer. Thank you for the information on crimping and cruel boards. Thank you Dick for the boards, clamps, and owls. And now I too will sink back into my little shop of mediocracy and work on the uphill climb to more acceptable "standards of quality."

Larry Peterson

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