"64 to the inch"

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#51 Post by das » Tue Dec 01, 2009 5:46 am

Jan,

Is 64 spi something to "strive for"? Like so much else with our trade, the "experimental archaeology" aspect of just still being able to do something that was done since the early 1800s (e.g. Devlin's shamrock tongue) is a rewarding exercise as Duncan's showing us, and a fun challenge. It's just show-off prize work. Maybe somebody could do some boots @ 64 spi and enter them in one of those cowboy boot competitions like Brownwood, TX--should blow their minds (like it's supposed to).

Before I go digging in the files, what "Old Days" (decade) do you want to know the welt spi for? For everyday wear, not fancy? Rees felt that 12 spi in men's welts was acceptable for "middling" (nothing special) work in 1813. Many of the women's cloth upper shoes from 1700s, with white-rands, have 20+ spi in the rand (alum tawed kidskin).

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#52 Post by janne_melkersson » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:58 am

Al,
you have already answered my question so no need to dig in the files. I was thinking of everyday wear about the time period you mentioned and if "middling" work where stitched 12 to the inch everyday work would be less I guess.

I have a 14 spi wheel in my drawer which I haven't used yet, I might try it someday knowing that by using it I will be on the fancy side of "middling" work :-)

marcell

Re: "64 to the inch"

#53 Post by marcell » Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:47 am

So.. Here we go. I made some experiment about this sticth-problem. Let me start talk about the methods: I just used a industrial sewing machine - and adjusted the stitch length. This way I got very even stitches, and as I just made holes, we can see the results clearly. It will be disappointing...
On the other hand I feel some communication problem here: didn't we talk about sole stitching? Duncan really made some tiny stitches - and as I see, he faced to the problem I will point to - but that is upper leather. Anyway: I made my stitches on skived welt leather, the most fatty leather, we shoemakers use.
First I made the adjustment on paper. That will clearly show the stitch lenght..
10543.jpg
10542.jpg
10541.jpg


and something else.
10540.jpg


Did you recognize the difference between the 27 and 31 spi?

marcell

Re: "64 to the inch"

#54 Post by marcell » Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:01 pm

Part II.

So let's move to leathers - the welt stuff I mentioned. The welt is made to bear awl and stitches.. but let's learn something about those stitches! The stitching is responsibile for one thing - beside it is decorative - is should keep together the welt and the sole (no mid sole this time). The strenght of this mechanic attachment is just stronger until a certain limit - and this limit is somewhere until the hole ares maller than the material between them. The other aspect - you have to stitch those holes, so the thread should hold something. If the tiny stitches practically cut through the material, the thread will complete the job. Everybody knows this who tried to make small stitches, and tight the thread - don't you guys? So somewhere around 30 spi, you damage more, than make stronger.
10546.jpg


The shoemaker's awl are very different from the sewing machine needle. This is not new. Those little holes are made with a sewing machine, which makes a really delicate job, more precise that anyone could do freehand.
10545.jpg


You can see - the leather is damaged. I can't imagine that this is OK for stitching. Whatever you do with it - it is well perforated, cannot bear any power, especially not lasting... and we didn't talk about the sole leathers. Old or new leather - this is just math.

marcell

Re: "64 to the inch"

#55 Post by marcell » Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:02 pm

10548.jpg

marcell

Re: "64 to the inch"

#56 Post by marcell » Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:08 pm

Part III.

And an example for the tiny little stitches. This piece is a gift from an old maker - came to my workshop 20 years ago. This was a display piece, and usually I show it to upper makers, but I must admit - this is just impossibile to make with modern machines, and as it is only for display so the leather is very thin, most they used bigger stitches for real shoes.
10552.jpg
10551.jpg
10550.jpg

marcell

Re: "64 to the inch"

#57 Post by marcell » Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:18 pm

So, please... I beg you.. Show me that 64 spi on a welt or anything! I don't think that it is possible, except if you have some nano-technology in your workhop. Sorry: this is my opinion. If this problem would appear in Mythbusters, now it would get a "busted" sign.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#58 Post by dw » Sun Dec 06, 2009 3:05 pm

Marcel,

Forgive me, I don't know how to say this...I am not a naturally tactful person...but Duncan McHarg has shown you 64 to the inch. Why is that not convincing?

Second, as I understand it, 64spi was never done as machine work. All of it was done by hand. Anyone who has ever owned a sewing machine knows you can't do much more than 30 to the inch with a machine and even that's doing better than might be expected.

Marcel, if you don't want to believe in 64 spi...and that's your god-given right...no one, and no amount of testimony or evidence will change your mind.

As for me, I still believe in Santa Claus so take it for what it's worth. Image

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#59 Post by jkrichard » Sun Dec 06, 2009 3:53 pm

DW (or anyone),
Please clarify to me if we are referring to 64 spi on the bottom welt, or stitching on the uppers. Either, or both?

-Jeff

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#60 Post by dearbone » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:10 pm

Jeff,

this is welt to sole stitching,keep in mind these are prize winning shoes for competing with machines and not intended for everyday shoe or consider a pair made for the pope or the queen/s and to add i agree with DW,i have tiny square awls that are thinner than any sewing machine needle.

Nasser

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#61 Post by dw » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:11 pm

Jeff,

According to Al Saguto and June Swann, both.

As I understand it, June Swann has actually collected and cataloged pairs sewn at 64spi. On 27 November Al posted an email that June Swann had sent to him describing examples that she had verified. And some interesting details of how she verified them. See that posting above.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#62 Post by jkrichard » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:25 pm

Nasser,
I didn't think that beyond a certain stitching, and as Marcell has pointed out, that there is any benefit to the strength of the welt---in fact, a detriment. But even still, to challenge craftsmen to push beyond the capabilities of the machine...however, I must defer to the American legend of old John Henry...

DW,
Thanks for clarifying. I had read Al's posting of June Swann's notes--- the researcher's shorthand was a little confusing. Please: for future notice, use only military acronyms and jargon. (I'm just kidding...)


The most I have attempted by hand was 16spi---it was an accident (oh those pesky centimeters vs inches...). It would have held, but it was a bloody mess.

-Jeff

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#63 Post by dearbone » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:52 pm

Jeff,

No one said anything about benefit or strength,but some Joe decided to do it for reasons given above,trying to do better than the sewing machine,poor fellow,10 or 12 psi was always the standard.but who am i to say if some guy who started at the age of 6 (child labor comes to mind) helping in his father's shop wouldn't master such a thing.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#64 Post by large_shoemaker_at_large » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:55 pm

Does anybody have a copy of John Lobb's book "the Last Shall be First" I remember he made some reference to achiving so many SPI that he was good enough for the royal family.

Just to keep some historic perspective.


I can see an embroided stitch at 1/64 with a 1/32 width or larger stitch line. 2 ,1/32 far apart.

Didn't some nano machinist make a nut and bolt gave it to some other country and they drilled and tapped it. all the size of a hair?

Hey DW if you think you are Santa I got an email today about santa on his days off. Icck do you want me to send it Image

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#65 Post by lancepryor » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:02 pm

Marcell:

I'm not sure how you can reject the information provided by June Swann, who is extremely knowledgeable about historical shoemaking and has examined these shoes in person. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion, but I don't see how your experiment invalidates her personal observations.

FWIW, I was recently reading "The Last Shall Be First: the Colorful Story of John Lobb, the Bootmakers of St. James's." In the book is cited a letter relating to a boot made by the original John Lobb in Cornwall, before he moved to London (hence, before approximately 1852). Here is part of the letter (per the book):
"Dear Sir:
At an exhibition illustrating 'Fowey, Past and Present' held in the Town Hall, Fowey, Cornwall in June last, one of the items on loan was a piece of leather-work with very fine stitches. The owner told me that it was considered a remarkable piece of work in so far as it was hand sewn and consisted of more than 30 stitches to the inch. It has been in his family for a great many years and had been made by a young man named Lobb who was born in Fowey and who had been in his grandfather's employ..." So, this would appear to have been the work of John Lobb during or shortly after his apprenticeship, and before sewing machines appeared on the scene. Of course, 30 isn't 64, but it seems Lobb's work wasn't work destined for a competition unlike the work cited by June and Al.

Lance

(composed while the preceding post was posted)

(Message edited by lancepryor on December 06, 2009)

marcell

Re: "64 to the inch"

#66 Post by marcell » Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:53 pm

Well, blame me - it seems I represent the realism here. So please post a photo, and I will be the first to accept, that this myth is true.
"packed safely away" slides are not too convincing.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#67 Post by athan_chilton » Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:39 am

Newbie chiming in...I'm curious about something that has been touched on, in passing, during this discussion: it was mentioned that leathers of old were much better quality than today's products & that this quality would have enhanced the artisan's ability to make very, very fine stitching; that today's leather wouldn't be as good for such work. Can anyone describe in what ways leather of years gone by (when?) was superior to what we have now-- what intrinsic quality made it better for very fine stitching, that we no longer have?

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#68 Post by dearbone » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:05 pm

You fellows sucked me into this crazy idea of 64 spi,i managed to make the holes by my inseaming awl(missing my small square),32 of them to an inch on 6-8 oz shoulder leather with magnifying glass,anything more my bad eyes wouldn't allow or be happy with,Not saying others wouldn't be able to do more.
10557.jpg


Nasser

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#69 Post by das » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:43 pm

DW,

You might want to move Athan's and this to another section....

Athan,

You're in luck--I have more keyboard-time today.

Leathers Then and Now--
In general an animal's skin grows in fiber density in proportion to how fast the animal itself grows--X number of fibers per square centimeter spread out over an area of Y square feet (the skin or hide's total area). Like slow-growth hardwoods are harder than fast-growing trees. Also, animals who have poorer pasturage/grazing tend to be smaller with denser skins (today Asian waterbuffalo and certain cattle species from the Indian sub-continent). Feral animals, also, tend this way like kangaroo and some deer. Today most leather is from beeves (bovines), and most bovines are bred for meat production. Though production techniques vary from country to country, from hormone-fed, "fast growth" feed-lot cattle in the USA, which produce the biggest and loosest hides, to "free-range" or grass-grazing cattle in Europe of moderate tightness and density, all the way to East India "kips" and (water) buffalo calf from Asia and India.

Let's pick the 1600s-1700s and England and N. America ('cause I happen to know them). The popular beef cattle at the time were a breed known as Red Devon--a multi-purpose beast, they could be used for beef, milking, as well as draft animals. They were "free range" in the modern sense, merely put out to pasture to graze on grass, and rather lean because they were often used as draft (work) animals too. Consequently the skins and hides they produced, from ultra-thin "slunk" or "chickenskin" (un-born/still-born) calf, through "veal" calf, calf, and "kips" (10-12 month animals) all the way up to heifer, cow, steer, ox, (maxing out around 3-4 years old) were denser in fibers per square centimeter in relation to total square footage of the skin than most leather produced today. The technology for splitting leather to thickness was yet unknown, so if you wanted thin skins they had to come from young beasts, while thicker hides came from older ones grown thicker with age. The French, the Germans, the Swiss, and even the Italians in the 1700s agreed that the best shoe uppers leathers in the world was, back then, English. The cattle breeds were only one factor, the tanning (e.g. English oak bark vs. French chestnut oak, etc.) was another, too entailed to go into here.

Having handled and examined antique footwear from the past 1,000 years, I can only observe that the density and firmness of old leather (fiber density ratio to thickness, or X:Y) was much higher than today. sole leather in particular. In fact it is rare to find antique outsoles that are 9 iron (common today). Maybe 6 or 7 iron was the norm until the mid-later 1800s.

So, today cattle are fast-grown for maximum beef yield, resulting in hides and skins that have a lower X:Y ratio. Today many thick leathers are "split" into thinner weights, removing a lot of the material's tensile strength. Even calf and thinner leathers have been "leveled" to a uniform thickness by having a corium layer--"flesh"--split off weakening them. The tanning (per se) methods used today for shoe uppers leathers are mostly quick-tanning with chromium salts, spinning in big drums--this does not truly "tan" the leather, as no tannin is used, but rather it "taws" the skins into leather via the salts. When tannins are used today for "vegetable tanned" leathers, they are not infused slowly into the leather in pits in the ground the old way either, it's tannin-containing concentrates and extracts, again drummed as fast as possible.

The only good thing about today's leathers are, they are usually consistent density (moderate to low) all over the skin/hide, and the thickness of the skin/hide is been leveled to a uniform thickness. In the past the firmness/thickness ranged from shoulder to tail and side to side, so careful cutting and book-matching parts was more necessary than it is today. I've made shoes and other items from 1786 Russia leather (a mixture of rough-tanned deer and small cattle hides), and I'll tell you, no wonder it was strictly the master's job to do the cutting of parts--it was a chore to get vamps, quarters, etc. all of matching substance and firmness from the same skin it varied so much.

marcell

Re: "64 to the inch"

#70 Post by marcell » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:53 pm

Shoudl I mention what I did this morning for an hour? Image 4 people were looking at me, and wait for instructions. But I must admit: there should be some trick if the 64 spi is fake - even that is hard to achieve.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#71 Post by janne_melkersson » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:59 pm

Al,
We are running a small farm with two milk cows and I have sent away and tanned one of their calves skin. It was tanned with willow bark and then treated in some way which I don't remember.

The result is a very firm and good looking skin and I will make a pair of shoes of it.

The calf was only three month and the skin about 5-6 square feet. The cows are so called mountains cows and the breed is very old the normal weight for a cow is 300 kilos which is about half of the "normal" dairy cows of today.

Anyway, there is school not far from here where they offer tanning courses. If you like I can send you the address.
Janne

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#72 Post by das » Tue Dec 08, 2009 3:46 am

Janne,

What a great story, and yes I'd like to know more about the tanning school there. I have bought some skins from an artisanal "micro-brew" type tanner in Switzerland named Jurg Zeller (Google him), a 30-something young friend/supplier of Serge and Marquita in Lausanne, CH also does leather made from free-range Swiss cattle. Very nice stuff! Jurg and his wife visited me here a couple of years ago. He inherited the tannery from his father, though it dates back to his grandfather's time or before. Language was a problem for me, and I never found out whether he still pit-tans the slow way or in drums, but either way he makes some nice buttery soft veg-tanned leathers you all might want to try: calf (various weights lining-to heavy kips); wild boar; goats; hair-sheep, and deer too..

Come to think of it, the antique 1786 Russia leather was also supposedly tanned with willow bark I think, followed by currying with birch tar oil which gave it that distinctive lovely smoky "pitch-tar" smell.

And your comments reinforce my thought--smaller breeds of cattle make better denser leather.

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#73 Post by janne_melkersson » Tue Dec 08, 2009 1:46 pm

Al,
The name of the school is;
Bäckedals Folkhögskola
Box 206
SE- 842 22 Sveg
Sweden

I'll send you the name and e-mail address of the tanner private becasue I don't know if she want her name out here.

Anyway, she tanned the leather using parts of an old recipe, Germany 1806, of tanning Juchten i.e the Russia leather you mentioned about. If you any use of it I'll send you a copy.

marcell

Re: "64 to the inch"

#74 Post by marcell » Tue Dec 08, 2009 2:33 pm

Can you send me too?

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Re: "64 to the inch"

#75 Post by janne_melkersson » Tue Dec 08, 2009 2:45 pm

Done!

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