It’s week 10 already!

At the end of the week is Easter and our mid-semester break.  It seems to have flown by in some ways and dragged a bit in others.  I’m looking forward to the break as I’ve been so tired and yet it means we won’t be in here doing shoe things.

I’m hoping to have my second pair of shoes finished before we head off but I’ve got so few photos which just underlines how tired I’ve been, I recognised that and prioritised, focusing on getting the job done, but in retrospect I wish I had the pictorial history of the derby shoe.  So for the oxford I will work harder at clicking the camera.

The lovely thing we’ve done for the derby is make our own toe puff and heel counters out of vegetable tanned leather, referred to as ‘veg tan’.  This is leather in a state where it readily absorbs moisture and this quality allows the veg tan to be molded which means it can take on the three dimensional shape of the toe or heel and retain that to provide support to help keep your shoes shape.  There’s a lot more information at (click to check it out)

I’ve only ever used a plastic product but I’ve been looking forward to getting to make my own, and now I have.  I loved the hand skiving, getting the graduation down to a wafer thin edge. I used a machine for the initial skive but refined it by hand.  To do this I used my own knife but after Easter we will have the opportunity to get our own proper skiving knife when Tim Skyrme visits.  That’s one with a maroon sleeve on the right in the right hand picture below.  The collection of very sharp implements continues!

Making them with veg tan is a little bit like using filo pastry, you need to keep the leather from drying out prior to getting the final product positioned on the last, so the white towel is dampened.

A multitude of tacks help position them  for the drying process.  I’m still thumping my fingers every now and then.  I look forward to the day that is behind me.  I seemed to come out of the process with bruises, friction wear and tear and the occasional nick – and two lovely sets of toe puffs and heel counters.

puff counter

Soon these components will be snuggly covered and out of view but it’s nice to know they’re there.  As the shoe is still in the process of it’s evolution it’s upside down on the lasting pin.  In a way that’s like us, upside down in utero, the right way up for our life.  Well, most of the time.


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