One of the problems I first encountered when getting into shoemaking was figuring out what tools I needed, and where to get them. This will be a breakdown of what tools I’ve accumulated over the past several years, what I use them for, and I’ll throw in some links at the bottom from suppliers/manufacturers that might prove useful.

You can never have too many knives! There is no one perfect knife in shoemaking, some do specific jobs better than others. Far left is a big bruiser I got from a small custom knife shop in Florence run by Fabio Figus…

Now that you got your uppers made, time to put them together!

First stage is to get everything skived. I have a bell skiver, which really helps especially if you make a lot of shoes, but a simple skiving knife will do the trick. My go to knives are the Tina 270, and 230 (my favorite).

When skiving, the general rule of thumb is anything that’s going to be under lay (the piece of leather going under a seam), it should be skived down all the way to zero. Overlay (whats going on top) should be skived about 50%, but…

Well, its been two years and about 24 pairs later that I’ve finally found the time and the initiative to update this series. The plan is to include this derby pattern tutorial, then another past soon-ish with assembly instructions, and then follow up with an oxford and boot pattern guides whenever I make the next pairs in those categories. There are a few ways out there to make patterns, most of them are complex and esoteric. If you’ve ever seen pictures of the geometric method, there is a lot going on and its a bit overwhelming. This is the method…

My phone was out of commission for a while, so no pics of pattern making, putting together the uppers, lasting the heel, and getting the protective covering on. That will all come later. This is the first pair of shoes that we did a full insole and welt on.

For insole prep, there is a bit of a difference for a bevelled waist.

Mark the widest point on the outside and inside part of the shoe, and connect them with a line. A useful trick for that is just putting the shoe up against a straight surface and seeing where…

If you’ve never been to Venice, you should go. There is no other city in the world quite like it. Of course, nowadays it’s mostly just a tourist trap, but you can still have a wonderful experience there. I went in early February so it’s still quite cold and windy, but on the plus side there are way less tourists.

The best way to see the town is to get a public transport pass for the day. This includes all buses and vaporettos, which are essentially water buses. They come to stops regularly and with Google Maps or just the…

I was going to initially combine the outsole portion and finishing, but it was getting a bit too long so I broke it off. Consider this a continuation of the previous one, where you start with a shoe with a closed channel but no finishing done.

First order of business is shaping the outsole. Use a glass as described in the previous segment to ensure that the outsole and welt is completely parallel with the shape of the shoe and it is a nice, crisp, 90 degree angle. Try a few different edges when first using a piece of glass…

One of the distinguishing features of truly high end shoes is that they usually hand stitch the outsoles. While a machine can typically do the stitch much quicker, they still can’t get quite as high SPI as a hand stitched outsole, or as close of a welt. That being said, doing a good outsole stitch is no easy task!

Once you’ve finished welting, make sure to take out all the nails

The welt is a strip of leather that holds the whole shoe together, and allows shoes to be resoleable. You make a stitch through the upper and the holdfast, and a second one around the outside of the welt to the outsole. Before you make the welt though, you have to make the thread!

A few important tools you can make. The tube should be a snug fit around your thumb, and the arm protector should fit comfortably snug around your palm.

The insole is one of the most important pieces of a shoe. In fact, as long as the upper and the insole is good, everything else can be replaced. With that in mind, its very important to prepare it properly. We’ve been using shoulder leather roughly 6mm thick, so its quite durable and thick enough to channel properly.

Measure out 7mm around the insole, mark it, and make an incision roughly 3mm deep. Its important that you make the incision at a slightly outward angle, that way the base of the holdfast is thicker than the top.

A last is the wooden form that a shoe is built around. The word “lasting” means stretching the leather of the the upper of the shoe around the last. The first week at the Stefano Bemer shoemaking school was mostly spent practicing lasting. One of the tenants of the school is repetition. The idea is that you do something often enough, you develop a feel for how to do things correctly. In the first week, we went from lasting just the upper, to lasting both upper and lining, to doing upper + lining while using stiffener, to upper + lining…

Mikhail Bliskavka

Electrical engineer, apprentice shoemaker, and travel enthusiast!

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