Learn to make shoes day #4

shoemaking tools

Day 4 continued with lasting, repeating the steps followed with the left shoe on the right shoe. It is slow and methodical work, and all up probably took a full 8 hour day to complete. I’m assuming we are much slower because we are newbies, and there are gaps in the process while our work is checked and corrected where necessary, but even so, I have a much better appreciation for the time required to hand make shoes.

Once the lasting was completed for both shoes, we inserted the toe puffs. This is a thermoplastic “D” shaped piece of material that is warmed with a heat gun to make it sticky and then applied around the toe. The upper leather that we have carefully stretched and nailed in place, is now peeled back to reveal the lining underneath. I was worried the peeling back would disturb the already fragile surface of my lovely purple leather, but thankfully that didn’t happen.  The toe puff is applied to the leather lining, and it’s important to get it smooth and flat, because it sets hard, and is used to give the toe shape and strength.  You also don’t want to see the outline of it under the finished leather, so a hammer is used to persuade it flat.

toe puff

Any excess shoe puff on the sole of the shoe is trimmed off, and next step is to re-last the leather upper back in place, this time for good. The leather is glued in place, and then with a very frightening sweep of the craft knife, all the bulky excess leather around the toe and heel are whipped off. Thankfully Lou did this bit, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough.  I’m beginning to feel very precious about my shoes! 


So the end result is that there is basically only a thin strip of glue holding the leather on to the insole board. It feels a bit like a wing and a prayer, but we are assured that the glue is strong and it will be fine.
Now the shank is put in place, this is to provide support between the insole and outsole. They can be metal or wood, but as we are only making relatively flat shoes, we are using wood. It looks a wee bit like an iceblock stick, but it is wider, and curves a little to mimic the shape of the foot arch.  The shank is glued in place on the insole board, and an extra layer of scrap leather is cut to fit inside the lasting allowance to effectively level out the shoe under the ball of the foot.

fixing the shank

With all this in place, the shoe is taken off to the shoe finishing machine and the whole sole is sanded to make a rough surface for the sole to stick to at a later stage.

Word of the day for day #4 is rand. Rand is the decorative edge that sits between the shoe and the sole. Its purpose is to provide a frame for the shoe and a flat surface on which to attach the sole. I had to get the instructions twice over for this bit, because I couldn’t see in my mind what I was supposed to do and how it would look when it was done. I couldn’t imagine the teeth shapes providing any kind of attachment to the shoe.  But it does, and now I have done one, it makes complete sense. The rand is glued in preparation, and the shoe surface where the rand will go is scratched to help the glue stick and also to mark where the glue will go.

gluing rand


preparing the shoe for rand

Once the glue has gone off, a heat gun is used to make it super sticky, and the rand is applied around the circumference of the shoe, and hammered in to place for a tight fit.

applying the rand

rand applied

You can see the rand gives the shoe a nice black “frame” that defines the shape.

rand applied

We are almost there!  Last day tomorrow, we will be putting the sole on and finishing the shoe.  Phew!  I’m feeling quite shattered, to be honest, this learning lark is hard work.  See you the same time as usual for the final post.

Learn to make shoes at Shoe School

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

It’s great to have a voice.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

– Martin Luther King

To read my previous articles click on my name in blue.