Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy St. Crispin's Day!

Today is the celebration of the patron saint of shoemakers.  Keeping in theme with that, and realizing I haven't posted in ages, I thought to do a quick post on how my work has been going in that area.  Since finishing the first pair of shoes we've gone back to basics and have been working on putting together a period kit for me (and learning the basic upkeep like sharpening a knife).

First comes the actual tool box.  Mine isn't quite finished, but almost.  It's made from oak (although pine might have been a less weighty choice).  Right now it's unfinished and only glued together.  The hand-forged nails you see next to it need to go in with some help from a drill to prevent splitting.  And the wood will be finished with linseed oil, which I both love and fear (yay for spontaneous combustion).  You'll notice the strange handle.  I made this from a hammer handle.  The nail in the end prevents the handle from coming out, until you want it to.  There's a bit of speculation as to why handles were removable and why that had that funny little notch in the middle.  The belief is that you use it in conjunction with your strap.  Usually this holds the last to your leg, kept taught under your foot and around your knee.  But what happens when you need to work the last laterally?  Place the strap in the notch and the handle under your feet!  You'll also see a couple of leather strips set up to hold tools around the edges, I need to put in two more to finish it out.

 So what's held inside this lovely box?  So far I have my notebook and my last (with a new instep leather being made since we carved the wood down for my unusually narrow feet).  To the left is my apron with a sheepskin on the chest area to keep from cutting myself since you work blade towards you (scout masters run in fear!).  The leather strap and gauntlet (for hand protection when pulling on threads) are in back with a small (and borrowed) strop.  To the right we have the shoemakers hammer (only used on leather, not metal), a rasp/file, and pair of dividers.  Just to their left is the pair of lasting pincers (which the funny growth on is used for hammering tacks) and a bone creaser (for opening up channels made in the leather).  At the bottom are my GORGEOUS four awls (I just got new awl hafts!!!) and knife.  The awls all have different purposes and I will have many more eventually.  The largest will be a pegging awl, the two medium are curved, and the small bone one does fine stabbing work.  I need to sand down the blades a bit smoother though.

Currently I'm still missing a pair of nippers for pulling out tacks (mine broke), a new and larger strop, a few more awls, and I'm sure many other things.  What you don't see that I do have is the paste, grease, wax, threads and boar bristles, glass shards, leather scraps, tacks, and numerous other minor items.
I'm beginning to understand why this isn't a popular profession!  But it sure makes Christmas easy for the family.  And gave my husband an excuse for a band saw.

I'm planning on coming back to posting next week as I'm starting on my 1860s outfit!  Can I do it in just three weeks??  And I've got two workshops to attend coming up as well; one on shoes again and another on tailoring techniques.


The Lady Ship said...

Wow, I'm full of respect, since I know almost nothing about shoe making and the whole craft seems like a complete mystery to me ^^ I wish there were workshops like this over here in Germany. If anyone knows, tell me! ; )

Lauren R said...

This is absolutely fascinating!