Sunday, July 15, 2012

Heel Carving

This pair of shoes is a first for me in many ways.  The heel, however, posed the biggest challenge.  I'm accustomed to adjusting a shaped heel down to fit my size, but those heels aren't the right shape for pre-1760 styles.  So, I bought a turning block of birch wood.  It came 3x3x12 and I'll manage to get two pairs out of it.  First, it need a good chopping down to get it as close to the final product as possible.  I don't generally do wood work, which means I don't have proper tools.  I will definitely be buying some before the next pair- this was just painful (I managed four blisters).  The initial part was easy since I have a bandsaw.  There is definitely a reason why heel making was a separate trade in the 18th century.
On the left of the image is the pre-shaped heel I've used before.  The other two pieces are what I managed to carve away with the bandsaw.  You can see the shapes I drew out for the different views- a long way to go.

All of the detail carving was done with my regular shoemakers knife.  I'm not sure what tools I need yet, but some thing that allows me to carve out concave curves would be amazing.  The middle example isn't quite there yet, but you can see the shape emerge.

On the right is the nearly finished heel.  I made some minor adjustments after checking it against the shoe; tapering in the sides more and trying to remove some bulk from the top back to allow it to fit into the heel cover.

The finished product pasted in.  There's a very nice curve going from the upper into the heel in back.  I was surprised at how easily the cover pulled around the complex curves.

Next I'll trim in the sole and heel piece to match the angle of the heel.


ZipZip said...

Superb post! I can see at last (oh dear, bad pun) how heel carving works! You might check with folks who carve out bowls for a hobby for what tools they use. I tried a little carving on a bowl at a demo last year, and the blade had a slightly convex shape at the end, if I recally aright. It worked well.

Very best,


Augustintytär said...

The shoe(s) looks amazing! The brocade looks just right.

The Quintessential Clothes Pen said...

Wow! Just wow! Such detail and commitment. It's lovely to see your skills.


Sandra Brake said...

Gorgeous to see the process and the shape is lovely.
I have a bunch of chisels and knives and Pfeil of Switzerland make THE best hand carving knives. VERY sharp like a hot blade through butter. They do most of the work. But if you drop it don't try to catch it. Just let it fall - you don't want to lose a finger. Bravo!

Sandra Brake said...

And jealous - you have a bandsaw! Always wanted one. : )

ColeV said...

Natalie- Thank you! I starting with looking up bowl work and found some great information and instructional videos.
Traveller- One step ahead of you! I actually ended up purchasing a couple of Pfeil tools already. I'll make sure not to drop anything!

Sandra Brake said...

Excellent. Pfeil or places that sell their knives also have some hand carving videos on YouTube. Very enjoyable and instructional.

timgoodrich1 said...

For some reason, I can't seem to figure out how to message you direct. But as I was perusing some info on my blog, I noticed you as a follower. And, if I am not mistaken, I met you about 5 or 6 months ago in Williamsburg. Am I correct? And, of course, I can't remember your name. Please remind me. And, how is everything? I like your blog by the way.

Kandice said...

Hi! I just found your blog doing some research on clothing in the 1800-1820 timeframe in the US. (Your blog is amazing, by the way.) Is the US fashion similar to regency era fashion in England during this time frame? Just want to make sure I'm on the right path. Thanks!

ColeV said...

Tim- I think we did meet, but I don't recall any particular circumstances. Shoe-wise things are going splendidly! You can email me (Nicole) at goldenhindmillinery at if you need to reach me.

Kandice- It is very similar. Americans tend to follow British more so than French. Check out the artist John Lewis Krimmel for paintings of American life during that time. There just aren't many American fashion plates, so paintings and portraits have to be a major source.

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for several months because I needed to make some 18th century doll shoes. Your pictures have been a Godsend! Naturally these have less structure than people shoes, but they're cut and assembled in pretty much the same way.

JODY said...

Hi Mantua Maker!
I absolutely LOVE your website!!!!! I stumbled across it looking for how period people look from behind! (I'm an illustrator...but also an 18th c. affecionado!) My big plan is to make a period dress...I have the beautiful linen in one of my bins!...and you've given me the inspiration to get started!

Phil said...

Hello I'm impressed by your talent. In fact I just received an award for my blog (created by Kleidung um 1800) and thought it would be great to pass it to you. I hope you don't mind.
I think you deserve it a lot (explanations on my blog)
All the best. Phil

Dixie Redmond said...

WOW. I love this so much. Never thought of how the heels were made.