Leatherwork #2: vintage Schuh/Ebony-inspired leather shoes for my wife

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Blog entry by Sodabowski posted 05-12-2015 10:12 PM 2105 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: the mandatory pencil case Part 2 of Leatherwork series no next part

So, some of the ladies out here might remember this model from the 90’s:

Several nice details, others not so nice:
  • leg string is a torture device
  • my wife dislikes wedge soles
Solution and walk-through:
  • get a pair of Wife-approved sandals with the proper soles and nailed straps, new, for a very decent price ($15 with postage)
  • get a used pair of the vintage model off ebay for cheap cheap cheap ($8 with postage, that was like many years ago though)
  • dismantle both pairs
  • learn a few things about shoemaking in the process (always helps a lot)
  • scan the leather uppers
  • vectorize it in Illustrator
  • enhance it by adding a new strap around the ankle, then another curved one at the back
  • print full scale plan
  • cut it and make a first test fit on the new soles
  • make adjustments to the vector template
  • make a second print and cut a prototype out of synthetic leather (crappy stuff if you ask me)
  • make a new test fit
  • make final adjustments in the vectorized file
  • print again, stick onto the selected thick leather crust, arranging the paper templates to get the most out of the leather piece
  • cutout to several mm around the template and get ready to punch a lot of round holes into thick leather crust

Cue the drill press: for that kind of material, there’s just no way to get around doing clean holes with a regular leather punch. I used a stainless steel tube that I had prepared during the first prototyping: a 5 cm length of 4mm steel tube with a thin wall (0,25 mm). Filed to a conical end, fitted in the drill press, chunka cherry from a pallet remnant (see my wood gloat posts ^^) underneath clamped to the DP table, and off I am drilling a LOT of holes with very little effort. Each time the improvised coring bit gets full of the cutouts, simply take it out of the mandrel by a few centimeters and press it against a smaller sized drill bit to get the cutouts out of it.

After the holes are drilled, the other shapes are cutout with leather punches and an exacto knife.
Then the leather is trimmed up to the template with a combo of the exacto and thick fabric scissors.
Now the finished uppers can be fitted onto the soles: enter Mrs Sodabowski, sit her comfortably with a nice book, and get the upholstery nails, bent pliers, hammer and upholstery nail remover.
I started by attaching the ankle strap to the Missus’ with, er, duct tape. Seriously.

Then I proceeded to define the positions of the nails for each strap, starting from the last one (ankle), then the front one to get everything properly aligned and under tension. Then going from the frontmost to the backmost straps, nailing only the front part of each strap at a time.

Once everything is properly aligned and both nails for each strap side are in place, it’s time for the stitched parts. Not that you need to do these last, but since we had started nailing, it was easier on the soles to just leave everything in place instead of removing those hardcore tanged nails from the soles and have a hard time getting them to sit properly again. This is where the photos start, I absolutely forgot to take pictures before we finished them today.

The newborn pair, ready for the stitched buckles, one in leather at the back of the ankle for the upper ankle strap, the other for the metal buckle fastening the Lady in her handmade new shoes (and yes, the soles are from a “Spot On” brand pair)

I used elasticated velvet banding to attach the metal bukles to the leather ankle strap, this provides a soft cushioning effect and helps attach the buckle to that otherwise too thick leather. I could have reduced the thickness at the end of the strap (as I did for her wedding shoes) but this time I wanted to test the modern method, plus the elasticated band adds a lot in terms of comfort. I started by poking through the elasticated band with the awl, to just push the fibers around without tearing, and fed the buckle through.

I then glued the ends with contact cement. Believe me, hand-stitching buckles (or stitching fabric) without any form of preliminary glue-up is a major pain. Yes, I learned it the hard way (when doing her wedding shoes and dress).

Then it was hand stitching, poking preliminary holes with the awl at consistent locations and feeding the linen thread with the needle and pliers. Yes, I used a chunka wood for both the punches and the stitches.

Right side finished, on to the left side!

And here is the finished pair modelled by a very happy wife:

Since that leather crust is thick, I thought we would have her try them out for a while to see if they need a surrounding stitch. They will probably need it, so anyway I’ll take them appart once we are at the parents’ where both of mom’s stitching machines are now.

Leather: demands very few power tools, makes the Wife happier than any of the other ladies! Handmade, hubby-made, to the perfect fit! ;)

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

3 comments so far

View shipwright's profile


8821 posts in 4293 days

#1 posted 05-12-2015 11:37 PM

Pretty nice Thomas.
All that education and you’re going to be a cobbler…..... go figure.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Sodabowski's profile


2404 posts in 4328 days

#2 posted 05-13-2015 09:37 AM

Handywork is way more relaxing than anything on the TV ;)

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

View Schwieb's profile


1925 posts in 4957 days

#3 posted 05-13-2015 10:41 AM

What a guy! Yea I agree that making things, anything, is way better than wasting time on TV or golf.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

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