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Thread: Making shoes and boots.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Making shoes and boots.

    Making shoes from leather :~

    I wrote this tutorial a few years back for OSS , and since someone just asked about pirate boots, I thought I would post it here.
    I don't have much to add after a few more years experience since I wrote it except that you don't have to sew uppers to soles : glue can do the job well enough .

    Miniature leatherwork does need a proper outfit of tools and materials : itís no use trying to do this with modern chrome leathers ( the shiny coloured ones used for most modern stuff , typically handbags ) and blunt knives .

    You will need :

    Thin( 2mm or less ) vegetable tanned leather (calf or goat ), from Rio Rondo ( nice leather , but very small pieces : you want the pale flesh-coloured stuff , not the coloured , which are chrome tan ;
    or other suppliers : I use Le Prevo , of Blackfriars , Stowell St., Newcastle NE1 4XN , who do an excellent mailorder service if you are in the UK .

    Their vegtan goatskins , described sometimes as Morocco, are ideal for 1/6th , and not expensive. One will last you for years .

    Linen thread , a little beeswax to rub on the thread to make it pull through holes smoothly, and suitable needles ( glovers needles which have a sharpened blade tip are often handy , from le Prevo ), and very sharp new knives : Scalpels are adequate in this scale .
    You will also need an awl to make holes with : I made mine by backing a largish needle into a suitable wooden handle , then grinding the tip to a sharp point .
    A cork tile is a really useful board to work on , since you can pin things to it , as you see in the following pics.
    Otherwise itís best to use a very smooth piece of MDF board or similar to work on when cutting leather .

    The point about using vegtan leather is that itís plastic whilst wet : you can stretch it and shape it amazingly to make shoes and holsters . It also takes false stitching and decoration very well : itís the leather used for all tooled work in 1:1 , such as Western gunbelts and saddles . Chrome leathers cannot be shaped in this way : you can stitch them into flat items or cut straps from them satisfactorily , but beyond that they are useless.

    To make shoes 1/6 succesfully you are following a simplified version of 1:1 shoemaking , but leaving out a layer ( the insole ) which makes things easier .

    The first requirement is for a last ( or a pair of lasts to speed things up ) to mould your shoe around : I make mine from Sculpey , but an epoxy putty would do just as well if you donít have a suitable oven for the Sculpey.

    You need to compare for size it to the foot of the figure you are dressing , and also to the shape of the particular style of shoe you are trying to make .

    In this article Iím making mid-seventeenth century shoes for English Civil War figure , but the principles are much the same for later styles , ACW brogans for example .

    The last needs to be big enough , and Iíve found itís wise to err on the larger side , since the leather will shrink very slightly on drying.
    Before the mid-19th century , shoes were ďstraights ď , that is , the same for both feet , and made on the same last : no wonder people had to break them in !
    You'll find that your figure has laft and right feet , so you have to make some accomodation for that when modelling the lasts ,

    Here are my pair of Sculpey lasts : almost identical , with square toes .
    First use these to roughly mark out an oversize sole , and pin the sole to the board:

    The cut the fronts of the uppers : the piece of leather should be roughly the shape shown :

    Soak it in water , then , with a blunt tool ( I use a spatula ) gently work it to fit over the front of the last , taking particular care to get the ďweltĒ you are forming with the tool well under the bottom of the last : the further under you can get it , the better the fit of the shoe .

    Leave to dry : the dry leather will stay in shape.
    Once dry , you can make stitch holes with your awl going through the upper and the sole :

    Take a needle , with a waxed thread , and sew the upper and sole together . This can be a bit fiddly , but so long as you keep the holes matching , it should work out in the end . I use two needles ,
    saddle stitching as itís called , but you can go round and back with one needle if you prefer:

    Wet the welt and burnish it all to shape again.
    Then the backs ( in the originals , the backs are actually in two pieces , but itís quite possible to make them in one in 1/6th ).
    Notice that the back is quite curved : this is essential to make it deep enough for the heel , yet tight enough at the top to lie close to the ankle.
    Repeat the procedure as with the front : the back slightly overlaps the front on each side:

    You might want to add another layer to the sole : simply stick on ; the same for heels , which are stacked from as many pieces as you want :Here I've placed the sewn shoes on another layer to make the outer soles : once glued ( use any good glue : it could be white glue , or Bostik ) I'll trim round this and add the heels :

    [ HISTORICAL NOTE : despite what you might think from countless
    ď medieval ď films , heels were not in use in Europe until 1600 : they come in almost exactly with the new century , probably after influence from Eastern Europe and ultimately the Turks , who seem to have been the first people to use them .
    Late medieval/ renaissance shoes did have attached , welted soles ( after about 1460 ) , and there was often a thickening lift towards the rear , but they never had separate heels until after 1600 ......
    Any European figure before 1600 WILL NOT HAVE HEELS ! ]

    Dampen and burnish again , and your shoe is finished apart from the lace holes and colouring.
    Once you are happy with the shape , gently ease it off the last , and finish with a colour wash of acrylic , and some suitable laces:

    Here are some more types I've made this way : Shoes from 1600 , with a raised but integral heel :

    Some round-toed shoes from around 1630 :

    And some ACW Brogans ( forgive the trouser legs ) :

    GLUING instead of STITCHING :

    Itís quite possible to use this method using a last , but substituting glue for the stitching ; but the leather will have to be really dry at each stage, or the glue wonít take on it . I havenít tried it myself , preferring the ď scale ď stitching ; and the finished item is going to be a little less strong if you use glue ; but Iím sure itís possible if you donít fancy the sewing .The stitching can be faked with the awl once the glue is dry : dampen the leather again and scribe the stitching into the leather .
    __________________________________________________ ___________

    Once you have some vegtan leather ; all sorts of improvement to commercial items becomes possible . You are only limited by time and skill . Itís well worth replacing Pleather straps with the real thing , since it eliminates the woven backing which often shows with pleather items. You can make leather holsters as well .
    Vegtan likes acrylic paint , which it soaks up , so itís possible to turn it any colour you like ( experiment on a scrap first ); There are also a good range of spirit based leather dyes you can get from suppliers .You can use wax to get a shine after , or even use boot polish .


    BOOTS :
    The same technique can be used to make tall boots , for which you will need a full-height last , modelled in this pic in Sculpey again:

    The pupose of the last is again to enable you to accurately shape each section before assembling it.
    Start with moulding the wet leather to make the foot , then the leg . You have to glue or stich the leg to the foot portion . Itís ESSENTIAL not to close the rear seam until you remove the last , or you will never get it out :

    Once all the sections are joined , remove the last :

    Using some other cylindrical object without a foot on it as an internal support , you can now either stitch or glue the rear seam ; here Iím butt-stitching the two edges together with a pair of gloverís needles threaded on the same thread : saddle stitching , in other words, but with the edges being brought together rather than overlapped. This is exactly how the real boots were made:

    The finished boots , after staining with a spirit-based leather dye :

    I also used an identical technique to add some legs to the DiD officerís boots , to make the Staff Officersí boot shown here . The gaiter leg was moulded on the last , then glued to the boot , then both boot and gaiter were painted with acrylics :

    ************************************************** ***********

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Athens, Greece

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    What can I say! Total respect, Tony!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Maryland USA

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    A1 - thanks for posting!...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    many thanks for the tutorial

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2004

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    Excellent !!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Northern California

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    Wow! Ab-so-lute-ly Stunning!!
    It's a fabulous time to be collecting in 1/6th scale!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Tax-happy NY

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    Wow, this is a fantastic tutorial! And a really great find for me since I'm in the process of making costumes, clothes and a diorama with a medieval-esque spin.
    Thanks so much for posting this.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Heart of Middle Georgia

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    Much respect is right !.....I was so hoping to find a tutorial on shoe not sure I have the patience but it is on my list to try. Thank you for sharing !

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Ape City

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    This is what I have to do next.

    We chimpanzees are too few. How can we take the iniative when THEY are in control?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Mexico city

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    wonderful shoes, thanks for sharing!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Apparently, some alternate universe

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    Magnificent! Truly these are works of art.
    You are
    What you do
    When it counts---The Masao
    - Ryan Bonaminio lived his life this way -

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    North By South West

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    That is Great, But I could NEVER do that...WOW

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2011
    NorthEast, USA

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    Thanks Tony , this is something I've wanted to do for a long time. Tired of looking for the right shoe/boot, ordering and then hoping they look/fit right on my figure.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2016

    Re: Making shoes and boots.

    I'm so inspired by the work I see on here! Excellent job!

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Making shoes and boots.
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