The Project Gutenberg eBook of How to Make a Shoe

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Title: How to Make a Shoe

Author: John Parker Headley

Release date: April 7, 2008 [eBook #25013]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by David Wilson and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


How to Make a Shoe.





Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1882, by
Jno. P. Headley, Jr.,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.

Shoemakers are known both far and wide,
As men who always cut up side
Horse sometimes, also cow leather,
To meet the changes in the weather.
Sheep and goats are often slain;
Both unite to make it plain
That sheep is used for lining nice,
When goat alone would not suffice;
Just so with calf as well as kid.
Some use these linen-lined,
And think it quite the best, for those
Who feel themselves refined.
Refined or not, we think it true
Our feet need some protection;
To do whate’er they have to do,
We make our own selection.
Select at all times the best we can,
Both of shoemakers as well as shoes,
This is much the better plan,
And learns us how to choose.


The Author of the book in hand, having passed through the various scenes through which he would accompany his readers, was prompted to make this offering to the craft and the public in order to relieve his mind of the thoughts had upon the subject of making shoes, as well as to contribute something of a literary character which, in the broad range of possibilities, may become useful as a text-book, or family-book, for those who may feel interested in making or wearing shoes, and perhaps lead to something better. Realizing the imperfections and shortcomings of the human family, to some extent at least, no claim beyond that which you are disposed to put upon it is held, so that any communication will be gladly received and noted. This opportunity is also taken to express thanks for some valuable suggestions from the U. S. Bureau of Education, and others, concerning the publication of this little volume, and in its present shape you are invited to read and make the best use of it you can.


Measuring the length of the foot

The subject, seated on a chair,
One knee the other to rest,
Has his measure taken fair,
The foot at ease is best.
The Artist views the foot,
And straightway takes the length,
By measuring it from heel to toe,
His size brings content.
From twelve to eighteen inches long—
This stick has many sizes;
Three to the inch is now our song,
Subject to compromises.
Some feet have long toes behind—
In the language of the craft;
These are not so hard to find,
And oft to us been waft.
Our Artist here will best succeed,
If a little head he can measure,
For out of that comes very much
To make the feet a treasure.

Measuring around the heel

Next, around the heel a strap we bring,
To the centre of the curve,
A leather or linen strap is used,
And don’t affect the nerve.

The marks on this an inch represents,
Also fractions of inch preserved;
When made complete it then presents
An appearance well deserved.

Around the heel, I’ve already said,
But that is not quite so;
For around in part and through instead
Will make it more the go.

Now let us here make up our minds,
If this trade we would study,
That the craft is subject to many fines
If the subject gets very muddy.

Measuring the instep

With strap in hand the instep measure—
Be sure you get it right;
For at this place some have a treasure,
Which prompts them oft to fight.

A little lump we will it now call,
Not knowing the exact name of it;
Nor let our strap the least bit fall,
But measure just above it.

When we’ve done this, and done quite well,
Another move will follow,
Which takes us nearly on the ball,
And brings us from the hollow.

Measuring the ball of the foot

From the hollow now we’ve just come out,
With strap in hand to take
The measure neat, near on the ball,
So that our fits won’t shake.

If they should shake the remedy comes,
A false sole we do make,
To please our subjects at their homes
The soles we there do take.

Onward now the way we press,
And move along just so,
Until we reach the part well known
To be the toe, the toe.

Measuring across the toes

This is the place of which folks do talk,
If there is any pressure,
Because they cannot easy walk,
The shoey missed the measure.

Just below the ball, across the toes,
Is where we next are found;
For there is nothing worn like shoes
When used upon the ground.

From here we feel like soaring higher,
And soon get at the ankle,
Which must be fit to suit the buyer,
Thus avoiding any wrangle.

Measuring the ankle

The ankle reached, we then with care
Measure neat and true;
If anything is noticed there,
’Twill surely be the shoe.

That notice is just what we want,
From that we get our living;
And if we make a miss on that,
It might be past forgiving.

From toe to ankle we have come,
With an uncertain height,
And with the measures we’ve put down
Will now add that right.

Measuring the height

To have the height right is our aim;
Some like shoes high, some low;
But to have them fit is all the same,
And this we try to show.

Some in one way, some in another,
These measures have been taken,
Until we have them all together,
We should not try to shapen.

To work now by our measure marked
Will be our constant aim;
A pattern must be cut—
To start with that is plain.

But plainer still the shoe will be
From the pattern we shall cut,
Because we think you’ll all agree
What’s opened should be shut.


Before our eyes the patterns come,
The shapes are clearly seen,
A vamp and quarter, with a tongue,
Worked just in between.

A stiffening of sole has found its way,
And asks that it be shown,
In order, at some future day,
Its use might be made known.

The parts, you see, stand thus alone,
But have a close relation;
Because these parts must all be shown
To keep their proper station.

One part not seen, in shape the same,
Is cut and called the lining,
Upon which each quarter must be placed—
We’ll not stop here defining—

The lining

But show in this cut, if you please,
The lining a little larger,
With the quarter pasted on it smooth,
If not there’ll come a charger.

The vamp, also, has been changed,
Only one-half appears,
The cause of which can be explained
In less time than number years.

When we the lower corners take,
And match them well in fact,
The centre we at once do make,
Which guides the following act—

Joining quarter and vamp ready for sewing

The act of uniting quarter and vamp,
With paste or cement for sewing,
Is done with care, as in this cut,
The fitness of things is showing.

The centre mark on the vamp we’ll use,
To get the quarters placed best,
By putting the vamp upon the two,
One-half inch above to rest.

One end is reached, but not the last;
This end from flax or cotton
Is made by some men very fast,
If the flax is not too rotten.

Rolling the thread

The work which we have now passed through
Could all be done by standing,
Having a board to cut upon,
And one the paste commanding.

But now we wish the scene to change,
And begin the ending act;
Which comes first to him who would arrange
The threads, indeed, intact.

We roll the thread upon our knee,
To untwist and break with ease,
And place the cords, one, two, and three,
So that the points are formed, if you please.

Forming points with cords

By having the points one below the other,
The thread kept free from a knot,
We will avoid whate’er there is to bother,
While the past may be forgot.

We will let that be just as it may,
If wrong we’ll try and mend it;
For surely there will come a day
When after awl we’ll send it.

Twisting the thread

With the thread arranged, as we’ve described,
Twisting is quite in order;
The figure now shows us a how
To twist it hard and harder.

When one side is twisted hard enough,
We simply take the other,
And do the same thing over again,
So that the threads are worked together.

Before the ends are entirely free,
One thing around us lingers,
We take the thread, three or two in one,
Around our left-hand fingers.


A large round awl is just the thing,
To do what we call milling;
Two or three trips are sure to bring
From fingers to foot the filling.

Now our thread is very smooth,
But we try to make it smoother,
By using a piece of cloth to rub,
When done, free all together.

Something now is sought that sticks,
Commonly known as wax;
And often one gets in a fix
When he finds it with the tacks.

Waxing the thread

But wax, not tacks, is what we want,
To make our thread quite nice;
We catch it in the middle,
And to the end wax thrice.

Each time waxing briskly,
Not stopping on the way,
For if we do we’ll miss it,
And perhaps will have to stay.

Our wax should be in season,
Soft wax in winter use—
Hard wax in summer—reason,
Holding together our shoes.

Making a fine point

A fine point now we’re about to make;
This part should be waxed better,
So that the bristle we may take,
Shall stick like the stamp of a letter.

We’ll stop here about the thread,
To take a little whistle,
Until we find a pair to suit,
Then begin to bristle.

Preparing the bristles

The bristles with care have been selected,
In keeping with the thread,
In this case we feel protected,
Because the hog is dead.

From Russia, we are told, the best bristles come,
But cannot tell you why,
The hairs upon our hogs at home
Are not so good to buy.

Joining thread and bristle

The union of thread and bristle, now,
Will keep us to our text,
For from this you’ll no doubt see
What is coming next.

The bristle is split a little o’er half way,
In the left hand has its place,
Between the finger and thumb to play
An important part in the race.

One-half over the forefinger you see,
Held in place by the next,
The thread and bristle both agree
To be thus placed is best.

Do not split but roll it on,
Some have said and done,
By waxing the bristle where the other is split,
And continued from sun to sun.

Twisting the thread

Now either way to start will do,
As much depends on twisting,
The hairy part is left for you
To make sort of whisting.

Back to the scene from whence we came,
With our end in place to hasten,
Make a hole quite through the thread,
The point pass through and fasten.

A crooked awl

So much about the bristle said,
No doubt you’ll think it strange
That needles are not used instead—
Some have tried the change.

They may be used with good effect,
In sewing through and through;
But when we use a crooked awl,
The bristle stands by true.

Finding the middle

One more remark about the end
We thus have kept in view,
To find the middle is the thing
Now left for us to do.

Not very hard, but easy quite;
In the left hand even joints—
The right hand holding the other end,
This fills up all the points.


Another change in things takes place,
This time the clamps appear;
Between the knees they run their race,
And hold the upper dear.

The vamp and quarters as they were pasted,
Are seen now in their place;
The vamp extending above the clamps,
With the quarters easy to trace.

Begin to sew at extreme end;
Put left-hand bristle first in;
Across the vamp our sewing extend,
Two rows that may be seen.

Sewing the quarter

This nicely done, just change a little;
The position is clearly seen
When we have this quarter stitched near the back,
Say half inch in between,
Pull through one thread and tie it tight,
On the inside to be left;
Begin to sew the other quarter,
Close at the vamp is right.


Sew to the back, and then begin
Another row up the front;
Sew to the top, ’twill be no sin,
But the doing of what is wont.

These rows, half an inch apart,
Will serve the present state,
Because now we have a splendid start,
And getting on first rate.

Then down the front on the other side,
To the vamp be sure to go;
Never allow your work to slide,
But take it out just so.

Trimming the back seam

The front is sewed, the back is not,
But it will be very soon;
This must never be forgot,
As it takes up part the room.

The out-sides together at the back are seen,
As we are about to sew
A little strip, put in between,
To make it stronger grow.

Down to the bottom we’ll sew the way,
Until it is complete;
Then trim the seam, and rub it well
With a bone found on the seat.

Whipping down the leather

You will observe the back is changed,
The linings are together;
This can be quite well arranged
By whipping down this leather.

Either whipping over and over, or through and through,
Just as the case may be;
Neither way is very new
As we may clearly see.

But we should do it, and rub down flat,
For now the time has come
When we have had enough of that,
And our upper is near done.

Stitching the top of the back

The upper has now its right side out,
“Right-side out with care;”
A little stitching at the top of the back
Will make it look quite fair.
We stopped stitching, you remember well,
Before we reached the back,
When on the quarters we did dwell,
And left a vacant track.

Finishing the upper

That track now is filled up well,
Yet we do hold it fast,
Knowing that a time will come
To put it on the last.

Before that time is reached, however,
The eyelets, bear in mind,
Should each be put in proper place,
So that the holes we find
Will let the strings pass easily through,
When punched and set in straight;
We have now the upper for our shoe,
Do try and make the mate.

The completed upper

This upper completed by the past,
Has made it much a treasure,
For we must also have a last,
And fit it up to measure.

Since we have kept our seat so long,
A change may rest our back;
So at the bench we’ll take our stand,
Close by our friend, the jack.

The Bailey jack is the name of this
One, screwed down upon the post;
For general use it will not miss,
But serve our end the most.

At the bench, checking the last

Lasts are made of many woods,
Of ash, of oak, and maple;
Well seasoned is this stock of goods,
Some kinds are very staple.
Some are made with iron plates,
To clinch the screw or nail,
But when we would a peg shoe make,
To use these plates would fail.
Made, also, for men and boys,
Women and girls, for each
Has on this art a special claim,
Their feet to train and teach.
To dwell here longer would not do,
The last we want’s in the hand;
We’ll measure the same as we did the foot,
And thus our trade command.
The length, you know, is measured first;
Two sizes added on
Will make the toe so comfortable,
We should like to sing a song.

Checking the heel measurement of the last

The heel we reach in perfect order,
And leave the measure neat;
Some shoes are made which look much broader
When put upon the feet.

Checking the instep measurement of the last

The instep now we see again,
And measure as before,
One-half inch off will answer us,
No less, and not much more.
For if we do we are apt to find
The place where shoes do pinch;
Across the ball we’re now inclined,
Still measuring by the inch.

Checking the measurement of the last around the ball of the foot

This is at times a tender spot:
Bunions develop there;
And when they do ’tis not forgot,
We may be e’er so fair.
One-quarter size we leave off here,
As on our way we go,
Travelling on, without a fear,
Until we reach the toe.

Checking the toe measurement of the last

Another quarter we would say,
At this point we may drop,
For we are now quite far away
From the ankle and the top.

But further yet, we are bound to go,
The bottom must be reached,
Where soles are made and often saved,
’Though the saver be impeached.

The last we put upon a side
Of white or red sole leather,
And mark with knife, or pencil wide,
The parts of sole together.

The parts are known, each one defined,
Inner and outer sole;
A middle one, when we are kind,
Lifts and shank piece make the whole.

The inner sole pegged to the last

The inner sole on the last is put,
The pegs just where you see
Keep the sole where it belongs,
In order to agree.

The edge is bevelled from heel to heel;
The mark across the breast
Shows us when and where we may
Take a little rest.

Placing the upper over the last

The upper straight upon the last,
With the seams appearing right,
The stiffening smooth just at the back,
Will draw upon our sight.

This should be done when we begin
To draw the upper over,
So that the last in all its parts
Shall have a proper cover.

Drawing the upper over the last

Draw steady, until we have it close
At the heel and at the toe;
If these parts should be too loose
It would nearly spoil the shoe.

Draw steady, or you’ll make a crack,
Which will there remain;
Perhaps may cause us to go back,
And do it over again.

Fastening the upper to the sole

The upper, in the way described,
Drawn gently at the toe,
We hold it down with our left thumb,
While a peg we try make go.

On either side of the toe now work,
And in the same way fasten
The upper down upon the sole;
To the heel we now must hasten.

Tacking the upper at the seam

Let the upper at the seam
Have now a secure tack;
The stiffening, all straight in between
The lining and the back.
Be sure you get the lining smooth,
The part inside the shoe;
If it is not, you may sometime
Have a thing to make you blue.

Closing the front

Now put the shoe upon the bench,
In the way shown in the cut;
And with a string and button
Use care to close the front.

We no doubt now do see the thing
Taking on a shape,
Which, in the end, will surely bring
Us clear out of the scrape.

The shoe now placed on the jack

The shoe is now placed on the jack;
A hole, for the pin in the last,
Serves to keep the same intact,
While the toe piece holds it fast.

Now at the breast, draw over outside,
Close upon the sole;
Take your time, for something’s gained,
While filling up the hole.

The awl, you see, should not be large;
In lasting use small pegs;
Just drive them through the inner sole,
No danger of your legs.

Using the thumbs while lasting

We will now note the difference:
The inside shank is longer;
If we would last it very smooth,
We must pull all the stronger.
The thumbs at this are very clever,
When their part is nicely played,
Serving as a splendid lever,
While working in the shade.

Lasting the inside ball

We are now at the inside ball
Be careful not to scratch it;
When in position we are found
We are more apt to catch it.

When this we’ve caught, and feel safe to leave
For the other side,
We’ll find the heel where the toe has been,
By this we must abide.

Lasting the upper at the toe

Everything quite in its place,
The future for us yet;
Let’s last the upper all around,
’Till at the toe we get.

Still using awl in pincer hand,
Alternating endly,
For at this post we’ve taken stand
To grow up very friendly.

Crimps at toe and heel

The toe has crimps, some in the heel;
The first is more important,
Because the toe is always seen;
If rough becomes discordant.

These crimps are made from left to right,
And right to left we go;
Then scallop them, when to be pegged,
Not so when it we sew.

Shank piece

The shank piece in, the bottom filled,
With crimps cut as was said,
Already for the middle sole,
Which forms an even bed,
On which we lay the outer sole;
The thing we look for next,
Is moulded near the upper close,
And comes quite near our text.

Middle sole

The middle sole will make us have
A better understanding,
And help protect our feet from frost,
While we the trade commanding.

A strap is used around the foot,
The shoe upon the knee;
To mould the sole, as we have said,
These parts should all agree.

Marking the sole for pegs

When moulded good, edge full from last,
Trim the sole prepared;
Then make a line for pegs to go,
For in this we have shared.

We to our old friend jack make haste,
With our awl and hammer bright;
Begin to peg on the line we’ve marked—
Six to the inch is right.

Pegging the sole

Two rows around, just in between,
Each other they are put;
Use them long enough to go clear through,
But save them from the foot.

The awl-hand picks up the pegs,
The hammer-hand now takes,
Between forefinger and the thumb,
And for the hole it makes.

By repeating this we soon shall have
Our work ready for a lift;
But first, smooth pegs and trim heel-seat,
Or we’ll move along too swift.

Building the heel

The first lift on, we’ll leave it full,
Making the centre level;
With our knife in hand, not very dull,
We are prepared to bevel.

In this way the heel is built,
One lift upon the other;
Pegging each will add no guilt,
But save our subject bother.

Piece by piece, until we stop
At the proper height;
A solid piece used for the top
Will make it finish right.

Heel and sole nailed

Nails are driven, both iron and steel,
Around the top, in mind,
And on the outside some prefer
A few more nails to find.

Hammer solid both heel and sole
Level as it can be;
Whittle the heel down to a size
Close to the nails you’ll see.

Using the heel-shave

The heel-shave is a tool so good,
To smooth the heel up nice;
For when around it you have gone,
Its work will here suffice.

Cut down the breast, make it square,
Sand-paper it, if you please;
Then change position very fair,
And done with perfect ease.

Taking out the welt with a knife

Take out the welt with a knife to suit,
Do not cut the upper;
This same thing is done to the boot,
And neither has to suffer.

These tools are bought in stores,
Known to the craft as “finding;”
Some are here from foreign shores,
Which serve us a binding.

Trimming the edge

A small knife take, and trim the edge
From the heel, around the toe,
Down to the heel on the other side—
Our shoe begins to show.

The bottom buffed, all but the top,
Sand-paper all, now, we think;
Just mark a place across the shank
To be blackened well with the ink.

The finished bottom

The bottom in this shape has come,
And looks as if we’ve parted;
But that’s not so, as we well know
We are nearer than when we started.

The ink when burnished with hot kit
A little heel ball is the thing
To use, so that it will be fit
To put upon a king.

Burnishing the heel

Our jack and company seen again,
The last time for the present;
To part, perhaps, will give us pain;
Perhaps be very pleasant.

A burnisher for the heel, behold!
Use briskly when we finish,
For this tale is nearly told,
Its parts seem to diminish.

Many parts have made the whole,
Some parts are much effected;
But when the parts are whole in one,
They do become respected.

Finished shoe

The end is reached, we trust all safe,
After quite a travel;
Though the road was rough from place to place,
The thread did not unravel.

J. P. H., Jr.