KJ004 Shoemaking part 3

Blimey, it’s been a while! I’ve been working on and off on the Keira James Mark 4 shoes for nearly 6 months now, due to available materials, tools, confidence in my own skills and constant experimentation and refinement. It’s a turnaround time that will need some improvement if I’m to start doing these for other people. On the plus side, they’re going well, so I have plenty to report.

I realise I never posted the original design for these – so here is the full-scale plan I have been following:

KJ004 Design 1024

I have made a few modifications to the heel area but on the whole the desogn has stayed consistent throughout the process. I used tracing paper to transfer the shapes from the design to the wood, repeating the process when the tool work rubbed or cut away the markings. I used a range of chisels and gouges to cut the grooves all around the heel, switching between them regularly to help keep the grooves consistent. Here’s hwo they looked when I’d finished chiselling out the grooves, before starting on the carved vine details:

KJ004 Side Carved 1024

I used tracing paper again to transfer the vine pattern from the drawing. The need to flatten the paper inth the curved groove means the shape is slightly distorted as the drawing is narrower when viewed head-on. This isn’t a big deal as the carving process can compensate for it.

The vine tracings themselves were carved with a range of fine chisels and scalpels, occasionally using a curved needle file to smooth some of the groove edges. They’re somewhat wider than the narrow tracing in the design, about 6mm in most cases, as the softness and age of the wood meant it doesn’t hold its shape when carved. I am pleased with how the carving has turned out in spite of that.

Here’s a late-stage WIP of the vine carvings:

KJ 004 Side Vines 1024

I’ve done more work on the soles since then, the woodcarving stage is almost complete, and I’m in the process of carving the footbed to suit the shape of my feet. After that they’ll be filled, sanded and sealed ready for painting.

I haven’t said much about the upper shoe components so far. It takes a while to work out the measurements and cut the patterns and it’s hard to find much to write about there. Still, I worked it out and cut the raw fabric to shape. The black fabric is a thick, strong cloth I originally bought to make a banner about 11 years ago, and has been more or less idle for that long. I wanted a much finer finish on this pair than on my previous efforts, so no scrap car seat fabric this time (though I will be using the thick seat padding to make the insoles later).

The white lining is from the same quilt cover I’ve been using since I started shoemaking, as it’s comfortable and plentiful.

KJ004 Ankle Straps Raw 1024

Here’s the upper set as it stands at the moment – the sewing is complete on the outer ankles and D-ring fastenings, but needs finishing on the long straps and bottom hems. I had originally planned to tack the uppers through just the outer layer of fabric, which is why the bottom hems haven’t been stitched so far, but it would make more sense to use both layers of fabric for added strength.

KJ004 Straps Sewn 1024

And for pure vanity, here’s a close-up of the stitched detail on the rings:

KJ004 KJ Logo

I’m almost at the end of these parts of the project – once these are done, I’ll be making the insoles, cutting and attaching the tread and finally affixing the uppers to the sole. Then I can make my long-awaited Shoe Debut in the glamorous Yorkshire rain. I’d better make sure they’re properly sealed and waterproofed.


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