It’s easy to take our shoes for granted. We have lots of options for commercially made footwear, and it is easy to run to Walmart or Target to grab a new pair if ours happen to fall apart or break. But in an emergency, we may not be able to replace our shoes so easily, and we’re going to be even more reliant on a pair of sturdy shoes to protect our hardworking feet. So what do you do? You’ll probably need to get some essential shoemaking supplies if you ever need to be your own emergency cobbler.
The most essential tools you’ll need as an emergency cobbler are lasts, a shoemaker’s knife and pincers, and measuring tape. But there are several other tools you’ll need as well, including a hammer, a rasp, a ruler and compass, and supplies such as leather, masking tape, nails, and glue.
In this article, we’ll talk about the most important shoemaking supplies you’ll need to become an emergency cobbler. We will go over some of the most basic and important tools you’ll need as well, so you can be prepared to make or fix shoes in an emergency. But first, let’s take a quick look at how to make shoes, so you understand how the tools and supplies will fit into the shoemaking process.
Shoe Making Basics
There are a lot of steps in the shoemaking process, but with practice and hard work, you can learn to make your own shoes or at least repair the shoes you already have.
The first thing you need to do when making shoes is to create a pattern. Modern shoemakers create a pattern on the shoe last or form out of masking tape. Then, they take the masking tape pattern off of the shoe form and fix it onto a piece of cardboard or sturdy paper. Next, add a seam allowance to the pattern, and then use the pattern to cut out your shoe upper from leather.
The next step is shoe lasting, where you attach the leather upper to the shoe last to stretch it into the right shape. After that, you’ll make and attach the sole of the shoe. Once the sole is completed, you can make your own heels or attach readymade heels to the shoe. Then you’ll remove the shoe from the last and finish it.
If you spend a few hours per day on your new shoes, you can probably finish them in about a week and a half, even as a beginner.
Essential Shoemaking Tools
If you are going to be making or fixing shoes, you’ll need some special tools to get the job done. And while a lot of these tools crossover into home improvement or homesteading tools, you might want to get some specific shoemaker tools for the job. This way, you don’t have to worry about your shoemaking tools wearing out or being hard to find in a toolbox. Many of these tools can also be used to fix leather gear such as bags and saddles.
If you are going to make shoes, you’ll need to start with a last. A last is the shoe form that gives your shoe its’s shape. It will also be the starting point for your shoe size, so you may want to get one for each member of your family. They are not expensive and available at websites such as eBay, Etsy, and shoemaking sites. Lasts are usually sold in pairs and are available in a variety of materials, such as plastic, wood, and even cast iron.
Measuring Tape and Ruler with Straight Angle
The old saying, “measure twice, cut once,” is undoubtedly true for shoemaking. You don’t want to waste precious supplies by making mistakes, so you need to have good measuring tools. You can use any measuring tape, but a shoemaker’s measuring tape is smaller because you only have to measure the size of a person’s foot.
Shoemaker’s compass is just like the old-fashioned compass you had in geometry class. A compass is a tool to help draw perfect circles.
This small hammer is just the right size for hammering in shoe nails. You’ll need this for repairs as well as for making new shoes and replacing souls.
Shoemakers Pincers or Cobblers Pliers
These are heavy-duty pliers that can be used to stretch the shoe material over the last. Hold it in place with a small nail once the material is in the right position. You can hammer the nail with the flat side of the shoemaker’s pincers. You can also use the pincers to remove nails, broken rivets, or other parts of the shoe that need to be fixed or replaced. Shoemaker’s pincers are some of the most critical tools in your cobbler inventory.
Shoemaker’s Knife and Sharpener
You’ll need a good knife for cutting the leather and other materials that you work with when making or fixing shoes. A lot of this depends on personal preference, hand strength, and hand size, but a typical shoemaker’s knife is a pairing knife. https://garrettwade.com/blog/about-that-knife-what-to-look-for/
A shoemaker’s knife is a small knife with a flat edge on one side of the blade and a beveled edge on the other. It is extremely important to sharpen your knife often, so you’ll want to include a knife sharpener, as well.
A rasp is used for sanding and shaping, but a shoemaker’s rasp is specially designed to help you sand and shape the sole and heel of the shoe you are creating.
If you are going to be making leather shoes, you’ll want a good pair of leather scissors. Using good-quality leather scissors will save you a lot of time and effort cutting through heavy leather to create the pieces you need for your shoe.
You need an awl to punch holes in your shoe for stitching, decoration, and of course, for grommets to thread your laces. A good awl will come with a variety of needle sizes to make different sizes holes, depending on the type and size of shoe you are making.
The speedy stitcher was invented in the early 1900s. This tool helps you to easily sew thick, heavy material, making it an ideal tool for stitching shoes. It will also stitch items such as canvas or leather. A speedy stitcher manually makes evenly spaced, uniform lock stitches. You’ll want to make sure you have spare thread and needles on hand, so you don’t run out. You can see a video on the speedy stitcher here.
Essential Shoemaking Supplies
When you are creating your emergency cobbler’s kit, you’ll want to include some supplies, as well. Keep a good stock on hand so that you don’t run out when you need it most!
Masking tape is an important part in creating the patterns for your shoes. 5 cm wide tape is a good width to work with. You’ll use the tape on your lasts to create the shape of the shoe, then transfer it to cardboard so you can cut out your pattern.
Leather and Shoe Materials
Leather is a commonly used shoe material. You can purchase leather specifically for making shoes, but in a grid-down scenario, you may need to hide and tan your own leather or get creative to find materials to make your shoes.
Carboards are what the insole of the shoe is made from. These are called texon board or shank board. Shankboard gives stability to the shoe.
You’ll need some kind of paper or cardboard to transfer your masking tape pattern onto before you cut it out. Stiffer paper is probably easier to work with when you are making your pattern, but it still needs to be flexible enough to hold the shoe’s shape.
You may want glue for minor shoe repairs. To fix loose souls, you can try Cobblers Quick Bonding Adhesive Super Glue, Shoe Glue, or even Gorilla Glue.
You’ll use nails to hold the shoe to the last when you are building it, and you’ll also use nails for keeping the heel in place on the shoe. There are two types of nails used in shoemaking, long nails (2cm) and short nails (.9cm).
Making and repairing shoes takes a lot of skill, time, and hard work. However, people will always need shoes and shoe repair. In addition, fixing and creating shoes might be an essential skill that you can use to trade and barter in a long-term emergency situation.
Can you use a Dremel for shoemaking?
Old fashioned cobblers may never have used a Dremel for their shoemaking work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. A Dremel can be used for cutting leather, sanding, and shaping various parts of the shoe.
What kind of leather can I use for making shoes?
Typically, leather shoes are made from cowhide. However, other types of leather, such as pig hide, can also be used but is thinner and not as strong.
How do I learn how to make shoes?
Most shoes are made in a factory, but there are still people in the world that make shoes by hand. The best way to learn how is to work with an experienced cobbler. You can also try online shoemaking courses, such as this one.