Beginners Shoemaking Tools and Materials: The Definitive Guide 2019

Beginners In Shoemaking. Tools And Materials: The Definitive Guide

Beginners-Shoemaking-Tools-and-Materials

Beginners in shoemaking have a lot of questions about shoemaking and this is how it should be when you are a beginner in shoemaking. 

In this post, I will talk with you about the main problems that beginners in shoemaking encounter and will show you how to resolve them. 

I will teach you how to make shoes with a minimum set of shoemaking supplies with my step by step Shoemaking Tools and Materials training.

You want to make your own shoes, you dream about learning shoemaking for so long, but before you start, there are so many obstacles that most of them you created yourself.

I am talking from my own experience and observation of others that learn this wonderful craft.

The number one obstacle that I hear from beginners in shoemaking is tools and materials.

The truth is, you don’t need that much to get started. There is a simple reason for this, and it is because you are a beginner in shoemaking.

You don’t need many tools, you don’t need fancy machinery, because first, you need to learn how to work with basic tools and materials and progress as you go on.

Once, I was a beginner just like you, and trust me I didn’t have much.

About 2 years ago I published “25 shoemaking tools and materials you need to get started” guide, but today I want to focus on a must have tools and materials to show you that you can start learning shoemaking today.

To show you the big picture and make you understand where you should use every tool and material, we will go through the entire process of making shoes, from start to finish.

The first question that each beginner in shoemaking asks is:

What tools do shoemakers use?

shoemaking tools and materials

This is where your problem is starting because you are thinking that you need a lot of shoemaking tools.

 This is how many different shoemaking articles that you found in the net mislead you. They list many different shoemaking tools, machinery, shoemaking tools with names that you even don’t know what is it and as a result. 

You think that is very difficult to arrange all these shoemaking supplies that you even can’t find in one shoemaking store.

So I want to break this myth and want to show you what tools do you really need to use as a beginner in shoemaking. 

I will list all these shoemaking supplies here and in the tutorial below you will learn how to use all these shoemaking supplies in making of shoes. 

Don’t worry, it only looks that there are too many shoemaking supplies but all needed tools for pattern making you can buy in any stationery store. 

Shoemaking tools for pattern making 

Pattern-making-brogue

Shoe last

Masking tape

Ruler with a straight angle

Shoemaker tape

Cardboards

Utility knife

Cutting board (any plastic board, even cutting board for vegetables)

Silver erasable pen

Compasses

Paper A4 

Only 6 Shoemaking materials to make your shoes from

  • Leather for upper and lining
  • Vegetable-tanned leather for soles and heels
  • Insole cardboards: texon and shank board
  • Steel shanks
  • Chemical non woven fabric (celastic material for shoe counters)
  • Reinforcement tapes: 4mm and 15mm width
  • 2 Types of the Shoemaking nails
  • Contact glue

5 Shoemaking hand tools

  • Awl
  • Shoemaker knife
  • Shoemaker hammer
  • Shoemaker pincers
  • Shoemaker rasp

Now, it looks like a very long list of shoemaking tools and materials but all needed tools for pattern making you can buy in any stationery store.

 All leather types you can buy online in this store

 and all other tools and materials I listed, like:

Long shoemaking nails to use in shoe lasting of the front part of the shoe upper

you can find in my online shoemaking supplies store.

So you see, you, as a beginner in shoemaking, don’t need to have any machinery or every existed shoemaking tool, you need to find all these simple shoemaking supplies to start learning shoemaking and make shoes. 

Regarding the sewing machine, you can start making shoes without it at first, and then you can search for some second-hand sewing machine.

Many of my students don’t have a sewing machine and sew shoe uppers by hand. It is possible if you have a big desire to learn shoemaking and as a beginner in shoemaking, you can start making shoes without it. Check some works of my students to be inspired by the possibility you would have in making shoes.

How to make shoes with min set of shoemaking supplies

Time needed: 11 days.

The next problem that you, as a beginner in shoemaking have, is you don’t know how to start making shoes because you don’t know how to make shoes.

The entire process of making shoes includes many different shoemaking steps and right now I will show you shortly how to make shoes working with a minimum set of shoemaking supplies, the supplies I listed previously. 
I want to explain to you how to make shoes with the tools you have so you will not have this question anymore, for sure.

  1. The first step in shoemaking is making of Basic shoe pattern.

    To make a shoe pattern you need to attach masking tape on the shoe last apply the shoe design on the shoe last. Then take your shoe masking tape pattern off the shoe last and attach it to the cardboard and cut out.
    Shoemaking supplies: shoe last, masking tape, pencil, utility knife, cutting board, and cardboard
    drawing the shoe pattern

  2. Make from the Basic shoe pattern the  upper and lining pattern

    To each line of your basic shoe pattern add certain seam allowance. 
    Shoemaking supplies: same tools + compasses
    Pattern making of upper shoes

  3. Next shoemaking step is Making of the shoe upper

    Cut leather of the upper and leather of the lining using upper and lining cardboard patterns. Assemble and sew the shoe upper and lining upper.
    Shoemaking supplies: leather, utility knife, cutting board, silver pen, sewing machine or sew by hand, polyester thread

    upper-making-step-in-shoemaking

  4. Shoe lasting

    Shoe lasting is a process during which you put the shoe upper on the shoe last and attach the upper to the insole. The purpose of lasting shoes is to stretch the shoe upper on the shoe last and to give it the desired shape. 
    Lasting shoes involve different shoemaking techniques working with shoemaking pincers, shoemaking nails and contact glue.

    lasting shoes in shoemaking

  5. Sole making

    After the step of shoe lasting you need to make a shoe sole. There are few materials to make your shoe soles from and the most common material is vegetable-tanned leather. 
    In all my online shoemaking courses I explain step by step how to make shoes with leather soles. To explain to you briefly, you need: to make a pattern of the shoe sole, cut it from leather
    attach it and finish it. Here in this post ‘’How To Finish Your Shoe Sole [Shoemaking Tutorial]’’ you can learn how to make beautiful shoe sole finishing.
    Shoemaking supplies:  shoemaker knife, shoemaker hammer, shoemaker rasp, contact glue, glass, and sandpaper

    sole making in shoemaking

  6. Heel making

    Attach ready-made shoe heels or make your own heels.
    There are few approaches on how to make shoe heels and you can learn them at my shoemaking courses online. 

    Shoemaking supplies: shoemaker knife, shoemaker hammer, shoemaker rasp, contact glue, glass, and sandpaper

    making stacked heels

  7. Shoe finishing

    Take your shoes off form the shoe last and make a sock lining and attach it

    Learn in this post ‘’How Sock lining Can Improve the Comfort of Your Footwear? [Shoemaking tutorial]’’ why shoe sock lining is important in the making of a shoe

    Attaching sock lining in shoe making

Right now you know how to make shoes, you know the entire process of making shoes.

So don’t be confused anymore and if you still have questions on how to make shoes by yourself, make sure to ask me!

What is Needed to Make Shoes?

This is your next most common question as a beginner in shoemaking and to answer to it we only need to make a conclusion of the two your previous questions.

  1. To make shoes you need to have 20 shoemaking tools listed at the beginning of this article.
  2. 6 shoemaking materials
  3. Knowing of the shoemaking process
  4. Practicing in the making of shoes
  5. Passion for shoemaking craft

How Long Does it Take to Make a Shoe By Hand?

This is the next question that you as a beginner in shoemaking ask me frequently.

Because many of you think that to make shoes it will take a few months ( it could be if you don’t have these 5 things listed above), you don’t even try to start making of shoes.  

Based on my experience working with many beginners in shoemaking from different countries, with different primary occupation and from different societies, I want to break this myth too 

It totally depends on how much time you can devote to shoemaking but if you will practice in making shoes at least 3 hours a day, you can make a shoe by hand approximately in 11 days.

It will work in this flow:

  • In 2 days you will make the shoe pattern
  • In the 2 days, you will cut leather, assemble and sew the shoe upper
  • In 1 day you will make preparations before the shoe lasting: make the shoe insoles
  • In 1 day you will last your shoes
  • In 2 days you will make shoes sole and attach the shoe heels if you have a ready-made heel. If you need to make heels by hand add an extra 2 days.
  • In 1 day you will make a shoe finishing

Now, I prepared for you step by step  ‘’Shoemaking Tools and Materials training’’ on how to make shoes with a minimum set of tools.

If you can’t buy all these 26 shoemaking supplies, you can start learning shoemaking with these 12 shoemaking tools and materials at least at the beginning of your shoe making learning.

12 Shoemaking Tools And Materials For Beginners In Shoemaking

The first thing you need to start this process is a shoe last. There are many different lasts but because you are a beginner in shoemaking there is one shoe last type that you will need and I will explain why.

 1.Pump shoes last with a low heel

pumps shoe last for beginners

This is the perfect shoe last to start with because with this shoe lass you can make many other types ( and not just pumps) like Oxford shoes, Derby shoes, Slingback pumps, boots and I show it all in my courses.

If you want to learn more about my shoemaking approach working with one shoe last check this post ”Perfect Shoe Last To Learn Shoemaking”

If you don’t know exactly what is a shoe last and why we need it in shoemaking, check this post ”What Is A Shoe Last! [Definitive Guide]” where I explain everything you need to know about shoe lasts. 

 2. Masking tape

masking tapes for shoemaking

This is a must-have material that you will use through the entire process and it is the first thing we use.

There is no need for special masking tape, it just needs to be a good quality tape and you can purchase it in every Office Depot store.  

We cover the last with masking tape to draw our design on the last, later on, we will transfer this design ( m.tape) to cardboard to make our basic pattern.

To choose the right masking tape please read this post Shoe making Case Study: Cover Your Shoe Last Using Right Masking TapeAfter you will create your basic pattern, you will move on to create the pattern of your upper and lining. To calculate the seam allowance for upper and lining you will need this tool.

 3. Compasses

simple Compasses  for beginners in shoemaking

It is the same compasses as you used in geometry class, at least it has the same function, so if you can’t find the “shoemaker compasses” just buy the ordinary one.  

As we got our patters ready, the next step is cutting leather. Shoemakers use special knives for it, but you will not fill the difference by using a very quality utility knife. I personally use ordinary utility knife but the trick is that I am using very sharp 30 degree angle blades / BD-100

 4. Shoemaking knife

shoemaking knife for beginners

You should have one good shoemaking knife and trust me it will be your friend. A good shoemaking knife can be used in many stages of our work. For example, the next step before sewing the upper is skiving the edges.

You can also use your shoemaking knife to cut the Vegetable-tanned leather, skive the sole ( as I show in my lessons) and trim the extras when making your stacked heel.

I use a good English shoemaking knife (22×2.5cm) that I got from “George Barnsley and Sons” ( UK, Sheffield).

5. Reinforcement tape

Reinforcement tape for shoemaking

Before sewing the upper we must reinforce the top line so it will not stretch during lasting and we need to reinforce the back seam.  There are different width of reinforcement tape but you can start by using the narrow, 4mm reinforcement tape. For the back seam, you can use a piece of thin leather.

6. Adhesive

You must have a glue for our shoemaking process, so where do you sue it?

  • To assemble the upper before sewing
  • To attach the upper to the insole
  • To attach the sole
  • To make our leather stacked heel

There are many different types of this glue, what important is that it must be the glue for leather only. For example Renia or Burge adhesive.

7. Sewing machine

There are many advanced and new machines there obviously, but as a beginner, I will not suggest investing so much money in an expensive sewing machine, Many of the Shoemaking Courses Online members purchased second-hand machines on eBay.  

8. Hammer for folding

shoemaking hammer for folding

There are many hammers that you can use, but one is the one you need as a beginner.

It is good for many things.

I use it not only for folding. I use it also to flat the seams after sewing and to attach the sole.

The trick here is to use the wooden handle to attach the sole evenly.

9. Pincers for lasting

pincers for beginners in shoemaking

In lasting, we need to consider the type of leather that we use, and that is why in my courses I teach to check the leather that you will use first. You need to know how to last different shoe models but it is very important to have comfortable pincers.

You should have lasting pincers with a hammer. This way you don’t need to use a real hammer when lasting and it is much comfortable and easy to last.

10. Nails

nails for shoemaking

There are two types of nails that you must have.

long nails= 2cm

short nails=0.9 cm

When lasting we use the both types. The long type we use for the front are and they are long so we could bend them. The short nail we place to attach the heel, and we leave them there. Please remember, that you should do it only if you have a steel plate on the bottom of you last.  

11. Vegetable-tanned leather

Vegetable tanned leather for shoemaking

This is almost the end of the shoemaking process and there is no better material to use for your sole then good vegetable-tanned leather. In my courses, I teach how you should prepare and skive your vegetable tanned leather sole and also how to shape it.  

The vegetable-tanned leather will be also used for making your stacked heels and you could learn different techniques on how to make heels on and off the last.

Vegetable-tanned leather can be also used as an alternative to the shank board and texon board when creating insoles.

As you will be using a low heel pump last you can reinforce the arc area of your shoe with a straight piece of veg-tan leather. This will be also an alternative for the steel shank, but it should be used only in the low heel last up to 1 cm.  

12. Dremel drill

This is a great unorthodox shoe making tool that you can use along the entire process of making shoes. You welcome to read my previous post “Dremel drill: 8 Ways to Use This Shoemaking Tool” to see what you can do with this tool. It is also sold everywhere and it’s very easy to find.

There are 12 tools and materials on that list and that is what you need to get started. As you will get more experience because that is what you need in shoe making, you will buy more tools, more materials but for a beginner like you, this is a perfect list to get started.

Now you know that you don’t need much to get started, just do it.

Thank you for reading,

Sveta Kletina

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  • October 2, 2019

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