Mellowing leather soles and insoles

This might be of  interest to some of our new shoemakers who didn’t have the opportunity of a long period of working/apprenticing with a master who hand welts and how he/she prepare the insoles and soles for inseaming and sole stitching, I can see how this preparations can be over-looked in a few weeks course on shoemaking. No welting process can be carried out well without mellowing the insoles and soles no matter what the tannig agent/s is, we all know leather is easy to cut when wet, The mellowing of leather for bottoming work is similar to that for Rolling/compressing, It is important that the water be clean, soft, and pure.

The first thing to do is wet the leather and care must be taken not to stain it by the iron in the water or the container the leather is immersed in,how long the leather is immersed, depends on the leather water resisting power, its substance, and what part of the hide, shoulders and bellies need less time in water than bend and butt,but the moisture must be allowed enough time to go  to the centre and whole  of the leather.

Here is how the good teacher,  Mr Frank Plucknett describes the “mellowing” process;

“If an attempt be made to cut the leather which is just taken from the water, and than the leather is laid aside for some time- say tweleve hours- a second attempt is being made, it would be observed that the leather after standing could be cut with much greater ease, the reason being that although  water had percolated between the fibres, yet the fibres and solid matter in the spaces were (previous to standing) still hard.  If some water is poured on a basin of dried peas it quickly percolates between them, but the peas are not therefore soft, the water must now percolates into the dense body of the pea and this take some time.  I n a similar manner the water quickly percolates between the fibres and around the masses of tanno-gelatine which fill the spaces, but it must continue its penetration into the fibres themselves and into the filling, until both are sufficiently plastic that they can be used, this will require some time and is known as “mellowing” the leather”.

The general practice is to wet the leather in the afternoon for few hours and than wrapped fully in paper (without print) and  put in a dark spot to be used the next day, it shouldn’t  be permitted to remain damp long enough to become mouldy.

Nasser Vies


COBBLER–a word that libels the craftsman

From the “FOOTWEAR REPAIRER”, VOL. 2:  no  7.  London  April  1948


A MORAL libel, or slander, as the case may be, is issued or  committed every time the plural noun “cobblers” is used to describe that skillful craftsmen.

I use the term “moral libel” because it is not an actionable libel. It has been held by the courts that you cannot libel a class.  You may say with impunity, for example, that all politicians are rogues, but you would be a foolish man indeed if you said Mr. BLANK, who is a politician , is a rogue, for Mr. BLANK would doubtless haul you up before one of His Majesty’s judges, who would in due process of law, order you to pay Mr. BLANK a sum of money calculated to compensate him for the injury to his reputation.

You cannot libel a class, ah ! —but you can libel an individual, as we all know and it would not surprise me the least if one of these days a shoe maker sought redress in the courts because he had been described  as a cobbler by the newspaper.


-OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY:  Cobbler:  One who mends clumsily;  a mere botcher.

Cobble :  A clumsy mending.

– CONCISE  ENGLISH DICTIONARY: Cobble : to botch,  to make do clumsily or unhandily,

Cobbler :  A mender of boots and shoes;  a clumsy workman.

-UNIVERSAL ENGLISH DICTIONARY : Cobble :  To do lumpy work,  To mend or make, sew, in a rough,  clumsy manner.

Cobbler :  One who mends boots and shoes as a trade;  (facetious) bootmaker,  especially one in a small way of business;  clumsy, bad workman of any kind.

What a hopeless task indeed confronts our intrepid reformer who would root out a word immortalized in saga and song, literature and legend.

The origin of “cobbler” is unknown. The earliest reference I can trace is from the writings of Thomas Langley (1362),  The monk-poet of Norfolk, who ups with his quill and outs with “Clement  be  cobelere  cast off his cloke,”   a meaningless piece of alliteration that has somehow wandered into the Oxford English Dictionary.  Of course there were shoe repairers thousands of years before friend Clement cast off his cloke,  but whether they were branded as cobblers will never be known.

Plain Oxford wingtip

A pair of wingtip reaching the end of the line, it is good to leave the lasts (wood) in the shoe as long as possible beyond the two weeks I usually allow for the bottoming leather to dry completely,it will help the shoe to retain the shape of the last.

On a different note, My cactus plant remembered the kindness i was giving it all year round and returned the favour in December as it does every year and that works for the two.