A few months ago I was fortunate to inherit many of the materials and supplies of Gaza Bowen, a renown shoemaker, teacher, artist and friend. In Gaza’s spirit of teaching, I would like to pass on some of her knowledge to the shoe making community. I came across some of her source lists while I was sorting through some older shoemaking materials. It seemed only natural to pass that on.

This is an incomplete list, but one which I hope will serve as a starting point for amateur shoe makers. Gaza’s understanding of shoes was so deep that I’m sure there are many things which she simply knew intuitively. Whenever possible, I’ll try to clarify her references and offer a little more of an explanation of materials and sources.

I also invite all of you to send me additional sources and resources so that we can continue to spread knowledge about this ancient craft. I should also note that although I’ve used some of these suppliers, there are many that I have not. If you find any of these resources to have dried up, or moved, please let me know.

Lasts

Kaufman [From Gaza’s notes, not confirmed]
346 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10012 212-777-1700
fax 212-777-1747 (Bondtex insole material)

J. A. Dawkins
(custom/ expensive) Dalhart Custom Boots
381 Denrock
Dalhart, TX 79022
806-249-8138

Larry Waller
Walrus Leather (Wisconsin)
walrusshoe.com
walrus@walrusshoe.com
414-882-6006
pairs $15 and full runs

Dick Anderson
Some Specific Used Plastic Shoe Lasts $15/pr.

Thornapple River Boot Shop
(Wisconsin)
(715)532-6301
(will mail them, let you make a pair and see if you want them before you buy!)

Richard Rogers
21 River St.
Fort Plain, NY 13339-1148

Randy Merrell
3430 N 3500 VV. Vernal, UT 84078
801-789-3079
Fax 801-789-5151

Simple Shoe Making Co.
http://www.simpleshoemaking.com/materials.htm
I haven’t used this site, but they seem to have some lasts.

Leather and Soling materials

O. Baltor & Sons
265 East Harris Ave.
South San Francisco, CA
800-622-5867
custom shoe trade; rep for Gotz tools

S.H. Frank
17th & Folsom San Francisco, CA
415-863-6244
(shoe supplies in Oakland at: 510-347-1080)

Charles L. Hardtke, Inc.
11040 Argal Court
El Paso, TX 79935 915-590-0088
(black pig lining & beautiful shoe kangaroo, etc)

Mid-Continent Leather Sales
POBox 4691
Tulsa, OK 74159
800-926-2061

(also Osborn Tools)

Stevenson Paxton Sales
12 E. Pamaron Way
Ignacio, CA 94949 800-648-1622
415-382-0700
pig lining, etc.

Texas Wholesale Leather
2017 A White Settlement Road
Fort Worth, TX 76107
800-477-9923
www.TWLeather.com

Lyn-Flex West, Inc (New addition!)
405 Red Oak Road
P.O. Box 570
Owensville, MO 65066-0570
573-437-4125
http://www.lynflex.com/

Books and Publications

Shoe Trades Publishing Co.
(Call for catalogue of titles)
P.O. Box #1530
E. Arlington, MA 02174
Ph: (781)648-8160
Fax: (781)646-9832
www.shoetrades.com
info@shoetrades.com

Harness Shop News
Newsletter with classifieds for shoe/bootmaking supplies
(252)249-3414
12 issues/$26

The Pattern Cutter’s Handbook
Accrington and Rosendale
Haslingden Road,
Rawtenstall Lancashire BB4 6RA
ENGLAND
(available from Shoe Trades)
Available at Amazon (often out of print)
Review: This is a great book with lots of technical knowledge. It’s not always the easiest to understand but it covers how to make patterns for several types of shoes. Highly recommended, but requires some commitment.

Handmade Shoes for Men
László Vass and Magda Molnár
Available at Amazon
Review: This book is absolutely amazing. The photographs are incredible. The detail and craftsmanship is unreal. I must have pored over these pages hundreds of times. The only downside to this book is that it can be intimidating. It’s not so much a book about how to make shoes as much as it is about how a master makes shoes. There’s plenty to learn from it, but they tend to make the process look much easier than I found it.

Crafting Handmade Shoes
Sharon Raymond
Available at Amazon
Review: This was the first book I got when I started making shoes. It’s very approachable and a great starter if you’re not sure that you’ll want to commit to more serious shoe making. This book shows you how to make simple shoes with very basic tools. The downside is that this book only covers the outstitched method. (and some of the shoes in here are a bit goofy. Although I’m sure folks could say the same about mine).

Make Your Own Shoes
Mary Wales Loomis
Available at Amazon
Review: This is a pretty good starter book. The illustration and photographs are very dated, but it does have quite a bit of good, basic information in it. This book only shows how to make women’s slip ons, (flats and heels). That said, some of the basics on simple methods for lastmaking could be worth it even if you want to make other styles of shoes.

Western bootmaking: An American tradition
D.W. Frommer
(fairly hard to find)
Review: Very thorough. Lots of text, not a ton of illustration. The illustration that is there is clear. I’d put this in more of the advanced category.

Last Designing and Making Manual
George Koleff
Available at Walrus Shoes
Review: Great resource (the only one I’ve found) for making lasts. It’s far more detailed than Mary Loomis’ method and will walk you through the process of making a last that is durable. The accompanying DVD is also useful. That said, this process is still quite challenging. I’m not great at following instructions, so I often had to go through the process a couple of times to understand exactly what I should be doing. All in all, well worth the money. There’s plenty of great information in here.

Organizations

Honourable Cordwainers Company
c/o Al Saguto
111 Indian Summer Lane
Williamsburg, VA 23185
www.thehcc.org

The Crispin Colloquy
excellent website/message board for handmade shoe questions; meeting place for custom boot and shoe makers.

Machinery

vent fan: Grainger Industrial Supply online: grainger.com
bench belt sander of choice:
Delta model #31 460 (4″ belt / 6″ disc)

Sewing Machine Info

repair books for old machines:

Southeast Sewing Products
2581 Piedmont Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30324
800-426-2246

Tools and Supplies

Shoe Repair/Hardware Store
This is one of the most overlooked places to get shoe supplies. And these folks are always good to know if you have a procedure that requires extensive machinery.

Maine Thread Company
550 Lisbon Street
P.O. Box 139
Lewiston, ME 04240
(207)-784-7770
FAX: (207)-786-3961
sales [AT] MaineThread [DOT] com
http://www.mainethread.com/
Nice online store.

APEX Foot Health Industries
Inc. 330 Phillips Avenue
South Hackensack, NJ 07606
800-526-APEX (catalog)

O.Baltor & Sons (Dave)
265 East Harris Ave.
San Francisco, CA
800-622-5867
custom shoe trade; rep for Gotz tools

Gotz
(German tools) catalog
for local supplier call 800-2-GET-SHU
Box 1819
Duxburg, Massachusetts

C.S. Pierce Companies
135 Oak Hill Way
PO Box 3750
Brockton, MA 02404-3750
508-587-1101 (catalog)

S & B Sales
Myrna Salzberg
6610 Claybourne Ave #11

Online Resources

YouTube.com
Search for shoemaking on YouTube. I was surprised by how much of the process shoe makers have posted. There was so much more there than even just a few years ago.

Flickr
As with YouTube, I’ve seen so many great examples of different types of projects on Flickr. Search for shoemaking and you’ll see some great stuff.

Twitter

If I post something related to shoe making I’ll add the hashtag #shoemaking. I encourage you to do the same. It’s a great way to keep the community going strong.

Blogs

This is great. Wow, this guy really knows his stuff and has done a great job of documenting the process. I know I’m petty and jealous, but I hate him a little for being so good.  http://handmadeshoes.wordpress.com/

16 Comments

https://redcoverstudios.comAlison Khorasanee on July 13, 2011  ·  Reply

Do you sell small quantities of items to Australia? I am looking for some lasts in a size 8 and 8.5 (European size 39), as well as some children’s lasts in a couple of sizes. The adult ones I am after are a ‘flat sole’ (not sure what you call it?court shoe?). I’d also be interested in investing in a really simple sewing machine dedicated to shoe/leather work, and some other supplies such as leather. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated

https://redcoverstudios.comThomas on July 13, 2011  ·  Reply

Hi Alison, generally, I don’t sell equipment, sorry. For the leather work, you may be able to just bring that to a shoe repair shop for the sewing. I have a couple of industrial sewing machines, but the amount of time sewing on them is minimal. I’d track down lasts first. I hope that helps. Let me know if you have more questions. -t

https://redcoverstudios.comAngela James on February 27, 2014  ·  Reply

Hi alison
The shoemakers coop is at 367 parramatta road Leichhardt, Sydney , new south wales , australia Wednesdays from 8.30 into 3 pm
We have machines to try out and some for sale. We are a group of shoemakers keen to share knowledge
Angela
0400424456

https://redcoverstudios.comyoursurprise-bellatio-4 on December 2, 2011  ·  Reply

Hey there! I’ve been reading your site for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from New Caney Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the excellent job!

https://redcoverstudios.comThomas on December 3, 2011  ·  Reply

Thanks! I wish I could put more up, but I’ve been so swamped with work lately!

https://redcoverstudios.commercia oostam on March 16, 2013  ·  Reply

where would i be able to buy leather for the soles here in lancaster, pa?
thank you…………….fantastic info, just found this site!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

https://redcoverstudios.comSybarite on March 23, 2013  ·  Reply

Try searching for Tandy Leather Company. There are stores nationwide (although many states have only one or two stores), and you might luck out and have one near you. I’ve also had good luck with eBay (closest Tandy is about a two hour drive because I live in a crappy state).

https://redcoverstudios.comhenry on August 10, 2013  ·  Reply

hi

thanks for your site, i am a shoe maker, new in the business. i will like to know the type of sole glue i can use for my leather sole high heel ladies shoes.

https://redcoverstudios.comThomas on August 12, 2013  ·  Reply

Hi Henry,

I like Barge Contact Cement. There may be better one’s out there, but that’s been great for me.
http://www.amazon.com/Quabaug-Corp-Barge-Cement-Quart/dp/B0015TDJKI/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1376330116&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=barge+contact+cement
I hope that helps.

Take care,
Tom

https://redcoverstudios.comAndrew S. McGahey on September 15, 2013  ·  Reply

Hello;
I’ve been making boots for many years, and just stumbled across your site as I searched for used last. I wanted to thank you for your gift to our trade. Most of us are old and keep our trade knowledge to ourselves to ensure our compensation. But you have done a good thing here, thank you.

https://redcoverstudios.comDavid on October 10, 2013  ·  Reply

Hi, I’m making shoes my sewing machine is a Singer 153w103 cylinder/walking foot. What is the best size needle and thread for kip and soft Itailan calf skin leather 2.5 – 3 oz stitching through both liner and upper? Thanks

https://redcoverstudios.comGiselle on May 3, 2014  ·  Reply

I think the most important thing that you need to have in a shoe business is the overflowing amount of CREATIVITY. 🙂

https://redcoverstudios.comS DENISE on July 29, 2014  ·  Reply

Hi my name is S Denise and I am new to shoemaking. I am a apparel and millinery designer, so not new to creating but realatively new to making shoes.

I am looking for a women heel supplier in the United States. I would like to have a source to purchase different fashionable heels and well as creating my own.

Please, if you have a source or anyone on this site does, I would most grateful to be pointed in the right direction!

Thank you much

https://redcoverstudios.comThomas on August 2, 2014  ·  Reply

Hi Denise,

I’d recommend O.Baltor and Sons in South San Francisco. They should be able to hook you up. I hope that helps.
Take care,
Tom

https://redcoverstudios.comSantino on December 17, 2015  ·  Reply

Dear Sirs:I am trying to find senoome who might be able to identify a pair of early 20th century cast iron forms used in shoemaking which I believe were made in the UK. This is a matched pair of forms which weigh 12 kg each and have electric heating coils in their bases. The only markings appear to be a model number and size (7Left and 7Right). I would appreciate making contact with anyone who might be able to help identify these and explain their function. Thank you andBest regards,Brent Rowell, Ph.D.Adjunct ProfessorUniversity of KentuckyUSA

https://redcoverstudios.comThomas on January 4, 2016  ·  Reply

Hi Brent,

Hmm, I’m not sure what those would be. There’s a shoemaking group on Facebook, they might have be able to identify them.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/shoemaking/

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