Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sacrificed in the name of engineering

    Long-term readers of this blog will know I am blessed with feet of a size unusual in male circles and almost unknown in female ones. Thus the pursuit of female-appropriate footwear in large sizes has become something of an obsession of mine, you might say I'm a world expert in the matter.
    With a very few exceptions, larger size ladies footwear aimed at the transgender community tends towards the fetishistic. Shiny PVC, painful heels, lots of straps and buckles. No doubt very tasteful if that's your thing, but mine it ain't. So I'm left with a tiny array of simple styles, mostly in black patent. could be worse, but I could weep when I see the shoes my natal female friends can pick up so easily.

     So do I put up with it and do nothing? Hell no!

    I'm an engineer, I make stuff!  I've never made a shoe before, but the blessing of being a trained engineer is that assurance that you can make just about anything if you put your mind to it.
    So I'm going to make shoes. No, they ain't going to be pretty, not at first, anyway. I have to learn how to make shoes. But you have to start somewhere.
    So given that, where does one start? In the first case, make a mould of your foot. In cobbler's terms, a last. A foot-shaped working surface on which to assemble your shoes.
    I bought the rubber moulding compound to do this about a year ago and haven't had the courage to start. I guess it's time. In effect I'll be making a pair of custom rubber socks, into which I'll pour a moulding material such as plaster or resin to make the last itself.
    But mould aside, how do you make a shoe? They don't teach you this stuff at school. As with most engineering projects, it's best to start by looking at work someone else has done, so to that end I've got hold of some discarded ladies shoes from a friend, and I'm about to dissect them. Pull them apart, even cut a pair in half with the bandsaw.
    It's going to be messy, isn't it.


  1. You are far braver than I, to have tackled such a project, but I guess I can count myself lucky that I can buy most of my shoes from regular dealers. I don't know what I could do to help from this end, unless you've need of shoes to dissect, but any aid I can offer is yours.

  2. Tell me when you start taking orders...

  3. There really is a fortune to be made with this idea. Many of my natal friends have sive 8s and even at that size the choice can be poor.

    What most manufactures have failed to realise is that first there are a heck of a lot of girls with large feet just dying to wear really nice shoes and two, those of us with larger feet need the most slimming designs, those with small feet don't!

    Rant over...

  4. I am going to be following your progress with this with much interest... luckily I can atleast use evans... though its rare I can afford new shoes so am generally stuck with ebay 2nd hand shoes...
    I know what you mean about fetish wear! it being something I am into, it still maddens me that I can get a pair of boots for the bedroom (I shan't say nought further on this ;P) far easier than for work/everydaywear... luckily I am also happy with paraboots and doc martens, but nice slip ons and heels are an annoyingly rare thing =(

  5. That sounds pretty cool! :-)

    I did some Googling (does that verb need capitalizing, these days? ... I guess not!) and there are some interesting sites out there, describing how to do shoemaking. It sounds like a fun project. So - have fun! (And don't let a little thing like trepidation get in the way! I'll never forget my first woodworking commission. I was as nervous as heck, never having done anything like that before. But it all worked out because I took my time and I had a blast! So, go enjoy yourself and do something fraught with peril... Er, I mean filled with fun and accomplishment! :-D (Sorry - I couldn't resist!) :-)

  6. An excellent idea, and a potential new business as well. You are not alone in finding it hard to get "sensible" shoes in larger sizes, I am lucky in having smaller feet (UK8) and can buy most of the shoes I want in regular shops, or charity shops, but I know many of my sisters are limited by what is available.

  7. Don't be frightened to use stainless steel and bolts, proper engineering is nothing to be afraid of just because New look are not using it. You are making shoes to last.

  8. What a load of cobblers! (Tehe) What a great idea Jenny and if anyone can do it I am sure you're the girl! Sounds like it could turn out a profitable business, as long as you don't have problems sourcing the materials. I take a size 8 shoe by the way and I have not had any problems over the years with availability or style. I use all the high street shops too.

    Shirley Anne x

  9. The only thing I can suggest is to be careful of the cure temperatures on those mold materials. Some of them can be refrigerated ahead of time, which helps. I did a two part foot cast in dental stone once (long, long story), and we used ice water to mix with so the final temperature was just a little uncomfortable.

    Good luck!

  10. Go for it, these ladies have given you some good advice, look forward to your progress, I am a size 11/42.
    Good Luck!!

  11. Evening all, and thanks for your comments.

    Having become something of an expert on large size ladies shoes I'd say this: if your feet are UK13 you can find them in a reasonable range of styles by mail order, and it's only UK14+ like me at which you'll really struggle. One day I'll put a list of suppliers up here, I curate a list for another online resource.

    However, in the manner of tossing a bone: Google "Shoes of prey".

    I was not intending this as a business, nor was I intending to make sizes other than my own. That said, if my results were acceptable and I had a friend with a UK13+ I'd certainly try making a mould for them.

    The moulding compound I'm using is latex. I'm told it's safe enough, but very slow indeed because so many coats have to be applied. I may have to go back to Plan B, measuring my foot very carefully in 3D space and making the model layer by layer.

    And no, I won't be afraid of using metal. However I woun't be going for significant heels either unless there's a specific style I want. Fun, but I don't need the height.

    It ain't going to be that fast, but I'll do something.

  12. Why not make a split plaster of paris mould of your foot ?
    That sets quickly. Then spray the inside with silicon grease and fill.
    A foot last.