Gaziano & Girling bespoke 3
The making process in Kettering
Thursday 12th of April 2012

Following previous posts on The Rake examining the design and measuring for a pair of Gaziano & Girling bespoke slip-on shoes, we take a look here at the making process at the G&G factory in Kettering, just outside Northampton.

The first stage, based on the measurements taken last time, is to form the wooden last. This echoes the shape of the foot, allowing a shoe to be made on its structure that will perfectly fit the customer.

In the pictures above and below, the last is at an early stage and Tony Gaziano is using a heavy-duty surform rasp to take off thick layers of the wood. He will then move onto a lighter-weight rasp before finishing off with sandpaper of different grades.

After a fitting the last can be adjusted, either by taking the surform rasp to it again (to reduce the size) or by adding layers of sole leather (to increase it). The leather is soaked for a couple of days until it is very malleable, and then cut or rasped itself once glued onto the last, in order to gain the shape of the foot.

The last is checked periodically by placing it onto the foot draft and taking various measurements – you can see below where the correct points for measurement have been noted by dashes around the foot outline. The last itself is also checked visually against foot draft, to check the overall shape, as is the length.

“Making sure the shape is right is very important,” says Tony. “You need to constantly have the curves of the foot shape in mind so all the measured points on the foot flow together correctly.”
Once the last is complete, a ‘form’ is created – a two-dimensional paper representation of the three-dimensional surface of the last. This is used to draw the design of the shoe onto, including the position of any toe cap or brogue pattern. The design is regularly put back on the last, to check the balance and proportions are correct.
Once Tony is happy with the form, it becomes the ‘standard’ from which specific patterns for the shoe upper (below) are created in order to cut out or ‘click’ the required leather. Those two are put back on the last to check the proportions, before the clicking begins. (The word ‘clicking’ refers to the sound made by the knife as it cuts through the hide.)
Below, Tony is explaining to Mick how the pattern should look, and he begins clicking out the upper.
This is not the pattern for my shoe, which will be a one-piece tan slip-on as discussed in the first post. But that does not require a form so it is useful to use this wing-tip example to demonstrate the process.
For a one-piece shoe, a large circle of leather is wetted and then worked directly onto the last. This means the stages of the form and standard can be skipped, but it requires a lot of time stretching the leather in some places and condensing in others, instead. The pattern is then drawn directly onto the leather and clicked freehand, on the last.
In the next set of pictures, Daniel is channeling an insole for the shoe. He takes a rectangular piece of insole leather (the shoulder of the cow), wets it and then moulds it to the shape of the bottom of the last, before cutting around the edges. He then draws on the rib lines – guides to help him cut out the rib that the welt will eventually be stitched to.
Notice how much the rib line comes in at the waist. This tight waist is a sign of bespoke and a particular feature of Gaziano & Girling shoes.
Using a flat blade, Daniel then cuts out an L-shaped wedge around the outside of the shoe and does the same on the inside. You can see the rib forming in the last image above. (The rib on ready-made shoes is not normally made of leather; a leather rib has to be shallower and broader to achieve the same strength.)
Daniel makes thread for sewing the welt, next, using a line of hemp in an 8 or 10 cord and rubbing it through his hands with beeswax to create friction and melt the thread together.
Using an awl to go through the rib, welt, lining and upper, Daniel stitches the welt onto the shoe. In the pictures above you can see him using bristles to pull the two pieces of thread through each hole made by the awl.
Last, we show a couple of stages in the finishing. Firstly, Roger uses hot air to tighten up the leather and get rid of any remaining wrinkles in the upper. And then he applies the finishing touch – some good finger polish.


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