Blast from the (recent) past

Well, we’re almost a month in to the world of blogging and I have learned 2 important things :
1. Take your camera places, no photos = nothing to show off.
2. Its time to get a decent camera, bad photos are just as useless as no photos.

So, with that in mind here are some images of the other 2 pairs of shoes I have completed recently, and I’ll get back to you all with more photos of the current pairs when I remember to take a camera in.


Pair #2 to leave the workbench were these flats.
A variation on the first (brown) pair, with a twisty toe detail that Dani requested. They came out a little bulkier than planned, but not as much as the exaggerated camera angle shows them.
Not much to describe here, other than crossover designs are harder to sew than straight up flat pieces.


Pair #3 to come to life were a little more adventurous. Aiming to fill the brief of “summer sandals to wear all the time” these Zomp-inspired bad boys came in to existence.


I foolishly assumed that these would be a quick and easy departure from the last two pairs, but I was wrong. Sandals seem to involve 400 times the amount of sewing and at least 3 times the amount of brain power and fingers-crossed optimism than court shoes do.  Sewing 10 pieces of leather together and hoping they’ll all wrap up into a shoe is some anxious work.

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I added Velcro instead of a buckle, Topy covered the whole sole for long-lasting toughness, and have since made a few minor alterations to account for Dani’s orthotic supports that had a tendency to slip out the sides.

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That’s it for the back catalogue, I’ll show you all the finished brown breezy ones later in the week, and a new pair of T-Bar sandals, made with orthotic-side-falling-outering in mind.

This post is dedicated to the Yellow shears that you see in the sandal pic on the top right. They rule. They cut anything. They make my day so much easier. Good tools = happy times.
You may also notice my Ikea bracket + Bolt lasting pin. I like to make things, and thats what you get when you need something obscure made immediately.

Listening to : Whitesnake – Is This Love *

I recommend buying the entire album “1987”.
You would be hard pressed to find another album as awesome and ridiculous at the same time.
Every single song has joy, tears, fist clenching power lyrics and tassled jacketed big haired sexiness all through it.
Perfect for long drives, parties, and late night blog posting.

Easy Breezy Cover Girl – Part 1.

Finally, a full day with no interruptions to get some quality shoe time… and with some nice results to show!
On a recent trip to Lefflers I bought some perforated leather with no real intentions for it, and have decided to use it on to make a pair of stylin’ cool-breeze catchin’ summer shoes for Dani.


As you can see, the perforated colour matched up nicely with a glossy kid hide that I had, so these ones pretty much designed themselves.
After some pattern making, trial fitting and a few mistakes yesterday, I started today with a clear plan and managed to (slowly) get a lot done.


Here’s the major pieces during assembly – this is the first time I have attempted a full lining/upper construction, but I got my head around it eventually.

Pictured also is the trusty Pfaff 30 workhorse that actually belongs to my pal Tom. He bought it, I borrowed it, and have been using it ever since. I should get my own, but I’m going to wait until I come across a post arm shoemaking one, so for now its lo-fi all the way for me.
I’ve learned that turning the wheel by hand = infinitely better sewing, so I’m also being kind to the environment by not plugging it in any more.
The ashtray is for bent nails. I dont smoke at my desk. Hi mum.

The aformentioned sewing. Hermes eat your heart out!

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Seeing as fitting a fat leather lining would cancel out the cool-breeze perforations to some extent, I went for a 100% cotton lining in the front, which is an idea I stole off James, who got it from a vintage pair of shoes he cut open.

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I finished off my afternoon with the uppers all sewn up, ready for lace holes + lasting tomorrow night if i get a chance.
… although I couldn’t resist the chance to do a quick masking taped mockup to see how it all looks…

(Just use your imagination to see them with laces and a sole)

I have already warned Dani that these are going well and may turn out so nice that they will be Sunday best shoes, no kicking around the studio in these ones.

Thanks for reading, and to answer the most commonly asked question I get these days :
It will be a while before I ‘open for business’. Once I think my work is perfect, then I’ll let people know.
I have no need to rush into a new career, so I’ll only jump ship when I think I’m better at shoe making than I am at being a computer nerd.

Listening to : Tame Impala – Sundown Syndrome
These dudes are killing me with how good their songs are.

Back to the start

Well, seeing as everyone liked checking out the Desert Boots I made, I’ll starting posting up the other 3 pairs of shoes I’ve made so far so you can all see that I’m not just a one-trick-pony.


These are the first pair that I completed, there were some other prototypes, but these ones are the first official, wearable Steve Phillips shoes. Woo!

The process begins by taping up the last (wrapping it in masking tape) to develop a pattern.
This is then removed, flattened out and used to cut the leather pieces.
Once you’ve done all the tracing and maths involved, you can sew and assemble the ‘upper’ and attach the insole to the lasts.


There are plenty of variations on the ‘lasting’ technique, but I’m following Tim Skyrme’s book, and therefor I use tacks/nails, lasting pliers, hard work, sweat and eventually glue.

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Once the upper is firmly attached to the insole, the shank is fitted (if you’re adding one) a whole lot of other trimming and tidying goes on, and then the sole is fitted / built.
I’m trying to keep things as traditional as possible for now, so I am hand making my soles and heels, from veg tanned leather. This takes a long time, but is very satisfying when its complete.

That’s 5 layers of leather all stacked up, nailed and carved to a lovely little cuban-ish heel.

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If you have done your measurements correctly, you can remove the last and begin wearing them.
I said IF…
I did not measure things properly, and decided in my infinite wisdom to lower the ‘throat’ of the shoe – where the opening turns around near your toes – for a nicer look, and found that lower = looser = falls off when Dani walks in them. Sigh.

Not to be discouraged, I added in a tongue and a nice little bow sort of detail and whammo, they fit fine.


That’s the abridged story of Pair #1. Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you hours of info if you’re reeeally interested!

The toe shape, height and fit of my shoes are all similar so far, due to the fact that I only have one complete set of lasts in the same design.
The Harold Boot Company in Abbotsford downsized about a year ago and I spent the afternoon sifting through crates of obsolete lasts with April Phillips (our surnames are a coincidence, no relation as far as I know!) who has what is known as the “Last Library” where she rents out her extensive collection of lasts. Anyhoot, we both managed to find a left and right of each size of their lasts, and they’re what i’m using for now until I get off my ass and buy / rent some more.

Listening to : Dungen – Ta Det Lugnt

B Grade celebrity…

I just had a look-see at the Craft Victoria Blog as they are quite shoe focused at the moment with their “Shoe Show” on until the 28th of Nov, and noticed that I got a mention!
I’m the guy who sits next to the guy who is in the show! How famous am I.

Click here to have a look

The article is about our old studio pal James Roberts who is at least 2 steps ahead of me in his self-taught shoe making journey.
He has things on display at Craft Vic AND has sold a pair to a lovely lass according to his blog.

Anyhoot, I get a mention in there along with this sweeeet photo of our old workshop that you should click on to see supersized.
panorama of old studio
image by  Richard Brockett

For those of you who are new to our world, that’s our old studio that Dani and I ran in Carlow House on Flinders Lane for 4 years.
It was the most amazing room, but unfortunately the real estate agents caught on and started charging “amazing room” rent.
We are now in a shared space in North Melbourne with some cool kids, and I hope to do a post on them all real soon, as well as a nostalgic revisit to the old studio and its many workers.
James is currently building a CRAZY space in the city that I’m sure everyone will hear about in a week or two.

Listening to : Jethro Tull – Song for Jeffrey

Take it away boots!


Ok kids, here’s the 4th pair of Steve Phillips Handmade Shoes ever made… a stylin’ pair of Desert Boots, custom made for my one and only customer, Dani M.

We have a deal going on where she decides the next pair of shoes she wants,  and I make them – providing they are possible with the limited amount of lasts I have, and the even more limited skill set I have.
These ones came about after seeing that Solo ad where the kids are kicking a can and looking all 70s, Dani decided she wanted a pair, I search-engined up some ye olde images and then got out the pens and pencils.

Here’s a few behind the scenes shots of them being made, I’m trying to take a few shots of each stage, so as I post up other shoes I make you can see all the dicking around that goes in to making them!

This is where I completely made up a toe-puff forming technique.
(Let me take this moment to point out that I am mostly self taught, so stuff like this happens often.)

The hand stitched sole-to-upper part – as previously mentioned, done in 35 degree heat.

Ta daaa! The finished product. All leather upper, nickel rivets, crepe rubber sole, too many hours to count, but a success for a first try.

So, there you have my first ever shoe making blog post. I’ll backtrack and show the other 3 pairs I’ve made at a later date.
Please dont hit me up with emails, as I am under strict orders from Dani not to promise shoes to anyone else until I’m a master craftsman.

Thanks for stopping by.

Listening to : Sleep – Live at ATP 2009*
*and praying for a tour of Australia… i’ll do a whole post on Sleep soon.

The Industrial Revolution

After spending 2 hours hand sewing a pair of desert boots together this afternoon in the 30 degree heat, I gained a stronger appreciation for why the sewing machine was invented.
It’s not that I don’t have one, this was definitely a hand-sewing only task, but god dammit it took a long time.

I’ll post some pics of them when they’re done, and a whole lot of other stuff about shoemaking and Melbourne shoemakers.

Listening to : Emalkay – When I look at you