Late night secrets

You know your life has changed somewhat when you’re 31, male, and up at midnight on a Sunday looking at videos on the internet… and you end up watching one about a handbag, twice.

This is total craftmanship porn.
Emma, Janine, James, Tom and Jess – watch it if you have a moment!

I now know that at least a few months of my life will be spent making bags as well as shoes – at some stage, not immediately, but eventually.
More things to learn. Great.

Brrrrrrrzzzzzzvvvvrrrrrrrrrrrr.

That’s the sound of my RepRap doing something all by itself!
It was followed by me quietly doing a tennis player’s fist-clenched-booyah sort of moment (because Dani is asleep).

Seems my little man is no longer a baby, he can walk (well, adjust his axis) by himself and before you know it he’ll be extruding PLA and working full time for his dad as a shoemaker’s heel manufacturer. Employee of the month wont be far behind after I have awarded it to myself a few times.

It was a pretty ‘free form’ day today, as there seems to be NO pictures at all on the internet of where to put all the electronics once you have them all talking to each other. The TechZone set that I have differs from the originally designed ones,  so I guess any place that fits is good enough. I did come up short on some wire though, so my placing must not be ‘optimal’ but I’ll document that for fellow builders later in the week.


Stepper controller and 12V power block


more stepper controllers, and cables, and cable ties.
More useful non-zoomed photos for other builders will be in the Mendel Build page asap.

Tomorrow night will be a full range of movement test, at the moment it only goes left (hello Zoolander printer! ok,  so it is now officially called Derek the Printer) because I haven’t set up the little sensors to tell it Derek where to stop. Then I build a ‘hot head’ and start melting plastic at 200+ degrees all over the place and hoping it forms some sort of object. Be prepared for some humorously bad failures that week people…


The whole back panel with bits of electronics hanging off it.

So no shoemaking for TwentyEleven Week Seven, but plenty of progress in other areas that will allllll add up in the end.

Listening to : Christbait – Dirtypunkmutha

Nick and I have begun to refine our jam session sounds to something very slow, heavy and evil, so i’m listening to the old masters to learn how to be brutal, Melbourne style.
You’re all invited to my eventual robot/sexy shoes/heavy metal launch party and be as confused as everyone else there will be with it all.

Ahhhh, that’s MUCH better

Quick post as I am knee deep in things finally WORKING again, and shouldn’t in be here typing about it…
After the last post where I was having ‘one of those days’, I’m back with renewed enthusiasm.

Thursday I decided to stop dicking around with 55 bits of string and went to the shed and made a proper Rigid Heddle loom, as is used by most of the home weaving community who were born after the 1800s.

I took an artist’s easel I had here, stripped it, turned some stuff around, made some extra bits and hey presto, loom.
It was much better, it worked well, I weaved and managed to get the bee out of my bonnet.



I’m not at all happy with the weaving itself, but that is just a matter of thread count/spacing/thickness, so I am now happy to know it CAN work, but it might not be exactly what I want.

That’s the only sort of answer I’m ever looking for… I’m ridiculously inquisitive, so an answer of “yes it worked, but no, it’s not what you want” is fine with me, an answer of “you’ll never know because it didn’t work out” will keep me awake at night.

I’m going to do the good designer thing and step back, look at what I really need to achieve and perhaps head in another direction. I’ll keep you all posted, and cheers for the comments and suggestions.

MORE IMPORTANTLY THOUGH – MY ROBOT IS ALIIIIIIVE!!

Today saw the first grinding and whirring of the motors, and the flashing of many lights in computery looking patterns, so with a few more hours I might have it moving its bits around in complete robotic autonomy.
To anyone out there still thinking of buying / making one… wait…. when mine is done I PROMISE to collate all the useful instructions in to one page so you dont have to get as frustrated as I have been clicking link after link trying to narrow down the info to something useful.


Test bench setup…

I’ll put up a video when I have more time for multimedia nerdery.

Listening to : Ghost – Opus Eponymous

Satanic Pop? Who would have thought it would be so enjoyable?
That ol’ Satan, he loves a good melody. Have a listen, you’ll dig it.

Arrgh. Silence is no good.

Just an update to let you know that the last 6 days since posting have been somewhat of a waste of time.

I decided to address two ‘on the backburner’ projects instead of barreling ahead with the shoemaking as I was getting worried that the shoe vs. experimental endeavors ratio might be getting too shoe heavy, and end up leaving me forced to make designs with less options than I’d like.

Long story short, I need to finish my RepRap printer, and I want to learn to weave fabric by hand…by the end of this month.
I am having minimal success in both areas.
I am not happy about this.

The printer now has 2 flashing lights that supposedly tell me it is ‘online’. That’s all it does so far.
Not exactly Terminator stuff, but, it is 2 more lights than it had flashing last week.

I then changed to weaving,  set up a ‘basic frame loom’ and covered it with kilometers of thread, which then got tangled, and messy and made me tired and start sighing a lot.

So this week’s score is:
Steve – 0
Difficult Projects – 2


not my photo, but my weaving attempts currently look just as inspiring… Ooh, string, in lines.

I will persist though, don’t you worry. As I heard Anthony Robbins* say once – there are no such things as problems, only challenges to be overcome.
If anyone out there in Melbourne has a small loom (or can recommend where i’d buy one cheap) let me know.

Listening to : Soulja Boy, still. It’s like an addiction to some nasty cheap drug.

* I don’t listen to his tapes, but I did download them for sampling back when I was a wannabe mashup mixer, and now they come up on random on the iPod.  funny stuff.

The Internet and me.

Dani got me this as a birthday card this year, and I love it.
It’s a Shrigley (we’re a bit obsessed with him around here)

… and the irony that I spent time looking for an image of this illustration on the internet, whilst I should be making shoes, seemed like the perfect thing to blog about… why not go all the way?
I probably should have capped it off by animating it or something, but that would just be silly.

The Golden Age!

Hey kids,
With my birthday celebrations and self-imposed deadlines using up ALL of my enthusiasm recently, there has been little work going on in the Shed of Excellence for week 5.

But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining – and a few days of non productivity turned out to be just what I needed.
It gave me time to head back in to the CBD and spend a few aimless hours wandering around the arcades and alleyways on the lookout for future shop locations, and…

I remembered as I walked past the GPO that I’d recently read the blog of a girly who has set up a shop hidden in it’s monstrous walls, so with a keen eye I climbed the stairwell to level 2 and a half and whammo, I was there… and what a find it was! The ‘girly’ is Karlee Slater, and her shop / blog / business is The Golden Age – Vintage Made to Measure clothing. You may have heard of her as she is starting to get write ups in the press and shopping guides etc.

The Golden Age
Level 2.5, The GPO Building,
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

The Golden Age offers women’s clothing, made to measure
from vintage patterns. Specialising in dresses, suits and coats
from the 1930′s -late 1950′s, The Golden Age can also copy
existing vintage items and always has a small, well edited
selection of vintage and deadstock items from the 20′s-60′s.

Anyhoot, long story short, she is wayyyy cool, she has a little seamstress studio set up in the GPO that she renovated herself (awesome) and she makes REAL clothes, from real nice fabrics, for really really nice girls (and guys?) … and I get pretty excited about other people ‘living the dream’ and not being afraid to bust balls, spend long hours and work, work, work to get the results.

I didnt take any photos as I’m not that sort of investigative blogger, but I can steal some from her site and advise any of you ladies that are out there and either thinking of what to get/wear/buy to a wedding, or are just looking to knock the (bobby) socks off the crowd at your next party to give her a holler, and get yourself something made that will fit well and make all the guys be all “damn, that is, um, pretty hot…”

Oh, and as the icing on the cake, we talked Cars, dresses, hammocks, hot rods and Black Sabbath all within one 10 min conversation with no awkwardness!
What a champ. Her hubby does auto upholstery, so if I find out his place of business I’ll talk that up too… leather + cars + vintage = right up my alley.

As for the shoemaking, here’s some in-the-making snapshots of Prototype #2.


A quick no-lining mockup to make sure my pattern is all good, and now it’s time to work out how exactly I’m going to achieve the weaved/textile sort of look I want for the coloured inlays. Youtube, here I come.


I’m thinking something like this, but woven / friendship band sort of idea?

Listening to : Soulja Boy – Speakers Going Hammer < oh, I know, it’s rubbish, but it’s sooo good.

I totally need to get me a Donk.
Yarraville wont know what hit it.

TwentyEleven – Week Four

Hello again! That’s one reasonably exhausting something-on-every-day-of-the-week month down, and 11 more to go. Whew.

In the last week I managed to complete my first prototyped pair of shoes, and have them tried on and modelled by some lovely ladies at a bbq on the weekend.

They pretty much ruined me in terms of late nights and hard work, and I managed to top it all off with ANOTHER deep cut on my finger – but now I’m used to it – a few band-aids do the trick, stitches are too much effort.

I have suggested sewing up my own wounds, but Dani thinks that is ridiculous and stupid.
If I start doing it, I wont tell her. Shh.

But that was all forgotten as Dani and I hosted another of what will hopefully become an annual event, the Jan/Feb bbq and (sort of)  Steve’s Birthday party festival! It was previously held at our old house in Ascot Vale, and has so far been a 35+ degree day both times. Nice.

We made up 8kg of spicy pork sausages on Wednesday, using Dani’s family recipe, and served them up with loads of salads and vegies. It’s food heaven I tell you, except for the poor sucker (me) who has to cook for 45 minutes at a super-hot bbq while the ambient temp reaches 40 degrees. For the record, yes, I suffered heat stroke and spent the rest of the day in a headache-y haze, rambling on to my friends about shoe shops and sausage recipes.

But I digress… here are some shots of the shoes in the making, following on from last week’s test lasting photos.


sewing, and final lasting



my first ever cork platforms, shaped from 20mm cork sheet. Fun, but dusty.


heels on, taking shape now




almost complete… just buckles, outer sole and the sock-liner to add here.
I’ll take some nicer shots of the finished product this week in our fancy all-white photo booth.

So that is deadline #1 met – prototype one designed, patterned, made and test worn by Jan 31st!
I hope to produce one prototype per week for the next few months, and then step it up to 2 pairs of saleable shoes a week by May, building up stock for actual sales in July-ish?
Harpers Bazaar, here I come…

I also have 3d printers to build, leather dye to work out (the stuff I ordered from Italy was a bit so-so, and I think my quantities are still to low for Aussie tanneries and merchants to offer me custom colours, boooo) , LOTS more designing to do, heel / buckle / fabric print collaborations to try and arrange as well as branding, boxes, etc etc etc etc. The list is immense.

Dani is hard at work on some samples for a Craft Vic liaised opportunity that seems like a very cool thing to be involved in, but we’ll let you know more about that if/when it goes ahead.

But it’s my real birthday this Friday, so this week will be low-key and a bit unproductive as I rest up and recharge my enthusiasm batteries
Thanks for reading all this crap I type, and thanks again for all your comments, email and high-fives. It really helps keep me going (and up all night typing more crap)

As a bit of a treat / multimedia test, here’s a bit of video I shot on our old camera of the Laser Cutter in action.
It’s a Flash Video file, so let me know if it causes any browser / plugin issues. If not, I’ll add more of them in the future.

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Listening to : The air-conditioner whiiiirrrrrrrrring in the background.

It’s working!

It’s late again (after midnight) and I have to work tomorrow to make up for the ‘public holiday’ freelance lost wages situation, but we have liftoff!!!!

I managed to assemble, cover and attach my insole/heels and get my uppers pasted together for a rough, but very necessary for morale, ‘first pullover’.
These probably should be top secret still, but ah well, they look better in real life, so that is still a bonus for anyone coming over on the weekend… and if you’re a size 8, you can try them on ladies!



There is still lots of sewing to do, buckles to add, uppers to be lasted and a platform to make and cover with an outer sole, but that’s all details…. and seems like nothing now that they look like a pair of shoes



I must come clean and note that my leather dye job is proving to NOT be waterfast yet… a good soak in a bucket and it would be white again in a few days, but i’m assuming that is due to the leather being waterproofed. The dye has penetrated to the middle, but its not really hanging on to the fibres. Never fear though, I have been in touch with the Dharma Trading co. for their tips and help, and I have also been in contact with a few Australian leather merchants / tanneries to see if i can source nice colours here rather than shipping them in from Italy. But more on that as news develops.

For now I have ultra yellow suede that looks amazing, but might dye your feet in the rain… good enough for a prototype though.

Off to bed for me, and I’ll be back with more photos and more chatter later this week!


* we also made 8kg of homemade spicy sausages today for a bbq on the weekend, so i would have had more done if that wasn’t on the list. mmmm… sausages.

Listening to : 8 hours of solid iPod shuffling… so, you know, lots.

TwentyEleven – week Three

Not much text today… it’s late and i’m exhausted.
But for anyone wondering how the last week has gone, here’s a quick summary:

1. Designs > workshop.
2. Tape + Designs on lasts.
3. Batch production of insoles + modified lasts.
4. Tape patterns > cardboard patterns with sewing/lasting allowances.
5. Home Vat dyeing experiments (medium success, but some major letdowns, more on this later)
6. Vat/Saucepan dyed suede.
7. LASER CUTTING of prototype heel shapes = awesome. Like living in the future.
8. Assembled heel, pre-sanding.
9. Mockup of new heel + 20mm platform allowance = cool.

That’s all for today, more talking and more photos when I get a chance. Deadline is looming and I still have 2 or 3 pairs of shoes to construct yet…
Not bad for a week’s work that included 3 days at my real job!

When someone’s passion knocks your socks off

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now…and I think you’ll dig it.

At Craft Victoria, we (back when i was part of ‘we’) donate money to a charity and make our own k.k gifts.  My first was ‘make something from nothing’ and my second was ‘bake’ your gift.

I was super busy and baked my favourite shortbread and dumped it into a box (sorry pip)…I however, was the recipient of possibly one of the most labour intensive gifts, and although I felt a little guilty, I was WAY to excited to give guilt a second thought.

Eric, the Craft Vic exhibition guru, loves makin’ stuff from wood.  When a mini crete with packing straps landed on my plate- I knew it was Eric’s handy work.  And inside…planks of gingerbread wood of course.  Eric is one super awesome dude with a great talent…and I LOVE seeing someone use their creativity and skill any which way they can.

It was an honour to receive something made with such passion and joy.  Thanks Eric x