Colonial Shoemaking Tools
29 SEP 2017
In the early 1700s, a Colonial American shoemaker, or cobbler, worked hard to please his customers, for he competed with the colony’s tradesmen who sold shoes imported from England. The steadfast cobbler successfully completed a single pair of shoes within an 8- to 10-hour period. In later years, cobblers worked together performing specific tasks and using a variety of tools.
1 Wood and Metal Lasts
In Colonial days, a shoe could be worn on either foot. A last, or block of wood carved into the shape of a foot, served as a mold to fashion each shoe. Using pincers, or pliers, the cobbler stretched leather uppers onto the last, where they were nailed before being sewn to the insole. A metal last would then be used to bend the nail points inside the shoe.
2 Awl Punch
An awl, which might be curved, was used by the shoemaker to punch holes through the leather before he stitched the outer and upper soles together.
3 Needle and Thread
The cobbler’s needle was made of stiff hair from a boar. A marking wheel indicated the points to be sewn on the sole of the shoe. Flax plant fibers that were covered with pine tar for waterproofing functioned as thread.
4 Peg Fasteners
Pegs fastened the sole to the upper part of the shoe. Before the shoemaker polished the finished pair of shoes, a long stick with an attached stone on one side abraded the pegs that jutted out from the sole. A blade cutter and a toothed breaker helped to remove and smooth the pegs inside of the shoe.
5 Miscellaneous Tools
A special knife shaped the leather sole of the shoe. Various knives were used to cut the leather for the upper part of the shoe, above the sole. A glazing iron and two-handed glazing tool burnished the leather in the final stages of the shoe making.