Just like the fact that good machines are extremely important for shoe factories are good tools of great importance for the bespoke shoemakers. Tools of high quality makes the work more easy, and in some cases the tools are crucial to how well an operation can be performed.
All bespoke shoemakers that I’ve visited over the years have always been showing some extra glow in their eyes when they get to talk about their tools. There are often interesting stories about how they managed to get over their big favorites. The majority of the tools used by today’s bespoke shoemakers are old vintage tools, inherited and sold on for decades after decades. These are usually of much better quality than new tools. It’s not necessarily because you can’t make as good tools today, it’s more due to the fact that the market has been so small that few good producers are engaged in making new tools. Meanwhile, the demand for tools has exploded now that the interest for quality shoes received a new renaissance and more and more also want to make their own shoes, both on a professional level or as a hobby. Due to this old tools can go for several hundred euros on Ebay or other market places or forums.
Hopefully this can also result in more newly made shoemaking tools. The edge iron and the waist iron in the top picture are as obvious new, they are made by the Japanese bespoke shoemaker Yohei Fukuda’s brother and will (also according to outside sources) be of a very high quality, and Yohei actually have a few copies of these that he now sells (would anyone be interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org. High risk they are already sold out, however). Another example of new tools that should be good are sold by the British bespoke shoemakers Carréducker, which also has a lot of courses in shoemaking, these are produced by British producer George Barnsley and are sold in their online shop the Tool Shed. Japanese Yang Tools is another interesting manufacturer. Large supply and variations, however, is yet uncommon among new producers.
This is one of the reasons that a bespoke shoemaker needs to have so many different tools, a tool is in many cases limited to do something specific to a specific type of shoe. We can take an edge iron for example, such is done for a specific thickness of the midsole, as soon as you make a thinner or thicker sole you need to have another edge iron. And that the tools are of great quality are partly important to simplify things for the shoemaker, to make his or her job easier. an example of this may be about to have a really good pincher that provides full control during the lasting, when the upper is pulled over the last. Partly to make the shoemaker able to do an as good a job as possible. Again we can take the waist iron which Yohei Fukuda’s brother has made, allowing a sharp angle and a thin edge of the waist which is very elegant. It’s of course required a lot of the shoemaker here too, like a tight and narrow-made blind welt at the waist, but then it’s this kind of tool that enables him or her to make the edge really elegant and pretty. I know a Japanese bespoke shoemaker who bought waist irons of Fukuda’s brother, he has recently started up his business and was a bit disappointed since he already had produced his sample shoes with a different kind of waist iron that wasn’t as good and did the edge as nicely.