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Secrets of the Shoe Trade - The Heel Department

As we are tasked with delivering the penultimate ‘Secrets of the Shoe Trade’, we have delved into an unpublished area of the factory, and one that has plenty of secrets on offer…

Secrets of the Shoe Trade - The Heel Department

As most of our followers will know, all of our heels are manufactured in-house at the Northampton factory, something that we are very proud of. Be as that may, this is by no means an easy task. Firstly a few terms that will come in handy for understanding this complex procedure:

Bend – The trade term for the thick cow hide that the heels are cut from

Lifts – The individual heel shape cut from the bend that builds the heel

Top Piece – The top lift that you can see when you look at the underneath of your shoe

Slugging – Another traditional term used for inserting brass pins (slugs) into the heel

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The process of making leather heels begins with a bend. The lifts are cut from this bend which is exclusive for the constructing of heels; however as leather is a natural material all hides vary in thickness, so the lifts are split to ensure the heights of the heels remain even. The number of lifts in a heel depends on which style the heels is being constructed for. Some heels sit higher and some considerably lower.

The bend is cut to its maximum efficiency and the remaining leather is collect and recycled, avoiding any unnecessary wastage. The recycled leather will more than likely become leather board which is used for less expensive soles, insoles and heels.

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The cut lifts are then roughed and ready to have the adhesive applied. This takes around 15 minutes to dry and then all of the lifts are stuck together by hand.

The heel is then put into a compressing machine and exposed to high pressure, which secures the lifts and top piece together whilst giving the heel a natural concaved shape for comfort.

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Then the final stage is slugging. This involves small brass pins (called slugs) being inserted into the heel. Originally this was to make the top piece extra secure, although it is now mainly for decorative purposes. As you might expect, this is done all by eye.

Read about the secrets of Crockett & Jones Making Department here