Reid Elrod Shoes
I’m in Reid Elrod’s basement studio and he’s telling me about the tools and machines that lay around us. Everything has a story behind it. First, he shows me a pair of metal tools that he received from his mentor and master shoemaker, Marcell Mrsan. After acknowledging his need for a teacher in order to move forward with his shoe making, Reid attended Marcell’s 5-week workshop in Budapest. During this stint in Hungary, Reid picked up a skiving knife and channel knife, both reproduced for Marcell from some older knives from 1939 Sweden, and both made from 56 rockwell steel.
Then there’s the Consew sewing machine and a Landis sole cutter, which Reid picked up on two separate occasions in Los Angles. Machines used for leather work and shoe making are rare these days, Reid tells me, so he keeps his eye open on Craigslist for uncommon finds that shave hours off his production time.
The skiving machine is a major time saver. Each piece of leather needs its edges thinned so that it can be easily sewn to another piece of leather, creating a smooth seam. By hand, slicing small strips away from the width of the leather is atime consuming process, so Reid picked up the skiving machine from an Armenian couple in LA.
Some skiving can’t be done by machine, like the leather for the toe puff for a pair of 2-inch heels he is making for his mother, so he holds a marble plate between his legs and thins the piece of leather by hand. Using a a curved knife, one of the two tools he brought home from Hungary, Reid cuts toward himself and shaves thin the leather.
Reid’s uppers are made from chrome tanned leathers, which stretch nicely, retain dye, and age well. He generally uses JR Rendenbach soles, which are made in Germany. The Rendenbach leather spends up to 9 months bathing in oak tanning fluid, resulting in a very breathable, very durable sole. The inlaid wool is an English cashmere found at B. Black & Sons in Los Angeles.
As he works I look around and see blue lasts in every corner of the room. “When I first started making shoes I bought some wood lasts from Oregon Leather and they are perfect because they are so anatomically correct, but I haven’t been able to find any more,” he tells me, “so most of these lasts are plastic and they come from Mexico. They are high density and I have to use a grinder and a hack saw to shape them up, but they work great in the end and last forever.”
“If I made a ready-to-wear line, I’d have the proper lasts made up for me for each size. Those lasts would be made to fit the shape of foot for the most amount of people. But for now I create a custom last each time I work with someone new.”
Reid is currently making shoes starting at $700, so if you are interested in having a pair of bespoke shoes made for you please send your information to marrowmag at gmail dot com and I will pass it on.
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