Introduction: Handmade Leather Sandals (Modern Roman/Biblical Style) 2.0
This is my modified guide to crafting a pair of leather sandals. Similar to the previous process, it takes little prior leatherworking knowledge to complete this build.
A while ago I made a tutorial on how to make a pair of leather sandals. Since then my skills have improved, and I have given more thought into this project, having created a new sandal design. The particular features of this recent design which distinguishes it from the prior includes a smooth sole in which the arch flaps protrude from the middle sole layer instead of being sewn directly to the top layer, as well as interchangable laces due to the addition of a throng, as opposed to the prior design which involved the laces being a part of the sandal itself, and taking the role of the throng. Additionally, the curved shape of the heel pieces comes from the process of wet-molding, as opposed to the prior process of trimming and stitching a flat sheet, thus providing a cleaner look and increasing the durability. Overall, I feel that this pair is superior to my prior pair, and I will explain the entire process of its creation.
Step 1: Tools & Materials
• Thick Leather
• Thick Leather Strands
• Thick Waxed Lace/String
• Leather Dye (Optional but Preferred)
• Beeswax (Optional but Preferred)
• Leather Hole-Punching Tool
• Strong Needles
• Strong Scissors
• File and/or Sand Paper
Step 2: Cut Out Leather Pieces With Templates
Attached are the templates I've designed for this style of sandals. However, I encourage everyone to create their own design, using my templates and methods as a starting point. But if you favor my design in particular, here are the templates for the leather pieces you must cut out.
Trace the paper templates into your leather, and cut out the leather pieces accordingly.
Step 3: Wet-Mold Heel Pieces Into Shape
To achieve the desired shape of your heel pieces, you need to perform a common leatherworking trick called "wet-molding". The name is self explanatory. You wet the leather with water and bend/stretch/compress/essentially shape the leather into your desired shape. Regarding these heels, you need to mold it into achieved shape, then bend the bottom edge to create a consistent 1/2" flap (so that there's surface area upon which you may lace later). Refer to the image for the shape which I'm speaking of, which is slightly difficult to explain. All of this can be done with your hands. Wet the leather until it does what you want. Once you've achieved your desired shape, hold it in shape with your hand, pressing the bottom on the table to ensure the flap bent at an incline of 90°, for about 5 minutes, until it stays in shape spontaneously.
Step 4: Cut Slits on Pieces
The rectangular-shaped flaps need slots for your lace to loop through, so cut two parallel 1" slits 1/2" away from each other, about 3/4" from the top edge. Refer to the image. Likewise, on your very top foot platform layer, cut the holes through which the sandle flaps themselves will be inserted into, for the purpose of a clean-looking sandle. Look further into the tutorial if you do not understand what I'm describing. Otherwise, just cut according to where commanded according to the templates.
Step 5: Attach Arch Flaps to Middle Sole Layer
Place the rectangular-shaped arch flaps in their respective spots on the middle sole layer, then punch your holes where you will stich, which will be the bottom area of the rectangular flaps. Then stitch accordingly, thus attaching your flaps to your middle sole layer piece.
Step 6: Create the Throng
The "throng" is the piece of the sandal which sticks between the first and second toe. This throng will have the lace loop through it. So start by cutting out a 1/3" strap of leather, and bend the top over about 1", hammering the bend it to get a nice crease, and then finally epoxying & stitching it together. Refer to the images.
Step 7: Epoxy Top and Mid Sole Layers Together
Now we're gonna put everything at this point together. Coat the top surface of the middle sole layer in epoxy, and as you place the top sole layer onto it, place the throng into its associated slit in the top sole layer, and slide the flaps through their associated slit in that top sole layer, essentially sticking the two layers together. I used tape (NOT clamps) to gently keep the edges pressed together.
NEVER use clamps when working with leather. Clamps create permanent imprints if you leave them clamped for a long duration.
Step 8: Epoxy Heel Pieces to Sole
Self explanatory...Epoxy the 1/2" bent ridges of the heel pieces along the bottom edge of the soles. Refer to the image.
Step 9: Attach the Bottom Sole Layer
Rough up the top surface of the bottom sole layer with a file/knife/whatever you have handy. This is a trick to ensure the epoxy sticks to it better, as the epoxy can grab onto little crevices and bumps of the rough texture. Epoxy the surfaces which you will stick together, and stick them together. I used tape to hold the edges snug together as the epoxy dried.
Step 10: Punch Holes & Stitch Edges of Soles
Punch holes about the circumference of the soles, about 1/2" from the edges. This acts as a final means of ensuring the layers of the sole are completely stuck together, plus the stitching looks aesthetically pleasing.
Step 11: Final Touches
Sand the edges of the sole, so that the layers of the sole don't overlap, and that it practically looks like a single piece. After sanding, you'll notice the surface of the edges are rough. I used a special edge-trimming tool to trim off the hanging bits. I also tickled the edges with a flame to burn off the rest of the little pieces creating the rough texture. Lastly, to ensure that they never become rough again, I waxed the edges. Undertake the same measures with the rectangular arch flap and heel piece edges.
Step 12: Optional: Stain
You may stain the sandals whatever color you'd like. I particularly favor dark brown, but I've noticed black and oxblood red are nice colors for this craft as well. Be sure to wear gloves, as leather dye is designed to stain what was once skin, and therefore it'll be quite difficult to get it off of your skin as well for a while.
Step 13: Add Laces & Wear Your Sandals
You are almost finished with this build, but one final step remains. You must add the laces. I used thick leather strands. The benefit of this new sandal design is that the laces are interchangable with new ones, if they are ever to become worn. Once the laces have been added, the sandals are suitable to be worn.