Introduction: DIY Wood High Heel Sandals
I had some left over pieces of basswood from a whittling set and a new scroll saw. I was wondering what to make when I saw that Instructables was hosting contests for wood, leather, and footwear. What was wood + leather + footwear? I wondered for a while, and was soon inspired to make a DIY set of wood and leather high heel sandals! I researched how high heels where made, found I had little to none of the required machines or tools so I decided to make my own recipe. I welcome you to my Instructable!
Though they are a little bulky and not completely professional, these beautiful sandals are cool to brag about to friends and relatively simple to make that even I, inexperienced in both shoe making and leather-working, somehow made them a reality!
Pssst... if you liked this instructable please consider voting me up in the contests I entered.
Step 1: What You Need
- Scraps of Wood (I used basswood):
- (2) 10 and a half cm by 2 cm by 2 and a half cm blocks
- (1) 5 and a quarter cm by 4 cm by 2 cm block
- (3) 10 and a quarter cm by 3 and three quarter cm by 2 cm blocks
- (1) 5 and a quarter cm by 2 cm by 2 and a half cm block
- Wood Glue
- 1/2 inch thick foam or the sole of a cheap foam sandal.
- Double Sided Nails (can be made by cutting of the head of a nail)
- Thick Cork
- Thin Cork (or rubber sole if you have a good thin one)
- Clamps (lots of clamps!)
- Leather: about 3-4 oz, use cowhide where you want to burn or tool in a design (or you can use any fabric depending on what you want)
- Felt, thin foam, or fleece (about a 4in by 4in scrap)
- Eyelets [optional]
- Screw driver
- Drill (optional)
- Band saw or Scroll Saw - technically you could also use a handsaw (if you don't have one consider borrowing from a friend)
- Files (one course and one fine)
- Sandpaper (80 grit, 100 grit, and 150 grit recommended)
- Wood-burner or Leather-burner (a.k.a a pyrography pen) [optional]
- Any leather hole punching tool (the hole must match the eyelets you are using) [optional]
- Eyelet setter tool [optional]
This is to make 3 and three quarters inch tall heels (21 cm)
Note: Directions here will be for making one shoe! So if you want a pair make sure to repeat this instructable twice or create two of each thing per step.
Step 2: Anatomy/Terminology
I will be referring to the parts of a high heel according to this set of terminology that I found on http://blog.designerstudiostore.com/tag/high-heel-... (this image is NOT MINE and I do not take credit for it).
Step 3: Options for Band-saw Users
I don't have a band saw so I couldn't test this out but I believe if you have a good bands-saw you could try the method shown in the picture. If you decide to try this, tell me how it turned out in the comments below! :)
Otherwise, this instructable can be followed whether you have a band saw or scroll saw.
Step 4: Making the Heel
The main "technique" we will be using is "3D Cutting" [as I call it].
Basically this is when you cut a block of wood on two axis to crate a more 3D object.
For this you can print out the plan and apply it onto the wood so that it lies on two adjacent sides. Now you cut one side, rotate the block, and cut the other.
- Note: It helps to keep the scraps and after cutting one side tape them back together to form a block before cutting the other side. This makes it much easier to cut.
Remember to be safe with all your machines!
Step 5: Attaching the Heel Peices
Refer to the plans to cut another piece of wood and attach it to the main heel. The reason I split these pieces up is because I didn't have a thick enough block of wood or a scroll saw blade that I trust to cut such thicknesses. If you have a band saw you could probably cut the whole heel from one piece of wood.
After you've finished the heel, file or sand to desired smoothness.
Step 6: Making the Heel's Sole (a.k.a "Top Piece")
Cut out a piece of thick cork or rubber sole to fit the bottom of the heel. Attach by gluing and then gently hammering in a nail.
Step 7: Making the Platform
I made the platform out of three pieces (3 and three quarters cm by 10 cm by 2 cm) again because I did not have big enough piece of wood.
For this step, lay out the shape of the front of your foot on some wood and cut it out. If you are using multiple pieces like me, mark the center of each rectangle and use double sided nails and glue to attach them together. Clamp and let dry.
Step 8: Shaping the Platform
Plan out what kind of curve you want to file in your wood. I do this by drawing a line with a pencil.
File the edges till you reach the desired curve/shape. Keep the back end flat for now.
After you finish filing, start with 80 grit sandpaper and sand the whole thing down then move down to 100, and then 150.
At this point you can apply some finish on both the platform and the heel: It will be difficult to do this later.
Step 9: Making the Bottom Shank Peice
Essentially we want a slant to rise up out of the platform piece and begin the shank.
First I took a 5 and a quarter cm by 4 cm by 2 cm piece of wood and cut a ~45-60 degree slant by tilting my scroll saw table. (You can figure out the slant that's most right for you by putting your foot on the platform and your heel under your heel until decently comfortable and measuring the distance between the back of the platform and the front of the heel (I'll refer to this distance as "d" the height of the heel as "h" and the angle as "x"). Then use some trigonometry to find the tan of angle x:
h divided by d = tan of angle x
Then use a calculator to find what angle x would equal. Finally I would add around 5 degrees to create the curve as shown in the picture.
Or... you could kinda fiddle around with what is comfortable for you by cutting and re cutting the piece of wood.
Anyway, cut that angle and then readjust your table to 0 degrees, you can leave it here or cut the shape as shown.
Then make the piece of wood tilt to suggest arch support by cutting another slant at the front (see diagrams).
Finally file to finish the shape.
Step 10: Attaching the Bottom Shank Piece
This step proved to be the most difficult for me.
Figure out the place where you can attach the shank piece to the platform so that it is most comfortable to you. This should be right around the middle.
Then drill or hand-nail a pilot hole into both the back of the platform and the bottom of the shank piece we just made, countersink it with a drill if you have one.
Apply some glue to both areas and use a screw driver or drill with screw driver bit to screw the pieces together.
Step 11: Making the Middle Shank Peice
For the middle shank piece cut a curve onto a piece of 10 cm by 2 cm by 2 and a half cm wood and move it to the opposite side as shown. Glue the pieces together and shape it round with a file.
Drill of hand-nail some pilot holes on both sides. We will use these later.
At this point you can choose to apply finish to this piece before we glue it together with the other pieces. Also keep in mind that you will most likely have to cut this piece shorter before you attach it with everything, but that all depends on the size of your feet.
Step 12: Assembling the "Skeleton"
Carefully mark out the location of where you will nail the double sided nails on both surfaces. Then use the double sided nails and glue to attach everything together. Gently test out if it is comfortable and make sure the heel is perpendicular to the ground. This is the last time to make adjustments.
It is sometimes helpful to mix some sawdust into your glue to create a slurry of gluey filler you can use to fill on odd gaps.
But keep in mind the joints at this point don't need to be very pretty as we will cover most of the wood with fabric.
Step 13: Sanding/Applying Finish to the Skeleton
After letting the glue dry wet the wood with water (make sure your glue is water resistant-- if not, be careful to not get water around the joints). This make the fibers of the wood stand up which lets you get a better sanding once it's dry.
Let the wood dry and sand the whole thing down. Again, start with 80 then 100, then 150.
Apply a final coat or coats of finish if desired.
Step 14: Attaching an Outsole
Trace the bottom of the platform on some thin cork or rubber sole.
Cut it out and glue it on. You can clamp it to the shoe using rubber bands.
After it is dry, cut of the excess with scissors or a sharp knife. Then use sandpaper to sand off and curve the edges.
Step 15: Cutting Out the Sides of the Shank
Obviously we can't keep this ugly skeleton so this step is to add some sides.
Buy or find a cheap foam sandal (that is a bigger size than you usually wear) and trace the profile of the shoe on it as shown.
Cut it out with scissors or a knife, but keep slightly inside the line so the foam has a tighter fit.
Step 16: Attaching and Trimming the Sides of the Shank
Trace the profile of your foot onto the fabric you will be using for your insole (I used a rubbery cabinet liner I thought felt nice to step on) and cut it out -- make sure the profile of the front of your foot is the same shape as the profile of the wooden platform.
Put the felt siding onto the shoe and the profile of your foot on top. Align it so that the tip of the sole matches the tip of the platform. Then cut out the siding so it matches that profile. You can make sure it is correct by stepping on it and seeing if it looks right. (do not glue the insole on yet)
Then using the the pilot hole we made in the upper shank earlier, nail (or screw) and glue the foam to the wood (I recommend super glue for this one). At this point you can angle the foam up before it finishes gluing to create a small arch support that we will enlarge later.
Step 17: Making the Insole
Take the insole you cut out in the previous step and overlay/glue on another piece to help enlarge the arch support. At this time I also used some left over thick cork that I shaped to add even more volume to the arch support and another piece that I glued onto the heel area. (not shown)
Glue down some fluffy material onto the shoe in places like the platform and the heel to make it fluffy and comfortable. Make sure you cut is slightly smaller than the actual profile of the platform so it can be hidden by the insole we will glue on top
After all that is finished, glue on the insole. Clamp the edges down while it is drying so I hides the fluffy stuff inside.
Step 18: Time for Leather: Plans for the Sides and Bottom
Yayayayay time for leather!
Make sure the base we made is to your liking. Step onto it and test it out a little.
Now we will sew leather or fabric of your choice to cover the ugly foam on the sides and bottom. This step is probably required for whatever style of sandal you choose to design.
To do this, cut out some paper to fit exactly to the side and bottom of your shoe. Do this for both sides as they will vary.
Then trace these pieces of paper onto another piece of paper. Add around a centimeter of space as seam allowance and fold allowance. Refer to the diagram for where to add what.
Step 19: Cut and Sewing
Cut out the newly made patterns with seam and fold allowances. Cut the patterns out in leather/fabric you choose. (choose what colors you want etc.)
Now, fold, glue, and clamp along the longest fold allowance for the two bottom pieces. It helps to also clamp a long strip of wood underneath on both sides to apply even clamping pressure everywhere. (see picture)
We will be using the fold over technique (idk what it's actually named) that is seen when sewing things like pillows where you first sew the pieces and then fold then inside out to hide the stitches.
To do this place both pieces (one side piece and its corresponding bottom piece) with the split side of the leather (or scruffy part) facing out and the grain facing in. Make sure everything is aligned correctly and use a sewing machine to sew them together. Do this for the other pair of corresponding side and bottom pieces too.
Finally connect the two sides together. (see last picture)
Step 20: Fitting the Leather
Now when you fold it out, you should get a nice fit. (see pictures)
Use glue to glue the bottom piece to the bottom of the shoe.with the grain (smooth) side of the leather facing out. (try to use glue that's intended for leather if you have it easily available but super glue works as well, though I do not know what kind of bad things it might do to the leather in the future.)
Then fold the side pieces over and hand sew it under the insole.
Step 21: Sewing It Together - the Stitch
I used a single stitch to sew the side piece under the insole. Because the leather was thick I had to break up the single stitch into small steps where I pull the needle all the way through at each to avoid going through both the leather and the insole at once.
Step 22: Closing the Back
Sew the back of the leather close.
Step 23: Designing a Shoe
Figure out what kind of sandal or high heel you want to make or follow along with my design.
If you are designing your own think about color and shape and what kind of material you have available. You can get a lot of inspiration from pinterest and google images of "unique high heels" and "high heel sandals".
I will be basing my design of of this image I found on pinterest. (not using the same colors though)
Step 24: Making the Counter: Plans and Sewing
I made the plans by cutting out a piece of paper and fitting it around my heel.
Make sure to leave extra room for sewing at the bottom.
Cut your plans out in leather and sew the two pieces together in the same way we sewed together the bottom and side pieces. (see pictures)
Then burnish the edges of the leather.
This instruct-able is great for this, but in case you don't have a good slicker I recommend a bone folder I also read that saliva can be used instead of water because it breaks down the fibers in the leather (but i'm not sure about the validity of that).
Do not make my mistake and attach this piece too early. It is much easier to do decorations with a leather burner and/or leather tooling now, as well as attaching the strap and inside padding.
I sewed the edges with a single stitch as decoration (you will see in later pictures).
Step 25: Making the Counter: Strap
Make a hole in the leather and elongate it into a slot. Use super glue to attach the buckle to the leather and make sure the little metal arm still swings freely enough.
Cut out a strap that fits around your ankle, and use a leather hole puncher to punch some holes into the side. I also later did a single stitch around the strap in white string to frame it.
Attach it to the counter and add a holding strap.
Put your foot in and test out the fit. Add more holes if needed.
Step 26: Adding Padding to Counter and Attaching to Shoe
Again, do not make my mistake and do this BEFORE attaching the counter to the shoe!
Add (sew/glue on) padding to the inside of the leather to make it more comfortable and more stiff. This could be more leather or some other padding of your choice. I used the same counter liner that I used for my insole. It worked pretty well to stiffen it up so that it could stand alone without collapsing on itself.
Now you can attach the counter to the shoe, make sure it fits well before doing the final sewing.
Step 27: Making the Middle Strap
The middle strap I made by cutting out three thin strips of leather and doing a very simple dutch braid. Then I let loose about 2-3 inches of leather at the top and bottom which I folded over and sewed to the initial braid. I covered the stitches with some cow hide that I wrapped around and glued at the back.
Step 28: Making the Toe Strings
To make the the toe strings, take three (~1-2 cm wide) leather and add a single stitch to one side (for decoration).
Step 29: Making Accessories
I cut out a feather pattern on some cow hide and used a Razertip pyrograph (http://www.razertip.com/) to burn on the design (this only works on veggie-tanned leathers.)
I used a leather hole puncher to punch out space to thread an eyelet. I threaded the eyelet and set it with an eyelet setting tool. (https://scrapbookdesigns.wordpress.com/2006/10/26/...)
I threaded the two feathers through some leather string and then used some stain to make the edges of the leather cool and distressed, I also did this to some other parts of the shoe.
Step 30: Attaching It All
Finally thread the three leather straps and through the braid and attach them to the side of the shoe with glue. I was surprised how well this glue worked here [It's called Glossy Accents Glue] (https://blitsy.com/sku/BLRGRGAC27898?utm_source=go...)
Make sure you put your foot in first to mark where to glue the straps and how tight to make them.
Then glue on your accessories, finish all distress staining...
and viola! You're Finished!
Step 31: Final Thoughts
Yay you're done!
Try walking in your new shoes and impress all your friends. Or simply set them on a counter as a decoration.
(I did end up making a pair and I was able to walk around in them--haha even with my mediocre high-heel skills)
For some final thoughts, next time I would probably make it so that the heel is under the top shank piece (see pic) and also use stronger wood or add some sort of reinforcement.
Runner Up in the
Participated in the
Maker Olympics Contest 2016
Participated in the
Tandy Leather Contest 2016
Question 7 weeks ago
Are they durable to wear
6 years ago
Don't you need a steel reinforcement piece in the shank for strength? especially with basswood?
Reply 6 years ago
I'm really sorry for the spam, I might have accidentally commented multiple times because of lag.
Reply 6 years ago
I was using what wood I have at my house (in this case only basswood) and I didn't have the tools to add any reinforcement in. I would definitely use stronger wood/add reinforcement if I were to make them better, but, the shank doesn't hold much of the foot weight, it's mostly just the heel and platform. That's why in lot's of stilettos the shank can stay pretty thin (rubber I think). My shank is much thicker so I get away with no reinforcement. That being said I'm not an expert and I wouldn't go anywhere too far in these. :)
6 years ago
I like this.
Thanks for it :) [voted for you]
Reply 6 years ago
Thank you! :D
6 years ago
Not only is the fabrication of your sandals clever, but your intro picture is stunningly designed -- the colors and typography go together so nicely, and the green background with white halo spots complements everything. Just had to point it out. ;)
Reply 6 years ago
Thank you so much! Your comment made my day! :D
6 years ago
6 years ago
I like the colour and concept. I voted for u
6 years ago
Reply 6 years ago
6 years ago
I admit I laughed when I realized you only made one, but that one shoe was an amazing amount of work! This is really impressive - it turned out so nicely :D
Reply 6 years ago
haha thank you so much! XD
I am making a second one but I had to upload the instructable before I finished in order to make it before the contest closed ;)
such a procrastinator...