I have a couple other Instructables published, but I am really excited about getting this little one out there as it has information I haven’t seen elsewhere. It is a brief instruction on my version of making tire sandals or survival soles for moccasins, but the important part is how I cut the tire.
Before we get to the cutting, let’s talk about making tire sandals or my take on it anyway. There is a TON of info on making these so I won’t belabor the point here, but just give you a few pointers based on my experience. I have wanted to make some tire sandals for some time, just to see if it was possible to do in a survival type situation. I finally have the time now and decided to give it a go. These sandals are not too comfortable to wear barefoot, but they work great with mocs or heavy socks. Together with good moccasins, they make good outdoor footwear. The tough soles making hiking easy on your feet and when you get to camp you can take off your mocs to dry them and your feet out and wear your sandals while you set up. You can also wear mocs alone to be really comfortable while poking at the fire or sleeping.
Step 1: Choosing a Tire
First, forget about using steel belted tires. Just don’t try it. They are HARD to cut no matter how you do it and it is dangerous with tiny bits of steel flying around your face and eyes. Not to mention that eventually you will get a sliver of steel in your finger or foot. If you have ever gotten steel in your finger, you know how aggravating that is.
There are plenty of nylon belted tires you can use. The most common source is the little donut spare tires in newer cars. These are the ones marked ‘Temporary Use Only and Don’t drive over 45 miles per hour.’ The reason being, they are not steel belted. You can get these at the junkyard or just steal one out of your neighbor’s car when they are unloading groceries. Other tires you can use are lawnmower tires or ATV tires. Be sure to have them unmount the tire if it is on a wheel.
Step 2: Cutting the Tire
My initial goal was to use hand tools only to make these, but I gave up on that pretty quick and went to the shop where the power tools live. I basically tried every tool that I have except the table saw and welder. I finally disassembled the tire by cutting off the steel bead ring in the center with a jigsaw after I cut a hole with a little saw blade on my Dremel and a knife. Next, I used a hand saw and the jig saw to cut the tire into four equal pieces which would give me two pair of sandals.
Step 3: Cutting Out the Sandal
I made a foot pattern, marked it on the inside of the tire piece and contemplated how to cut it out. I first tried my Dremel with the little saw blade. It cut, but was hard to hold and made a mess. I also tried a cutoff disc with rather poor results. Now is where I started pulling my hair out and thought my tire pieces might end up in the pile in the corner of my shop that I never look at. You know, the one that contains scraps of my failures. Someone suggested using a chisel so I tried that. My father was a carpenter and had some good ones. I grabbed one and sat down and gave it a whack. It just bounced off after making a little mark.
Next, I tried a utility knife. It cut OK, but man, it would take a long time and a million cuts to get a set of sandals cut out. Then I thought of the little Dremel thermal tool I had bought recently. I got it to do some woodburning, but it also came with a soldering tip AND a foam cutting deal that consisted of a chuck and an Exacto blade. I plugged it in, let her heat up, picked up my tire and gave it a little try. I couldn’t believe it at first so I tried again. And again. It cut just like a hot knife cutting through, well…. rubber!! It takes practically no pressure whatsoever, just a little rocking motion to push through. The heat cuts the rubber, but it also keeps the blade from binding like a cold blade does. It makes great cuts, nice and smooth and accurate. Of course, you can burn and cut yourself at the same time so it pays to be careful. Also, you should probably do your cutting outside, although the only time I made any smoke or fumes is when I cut off the tread on the back tab. And even then, it was very minimal. The beauty of this little discovery is that it would work in a primitive situation. All you would have to do is heat up a thin bladed knife or Exacto blade on a fire and cut away.
Step 4: Finishing the Sandal
The sandals I made have five tabs for attaching ¾ inch nylon straps and buckles. I first cut out the sandal leaving it all quite oversized. I would advise this as I had to make some slight changes and it’s better to have extra material than not enough. This is true of the tabs especially and I wish I had left them all wider to begin with, although it worked OK. Leave them as long as possible also. I used a donut spare so the tabs end up being on the curve to the sidewall. This worked well because it gives the straps a little tension and they kind of hug your foot. I used a barrel sander on my Dremel to sand some grooves in the tab in back because it was too stiff.
After I had the over-sized sandal roughed out, I traced around my foot again with my moccasins on. It’s more cutting this way, but that’s better than making a mistake and having to start over. Besides, it’s so easy to cut with the Dremel hot cutter, it all goes quickly. Next, mark where you want the slits for attaching the nylon webbing and drill a hole at each end of the slit. Then, cut out between the holes with the hot cutter.
Step 5: Attaching the Straps
All that is left to do is to attach and sew the straps. I used a glovers needle and some artificial sinew but you could use a sewing awl or other method. The little rings on the back are kind of hard to sew, so I super glued them first and then sewed them.
The sandals work OK but I got the front tabs about a half inch too far forward. So again, I recommend leaving the whole sandal and especially the tabs oversized until you can actually get your foot on the thing to figure it all out. Here are some pics with my house mocs on with the sandal. If you tackle this project, good luck and do yourself a favor, buy the hot cutter before you begin. It'll save you a lot of work and maybe a finger or two.
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