Building your shoemaking toolkit: Tools for cutting

As I've mentioned before, you can successfully make your own shoes at home without many specialised tools or pieces of equipment at all. I thought you might find it interesting though to learn more about some of the other tools you can use in your shoemaking at home (you'll find some of these mentioned in the Atelier Louise shoe patterns). Over the next few posts I'll share some information about the tools you can use for punching holes, hammering, glueing and finishing leather edges. Today, as the title says, I'll focus on tools for cutting. 

Clicking knife: This is the knife we were taught to use during my training for cutting leather (a task traditionally called 'clicking' by shoemakers). You can get various shaped blades that are appropriate for cutting different weights of leather (the more curved the hook, the thicker the leather it will cut). The blades require regular sharpening. It is not necessary to use one of these knives when making your shoes at home though. In the Silver Sands Sandal instructions I recommend using leather scissors and/or a utility knife, both described below.

Leather scissors: These are great for cutting leather at home. The short blade section is really strong and able to cut leather up to 3-4mm (approx 1/8in), including the veg tanned leather that you will use for making your sandal insoles. The scissors also work well for cutting the synthetic soling that you will use for your sandals too. (These scissors won't, however, cut leather soling, but this won't be used for the first series of patterns anyway as it is a more difficult material to work with.)

Utility knife: These knives, available from your local craft or hardware store, are great for cutting leather and synthetic soling. The blades are generally disposable so when one becomes blunt you can easily replace it with a new one. If using this kind of knife, as with all knives, remember to follow the safety tips included in the pattern instructions.

Cutting mat: A self-healing cutting mat is useful if you use any kind of knife for cutting your leather pieces so that the surface you are working on is protected. You can find these in your local craft or haberdashery store, or may already have one among your sewing supplies. Don't use this when punching holes in your leather though as it will be damaged by the punches (as you'll see in the next post, a plastic chopping board is more appropriate for that task).