Building your shoemaking toolkit: Tools for glueing

In a previous post I talked about some of the glues you can use when making your own shoes at home. The type of glue (or cement) you use will influence the specific tools you need, but the list below gives you a good general guide. 

Protective mask/respirator: Contact cement (the glue most often used in shoemaking) is highly toxic so it is very important that if you are using it, you do so in an open and well-ventilated space. You should also wear a mask or respirator designed specifically to protect you from the fumes (a regular dust mask is not sufficient). You can also use this in place of a regular dust mask when you are sanding your leather to prevent inhaling the small particles created. A range of masks and respirators should be available at your local hardware store. 

Heat gun: Some glues, including contact cement, require heat to activate them. Heat guns are readily available at your local hardware store, and provide a very high degree of heat without blowing your leather/items to be heated around. If using a heat gun, be aware that the metal nozzle becomes extremely hot and will burn you if you accidentally touch it (as happened to a fellow student when I was studying shoemaking - not nice!) Also, be careful not to burn the leather or the surface you are working on - the best way to avoid this is to keep moving the heat gun around rather than holding it in one place, and regularly check to see if the cement has become tacky (when it is, you have applied enough heat). 

Hair dryer: This is a great alternative to using a heat gun when making your own shoes and accessories at home. It may take slightly longer to reactivate the contact cement than if you were using a heat gun, but it is much safer. If you have a diffuser attachment for your hairdryer, I recommend using it as it will prevent your leather and/or soling from being blown around by the force of the air coming out of your hairdryer (if you don't have a diffuser though, it still works fine - just remember to hold each piece of leather soling down with one hand while using your hairdryer in your other hand, or ask someone to help you hold your pieces in place, and keep moving the hairdryer around so that the heat does not hurt you or your helper).

Brush: Any basic craft or paint brush from your local craft shop is fine for applying glue to your leather or soling. I generally use one that's about 1.5cm (1/2") wide but whatever size you find comfortable to use will work. Be aware that unless you use a thinner appropriate for your glue/cement to clean your brush in between glueing, the brush is likely to be ruined so it's best to use an inexpensive one that you're happy to dispose of. 

While we're on the topic of glueing, I just want to reinforce that the contact cement often used in shoemaking is highly toxic and should be used with care in an open, well-ventilated environment and with the appropriate mask or ventilator. If you are pregnant, or if there is a chance that you could be, DO NOT use contact cement. (If you use any of the Atelier Louise shoemaking patterns, you're probably going to be sick of reading this, but I feel it's very important to make sure you are aware of the precautions that need to be taken if you choose to use it). Although I was trained using contact cement, I now choose to use a less toxic alternative called Renia Aquilim which, if you're interested, I have written more about here (including details about where you can purchase it).