"It is a poor workman who blames his tools" is the oft recited quote in a discussion concerning blame but what does a good workman do? Quietly delighting in them of course whilst getting on with their job. In our latest feature series we aim to to showcase a cross section of the industry and shine a spotlight on their favourite tools. We'd like to begin with bespoke shoemaker Sebastian Tarek.
Ever since we first encountered the shoemaker's beautiful, bespoke and handmade men’s shoes in the eclectic surroundings of the NEWGEN MEN and Fashion East Installations AW11 we have kept a captivated eye on this craftsmen. Since the launch of his eponymous line, he has strived to to offer a bespoke service that created an altogether different type of shoe. An idea conceived and developed with his private clients in mind, a marriage of personalised service, comfort and luxury with a more relaxed and informal feeling. Here he introduces four of his favourite tools and we hear all about how some have 'become an extension of his working self'...
"There are no such things as absolutes in shoe making. Everyone has different names for items so it can be quite tricky. However, I call the first tool my 'pattern hammer.' It is sometimes called a 'french hammer', and in truth this one is French. Now, some things have to replaced because they have a set lifespan but items like this should last me my entire career. I'd be really upset if it didn't. I use it for many different jobs but this is the only tool that I use to hammer the upper of a shoe with so I'm so protective of it, the surface has to be super smooth so I'm careful with it. There's a story behind it actually. My Father came over from Australia and had a few appointments in Paris during the men's collections, one of which was with the Chief Bootmaker at Hermes
At this time, I had just started an apprenticeship back home in Australia and my Father told him about me and my need for tools. He asked him where I should go to find tools because I was struggling back home. Thankfully he agreed and wrote out half a dozen items and detailed where to get them. My father procured a number of them for me, some were very specific to bootmaking so I'm yet to really use a few but the others have become an extension of my working self. The pattern hammer is one of the best examples, it's a part of me now. My old man, the massive blagger that he is, even managed to get a catalogue for the recommended French tool company and even though it has long since changed and they no longer stock most of the items detailed inside but I still use it as a reference."
"Rasps are a nightmare to find. Some of my favourites are no longer made and it's a real problem because they are a tool that need to be replaced every year or so. I'm either using a rasp that's really had it or one that's not entirely appropriate for the job. Someone went to Japan recently and returned with this shoe rasp. You might call it a 'heal rasp' also I guess. in short, it's a 'rasp', from japan, hand cut in fact. I've not been so happy professionally for a while it is ooh soo nice. There's something quite special and particular about Japanese steel. You could get philosophically involved with the merits of it, it's not even entirely want I need or want but it has made me reflect on my work and altered how I work. It's a pleasure to work with."
"This is my go to 'knife'. It's pretty important but there's not much more I can add. It's a 'straight knife' made by a well known German manufacturer. In my experience, the Japanese and German makers tend to be the best."
Travelling foot measuring stick
"This is my 'Finchers of Birmingham folding foot measuring stick'. I only picked it up a few months ago. It's actually travelling one that I'm going to take with me to Australia when I go back in a couple of weeks."
"There's another part to my Hermes story which is a nice way to end it. As the Chief Bootmaker was soon to retire he amazingly wanted to gift me something to help begin my career with. He past on his heel hammer which clearly, he had used for well over fifty years. I would never dream of using it myself but it is a mascot. From one old craftsmen to a new one, these tools are built to last. It also acts as a reminder for me not to retire. He worked right through in to his 80s, retired and died a few months later. I'm going to die in this chair, that's a bespoke shoemakers life."
Sebastian Tarek on the life of a bespoke shoemaker.