Waiting for the other shoe to drop…

Some things I learned today:

  1. Wooden shoes are really quite difficult to walk in, 
  2. The Dutch call them ‘Klompen’ from which we apparently derive the onomatopoeiac word my dad used to describe how I walked across a room. (ClompClompClompClomp…)
  3. Splinters. Ouch!
  4. I have no idea how anyone dances in these silly things. 
  5. “Onomatopoetic” is a real word but sadly doesn’t refer to extremely noisy poetry, which is just terrible and wrong in my opinion.
While we’re making lasts and getting our joinery act together, let’s chat a bit about workplace safety. My new shoes will be many things, but steel toed is not one of them. For safety’s sake, let us consider other options in the foot-protection department. Clogs. Or you might call them klompen, sabot, or those whimsical tripod albarcas of Spain. Whatever you call them, wooden shoes are everywhere. (And not just in Europe, but the world. Japan, China, and Korea all have wooden shoe traditions.) All across the the planet, people have spent a large part of the last few millenia using wood to protect their feet.

The fens of Europe were much worse in the early modern period before landowners spent a few centuries draining the wetlands and building dikes and whatnot. So mostly, the wearers of all these clogs were trying to stay out of the mud. However, it’s worth noting that I am not exagerrating, apparently the European Union has granted ‘safety shoe’ status to the traditional clogs.

I wouldn’t want to drop an anvil on my foot even if I am wearing a nice wooden clog, but then I wouldn’t want to drop an anvil on my foot when I’m wearing steel toed boots either, so… yeah.

Anyway, clogs like the ones I’m wearing above (made, incidentally, in Holland, Michigan) are most often identified with the dutch, but wherever there was mud and offal in the offing, there was wood on someone’s feet.

Remarkably, even if these were strictly Dutch shoes (file the point toes off and they’d be right at home anywhere in Europe), it wouldn’t matter to us. Why? Well, remember when we were brewing beer? The influx of immigrants and refugees to England made London a bustling and cosmopolitan city. The peoples of the Low Countries (modern day Belgium and the Netherlands) fled religious persecution and Spanish rule in their homeland and brought with them their beer and their pottery and set up shop wherever they could find a bit of space. So even if they hadn’t found people wearing clogs and pattens, they’d have introduced them when they got there.

The Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers won’t be incorporated until the mid 17th century, so they technically fall outside my project. Which is why we are not going to make a pair. (That and I still haven’t found one of those pesky stock knives I was talking about…) Nevertheless, they were around and they were indeed making pattens and overshoes to navigate the muddy streets of 16th century London.

Pattens we will make once we have shoes to strap them to. It gets pretty muddy here in Washington so if I hope to wear these shoes and have them last for more than a season, I’ll need to get myself up out of the mud.  To do this, I will strap some wood and leather overshoes to my shoes using the traditional (and blessedly easy-to-come-by) wood of the alder tree.

Honestly, I’d like to see more clogs and pattens worn at reenactment events anyway. Maybe we can start a trend!

Dutch (again) pattens found in an archeological site.
Creative Commons licensed via Wikimedia Commons

We’ll talk more specifics about the making and design of pattens when I’m making them. In the mean time, let’s take a closer look at my wooden shoes, just for fun…

The Dutch-style clogs on my feet are visibly almost identical to the shoes worn in the muddy byways of the Low Countries since the 14th century. Mine, however, were carved from poplar by an ingenious combination of lathes and very clever industrial tools that have been around virtually unchanged since the 1920’s.  You can see them in action here if you are curious.

Our pattenmakers and cloggers of the 16th century had no such access to mechanized luxury. They turned them out on at a time from an alder log using a stock knife and a spoon-bit drill almost exactly as you’ll see in this video.

Neat stuff!

More later, as always…

~ Scott

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