Tools of the Shoe Trade: Self-Healing Cutting Mat

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The process of traditional shoemaking involves a whole host of specialist tools and techniques. We’re making it our mission to introduce you to some of them. In this post we’re looking at a piece of equipment that makes the shoemaking process easier to manage: the leather cutting mat.

Cutting leather is a big part of the handmade shoe making process. The quality of these cuts play a major role in the shape, fit and finish of the final shoe. Because of this, it’s vitally important that shoemakers take great care over this stage in the proceedings. 

Once upon a time shoemakers would have cut straight onto their workbenches. Though this certainly left their workbenches with a great deal of personality in the form of cuts and marks, it wasn’t necessarily the most accurate of surfaces.

Many modern shoemakers use a leather cutting mat to help make their cuts as accurate as possible. Cutting mats help in three main ways:

  1. They offer a completely flat and clear surface to work on. Most cutting mats available today are self-healing, which means that any cuts or breaks to the surface disappear very quickly. Unlike a traditional workbench, any deeper cuts you’ve made won’t affect the accuracy of future pieces.
  2. They have measurements and guidelines printed on. This can help shoemakers to make absolutely sure that each piece is the correct length and width.
  3. They’re much more comfortable to work on. A self healing cutting mat is softer to work on than the hard surface of the workbench. This is important as making shoes by hand often requires shoemakers to spend hours carefully cutting pieces out. This is made a lot easier with somewhere soft to rest their hand as they work. 

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