The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Clog making

 

The hand making of clogs with leather uppers and wooden soles. Soles are either carved entirely by hand or a combination of band saw and hand tools. This entry does not include the production of factory-made soles or the assembly of pre-made parts.

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category Wood, leather
Historic area of significance At its height it was primarily an urban craft, especially industrial centres in the north of England, but present UK-wide.
Area currently practised Cardiff, Herefordshire, Sheffield, North Wales, West Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Origin in the UK Roman
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1 Hand carved clog maker

4 Clog makers using power tools, or a combination of power tools and hand finishing

Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
1-5
Current no. of trainees 1 trainee in hand carved clogs
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
1-5
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Traditional clogs developed as a strong type of footwear that was better in water and heat than conventional leather-soled footwear. They were often worn in heavy labour, but today the variants are considered for everyday wear. The interest in clogs ranges from the fashion industry to the general public and they are often still worn by factory workers due to their durability and comfort.

Clogs are still used within the UK folk dancing and folk music communities. One of the largest markets for clogs nowadays is as leisure wear for clog step dancers and Morris dancers.

They are historically working-class footwear. This almost certainly contributed to the rapid decline of the craft in the C20th: most of those who could afford not to wear clogs chose not to, and the association with poverty – and attendant snobbery around clogs – persisted. Sufficient time has elapsed that this perception is held by few nowadays; but clogs have never recovered a role as ‘mainstream’ footwear.

 

Techniques

Most makers will use some combination of bandsaw and powered sanding/grinding machinery for shaping of soles; and a router or spindle moulder or similar apparatus to cut the ‘grip’ (the rebate into which the leather is nailed). Traditional clog knives may be used, to varying degrees. Leather uppers are typically machine-stitched but most practitioners of the craft will be familiar with hand-stitching techniques too.

 

Local forms

In the UK, clogs always have a leather upper and a wooden sole. Any local variations were rather homogenized in the Victorian era, although a lot of Welsh slippers in SW Wales and toe shapes still varied. It was said that you could ‘tell a man’s village by the cut of his clogs’.

 

Sub-crafts

  • Pattern making
  • Last making

Ancillary activities including clog iron manufacture and toe-tin manufacture were once carried on as separate commercial operations: this practice is now extinct and clog makers have to make their own such items, or rely on old stock.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Market issues: It’s not possible to compete on price with machined standard sized clog soles – the only future is for top end bespoke and orthopaedic clogs.
  • Supply of raw material (wood in the round) may be a little erratic if makers can’t find a reliable source – makers cannot afford to buy timber of appropriate thickness from timber merchants at marked-up prices, nor would this be at an appropriate moisture content for hand-carving.
  • Supply of components.
  • Skill shortages.
  • Last-making is currently ‘Endangered’. If clog lasts were to become difficult to obtain, this would be a problem.

 

Support organisations

  • Association of Polelathe Turners and Greenwood Workers

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Jeremy Atkinson, Herefordshire (fully hand-carved soles) – was taught by Hywell Davies and has travelled in Spain and France researching European clog-making traditions.
  • Simon Brock, Sheffield (band saw cut soles and hand-carved soles) – uses a bandsaw to rough the shape, with stock knives for some shaping and all hollowing and a router to create the grip. Following two awards from the HCA in 2019, Simon is learning to fully hand-cut soles with Jeremy Atkinson.
  • Geraint Parfitt, St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff (demonstrates clog making using traditional hand tools)
  • Mike Cahill (band saw cut soles, finished with a stock knife)
  • John Fox (band saw cut soles)
  • Phil Howard, West Yorkshire (band saw cut soles)
  • Robin Shepherd (band saw cut soles)

Trefor Owen, based in Cricieth, Gwynedd, has now retired but maintains his workshop. JoJo Wood, based in Birmingham, is learning the craft of clog making with hand-cut soles. Scotland’s last clogmaker Godfrey Wimpenny Smith died in 2015. Brian Moulden is an amateur maker in North Wales who occasionally demonstrates.

 

Other information

 

 

References

  • Clogs and clogmaking (Shire Album) – and associated bibliography
  • Dobson, Bob, Concerning Clogs
  • Vigeon, Evelyn, Clog or Wooden Soled Shoes