Our Workshop


HOW WE MAKE OUR SHOES

Our shoe making starts with the last. Over the years we have developed a wide range of lasts to suit different constructions, fittings and trends. Together with our last makers, we spend a lot of time developing and testing our last model before tooling up all the different sizes and beginning the range building, designing and pattern cutting.
Shoe last

All our designs are original and have a distinct Groundcover handwriting. Cedric Clark, our technical expert, tapes over the last to produce a two-dimensional form, which becomes the standard from which the patterns are dissected.

We make up samples for evaluation and wear testing before committing the new style to the range.


Amichan, one of the last of the manual pattern graders, then grades out the patterns in waxed board, using an old machine called a pentagraph and some complex formulas and measurements. He has been doing this his whole life, but is rapidly being replaced by computers.

Cedric then handcuts the size range, to be made up as a final check before we commit the patterns to knife.
Waxed board pattern and pattern knife

With 40 years of experience in shoe making, Errol Singh is our factory manager and number one clicker. He knows exactly where on the skin to place the knife, producing minimal offcut waste as he cuts the upper on the clicking press.

Our six women in the closing room mark, skive, glue and stitch the upper together. The toe puffs and heel stiffeners are attached and moulded, and the buckles, hooks, loops or eyelets fitted.

The closed upper is now ready to go to the making room for lasting.


Amos Buthelezi, our key man in the making room, pulls the upper over the last and cements it to the insole. This is a very delicate operation, requiring great care and attention so that the leather fits snugly over the last but does not stretch to tearing point.

After stitching the upper to the midsole and runner, we heat set the lasted shoe at 130 degrees Celsius to shrink the upper around the last and give it stand.


In the sole room, Aaron Mpangase primes the sole and runner, allowing them to cure before bonding them together using a two-part glue, heat and pressure.

Tebatso Makampane now trims off excess rubber and sands the edge to a fine finish.

The completed shoe then goes to the shoe room for edge staining, polishing and Ernest Ndlovu’s thorough quality control inspection, before being boxed and ready for wear.



OUR MAIN CONSTRUCTION TYPES

STITCH DOWN

Stitch downs are what our business was built upon. In this type of construction, our lasted shoe upper is cemented onto the insole, then both are stitched together with heavy thread on the outsole stitcher. Boots get double-stitched for extra strength.

Our stitch downs have a veg-tan leather insole — which can’t be beaten for foot health, comfort and durability. They are tough and easy to resole, and allow for the optimum spread of your feet.


VEG SANDALS

This simple construction has remained unchanged since the days when veg-tanned sandals were every flower child’s prized possession. Cyril Khuzwayo produces our range of handmade sandals, which still includes some of the original classics, ever popular because of their simplicity, light weight and comfort, as well as for the natural qualities of wattle bark tanned leather.


HAND LACING

Our hand-laced range provides employment to several mothers and home-makers living on our farm who are unable to work away from home. The upper and topsole are hand-stitched onto a polyurethane sole using a durable waxed thread and a saddler’s needle. A low-density EVA midsole is used for extra comfort.

A small range of men’s comfort shoes uses the Strobel construction, where the upper is hand-stitched and folded over the midsole before the sole is attached.


BLAKE STITCH

Here the upper linings are lasted under the leather insole, before being glued to the runner and stitched together from the inside of the boot. Made from the finest bend leather, the sole is bonded to the runner and the heel is nailed in place. The soles are fitted with rubber pads which are easy to replace after hard wear.

The acquisition of a Blake stitcher has allowed us also to introduce the genuine moccasin construction, where the top sole is part of the upper and stitched onto the sole.



Groundcover's Products
Take a tour through our workshop and learn how we make our products.
Groundcover Workshop
Read more about our one hundred year old shop situated on our farm.
Groundcover's Leather and Soles Read more on how our fine handcrafted leather and accessories are made.
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