The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

I think Voltaire was on to something with that, and it is something worth bearing in mind for the beginning shoemaker. Avoid sloppy and careless work at all costs, but do not let the fact that you can’t do something perfectly stop you from doing it as well as you can. If there are things you cannot do well, the only way to improve is to do them. If you do them to the best of your ability every time, your abilities will grow.

In my Getting Started: Basic Tools and Materials post I listed the tools and materials you need to get started. They are very much the basics, and some have only their availability to commend them, but I made my first pair of shoes with no more than I listed there.

If you want to do the best work you can, you should use the best tools and materials you can get, but where that presents a significant barrier it is better to get the basic pieces together and make a start with what you have than it is to not make shoes at all. Properly constructed linen thread waxed well with code will make a better shoe than upholstery thread waxed with beeswax; but upholstery thread waxed with beeswax will still make a shoe for reenactment that will be better than almost any modern shoe you might otherwise be wearing.

There are limits though. Things like polyester thread or “sythetic sinew” have disadvantages that outweigh their availability and aren’t worth using if you have any choice at all.

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