Shoemaking Artifacts: Cutting Dies
Steel cutting dies have been ubiquitous in shoe factories for nearly a century. Roughly half of our footwear is still cut using steel dies. Many of them are decades old and represent some of our most traditional moccasin patterns.
Steel cutting dies are made by specialty die shops in North America. The dies are made from patterns and specifications designed and engineered by our team then sent to the die shop for construction of the dies. Each die represents a part of the shoe - from the exterior parts like plugs and vamps to interior lining parts and counter pockets. Heavy duty cutting dies are even used for cutting blocker outsoles and midsoles - a blocker is a large outsole / midsole pattern that gets cut down to fit a specific sized shoe.
A cutting die is used very much like a cookie cutter; the die is placed carefully on the leather by a trained leather cutter who uses a large pneumatic press to force the die through the leather. The process is colloquially known as "clicker cutting". Care and attention have to paid as the cutting dies have sharp edges and the force of the press is enough to crush a person's hand.
Modern technology has allowed us to develop new tools like automatic cutting machines in a process without the need for steel cutting dies and presses, yet the need for traditional "clicker cutting" is not going away any time soon.