The great Lumberjocks shoe challenge #1: Introduction

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Blog entry by Jordan posted 09-22-2010 01:57 AM 5370 reads 21 times favorited 72 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of The great Lumberjocks shoe challenge series Part 2: 20 hours later and the shoes are flying »

As a former grade school and dance teacher, I think I was cut out for motivating people to recognize their strengths. And as a carver who lives on his own creations, I have had to motivate and challenge myself on a daily basis. Over the years, I have developed my skills by recreating everyday objects – in my case, shoes. Shoes and boots of every kind – skates, cowboy boots, winter boots, running shoes…and the list goes on. (in real life I also have a shoe fetish.) I carved every shoe I ever wanted as a child or attached to certain sports that I always wished I could’ve played.

It was twenty years ago that I sent Dremel, this shoe and sock. In return, they sent me their latest Dremel model, which I have and running to this very day.

I have been asked by some ambitious and courageous LJ’s to start a follow-along shoe challenge blog, which I will begin on October 1st. As I am having to film my carving techniques for Dremel, I thought I might as well work on a little shoe for that project as well. Here are the details.

The Challenge

Believe it or not, participation does not require talent or skill. It does, however, require the power of observation! As much as I think I observe life at it’s utmost, it is now apparent as I start painting pictures, how much is before me that I still do not see. If you are a carver or a budding carver or just someone who likes to do different things in wood, I believe your ability to perfect things afterwards will be better.

The Tools

My world is power. To make things easier for you, you should have a power rotary tool and flexible hand shaft. I use a Dremel but not the top of the line model – I use the 100. They all go around 25,000 rpm’s anyways so the basic difference between them is the variable speeds. Since you want the full speed all the time while carving, I’d say that the basic model is quite adequate. You can spend more, it’s up to you in that department.

I’m showing the bits that will help you get the job done the fastest. Three are (well worn) rough carbide bits and one is just a sanding mandrel. They are all available at Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Rona – stores similar. I picked up the diamond set from Rocklers for a very cheap price. I actually bought the four sets with different grades of diamonds but the coarse one is great all round.

Some type of shape cutter, whether it’s a bandsaw or scroll saw (or a friend’s as you won’t have to use it for long.)

The size of shoe we will be doing is a 1/2 scale of one of your own shoes, so a block of basswood or tupelo measured at just a little the half size of your shoe of choice is necessary (length and width). I doubt that any of the harder woods would be quick enough for you to get through.

The Tutorials

Anyone can do this and on their own time. I will post pictures, instructions and periodically some video to help you along. I could very well set out a shoe for all of you to copy but the power of observation is not taught – it is discovered on your own and I think the fun and rewards of this will be for everyone to see what THEY can do if they are encouraged , not fed paint-by-number instructions.
I will answer any and all questions on specific shoe problems directly from the numbered blog series or you can PM me or send emails with images to my personal email address. It’s best not to show your shoe on the blogs until you are finished and ready for show and tell.

I will be working on this shoe which is a basic running shoe that can be manipulated into almost every style as the concept of carving it is the same for every section. Your own shoe will help you to determine details and sizes of details and having it in front of you will help you to accurately measure.

The Reward

Personally, I hope that the reward for all of you will be the good feeling that will come inside when you finish your shoe and add it to the LJ projects pages. I was not a competitive dance teacher because I always felt that each child had a strength that couldn’t be measured against another child who worked just as hard. So there will not be a winner, per se. However, each participant who finishes their shoe without mechanical means (ie CNC routers etc.) will recieve a special Jordan Straker original gift prize.

So, good luck, take a deep breath and get ready for October 1st and The Great LJ’s Shoe Challenge!!!!


72 comments so far

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

8872 posts in 2247 days

#1 posted 09-22-2010 02:06 AM

This will be incredible to watch, Jordan! I think we will all learn a lot even if we just watch. It is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to see and expand their horizons. Thank you so much for presenting this to us. :)


PS – do you have an approximate time frame it will take to do the ‘course’?

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 2597 days

#2 posted 09-22-2010 02:18 AM

Great idea Jordan, this should be fun for all. Have you ever tried the saburr burs? I’ve been using them to sculp a few of my turned bowls and so far they are hoggin the wood quite well….they are a bit pricey so I only have a couple of them….but they are supposed to last a while.

I will have to see if I can dig up some basswood to size….great to have someone so talented giving instructions….I am looking forward to giving it a try….and thank you for taking the time to give us newbies some excellent instruction.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 2636 days

#3 posted 09-22-2010 02:27 AM

Jordan, Ity is a great idea and I look forward to viewing and using your carving info to hopefully improve my attempts. I have a Foredom flex shaft carver and have used it somewhat in my grinder sculptings. Your tutorial will be of fantastic benefit for many of us. I always look forward to learning and using different techniques to improve my skills.

View Jordan's profile


1396 posts in 2452 days

#4 posted 09-22-2010 02:55 AM

knucklenut – no gouges necessary or misc other tools, the rotary tools are sufficient. AS you start to carve with a rotary tool, you will decide on your own, which burs and bits you wish to acquire. I’ve thought and thought about how to make this tutorial something for everyone with as few tools as possible.

Greg – the Foredom is fine. I’m not sure of you have the one with the large or small hand shaft but if you’re used to working with it, you should be fine.

Reggie, I have tried sabur burs and to tell you the truth, I actually like the kutzall better – both are quite pricey but I didn’t like the parallel teeth on the saburs. The ones I’ve shown are Kutzall but they sell them in the stores with the Dremel accessories. They are also available on woodcraft and rockler. Any rough type bit will do. I mean, I carved my first carving with a scissors grinding stone so of there’s a will, there’s a way, but I’d like to make it easy on ya.


View Dark_Lightning's profile


2520 posts in 2436 days

#5 posted 09-22-2010 02:57 AM

I’m sorely tempted to try this, even if all I got out of it was only the armpit of one of Jordan’s war shirts. Guess I’ll have to buy another basic Dremel tool- I wore my 5-speed out doing auto repairs and other non-prescribed tasks. That thing saved me literally thousands in repair bills. Like the time a front outer wheel bearing welded itself to the spindle- I notched the race, cracked it, pulled it off and ground and polished the spindle to accept a new outer bearing. One skinny little grinding disk and a sanding drum was all that took. I have done some neckerchief slides (manually) in my “free time” on hikes and so forth with the Boy Scouts. Those were little fun jobs, most of which I gave to boys when they made Eagle Scout.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 3488 days

#6 posted 09-22-2010 03:11 AM

“be careful what you wish for” they say .. and now, I guess I’ve committed myself to carving a shoe!
I’ll be limited to whatever wood is sitting in the basement (there’s excuse number 1) ha! :)

Good for you Jordan! Not that there was any room at the top but you’ve just gone up another notch in my book :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3241 days

#7 posted 09-22-2010 03:19 AM

Wow, this should be interesting!
I’m glad to see you are using kiwi polish on those boots :)

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View grizzman's profile


7717 posts in 2630 days

#8 posted 09-22-2010 03:21 AM

this looks like a great way to stretch out of my comfort zone…i did look at rockler and didnt see any carving burrs, but did find some of these, Kutzall Carving Burrs…at lee valley…do you think they would be a good purchase…jusr want to make sure i get good ones…this will be fun…thanks jordan

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View grizzman's profile


7717 posts in 2630 days

#9 posted 09-22-2010 03:25 AM

ok i read above and saw your comment…thanks…no reply necessary..

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Jordan's profile


1396 posts in 2452 days

#10 posted 09-22-2010 03:59 AM

The most common used rough burs you will possess are like the ones on this link, specifically 18N1N, 18N1P, 18n1Q, 18N1I. Yes, they do cost but they last and last and last and don’t clog. They are 1/8” shank which is the most useful.


View Jordan's profile


1396 posts in 2452 days

#11 posted 09-22-2010 04:19 AM

Sheila, I can make one in about 1 1/2 days but I should probably space out the tutorials 4 days between. The project will take as long as you like because it will be in print but we should make a deadline at some point just so everyone can show their shoes off together.


View MrsN's profile


975 posts in 2853 days

#12 posted 09-22-2010 04:23 AM

I love shoes, so I think I am going to have to try this.
Do you have any suggestions on what type of shoe to pick? I have a closet full of possibilities, lol.

-- ----- ----- --

View Jordan's profile


1396 posts in 2452 days

#13 posted 09-22-2010 04:26 AM

MrsN. a running shoe is probably closest to what I’m going to be doing – laces are good to challenge yourself with.


View Dark_Lightning's profile


2520 posts in 2436 days

#14 posted 09-22-2010 04:43 AM

OK, Imelda (MrsN), you’ll just have to pick between the suede, patent and canvas for the proper black shoe…J/K, I work with a gal who has so many different textures of the same style of shoe, it just cracks me up- thus, the “Imelda” joke. I’m sure you don’t have that many, you aren’t running a country…or are you?

View Dark_Lightning's profile


2520 posts in 2436 days

#15 posted 09-22-2010 04:47 AM

MsDebbieP, how do you know I don’t like armpits? J/K, but looking at Jordan’s work, I’d take an armpit simply because it’d be the best armpit I’ve ever seen made out of wood. Then again, how wood I explain this to my friends when they come to visit, and see it on the wall in the living room? OK, I’ll admit to a foot fetish and ask for a carved foot instead.

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