A guide to the Shoemaking Process

A guide to the Shoemaking Process

Part 1: Leather

Welcome to part 1 of our tutorial series which shares our process for making handcrafted shoes.

Finding the right leather for your shoes is an ongoing quest .

To make our shoes and accessories we use leather from bison, cow, calf and horse, each with its own unique quality. The enduring relationships with tanneries, who employ traditional tanning techniques, that honour the leather for its unaltered character, is the key to beautiful shoes.

Choosing the right leather

Choosing the right type of leather for the shoe and wearer is essential. Sourcing leather that is uncommon, comfortable and durable requires continuing research and refinement.

Did you know that different sections of the hide are used for different parts of the shoe?

You can see in the diagram below the different sections of leather for the calf (top row) and horse hides (bottom row).

For example, the butt area is used for soles.

The shells, cullate and horsefront are used for upper leather. Calf side for upper and lining leather.

Insoles, heel counters and toe puffs are cut from double shoulder leather.


Lineapelle is the worlds premier leather fair held in Italy each year. Here the best tanneries come together to show their latest leather finishes and designs. Everything from upper leather, welting, soles, heels and lasts can be found. We regularly travel to Milan to source new leather materials.  

Our leather dying staining process

Step by step guide to the Shoemaking Process
Step by step guide to the Shoemaking Process
Step by step guide to the Shoemaking Process

Over the years we have developed various finishing techniques which change as often as the leather. Some hides are a blank canvas, some don't require any finish. The key is to find unique leather first then build a story.  

Our point of difference is that we source unique leathers and add another layer of surface texture. 

All of our surface treatments are a combination of dyes, stains and metals. There is continuous experimentation and testing. Every pair of shoes is bespoke, with its own special characteristics and detail.

care and repair

Your shoes tell the story of your journey.

Every leather is unique and different care requirements are recommended for each. If you have any questions about care please call or email.

Polish your shoes regularly; a beeswax based polish like SAPHIR  is best.

Use cedar shoe trees to maintain shape and deodorise your shoes.

Bring your A.McDonald shoes back to our workshop for cleaning and repair.

Also in Blog

Step by step guide:  patternmaking
Step by step guide: patternmaking

Pattern making is the process of drawing on the last and making the pattern pieces for the upper, heel, sole, insole and stiffeners.  The first step in making the upper pattern is to create a forme which is a blueprint of the last size, shape and heel.

While vegetable tanned leather does take longer to produce, in a process requiring the care of skilled craftsmen, making for a more expensive product, the tradition and handmade process add to the richness and the exclusivity of vegetable tanned leather. 
Chestnut tanned soles and insoles
Chestnut tanned soles and insoles

Chestnut tanned soles create a richer darker coloured sole leather, tanned with hardwood chestnut extract. The soles are tanned for a longer period in the tan to improve durability resistance and edge finishing.
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This sizing chart is designed as a comparison to commonly used sizing systems . The systems differ in what they measure , what unit of measure they use and where the size 0 is positioned . The english system for mens shoes that i use is based on the length of the last measured in barleycorn 1/3inch . If you are uncertain of your size and how it translates to my sizing system please email and we will endeavour to assess your size .


English 3.5 4 4.5 5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5
European 35 36 37 37.5 38 38.5 39 39.5 40.5 41 42 42.5
Australian 5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 9.5 10 10.5 11
U.S 5 6 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 9.5 10 10.5 11 11.5
Japanese 22 22.5 23.5 23 23.5 24 25 25.5 26 26.5 27 27.5


English Australia 4 4.5 5.5 6 6.5 7 8 8.5 9 10 10.5 11 12 12.5 13
U.S 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 9.5 10 10.5 11 11.5 12 12.5 13
European 38 38.5 39.5 40 40.5 41 42 42.5 43 44 44.5 45 46 46.5 47
Japanese 24 24.5 25 25.5 26 26.5 27 27.5 28 28.5 29 29.5 30 30.5 31
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