Everyone in Holland knows what wooden shoes are and how they look. Nowadays wooden shoes are worn less than in the past. In those days almost every Dutchman had a pair of wooden shoes and walked on them every day. So there were many wooden shoe-makers, who all made their own models with their own variety of colours and decorations. This large diversity in wooden shoes from the past and also those from today, is a valuable part of the cultural heritage of the Dutch.
History Since the end of the middle ages are wooden shoes worn in many parts of Europe. Now it’s mainly worn in the Netherlands. However, not many people wear those things. At many jobs, the wooden shoes are still used. It’s also the famous souvenir for the foreign tourists. That’s also why the most of the three million wooden shoes, which are made every year, are for the tourists. A few centuries ago, there were thousands of ‘clog-makers’ in the Netherlands.
Those ‘clog-makers’ were mainly farmers, who made them, mainly, with tools which they also used for other activities. They were very good in it, something which you didn’t expect maybe. In the past there were always professionals, mainly in the cities. In 1870 there came many more pros, than in the years before 1870, because the farmers hadn’t the time for it anymore and because the population grew fast.
How to make wooden shoes
The wood The wood which is used for the wooden shoes, is poplar-wood. It has the advantage that it’s rather long-wearing, so the wooden shoes will wear well. The clog-maker work on the wood if it’s not dried, than it isn’t so hard, so also more flexible (and it also reduces the chance of tearing in the wood). If the wood is dry, the wooden shoes are hard, and ready to sell.
First of all, the stem will be divided into some parts. One stem can be divided into four till eight parts. Two parts which are the same will become a new pair of wooden shoes. Some wood will be removed, so that there is a very rough shape of the wooden shoe. Then he cuts off small parts, so that some parts will be well-shaped: the heel the top side, and the front side. Then he pierces two holes in the front side (wherein you put your foot), and several wooden parts will be removed. Then the two holes are connected with each other, and is it a long corridor. Then the maker cuts off more wood, so that the foot can in the wooden shoe.
To make the wooden shoe flat and even, the maker uses a very sharp, small knife. If he’s finished with that, the wooden shoes are tied together with a bit of a string in order to keep them from being separated, and that two different sizes won’t become a pair. Then they have to dry for a while, for the best quality they have to be in the shade and if possible where the wind is blowing. And the painting? Exactly, it happens after that. If that’s done, the pair is finished. The whole process takes something like two till three hours.
Since around 1950, it’s possible to make wooden shoes with the machine. That’s like this: The most of the work is taken over by machines, but there are many things like before 1950. Of course, the good kind of wood, which is needed for a good quality wooden shoe. The tree has to be chopped immediately, and conveyed to the factory. Just like the clog-maker does, the stem will be divided into some parts. They do that with their hands, but almost everything which is left, can be done by machines.
In special drying-rooms, the wooden shoes will be dried. But they have an extra problem now, which isn’t there if it’s hand-made. Sometimes, one wooden shoe shrinks more than the other from that pair. Because after the shrinking, they will be scoured, and then you got a pair with two different sizes. The machines are so good now, that the wooden shoes get the same size. If everything is in the factory, then you can make 20,000 wooden shoes a month if there are ten employees, so that will be 240,000 a year.