One year, I was at a World Championship Blacksmith contest and the match play semifinalists had to make a 3/8-inch by 3/4-inch, fullered, toe-clipped shoe. The four competitors had 8 minutes to build it. About 4 minutes into this, the generator stopped, so the decision was made to start over.
At this point, Travis Koons of Hemet, Calif., tossed his shoe onto the ground in front of us. All he had left to do was a toe clip. This made an impression on me. How did he do this in only 4 minutes? This got me thinking about how little work remained because of how he fullered it. The difference is easy to see.
Angle Vs. Straight
I’ll begin with the 3/8-inch by 3/4-inch stock. In Figure 1, the stock on the left had a fuller run through it without a bit of prep work or modifications. Compare the two so you can notice how much distortion occurs simply from driving the fuller into the stock.
Taking another look at that fullered stock (Figure 2), it is no longer 3/4 inch, but falls about 13/16 inch. Also note how you have the distortion going out to the corner.
So you’ll often hear clinicians discussing “hem the branch before you begin your fullering.” I’ve already put an angled hem in this stock before I fullered (Figure 3). Hemming at an angle was standard practice and many would say the angle of the fuller is the angle at which you hem.
Compare the bar stock with the angled hem with what it looks like after it is fullered (Figure 4). The material has been laid over approximately at the same angle of the fuller. Looking at it, the fullering has still distorted the material on the bottom and a rise to the inside and a lowering to the outside. It still is 3/4 inch (Figure 5), and there is still distortion and work remaining to do.
The next example shows the hem straight into the material (Figure 6), with “straight” being the important word — work straight down and get that same movement of material.
After I ran the fuller through the stock (Figure 7), you can see there is similar distortion to the angled hem — the outside is down and laid out a bit, and there is a rise to the inside of the fullering. The bottom is flatter than what you see with the angled hem.
Most importantly, though, is even though this stock has been fullered, it still is 3/4 inch (Figure 8), so less expansion than seen in the other modifications (Figure 9). From left to right, you can see the straight hem, angled hem and the stock without a hem. That means less work is needed to bring this to finish as compared to those. Also note that with the straight hem, the thickness is above the other two.
Fullering A Shoe
I’ll only focus on fullering from a straight hem, rather than cover all of the aspects of making a shoe. After I bend the toe, I’ll line my T-square to show where my fullering will begin and then mark my fullering (Figure 10).
After I’ve checked the heel, I’m ready to hem the branch. I’ll line up the mark I’ve already made indicating where the fullering should start. Over the top of the horn, the first few hammer blows are on the heel side of that mark (Figure 11). I’ll move the shoe to the face of the anvil and strike straight down into the material (Figure 12). From my mark, I’ll begin to fuller (Figure 13).
Anytime you make a bend or work an edge, you’ll disturb the fullering. I turned the branch, so the outside is collapsed and I have to go back and rework the fullering (Figure 14). Try to keep the fuller in one place on the anvil, so you don’t have to chase it around — move the shoe instead of the fuller.
Although these images were taken over a few heats to show steps, I want to hem the stock, completely fuller and turn the branch in one heat (Figure 15). I’ll also clean up, run the back and make my nail holes. I don’t want to go back and forth — the more you have to clean up, the more likely you’ll collapse your fullering.
Give this straight-in approach a try, and see how it works instead of an angle. I’ve used it for quite some time and it hasn’t failed me yet, but more importantly, it has taken so much work out of fullering.