Saturday, July 2, 2011

Too tired to make up titles

One of the most fun parts of this whole process has taking our theories and putting them to practice. We've spent almost 24 months planning and doing this now, so we've had plenty of time to think about it, but there's still that excited nervousness when you put it to test for the first time. Combine it with the fact that we're operating on a startup budget and not working with the gleaming new equipment that we all dream about having, and you have that extra set of butterflies in the stomach before each step.

The Black/Blue Louie laid in the jig, ready to be pressed

Today we finally got to test the bond on our footbeds. We worked with Worthen Industries and UPACO Adhesives in Nashua, NH on our materials and the best methods for ensuring a solid, permanent bond, so we had a good start. They tested sample materials for us back in October and recommended the adhesives, and we had them on hand and ready to go long before we got our EVA and rubber last week. We spent last week, almost all of last week, unpacking the EVA and checking it into inventory. This week, we got to run the heat tunnel and finally work the footbed presses.

The test table after our first (failed) round of material bond testing

We had some tense moments, as when we ran the individual footbed parts through the heat tunnel, we discovered that the volume and direction of the air was way too much, and it was blowing the parts all around the oven. The parts managed to work their way through the heat tunnel wind storm and we assembled the first set we ran through plus two more sets using slightly different settings to see what worked best. After a few hours of waiting to make sure everything was set, we did our pull tests. No bueno.

In the pull test, the idea is to pull on the separate parts until they come apart. Ideally, when it breaks, it's the material itself that breaks, which shows that the adhesive bond between materials is stronger than the material itself. When that happens there are no delimitation issues, and that's what we're looking for. Unfortunately, we got consistent clean peeling right along the adhesive, so it was time to find the issue, and fix it.

After some tinkering inside the heat tunnel which led to the creation of something we dubbed the "Tunnel of Love," and some adjustments to the timing of the press, we got a more consistent drying and activating on the adhesives. This led to a cleaner press between the parts, and we got the kind of material tear we were looking for.

EVA tear from our last material bond test. Material tears are good.

It's just another step in the process, but one we've been waiting a long time to get to.

Today we also got our leather skivving machine working properly, and we're able to move forward with the leather uppers. They are almost all cut, and tomorrow we'll start sewing the lining webbing inside the leather straps on all those Josie's and Al's.

Almost all the uppers are done, and we're ready to crank through those bottom units and get the finished product out the door before too much longer. It's been a frustrating series of setbacks and delays, but we're on track again and excited to finally be making the kind of progress we've been expecting to make all along. Plus, it feels good when it works the way it's supposed to.

Thanks for hanging along with us on the ride. We think it'll be worth the wait.

The first 10 pair of the Louie Black/Blue midsoles - pressed, cut, and ready for the next step...
The Next Step: the Vere logo laser etched into the heel of each sandal