Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Climbing Shoes - A story on Resoling

Back at the beginning of 2014 I started this blog with a DIY clipstick, it seems a coincidence (or perhaps a symptom of creative ideas to fill the long winter nights) that I should be posting another do-it-yourself a year on.

It all started in Chullilla, where as well as sampling some awesome climbing Skelhon and I also made quick work getting to know the locals. In particular, we met a super cool dude called Juan Carlos, Columbian, living in Spain a house hidden in a barn, living on a shoe string, and 100% loving climbing. Cutting a long story short, we drank some beer, he told me he could re-sole shoes 20euros, which is a darn sight cheaper than the UK, I gave him a pair (in that trusting way climbers do), and 2 days later he came back with them looking no less than awesome.

Inspiration from Chullilla!
They've lasted well, and it got me thinking. This guy's not got any special tools, surely I could do this myself?

After some fairly extensive research I found two things... basically nobody in the UK does DIY resoling, and the reason I believe is that it's pretty tricky to know where to find rubber.

However, piecing together some of the info Juan gave me, plus what I could find on the net, I came across www.extremtextil.de, which sells sheets of Vibram Xs Grip rubber, as found on La Sportiva. I did try and contact Vibram directly B2B, but my order of a single sheet wasn't enough to even warrant a reply.

Vibram Xs Grip, sold in sheets - as per La Sportiva shoes
Anyway, Extremtextil came good, and for 65eu plus 15eu delivery my 32cm x 46cm x 5mm rubber sheet was Germany to my doorstep within a week. This is enough for about 8 pairs I reckon.

Keeping on the German theme, I found Klebfast glue (£5 ebay) has a good rep for being super sticky. It's also super stinky.

Getting high on Klebfast
Finally, these two videos were helpful. Resoling your shoes the lazy way, which is a crappy but passable job using nothing more than a knife, glue, and cling film, and a much better job 'Art of Resoling', done by a pro cobbler.

I then set about using my own tools, and came up with the following instructions:
  • Cut out rough rubber shape from sheet
  • Work rubber (break out stiffness)
  • With knife, cut off main portion of rubber, level with shoe
  • With dremmel, sand of excess undercut, leave 2mm rind
  • Taper back edge, leave small ~ 1mm step
  • Brush off dust
  • Set up clamping arrangement, no glue
  • Put glue on each surface, totally cover
  • Warm with fan heater and wait at least 10mins
  • Clamp and leave to dry for 24 hours
  • Sand and finish

It sounds simple, and to be honest, it is. The trick however is an eye for detail, it's easy to do a bad job.

Here's some photos:

Cut and sand off original rubber - careful not to sand through the shoe!
Glue both sides and wait until firm
Set up clamping arrangement

Vive' L'Opinel!!
Getting the profile right is a judgement call
Taking shape, just needs final sanding and finishing

Overall I'm really pleased with the result. I've learned some lessons for next time including wearing goggles (rubber in eye hurts!), glue timings, and how best to clamp it. The shoe seems to climb very well, and the Xs Grip is a really good compound. I reckon it will cost me £12 per pair, and I reckon 3 hours work.

The result is very good, feels solid and Xs Grip is sticky
Putting the shoes to use!

I must say at this point, that Jen did an extremely good job in me obessively talking her through my approach to this, both before, during, and after the process. She gets a pair for free!

Verdict - Highly recommended!


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  3. Do you have any advice on clamping? I can't seem to get the toe on my to stay.