How to make shoemaker’s waxed ends

 We managed to produce our first movie to explain something impossible to do in words

MOVIE waxed end


It is well known that ancient shoemakers stitched with ‘waxed ends’, consisting of waxed thread and hog bristles. It was even known in Roman times and probably earlier. A satirical text from the 4th century, the testamentum porcelli, tells us about a piglet that bequeathed his bristles to the the shoemakers : “Donabo sutoribus saetas”.


How to fix the bristles on a thread is a millennium old tradition, a heritage that was handed down through countless generations of artisans until modern technology proposed new methods  rendering hand sewing obsolete. We almost lost this precious piece of professional know-how.


Our repeated attempts to do it right failed although we had written and illustrated descriptions from earlier times about how this particular operation was supposed to be done. It is only after an old shoemaker showed us the trick that we finally where able to do it right. Some things are better understood through demonstration than from books, much as it is easier to learn knitting when grandmother sits next to us, shows, explains and corrects.

This post has 2 Comments

  1. Luke on 09/05/2014 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you so much for this! Like your experience, I have tried in the past to made waxed ends but it has always ended in failure. I will try again with your video and see if I can make it work.

  2. Anonymous on 08/12/2018 at 3:00 pm

    Hello ! meating you, time to time in exibition… I have seen in Confluence museum, Lyon, a beautifull exibition about shoes, comming out of Roman’ museum.
    That gave me idea to make my last culturel window. I met you in archeologie’s open door. Vidy. I picture you shoes and entend to illustrate my window. But I would like to came to see your museum. What are the open hours, please ?

    J’aurais très bien pu écrire en fran4ais. Un bon exercice.
    J’irais aussi voir le musée Bally.
    Salutations cordiales.
    Béatrice Rouge.

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