Meet the Machines: An OESH Field Guide

I may be seriously overestimating OESHers’ interest in our shoemaking machinery, but that has not deterred Zoe (Bob and Casey’s youngest daughter) and me from walking around the factory naming all of the machines – or broadcasting our extraordinary creativity here on the OESH blog. So here, meet our newly-personified friends:


This is Jerry, the strap cutter. Zoe wanted to name him Gary, but the real Gary thought that was weird and told us to call him something else. Luckily, “Jerry” rhymes with “Gary” so it’s close enough. Jerry heats up the metal blade you can see to his upper-left to cut the nylon straps for our athletic sandals. And burns our fingers sometimes, but only when provoked.


This is Joey, the brander. In response to us naming Jerry Jerry, Gary said we should call this one Joey (which rhymes with “Zoe”). Joey brands the OESH logo into the soles of the shoes so that everyone knows we made them.


This is Theodore, the manual riveter. He just finished a gig riveting buckles onto the suede sandals, and now he’s fastening the straps together on our athletic sandals to turn them from quasi-shoes into shoes-shoes.


This is Gus, the vise. He holds stuff in place, as expected from such a vise. That’s Rollie sitting on the table next to him, the little angle grinder who cuts through metal like nobody’s business.


This is Laurie, the bench grinder. Laurie can sharpen chisels, grind edges, and do whatever else it is that bench grinders are supposed to do.


This is Henry, the cutoff saw. He cuts things off of other things.


This is Charlotte, the sandblaster. Casey said we haven’t used her in a while, but theoretically she’s perfect for smoothing down metal parts (after milling them on Leonard?) so we’ll keep her around for a while.


This is Mickey, the filament winder. Mickey starts off the cantilever-making process by winding carbon fiber filaments around different-sized mandrels. Not mandrills, like Rafiki – mandrels, metal pieces shaped sort of like airplane wings, which hold the carbon fiber in place through the different stages of production.


These are the press irons, the Heathers. True, in the movie Heathers there are only three characters named Heather. However, we have four of these machines and calling them all “Heather” is easier than having three Heathers and one Veronica (do forgive our cinematic inaccuracy). Anyways, the Heathers cure the cantilevers once they’re wound around the mandrels and get rid of the excess resin before Paco finishes the job.

This is Paco, the oven. In his former life Paco baked pizzas, but now he uses his fiery machismo to heat the carbon-fiber cantilevers to a bulletproof crisp. Hoo-ah.


This is Ophelia, the waterjet saw. Her original purpose was to cut the finished cantilevers off the mandrels, which got us super famous a little while back, but Ophelia has many other precision-cutting functions to suit our cobbling needs. Using just water she can cut through leather, rubber, and softer materials (for example, when we had her trim the tips off of both the athletic and suede sandals), or there’s a setting which adds ground garnet to the stream in order to cut metal – like the sign outside of OESH headquarters.

injection molding machine
This is Crispin, the injection molding machine. Named by OESHer Christine Oakes (after St. Crispin, the patron saint of shoemakers) in a comment on a Facebook photo of our new machine, Crispin just got here last week, so he hasn’t injected plastic into any molds yet. We have big plans for him, though, including molding the rubber soles directly onto the shoes, cantilevers included. This technique is one more step we’ll be able to complete entirely in-house, without relying on overseas labor, and, as far as we know, unprecedented in the cobbling industry.


This is Leonard, the milling machine. Since Leonard arrived at OESH a few months ago, he has been working on molds for Crispin to fill with plastic and other goodies. In his fancy corner office, of course. Technically, according to our intern Adam, Leonard and Ophelia could build the parts to an entire car within the confines of the factory. We haven’t tried it yet, though.


This is Malia, the computer connected to Leonard. Malia dictates Leonard’s every mold-milling move in secret robot language (specifically, we use the programs Rhinoceros 3D, Machine Pro, and MasterXU, if you’re into that kind of thing) based on what the other computer, Gretel, sends her via thumb drive from the other room.

That’s Gretel, the computer with design software on it. From the front desk, Gretel transcribes the designs we give her into programming code and sends them to Malia, who will tell Leonard what to do to make them happen in real life. In a literal sense these three are just inanimate objects, machines shooting off electrical impulses to one another in a completely non-romantic manner, but I think it’s more exciting to think about their situation as a gender-flipped Cyrano de Bergerac love triangle-type thing, with Gretel telling Malia exactly which sweet nothings to whisper into Leonard’s figurative ear. Even though this is Charlottesville, not Paris, and nobody’s going to battle with the Spanish anytime soon. Hopefully.

So those are the machines.  Love them, respect them, for they are the automated cordwainers that make your OESH shoes – the very same shoes you rave to us about in your customer testimonials, the very same shoes that (allegedly) ease your backs and plantar fascia and knees – these machines work relentlessly, unflinchingly, day in and day out for your feet’s sake and your feet’s alone. They are the mechanized proletariat. And now they have names.

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