Laser Etched Deerskin Moccasin

People ask me what I make – and that can be tough to give a simple answer. This past summer (2013) I worked on a whole lot of different projects… the usual arduino/electronics, satellites, farming, and this one – a pair of moccasins. This project had a long gestation. I initially discovered Teri Edmonds store “If The Shoe Fits” several years ago, and noted that she also offers classes under the “Maui Shoe Academy” name.


Teri’s store is both a retail and repair center, selling and fixing both men and women’s shoes. Her specialty is out-of-norm sizes, with nice slippahs (aka flip flops for mainlanders) in sizes to fit a badly underserved local community (size 13+). She has her own shoe design too – the Hot Bisket.

Teri teaches four basic classes three times a year… Accessories, Sandal-in-a-Day, Handbag and Moccasin. I wear LLBean Camp Moc almost exclusively, so the moccasin class caught my eye. The moccasins Teri has in her shop (and teaches) are calf high boots rather than quick slip-ons, however they look cool and I am always looking to learn new skills, so I decided to take the class.

Teri and I talked a number of times about Makers, shoe making, etc. but it took a few times to get me into her schedule for moccasin class. And then I had to leave town the 2nd weekend of the class (for a workshop on making satellites.) Fortunately Teri was very understanding and helpful, allowing me to come back a couple times to work in her store to finish the boots.

Usually the class makes moccasins from cow hide, however, I got very lucky and hooked up with a local Maui provider of brain-tanned deer skin. We have a LOT of deer here on Maui (and other islands). These Axis Deer (aka Chital) were introduced on Moloka’i in 1867, Lana’i in 1904 and Maui in 1959. They have no natural predators and have been very damaging to the native forests (along with other feral ungulates like wild pigs and goats)… so much so that parts of these islands have been defoliated. There are ongoing efforts to control the populations. The worst of these used aircraft carrying hunters to shoot them from the sky, leaving the carcasses to rot on the ground. The most common are the local and tourist deer hunters, which usually get turned into delicious venison for locals. The idea of normal family folks, gearing their kids up with gadgets like the best rated rangefinder and a camouflaged vest is a healthy, normal way to live with the situation. On top of it being natural and traditional, it teaches the young ones and the parent many lessons that otherwise, would be missed. The best I’ve seen so far is a new program on Moloka’i with a USDA approved/monitored venison production facility. Unfortunately, most of the hides from all of these sources go unused (often simply buried). It takes a fair bit of time/effort to make buckskin, but the results are quite nice. I’ve been in discussion with my provider to see if we can get some classes in brain tanning here – so we can develop this great local resource. (go read up on the Feral Ungulate issues at Maui Deer Culling).

Since the deer are rather small, I needed two hides to make my moccasins. One was natural colored, the other the rich brown that comes from smoking the hides. Teri suggested we use one hide for the back and the other for the front sides. This worked out quite well. The first day of the class we cut out the pieces from the hides and punched holes where they would be sewn. This took a LOT of time… more than the full day of work even. I had to borrow a hole punch and work on mine while on the road the following week.

Moc Class Day 1 a

When I got back to Maui, I upped the design ante on my moc’s by laser engraving designs into them. I used several designs from previous projects. The toes got a tribal face originally created with Rachel Deboer for body painting. The front got a gecko stencil created by David Fields and used for the SourceMaui CORE effigy at Burning Man 2013. On the back side I put the islands of Maui, with the Maui Makers logo on the heel.

Leather Etched

Once I got the parts prepared, the sewing started. Lots of sewing. Very glad we pre-punched the holes, as it would have been very tiring to push that needle through two layers for that many holes. First the front, back and tongue were sewn together, which gave us a good idea of how awesome these would look…

Teri glued the insoles to the soles with her special paste…

I sat out in the back yard and sewed for a good long while. The results, while still not finished were good enough to be worn out for a few events…

The last step was adding the real sole. Teri, being a cobbler, had a good selection and chose some nice Vibram material.


We cut the basic shape, glued it and then Teri used her talents and cool tools to finish the sole. Gotta love and respect a woman who owns and knows how to use tools like these!


The final result was quite spectacular…

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