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Piano Wire helps to make the finest shoes

14 August 2006

Wire supplied by William Hughes has been put to some unusual uses but none more-so than the .006” diameter steel Piano Wire supplied to Wax Twin Products of New Malden, Surrey. William Hughes is one of the UK’s largest stockists of specialist wire. Its range includes fine wire from 0.1mm diameter, various grades of music wire, and spring wire in many different materials up to 9mm in spring steel and 11mm in mild steel.

Piano wire is usually supplied to piano tuners, but in this instance, the very fine wire with a lower than average tensile strength of 134 TT, is ideal for the manufacture and repair of high quality hand made shoes. The piano wire is used to form a needle which is used to pull a cord through to sew the welt of the shoe to the upper. This combination of needle and waxed cord is called a Wax Twin Thread.

New shoes from world renowned shoe maker Church’s often incorporate such thread and, in the past, Wax Twin Products have held exclusive contracts for the repair of British Army jackboots and London Fire Brigade’s mess shoes utilising wax twin thread.

The needle or ‘Bristle’ is made by spinning six pieces of piano wire together. The wire starts out around 2 metres in length but during the spinning process, as it is inextricably bound onto between four and eight strands of waxed hemp cord, its length is reduced to around 15cm. Other products that use wax twin thread during their manufacture include the Northumberland Pipe, a similar instrument to the Scottish Bagpipe. Here the thread is used to attach the bellows to the wooden back. The need for a fine wire solution here is paramount as too large a hole will allow the air to escape from the bellows.

Wax Twin Products is run from Pengilly’s Shoe Repair Shop, the oldest shop in New Malden High Street where the family tradition of ‘cobbling’ continues today. The Pengilly family has been a customer of William Hughes for as long as anyone can remember with wax twin thread supplied to traditional shoe repairers throughout the UK as well as exports to the USA and Canada.

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