By the end of the 19th
century, most boots and shoes are manufactured by the thousands in factories located in the province's cities. The village shoemaker is able to survive as an independent artisan because he produces sturdy, durable boots and shoes that are much in demand in rural Quebec: the souliers
and bottes de boeuf
. Prices are kept low because the client generally supplies his own leather, prepared from the hide of one of his animals. The shoemaker also purchases good quality leather from itinerant salesmen who work for commercial tanneries and pass through the village several times a year.
The village shoemaker's basic tools are similar to those used by artisans in the 18th
and early 19th
centuries. His bench, at which much of his work is accomplished, consists of a seat with an extension to one side where his knives, awls, hammers, punches and thread are kept ready for use. The awl, a short, pointed metal shaft attached to a wooden handle, is perhaps the shoemaker's most characteristic tool. He uses it to pierce holes in the stiff leather so that he can pass through his thread and stitch pieces together. By the end of the 19th
century, foot-powered sewing machines have made their way into some shoemakers' shops. Since they are generally mounted on a stand or table, the shoemaker works at these machines standing up. The shoemaker may also have special equipment – wooden clamps to hold narrow strips of leather and tools to drive rivets – for making and repairing harnesses.