A multi-disciplinary journey in music, sound, and field recording.

Thrift Store Sounds: Shoe Stretcher

Posted: August 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design
Shoe stretchers are vocal little artifacts.

Shoe stretchers are vocal little artifacts.

I’m always looking for weird things that make noise. Some artists dig in crates for rare vinyl, but I dig for fresh sounds at the thrift store.

If I have one primary skill in life, it’s not being afraid to look or act like an idiot in public. This pays off big time as I go into a thrift store, start handling the merchandise, putting it up to my ear, and then handling an item like I intend to break it. Rinse, repeat. I must be a bundle of fun to watch.

Today’s Thrift Store Sound – the first in an occasional series! – come from the humble shoe stretcher. At the local Thrift Town in San Francisco’s Mission District, there’s a whole box full of them. As soon as I handled one, I looked at its components and realized the possibilities: Multiple springs under tension, a metal joint/ratchet, and several wooden parts, all put together loosely. This curio had a whole language it could speak, if only someone would record it…


[OktavaMod MK012 mic with cardioid capsule into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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3 Comments on “Thrift Store Sounds: Shoe Stretcher”

  1. 1 Michael Maroussas said at 1:35 pm on August 13th, 2009:

    like the spring at the end! stuff like this always comes in handy one day. some bits sound clearer than other bits which sound more muffled – was that just you nearer or further away from the mic?

  2. 2 Nathan said at 9:26 am on August 14th, 2009:

    @Michael: Thanks! The wooden parts really absorbed a lot of sound, so the position of the object to the mic axis had a lot to do with the variation you hear. That had more impact than distance (which was pretty consistent). That final spring at the end, though, was that teensy of a sound! I’d definitely want to go back and re-record specific portions for use in another project to keep ’em cleaner.

  3. 3 Durk said at 3:38 am on July 26th, 2010:

    To bad the audio is offline. I love thrift stores too, great resource for the odd props and (toy)instruments.


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