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The device between the cobbler's legs is a simple wooden clamp. It is similar to what my father used when hand stitching a leather sole onto a shoe 'upper'. As both hands were required to do the stitching, the clamp was needed to hold the shoe in position.
The cobbler in the photo is using the clamp to hold together two ends of a piece of leather, possible in preparation for sewing them together to form a loop.
The clamp works as follows. At the base, the two pieces of wood are joined together. At the top end they are free. When held between the legs, the knees apply pressure bringing the two pieces of wood together, holding the shoe in position.
Whose grandfather was a shoemaker who started a shoe repair business
in Belfast around the outbreak of the Second World War and whose father
took over the running of the business in the early 1940s
until retirement in 1970.