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How To Make Shoe Lasts


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#1 builderofstuff

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 10:36 PM

I know the topic of making shoe lasts has come up on the forum here a number of times, I know a few of those post have been mine. hahaha But I wanted to pass along some information to the forum that might help those who are interested in making shoe lasts themselves.

For those interested I would like to recommend Walrus Shoes website and the last making info they offer. http://www.walrussho...pages/lasts.htm I received by copy of the book and dvd today in the mail and I wanted to pass along my review I guess you could call it.

My first impression when I visited the site was that the cost seemed a bit steep, however after having gotten the materials today and having gone over them I personally feel that it was money well spent. I've been looking for last making information for some time now and the combination of the book and dvd finally gave me the information I was looking for and laid it out in a format that was easy to understand right from the beginning. The book itself is not very thick, and upon taking it from the packaging I was a bit concerned that a "thin" manual was going to leave me disappointed. I'm glad to say that the very opposite was the case, the manual was very thorough, very well laid out, and not overly complicated. There is no fluff in the book, it's simply cover to cover information that is easy to understand. I went back and forth on whether or not to get the dvd when I ordered the book and I think it was worth the money I spent on it. Again, like the book, it's not a very long video, but like the book it's also not filled with any unnecessary fluff, just all how to actually make a last. After having the information long enough to read through the book and watch the video I feel confident that I could take the foot measurements and make a last that would work.
The book covers how to design the last as well as make it, and the video goes over the how it's made part. You could get by with just the book, but the dvd I thought was really great because I could actually see what was being done. However you won't be able to get just the dvd, all of the information and calculations on how the shape of the last is determined is in the book.

So I mainly wanted to pass along the information to the rest of the forum because I know that I myself spent a lot of time trying to find easy to understand information about how to make a last. I have no affiliation with Walrus Shoes, I simply wanted to pass along the information about my experience in hopes that it might help others on the forum who have an interest in making footwear, and would like to make their own lasts.

I hope this information will be useful to others.

Chris

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#2 KAYAK45

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 10:45 PM

Another great FREE source for lasts is at " www.thehcc.org" the bottom left GUILD LIBRARY,
DOWNLOAD PDF of turn of the century boot making, including the Full Wellington A.K.A. the cowboy boot.
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#3 builderofstuff

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 11:45 PM

And that pdf tells you how to calculate and design the last so that you can make them based off of the foot measurements?

Chris

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#4 builderofstuff

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 09:59 AM

I downloaded the Golding 1 file from thehcc.org and it does indeed have some really good information in there. I think it would make excellent additional material to the Koleff book and dvd, however I still think the book and dvd present an easier to follow method. However that's just my 2 cents and I would never presume to speak for anyone else.

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#5 BIGGUNDOCTOR

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 08:36 PM

Smooth-on.com has casting supplies that I think one could use to make an exact replica of a foot. Why calculate, when you can have an exact replica?
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#6 builderofstuff

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 10:50 PM

I'm probably not the best person to try to explain why using a casting of a foot isn't the best way to go. I know there are some other members here with way more experience that I could hope to have. Have a look here for an explanation of why this isn't the best approach http://customcowboyb...html?1267538877

Chris

Edited by builderofstuff, 14 May 2011 - 12:15 AM.

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#7 BIGGUNDOCTOR

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 10:22 AM

Smooth-on has casting resins that are solid when cured. From what I read in the forum you listed they used a soft silicone resin, which I wouldn't use either. Smooth-on also just acquired a prosthetics company, and is offering their resins now as well as their own. With Smooth-on type molding capabilities you could cast a foot out of any material capable of being poured- even cement. A cement shaped foot would not make a good shoe last, but it would make a lasting foot :rolleyes:



I have a short wide foot with a high instep, so I know that good fitting shoes are a must, as my feet don't fit most normal footwear. I usually have to go one size up to get the width I need, and I can forget most pull on boots due to my instep.
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#8 KAYAK45

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:39 PM

It would seam logical that if one manufactures a ca mold for that matter one ends with that, a may haps perfect replica of a foot.
This somewhat reminds me of the rick question from college which i paraphrase:

If the world produced and sold very high qualities and quantities of 1/4" drill bits. Say a few million. From this information how many people wanted 1/4" drill bits.

NONE: They all wanted 1/4" holes.

The purpose is not to make a perfect last of a foot, but rather a perfect covering needed for the foot!

By its very making of the last "allowances" are built by the craftsman who measures the foot, and will/can result in a last several sizes larger than the foot in places, to allow for little things, like putting them on and removing them. An exact replica would therefor fail.

Another point is of the last being used for leather, in our discussions, is the very making of the footwear distorts, by necessity, the product we are using. Wetting, stretching, sewing, molding, all change the leather. (OK skiveing hammering polishing oiling ETC)

Upon completion of the "perfect" footwear, from the "perfect duplication of the foot", the leather will dry, shrink, maybe expand as used,change shape and the resultant, intended perfection is wasted.

What I think, I would want from a last, is a tool to make a perfect boot. Not a perfect replication of the foot.





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#9 bootsmt

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 05:29 PM

If just making a replica of the feet was what is required to make shoes and boots then why would there be last? It doesn't work. Take a shoe or boot making class and you will find out why. I am not trying to be smart ass about this but You will not understand untill you try to make some footwear.
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Smooth-on.com has casting supplies that I think one could use to make an exact replica of a foot. Why calculate, when you can have an exact replica?



#10 BIGGUNDOCTOR

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 09:04 PM

Thanks for your input Frank, I think I do understand some, as I have a diffiucult foot to fit. Short ,wide, and with a high arch. I always have to try shoes on before buying unlike some who can order off a rack without doing so. I cannot wear most pull on boots due to my instep, and usually end up buying 1/2-1 size larger to get the width needed.

Make the replica, build up where needed for allowances, and make the footwear. Being a machinist I know about allowances for fitting parts, and that a perfect fit isn't always wanted. I also know that in some cases things are done in a certain way, just because that is how it has always been done, good or bad. New technologies, and materials have made some processes far simpler than how they used to be done. A last is still needed because you cannot hammer nails into someone's foot. It is just a form to configure the material to.

I see that you are in Polson, and I have a friend who grew up there. Heard on the news coming home that there is some flooding in MT. Hope it isn't affecting you any.


A side not on lasts. Inexpensive shoes came about as a side development of the firearms industry. Before stock making duplicators were adapted to make lasts, they were made by hand, and were relatively expensive. The stock duplicators allowed lasts to be mass produced which brought the cost of shoes down.

Edited by BIGGUNDOCTOR, 31 May 2011 - 09:09 PM.

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#11 amuckart

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 03:42 AM

Smooth-on has casting resins that are solid when cured. From what I read in the forum you listed they used a soft silicone resin, which I wouldn't use either. Smooth-on also just acquired a prosthetics company, and is offering their resins now as well as their own. With Smooth-on type molding capabilities you could cast a foot out of any material capable of being poured- even cement. A cement shaped foot would not make a good shoe last, but it would make a lasting foot :rolleyes:

Casts are great for people like orthoticists and prosthetic engineers who are making a very specific formed surface to fit a part of the body, but not so great for lasts, because lasts aren't a model of a foot, they're are a model of the inside of a shoe which is quite different and very not-foot shaped in a lot of ways. You can take a foot cast and turn it into a passable last but it's not the best way to go.

Feet are complicated mechanical structures that move and change shape and volume as you walk on them a shoe needs to accommodate that movement, either by stretching or by having space in the right places inside the shoe to let the foot move while conforming tightly to the parts of the foot that move less and that the shoe hangs from. If you made a shoe over a cast of the foot it wouldn't fit and would be quite painful to walk in unless it were made of lycra. It'd be like building a machine with absolute zero tolerances between moving parts. It wouldn't move.

Pretty much everyone I've talked to, and every expert shoemaker I've read treats foot measuring and last making as an art more than a science. Golding and Koleff quantified the art and came up with general rules but there are subtleties in the exact tools a given maker uses and the exact way they use them that have flow on effects in how they make the patterns, shape the last and build the footwear. You can apply computer modelling and CNC technologies to making lasts but without someone driving those technologies who has a really profound understanding of the way a last relates to a foot the result won't be much good - as evidenced by the vast bulk of factory-made footwear today which in its attempt to fit everyone generally fits no-one, or "fits" by being so padded as to be useless (and bad for your knees, to boot).

Most cordwainers don't make lasts from scratch - last making is a separate highly skilled trade in itself - but they do modify stock lasts to precisely fit given feet and the good ones at least will have a deep understanding of how a last shape relates to a given foot shape. Poor buggers like me who are learning to make 16th century shoes have to figure out how to make lasts themselves because there's no stock ones to modify Posted Image
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#12 builderofstuff

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 03:47 AM

Wow never thought this thread would get this much response. hahaha

Chris

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#13 Art

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 11:11 AM

Hi Chris,

It gets so much response because lasts are not only near and dear to the shoe/bootmaker, but because good ones are so hard to find. Most lasts today, except Jones and Vining Custom Division (and precious few more) are made for production machines and the ease of making production shoes. The custom shoe/bootmaker does not want to make production shoes, there is just no way to justify the price for a pair of production kicks. Custom makers have to deal with hammer toes, fronts of feet bent at odd angles, heels that don't fit length (too narrow or wide), heel to ball doesn't fit length or width or both, duck feet (short and wide), EEEEEEEE (can I say more), flying buttresses for arches, you name it. Somehow a shoe has to be made that has some vague appearance of style while being comfortable. This is why this topic gets so much response.

The other reason is that almost all shoemakers are pocket philosophers, and can go on and on about anything, especially lasts and fitting.

Art

Wow never thought this thread would get this much response. hahaha

Chris


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#14 BIGGUNDOCTOR

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 08:56 PM

Amuckart, I definitely know about feet swelling. I always tried boots on in the evening hours after my feet had swelled. My wristwatch had a velcro strap that I would loosen throughout the day as my wrists grew.


Art, by your response I would think in those tough cases a casting would be a good starting point. Now I am not talking about a casing out of something soft like silicone, but a much harder material such as a high Durometer urethane, or some other stiff material that extra material could be added to to make up for the sock , swelling, etc allowances. As I was driving from work today-I have a 103 mile drive home, so I have time to think, I was thinking that a casting over a release agent soaked sock would be even better to start with. Hmmmm, I will have to do some research into this whole last making business to see what goes into making a traditional last. Don't mind me, as I have always been one to ask WHY? Like in this case, why does it have to be done that way? No intentional pot stirring, or trolling being done, just some natural inquisitiveness.
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#15 Art

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Posted 02 June 2011 - 08:53 AM

One would think logically that a mold or impression of the foot would be a good thing to make a shoe, I would agree on the shoe, however it would make a terrible last. The exact replica of the foot would make a shoe that wouldn't feel good or look good. The last has to provide some semblance of style while making a comfortable shoe. The thing a cast of the feet gives you is a model of the foot you can go back to for additional measurements or even to just rethink things. Almost as good as a cast is a really good set of measurements and an imprint or trace drawing of the foot AND a load bearing impression of the foot. With all of the information, the customer can select a style and the shoe/bootmaker can bubble, buildup, or grind down a pair of lasts to provide a good comfortable fit AND a little style.

Art

Amuckart, I definitely know about feet swelling. I always tried boots on in the evening hours after my feet had swelled. My wristwatch had a velcro strap that I would loosen throughout the day as my wrists grew.


Art, by your response I would think in those tough cases a casting would be a good starting point. Now I am not talking about a casing out of something soft like silicone, but a much harder material such as a high Durometer urethane, or some other stiff material that extra material could be added to to make up for the sock , swelling, etc allowances. As I was driving from work today-I have a 103 mile drive home, so I have time to think, I was thinking that a casting over a release agent soaked sock would be even better to start with. Hmmmm, I will have to do some research into this whole last making business to see what goes into making a traditional last. Don't mind me, as I have always been one to ask WHY? Like in this case, why does it have to be done that way? No intentional pot stirring, or trolling being done, just some natural inquisitiveness.


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