builderofstuff

How To Make Shoe Lasts

25 posts in this topic

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.walrusshoe.com/books_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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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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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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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.

Chris

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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?

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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://customcowboybootsandshoesforum.com/discus/messages/20/13263.html?1267538877

Chris

Edited by builderofstuff

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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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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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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.

Frank English

Frank English custom Boots

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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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

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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 bawling.gif

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

Chris

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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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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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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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I would think that a cast made from a standing foot would allow you to use clay or some other pliable material to form a model of the last. You would have accurate arches and spread at the ball, and you could use the clay to set the form and the toe gap. recast your model and you would have an accurate last in whatever style you chose. Just my 2 cents anyway

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OK Wiztoo. I'll bite for the sake of conversation ( or maybe conservation).

If you made the cast of the static foot with the heel raised, as desired, AND then allowed a spring lift to the toe so as not to stub it with every step, and allowed extra, in certain places for side and forward slip for flex while in motion..... Then a cast would be equal to a last.

Why reinvent a wheel that has taken centuries to get to the modern last,

That is what we area after. The shape of a shoe or boot. NOT THE SHAPE OF THE STATIC FOOT.

Sorry but I want to move in my boot.

Just a thought

Kevin

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Errr wasn't trying to incite anything man just thought about it and figured you could make it work. Making a last is a completely different skill set from making the boot or shoe. But if you have an understanding of where things need to be, by using a cast and adding to it for form and fit I would think someone who was not specificaly a last maker could make a decent one specific to the wearer. If nothing else this experiment on ones self would teach you alot about lasts... and it would be fun

Personally I love to reinvent the wheel. Making something by following a set of instructions or a formula only allows you to follow in someone elses foot steps. Gathering general information and doing it yourself probalbly wont yield nearly as good results.... but ... you can honestly say you made it, and if you enjoyed it you have learned and can improve it...and its fun

Hobbies should be fun.... if they are not .... find another hobby

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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?

I was just looking at their site. What compound is best to replicate lasts? And can you nail into it like you do a last?

Cheers,

JesseLee

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this is wonderful!

thank you!!

:)

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I know that this is an older thread butI'd like to add some information for those like me that came late to the discussion. Leather working for me is a hobby, my job involves observing body biomechanics and treating dysfunctions.

The reason why you can't make a perfect replica of the foot using any medium, is because it's a dynamic structure that changes shape constantly. The three arches of the foot (medial longitudinal, lateral longitudinal and transverse) all change shape. There is a difference between weight bearing and weightlessness as well as a change during every part of normal gait. Additionally the metatarsals and toes splay outwards during portions of gait and come back in during others.

I can understand the frustrations getting a properly fitted shoe, but casting the foot in any one static position would cause way more problems than it fixes. If you want to customize a last for better fit, then take all of the standard measurements in multiple positions. First seated with the feet flat on the floor but unweighted, then standing, then in the toe off position, midstance position and finally heel strike position and look at the variance. Some measurements will change almost insignificantly others more so. For those that have insignificant variance I'd recommend using the standing measurement as the feet are very pliable when not weight bearing.

The two measurements from Golding that are likely to change the most are Joint and Instep. The joint measurement takes place at the heads of the metatarsals which splay outward during toe off and the instep follows the transverse arch which widens from heel strike to midstance then narrows from midstance to toe off. For those two, I'd go for the mean of all combined measurements as the smallest measurements take place while no weight is on the foot and the leather will have a natural give to it that should accommodate the largest measurements.

Finally the shape of the toe box itself needs to blend the proportions of the style and the needs of the toes. Too many shoes have an unnaturally narrow toe box which jams the toes together and prevents splaying at all. If you want a narrow pointed toe, taper in a bit slower and extend the full length a bit further than what traditional styling would suggest and bond additional material between the lining and outer leather. The outside of the shoe will be about one size larger than your normal shoe size but the inside will remain the correct length and give the toes the additional space they need. It'd be like ordering one size larger and then stuffing the toes with paper, just a more permanent and much better method.

As for building better arch support,you'd be better off leaving that to the orthotics makers as youaren't measuring the real arches so much as trying to force them to where they should be which is a whole other can of worms. The three arches are made up of 12 bones, many ligaments and controlled by the actions of 15 different muscles. You have to craft a theoretically perfect arch that matches the anatomical structure of the one you are working with.

The whole reason I'm getting into shoe/boot making is because I spend all my day standing/walking and I have to wear dress shoes. I also have a difficult foot to fit, but more importantly, a lot of shoes just seem to ignore foot biomechanics entirely.

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Hi,

I just came across this thread. I make shoe lasts at Sixsmith in Lincoln, MA. We make custom lasts out of oak for some local designers, and have developed a fabrication method to make inexpensive lasts to incorporate into the shoe design system we'll be releasing this summer.

I agree that the book available from Walrus Shoes is very good. It especially does a good job of outlining key measurements needed to make a shoe last.

Basically, a last is not a copy of a foot, it is instead the form of the inside of the shoe that the foot would go into. When I measure a foot I find it more helpful to measure the client's foot while it is flat on the ground because it helps me identify how high an arch she or he has, as opposed to measuring the foot at the intended heel height and not getting as clear a picture of the shape of the arch height.

Because we have a complete fabrication lab, I'm able to make a CAD drawing of the last and then output it on our cnc machines. If you have access to a fab lab in your area, you should take a look at Delcam's e-shoe maker product. It is free and it allows you to customize a last model they provide, as well as heels and other patterns. You are only charged when you convert the file to an .stl format. Of course the .stl file can then be sliced and output on a cnc router, or milled on a cnc milling machine, or possible sliced and thin stock cut on a laser cutter and laminated together. I think Delcam also gives educational discounts.

One of the reasons people don't use most resins to cast shoe lasts is that the last needs to withstand some hammering, and also needs to be able to accept a nail. Many resins are too brittle for this and will either not accept a nail or will crack after a few uses. The other issue is that you really want to cast the inside of the shoe-not the foot. But resins poured inside a shoe are bound to stretch it and make the casting useless.

When we've been really stuck and have needed to quickly understand the relationship between the inside of an existing shoe and a platform or orthotic device, we've done the following:

Use a heavy pourable flexible foam like the #25 Smooth-On foam available from Reynolds. (Don't use rigid foam because it can crack). Pour it into the shoe you would like to copy. (Warning! This will ruin the shoe as you will need to cut and peel the shoe off the flexible foam once it sets.) Next, identify any area where the casting seems to have stretched, and sand it down to the correct shape. Then use Bondo to cover the foam and reinforce the foam. Sand it smooth. Wear a respirator.

This foam/bondo last will accept a nail and can be hammered and easily modified. It won't last forever, but will get you through a couple of shoes and prove your measurements. Since the foam has some flex, it has some self-healing properties with nails. It is also helpful in providing a starting point for modifications.

In addition to making our own shoe lasts, we also make custom insole boards for high heels using leather and a special technique for embedding a fiberglass shank. It's very popular with our students because leather provides an better foundation for hand-lasting a shoe.

Just my 2 cents,

Meredith

Sixsmith & Co.

www.6smith.com

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I have some comments to make about creating your own last out of a foot casting. First, I wouldn't recommend casting your foot in a full weight bearing position. It produces a sloppy shoe. I have two sets of lasts from that sort of casting and I've modified them a lot to try and solve the sloppiness. It is much easier to make a different sort of casting to produce a better fitting shoe. The casting information for the full weight method is on this page -> http://norisstuff.co...waining/page/2/

After a bunch of trial and error, I've figured out a better way to make a casting for a last. I used a plaster bandage to wrap the ankle and the foot but not the toes, covered it with a plastic bag and then wrapped it with elastic wrap to hold it tightly to my foot. I was very careful to keep my ankle and foot correctly aligned with my leg and my ankle at 90°. I pressing only the forefoot into the floor with only a small part of my total weight until the plaster cured to leather hard. The more heel you need on your shoe (my goal is NO heel for a healthier foot and ankle), the more you should lift the heel off the ground when wrapping and curing. Full details with pictures are here -> http://norisstuff.co...ry/cordwaining/

You will need a mold release. Olive oil works but doesn't truly seal the plaster which lets it suck water out of the plaster you'll use for the casting. Glycerol with alcohol works better. You'll need to use two coats letting it dry completely between coats.

When the casting has set, peel off the original plaster wrap and set the casting aside to cure. When it's completely cured, use modeling clay to fill in the toe area for your shoe. If the casting isn't tall enough, fill in the top. You'll need to mold this newly shaped last. That's a whole other exercise.

post-34168-020490200 1345472186_thumb.jp

Edited by ElfNori

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Good information about "weighted casting". (One thing to consider is the amount of stretching of leather that is going on when making a boot or shoe on a last - also different people like their boots/shoes to fit tighter or looser than others; I prefer the a very loose fit and leave all laces shoes/boots very loose and knotted permanently for a quick slip-on - but I guess that's the "ol hippie" in me coming out again!) The shape of that casting looks quite a bit like some of the medieval lasts (except for the rounded toe).

I have some comments to make about creating your own last out of a foot casting. First, I wouldn't recommend casting your foot in a full weight bearing position. It produces a sloppy shoe. I have two sets of lasts from that sort of casting and I've modified them a lot to try and solve the sloppiness. It is much easier to make a different sort of casting to produce a better fitting shoe. The casting information for the full weight method is on this page -> http://norisstuff.co...waining/page/2/

After a bunch of trial and error, I've figured out a better way to make a casting for a last. I used a plaster bandage to wrap the ankle and the foot but not the toes, covered it with a plastic bag and then wrapped it with elastic wrap to hold it tightly to my foot. I was very careful to keep my ankle and foot correctly aligned with my leg and my ankle at 90°. I pressing only the forefoot into the floor with only a small part of my total weight until the plaster cured to leather hard. The more heel you need on your shoe (my goal is NO heel for a healthier foot and ankle), the more you should lift the heel off the ground when wrapping and curing. Full details with pictures are here -> http://norisstuff.co...ry/cordwaining/

You will need a mold release. Olive oil works but doesn't truly seal the plaster which lets it suck water out of the plaster you'll use for the casting. Glycerol with alcohol works better. You'll need to use two coats letting it dry completely between coats.

When the casting has set, peel off the original plaster wrap and set the casting aside to cure. When it's completely cured, use modeling clay to fill in the toe area for your shoe. If the casting isn't tall enough, fill in the top. You'll need to mold this newly shaped last. That's a whole other exercise.

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My shoes are veg tanned kangaroo lined with chrome tanner bison outer. The full length counter is cow. They're water proof, which is lovely. My arch is too sensitive for grommet lacing so this pair has speed lacer hooks. The next pair will be a bit different.

post-34168-037407400 1346368494_thumb.jp

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