Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 16 January 2015

Problem Solving - A Challenging Last

Another week in Shoesville, UK and we are back into the work groove after our winter break.

This week saw another problem for the master shoemakers at Carréducker to solve. In fact, solving problems is one of the best (and occasionally expensive) parts of what we do as bespoke shoemakers.

When you are making bespoke shoes, one thing you have to learn to deal with are the feet that your customers have.

You take their measures and you make their lasts. From here you make the designated uppers and get them to a stage where the customer can try them on. Clever shoemaker then adjusts the lasts and repeats the process until the fit is correct.

This is usually a fairly straightforward process which can present certain challenges, but, most of the time, nothing too out of the ordinary.

Occasionally, the customer's feet present a more unusual set of issues. And such is the case of the next pair of lasts.

As we did the fittings, two major things happened. The instep got more and more raised - the facings just wouldn't close! And there was an excess of leather across the joint and fore part of the shoes. This means that we had to rasp a lot of wood from the lasts an they got much thinner, especially on the outsides. These are two fairly common issues, but in this case they were pretty extreme.

This meant that there is an exaggerated angle between the instep and the fore part on both lasts

Top View

Right Last Inside Profile

Right Last Outside Profile

Left Last Inside Profile

This extreme angle meant that it was nearly impossible to get the uppers down and tight across the fore part and on the outside of the facings down towards the feather edge.
This can be a problem with any wholecut, but expert lasting and a few tricks can usually sort it. If the style had been different, an Oxford for example, then we would have been able to put some extra spring on the pattern to help with this. But with a wholecut, this cannot be done.

So what is the solution? We decided to block (crimp) the upper before we closed it, as you would with many boot styles where this very thing is an issue.

This is what they looked like after closing. Not very promising looking  things. Not very pretty either. A bit lumpy!

But then we lasted them and left the uppers on the lasts for 24 hours. This is what they look like after this stage.

So they have taken the shape of the lasts and now should be much easier to last (with the help of some leather stretch and maybe a bit of soaking first in water).

We will be making these tomorrow, so the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Fingers crossed

And that's it for this week. Until next time, Happy shoemaking!