Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 21 June 2013

Boot Lasts Vs Shoe Lasts With Fittings

Once more we welcome you all to our humble little blog. I personally have had a very short week having had a long weekend in Barcelona where, amongst other peasures, I had a beer with Norman Vilalta, fellow bespoke shoemaker. It's always a pleasure to see other makers and see how they work. He has a very nice shop in a swanky part of town and I like his passion for innovating, experimenting and pushing the trade forward.

Yesterday saw an Australian shoemaker come to us to do a master class of four days. She wants to learn hand welting techniques, so, starting with a blocked insole, a pair of uppers and a pair of lasts she is preparing the insole; skiving the stiffeners; hand lasting; hand welting; and hopefully the soles.

Our master classes are aimed at shoemakers with some experience and are completely tailored to the student's needs. We enjoy them and we hope that the students do too.

It's nice to have a 1 to 1 class with someone and makes a nice change from the intensity of the group classes.

We have been asked every now and then about the differences between shoe and boot lasts. We sometimes make bespoke lasts for students to use in class and they ask this question on occasion.

It is possible to have a specific boot last which has its own specifications, a higher instep and ankle area like the one below.

It helps when making boots, but is not much good for making shoes because the profile along the quarters is different. It is especially unsuitable for slip on shoes.

So what we suggest is that they have a shoe last and that if they want to make a pair of boots, they put some fittings on the shoe last. The most important place is on the throat of the boot above the instep. This is particularly essential because when you are putting on boots (specially those with no fastenings, laces, buckles etc) you need to be able to get your foot into the bed of the boot, but they must be snug enough to hold the foot. This is why this fitting is so important.

The best way to do it is to soak a thin piece of insole shoulder or heel lift and cut it like the image above. You also need to skive it flat where it meets the instep of the last.

Use small tacks to attach it to the last and shape it . Then let it dry and it goes surprisingly hard and rigid creating the necessary shape for the boots.

Depending on the lasts, make sure the fitting doesn't cover the split where the two parts of the last meet. Or if it is a sprung last, doesn't stop the last from breaking. Otherwise you won't be able to get the lasts out when the boots are finished.

So here are the two alternatives side by side, a boot last on the left and a shoe last with a fitting on the right.

The one thing you get with a boot last is the shaping round the ankle. A shoe last doesn't have this, but you can make a similar fitting as the throat on the heel, but we have never found this to be necessary with our customers. As long as you measure the ankles well and the upper pattern is good, you should be fine with just the fittng at the front.

The other thing about fittings is that you can adjust their size according to the type of boot you are making. The ones we made on these lasts were a low bootee, so the fittings are low.

And that is it for this week. We hope you found it interesting and look forward to hearing any comments you may have. Our knowledge is by no means exhaustive and we welcome any additions from our readers around the world.

Until next week, happy shoemaking.