Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 5 June 2015

A Troublesome Last

Hello everyone! The sun is shining which is a good thing, of course. But not everything is sunny in the Carreducker workshop.

We have a tricky last to deal with, and this is the first time this particular problem has happened to us. It required a serious amount of problem solving which was the fun bit. And a fair amount of stress which wasn't

So this is the problem

This last has a very wide joint and an extremely odd heel which is very wide at the bottom and very narrow at the top - much like a normal last but with very much more exaggerated curves

So, we last over the upper for a fitting and brace it onto an insole. At this point we try to take the last out and, despite our best efforts and all my strength, the last only moves about 5mm out of the shoe. It is stuck fast and it's not going anywhere.
So our problems are one, getting the lasts out now and two, getting them out when the shoes are finished.
Even if we could have gotten them out, our fear was that the last would alter the shape of the top line round the heel by stretching it out of shape and thus causing heel slip.

This customer has intriguing heels with a painful area around the base of the heel. We had to make a hole in the stiffener and pad it with foam to make them comfortable.

Here is what we did to get the lasts out. We took the fitter apart and drew two lines on the lasts in a wedge shape - see below. Notice we didn't do the cone.

Then we cut the sections out - see below. We used a hack saw because it has a narrow blade and removes as little wood as possible. This will become important later.

Next we had to screw the heel and the wedge piece together. This required a trusty set of wood bits to drill the guide holes.
We had to countersink the first screw quite a lot at an angle so that when it was tightened, it didn't cause the two pieces of the last to shear apart.
Through trial and error we worked out that it is important to do the cutting first and the drilling second - long explanation about drill holes lining up and wood missing from cutting it, lots of head scratching and stress!

Next came the cone which we screwed back into its original position - see below

But you can see the problem - there is a 2mm gap between the heel parts and the fore part of the last. This is the 2mm of wood we removed when sawing the last into 3 pieces.
Obviously this is not good as it would mark the lining of the shoes.

So next, we glued a piece of cardboard just the right thickness to the lasts. This filled the gap and we sanded the cardboard to get a smooth join
At this stage, the only issue was the fore part of the last had no fixing to the back part or the cone so it was loose and fell out.
We thought about attaching this with screws, but in the end, we thought that once the insole was on and the upper was lasted on, this would hold it all together with enough strength.
Fortunately, this proved to be the case.
One thing we did do though was to drill another guide hole into the fore part into which we could screw a hook so that we could pull the fore part out at the end of the process.

We prepared the fittng as before, but this time, when it came to remove the last, we followed this method.

We removed the cone as normal

Then we unscrewed the middle wedge piece from the heel piece. Because it is wedge shaped, it slides out very easily.

Then we slid the heel piece forward and out with no difficulty at all.

The last thing was to remove the fore part which we did by screwing in a hook and pulling. Thankfully it came out with no problem at all.

The shoes are now ready for the fitting and and we can confidently move to making the final shoes knowing that we can remove the lasts without stretching the shoes out of shape. Job done!

This is one of the aspects of shoemaking we really enjoy - problem solving. Plus the fact that this wonderful craft can still throw up problems which are new and challenging. I'm making it all sound like a breeze. Believe me it wasn't and it took quite a while and 3 brains to work it out. There was a bit stress involved!
But we got there and the solution, although not the most elegant perhaps, worked a treat

That's all folks. Until next week, happy shoemaking