Shoe Making: The Last Comes First

One of the biggest challenges of shoe making is that a single last can only create a single shape. This was one of those times where I wanted a chisel toe but did not have the right last on hand.

First step is to add some scrap 5mm soling leather on on toe. After skiving the top edge and wetting it to help the hard leather conform to the last, I nailed it in place temporarily while waiting for the leather and glue to set in place.

After drying, I shaped the toe using a combination of knife and rasp to get the desired toe profile. I was looking to get a sleek chiseled look so I lowered the toe height considerably while straightening out the side edges. Leather is not as hard as wood or plastic, so some leather hardener goes a long way when modifying lasts this way.

Experienced makers have a good eye for lines and can spot any imperfections immediately. I try to get my lines smooth and clean by looking at the last from multiple angles, a small trick is to hold it against the light and check if there's any breaks in the reflection.

It is not uncommon for bespoke shoemakers to only make one side of the last and then get it copied as a pair before finishing up. If I had access to a last maker locally, I'd probably do the same to save some time when I get busy.

Adjusting the toe shape took about 6 hours, excluding the drying and waiting times. Quite pleased with how these are turning out so far. Stay tuned for updates to this pair.

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