Making the Shoe, Part 2

(To last or not to last)

Ok, before I start this, I will reiterate a basic point.  While it is more efficient to make a turned shoe on a last, it isn't necessary.  Perfectly good shoes can be made without one.  I will be describing both proceedures below.  If you want to read more about the whole debate on Lasts, take a look here. make34.jpg (11064 bytes)
make2.jpg (6553 bytes) If you are going to last the shoe, this is the point you will want to do so.  The proceedure for lasting is very simple, and begins with soaking the upper in water for some time between half an hour and 24 hours.  Opinions differ.   Personally, I prefer to soak the leather for not more  than about half an hour.
make3.jpg (8948 bytes) make4.jpg (10108 bytes) make5.jpg (8030 bytes)
The sole is "wetted" and attached to the sole with tacks (in this case map tacks, so you can clearly see what I'm doing).  The tacks around the edges are holding the welt (or rand) in place while it all dries.  The three tacks at the toe, waist and heel are traditional.
The soaked upper is then placed on the upper, inside out, and pulled tight.  I begin at the back, tighten the sides, and then tack the toe, and then start pulling the sides tight, first one side, then the other, working my way back towards the middle.  If I have done this right, it will come out without wrinkling at the waist.   If it does wrinkle, untack the vamp and try again. make7.jpg (8499 bytes)
make8.jpg (10638 bytes) At the end, I wind up with something that looks something like this.   I could also have placed the tacks through the sides of the upper, but I have had some problems getting that to look acceptable when I am finished.
If I were going to do this WITHOUT using a last, I would start by "tacking" (in a different sense), or basting, the welt to the outside of the sole. make32.jpg (13482 bytes)
make28.jpg (10977 bytes) Once that is finished, the upper should be carefully tacking the upper to the sole -- in efect, pinning the upper to the sole in much the same way that the lasting would do.  This tacking is not required either, but it helps to control the tension on the leather when the upper and sole are finally stitched together.
Whether the shoe is lasted or not, at this point the upper and sole are tentatively joined, so that stitching cthem together, actually "making" the shoe, can begin.

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Footwear of the Middle Ages - Making the Shoe, Page 2, by I. Marc Carlson. Copyright 1999
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