Medieval Lasts

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Medieval Lasts

#1 Post by marc » Mon Apr 08, 2002 6:57 am

Ok, I have sort of a weird series of questions for anyone who's tried doing shoes or bots on the early (actually late medieval, plis a bit later for some things) style lasts with the deeply inset waist area.
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I'm trying to find a way to get a set of these made, and I have some questions about what to expect. For example, when you last the shoe, should you tightly fit those sides to the shoe (and if so, how? My inclination would be to try tacking it until it tried to shape, but there may be something that I'm missing there)? Does the inset serve to hold he foot more tightly , or does it give extra room in the sides (I could see it doing either). Does it just make it easier to pull the front of the last out? What?

Anyway, just some questions on a rainy Monday

Marc

dagon

Re: Medieval Lasts

#2 Post by dagon » Mon Apr 08, 2002 7:54 am

Marc,

I'll be making some soon. I have access to a complete wood working shop, and will be knocking out a few pairs, roughing them out on a band saw, then finishing with a rasp.

I also got the Last Making book and video that was recommended. I'll be making some off of the instructions in that also. We'll see which work better for turning out 14th century shoes (pun intended...).

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#3 Post by marc » Mon Apr 08, 2002 10:24 am

Mitch,
That's great. If they turn out well enough that you might be talked into making some for other people, let me know Image

As I think I showed you when you were in Tulsa, I have to do mine with hand saws and a rasp, and that gets old really fast.

Marc

crispinian

Re: Medieval Lasts

#4 Post by crispinian » Mon Apr 08, 2002 10:34 am

Marc,

Pictured below is one of my lasts (well, Plimoth Plantation's) that was copied from a Vasa find. As you can see, the waist is quite narrow...only an inch across on this size 11. To make the pattern (more on that in a minute) I worked from a casting of the original and the result is a very close copy. I did finish mine with a slight bit more of a feather than on the original, which has *no* clearly defined edge. The lack of a defined edge gives one more leeway in sizing the soles, but to make a set of upper patterns you do have to decide on a "standard" sole outline to use. If you want to set the sole farther under the foot, as was common in early 17th-century shoes, you can adjust both sole and lasting margins to match as you go.
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As for lasting the shoe, I can't tell you how they did it Way Back Then (I was never able to get a close-up photo of bottom of the original last to see the use marks) but I can tell you how I go about it. Essentially I lay the upper down close to the wood at the waist using my fingers and I tack it. I don't use the pliers except to adjust the tension fore and aft to get a snug fit against the side of the last in that hollow space.

The resulting shoe is more difficult (not easier) to get off the last, as you have to pull the forepart through a narrow passage, but that's where the open sides come in handy! The bigger the openings, and the farther forward they are set, the easier the last is to remove. Make the openings too small and you won't be able to pull the last. Of course that particular cut of uppers isn't common until the late 16th century so you may not have a problem with medieval repros on a narrow-waisted last.

The shoes made this way feel very strange at first because the upper cups the foot at the arch and it takes some wear before they begin to break down there. Eventually the lower part of the upper at the waist flattens underfoot (unless the wearer has a very narrow measure there) and you trade in the uncomfortable arches for broken side seams (which were often placed smack in the middle of that hollow) and a shoe full of sand and stones as the side-opening gets forced down toward the ground. It was bad engineering, but hey, it *looked* good.

For anyone contemplating the carving of a last I heartily recommend a block knife...the long handled blade that is fastened on one end to pivot at the top of a section of log. It can be done without it (as all my lasts have been) but it sure will make it easier. To cut my lasts I started with a side hatchet (the kind with one bevel on the edge, not two) then switched to a drawknife, rasp, and then to files and piece of broken glass (or cabinet scraper) to finish it off. If you're making a block last you can use a turning saw (a bow saw with a narrow blade for cutting on a radius) or go mod and use a bandsaw. And of course you'll need a size stick or ruler and measuring tape for dimensioning the last. Calipers are very useful for that too.

Hope this helps a bit.

Rusty

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#5 Post by marc » Mon Apr 08, 2002 10:42 am

Rusty,
That looks to be exactly the sort of information I was looking for - thank you. Actually, I am a little concerned about the circumference, getting the whole last out thing myself, but that's where the experimentation comes in (the shoes I tend to make most have a full vamp up to the instep and high-ish sides). OTOH, I think the uppers leather is going to be a lot more flexible than what people could use later on (lots of goat and calf).

Anyway, you may want to try the pix again. Even so, that was exactly what I was looking for.

Marc

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#6 Post by marc » Mon Apr 08, 2002 10:43 am

On second thought, the pix look find -- they just didn't come through the first time I pulled up the message. Thanks again.

Marc

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#7 Post by aquazoo » Tue Feb 11, 2003 1:36 pm

This just in from the historic costume list:

For those interested, a poulaine sole is currently up for grabs on ebay

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=355&item=2506480415&rd=1

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#8 Post by marc » Fri Aug 29, 2003 2:15 pm

Just passing along a note.

Someone's started a new list on Yahoogroups for medieval shoemaking (as in JUST started - I haven't seen any messages to it yet).

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/medievalshoemaking/

Hopefully it will be helpful.

Marc

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#9 Post by the_joat » Sun Aug 31, 2003 11:23 am

The medieval shoemaking Yahoo group was started by a member of the Authentic_SCA Yahoo group. They are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism who strive to recreate medieval life as accurately as possible. I think that you will find that they have more questions than answers.

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#10 Post by marc » Mon Sep 01, 2003 9:23 pm

I'm sorry if I did something wrong by mentioning this new list here. My understanding is that the people who set up the list were wanting a serious place to discuss making medieval shoes, and medieval style shoes, and that it wasn't being established as just an "SCA" list. I thought that there might be people who read this list that might be interested as well. And there -are- a number of folks on this group who are, not only interested in discussing historical shoemaking, but are also members of the SCA or various re-enacting groups.

Certainly there are going to be questions, as making medieval shoes is an area where there are still a number of questions left to be asked. There are clearly places where there are no absolute answers beyond "well, we -think- it was done like this..." Personally, I think it might be useful to help educate people who are interested in the best theories. That can be, and has been done here as well.

Marc

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#11 Post by the_joat » Tue Sep 02, 2003 12:32 am

Marc -

If you are responding to my post, then you have completely misunderstood me. I happen to be a member of the Authentic_SCA group.

You said, "Hopefully it will be helpful," which I took to mean that you expected to get a lot of information from the group. I was just pointing out that the person who started the medievalshoemaking Yahoo group specifically stated that she was starting it because she doesn't know much about the subject but wants to learn.

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#12 Post by marc » Tue Sep 02, 2003 6:33 am

Yes, I've misunderstood. My bad and I'm sorry (I may just be really too used to people slamming the SCA).

Right now, I'm kind of hoping someone will have some ideas of how to more precisely sdjust for the fact that when you turn a shoe, it becomes smaller inside than it was previously.

Marc

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#13 Post by gaid » Tue Sep 02, 2003 1:50 pm

Marc,
Here is my wifes way of explainig your question,

"If you think of a circle, the circumference is
equal to the diameter times pi (=3,14). If you have a boot, the leg is more or less circular. The circumference on the inside of the boot will of course be SMALLER than on the ouside. More exactly, if the leather is 3 mm thick, the inside will be 2*3 mm*pi=6*pi=approx. 18 mm LESS than the circumference on the outside. This means that the leather must be 18 mm more than the expected (inner) circumference should be. Even if a boot leg is not circular, and of course for a shoe the shape is super-complicated, this might help as an approximation."

Or in other words - approx. 6 times the thickness of the material should be added to the pattern if you want to come out even.


Since I block my boots up to the clients measurement I cut the pattern even narower then the measurement but for those who do not block the boot this equation is might be of help.

JEM

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#14 Post by marc » Tue Sep 02, 2003 8:01 pm

Janne,
I'll take her word for the math (numbers and I don't generally get along). Certainly can't hurt to try.

I'm assuming that since the shoes are using two different weights of leathers, but the sole leather doesn't change shape that much, it would be 6 times the thickness of the uppers only? Or would it be slightly less since the shoe is really more like a cylinder with a flat side?

Marc

The other Volken

Re: Medieval Lasts

#15 Post by The other Volken » Fri Sep 05, 2003 1:39 am

hi all,
I doubt that medieval shoemakers where much into math. If you stitched your pair of turnshoes it would suffice to stick the lasts back into the shoes once they're turned. Since the shoe has preferably to be wet for ease with turning, it will also have enough stretch and give to get the last back in, even if the circumference is somewhat smaller. (Note left last to right shoe and vice-versa after turning) The shoe will shrink a bit as it dries and you'll have a perfectly tight fit on the last, that "is" proportional to the foot to fit.

The other Volken

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#16 Post by marc » Fri Sep 05, 2003 7:47 am

Oh, I suspect that you are quite right that they didn't do much with the math. I keep having this sort of romantic notion that the Master doing the cutting knew that "this size and shape leather will fit that last", but the skeptical part of my mind keeps doubting it Image I'm pretty sure like modern shoemakers they sets of patterns and that those had a bit of leeway in them just in case the lasts weren't quite symmetrical to modern standards.

Not to dispute, since I have the greatest respect for your work, but rather to just comment -- after having tried it both ways for quite some time, I will have to say that Al's suggestion of using shovers on the lasts, does make relasting them easier. And looking at the Hausbuch drawings, those from the 15th century do keep showing some sort of stick thing sticking out, that could well be meant to represent the wedges used with shovers.

One of the pictures of the misereres (I believe from Rouen Cathedral that appear in Robert Forrer's Archäologisches zur Geschichte des Schuhes aller Zeiten also might be a wedge, or it may just be a stick stuck in top of a last.

The Lystyne Lordys Verament/A Shoemaker's Verse Testament (c.1475-1500) doesn't mention anything that might be wedges though (unfortuntately), while Deloney in 1599 does.

Unfortunately we are dealing with a serious lack of documentary evidence here (unlike, for instance, the 18th century which, by comparison, has a lot of documentation - yeah I'm jealous Image ).

Marc

The other Volken

Re: Medieval Lasts

#17 Post by The other Volken » Fri Sep 05, 2003 11:20 am

Marc,

I totally agree with you that shovers make the work easier and there is no proof nor argument against the use in medieval shoes. I guess you will get permission from the medieval-shoe-maker-gods to use showers and it does indeed make the job easier. I have to admit, we are a bit spoiled with Zellers leather, that has quite enough elasticity and therefore never presents much difficulty to shove them ol' last back in once the shoe is turned ;O).

The Mendelsheimer Picture of the 141st brother Hans Geldnerssheimer (died in April 1447) is familiar to me, but those vertical things sticking out of the shoes are still a bit of a puzzle. Some even pretend them to be stretching lasts with the wedges sticking out. For my part I am not certain at all. It has indeed some similarity to the Gothic Woodcarving in Rouens. The idea of the shovers is tempting, but the vertical alignment of the "wedges" bothers me a bit.

As to your sceptical part of mind, tell it, that medieval manual workers hadn't much the privilege of going to school like the upper crust. They probably could call themselves quite lucky if they knew how to read or even write. I doubt it quite strongly that they had an opportunity to do "Maffs an' Jommetry" for pattern making. It is, as M. reminds me often a system based on proportion and designer instinct based on repetitive application of practical know-how, something we totally lost in our high calculus view of things nowadays. IOW just the same way cathedrals where build, without any architects blue print and measurements. Today we barely dare to plant a nail in a wall without appropriate diagrams, calculations and profiles ;O). I guess you can trust your romantic notion on this point;O)).

The whole medieval pattern making is quite mystical and there probably was as many different ways to explain it as shope producing regions. Us with our little brains crammed full with at least 10 years of formulas numbers and whatnot may have a hard time to understand how it worked. The mayor difference is probably that back then one gets shown how to do it and today we spend more time explaining, with less to show. It points out once more, that skills need to be shown and repeated. Writing about with the help of diagrams is just half the information if not less.

The first attempts of formulating pattern making in angles and calculations I know of, date from the 19th Century. Coincidentally it is the time of booming shoe industrialisation and mechanisation where a logical and normative approach of design was needed to create common denominators for the factories. It is said, that Robert Knöfel is the initiator, (born 1834 near Dresden, Germany, 1860 Master shoe maker in Dresden, 1873 first publication of "Lehrbuch der Fussbekleidungskunst", he became famous in Vienna, Austria where he died in 1884 after a life dedicated to shoe making and the teaching and informing thereof). Since this information is from a Austrian source, I suspect, that there could be a French source mentioning a Frenchman that did the geometrical approach before that, and what about English sources? (I wonder if Frank of Lanca could lighten my lantern on the subject).

I am with you on the lack of documentary evidence. We're just real lucky to get to see some old bits of shoes once in a while. It's just the other way around with 18th Century shoes, where documented evidence is superior to archaeological evidence.

Sorry this message seems a bit long, I guess I just got carried away

other V.

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#18 Post by marc » Fri Sep 05, 2003 12:42 pm

O,
I'm sure the leathers help quite a bit. With any luck, someday properly tanned goat will be available in the US as well. It's a dream of mine.

The vertical alignment of the sticks coming out of the lasts on the Rouen carving is troubling - it almost looks like a stick poked into a stick that's been shoved into a modern lasting jack hole. OTOH, those carvings do seem pretty distorted. So I'd be happy to just set it aside as "looks freaky and may not mean anything."

I'm sure that there were likely as many different techniques for fitting a particular last (and I am convinced some rule of thumb that is so blindingly simple that we just don't notice it. Based sinmply on how they made clothing, it's obvious that our forebears weren't stupid, and yes, as you said, application of practical know-how.

OTOH, it's reassuring to know that if I'm having problems with things like fitting, then they did too, and solved those problems Image [And did so without resorting to duct tape].

I just keep telling myself that if we can just get closer, that's fine.

Marc

the other Volken

Re: Medieval Lasts

#19 Post by the other Volken » Fri Sep 05, 2003 1:37 pm

That good ol' duct tape... the inventor of this magic band deserves a Nobel price, same for the one who thought of bailing wire. I think of all those zillions of small repair jobs made with duct tape an bailing wire that made this world a better place to be ;O).

True med. pattern making still is very mystical. And I agree with you, that we will get closer to some feasible solution. After all isn't our goal to become just a little less stupid every day?

other V.

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#20 Post by marc » Fri Sep 05, 2003 2:25 pm

O,
I know that's my goal.

Marc

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#21 Post by das » Wed Jan 21, 2004 5:13 am

A friend just forwarded this article, and I haven't read it closely yet, but note an early last is mentioned in paragraph four:

http://www.archaeology.co.uk/timeline/sundries/feet/feet.htm

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#22 Post by marc » Wed Jan 21, 2004 8:33 am

Al, I looked this up since you mentioned it to me. If anyone tries to get the article it's "Deer Park Farms" - rath (Lynn) [the index was NOT clear if rath is the author or what] Current Archaeology no.113 pp.193- [no date was given in the index either]. It's a little thin, but it should be enough to find the article.

Marc

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#23 Post by marc » Fri Jul 09, 2004 7:12 pm

Ok, I have to share. I've just finished the last example I'm planning on making for a while. These were made with a rasp, a hand saw and a sharp knife (with a limited use of a belt sander)
3117.jpg


In the back are a pair based on 10th century York. Those in front are based on (from left to right): 12th century German pair done as a single straight [yes, there is a reason for it since straight lasts are really virtually unheard of in medieval contexts], 14th century Greenland, 2 pairs of 14th century Germany (different sizes), and an early 15th century German style.
3116.jpg


A close up of the early 15th century German style.

Most of these were build up from glued together 2x4, since I was not able to get billets of wood from logs early enough to start curing properly for this project (although I -do- have some curing right now so in 3-5 years...) Therefore the wood is pine, which is not spectactular, and is not what would have been used (as far as I can tell) (the 10th century York lasts are from single pieces of boxwood). The staining is an accident since I was trying to soak them in linseed oil and grabbed the wrong can... Image

But they look pretty.

Anyway, hand carving lasts shouldn't be a huge trauma - just a real pain in the rear.

Marc

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#24 Post by das » Sun Jul 11, 2004 6:54 am

Marc,

The lasts look good! Those Medieval shapes are from "another planet". I have to ask, are you sure those York lasts were really boxwod? That stuff is hard, hard, hard, and I haven't seen much box that would yield a chunk big enough for making a last.

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Re: Medieval Lasts

#25 Post by marc » Sun Jul 11, 2004 4:14 pm

I'm sorry, I misspoke - the ones -I carved- were from boxwood (i.e. the ones in the pictures). The originals were alder.

Marc

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