Lasts

Got any great sources for leather? Tools? Machinery? Looking for sources?
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Re: Lasts

#51 Post by rileycraig » Tue Oct 01, 2002 6:33 pm

Shane,

Thanks for the input, all assistance is appreciated.

Okay, now I have another question....I've only used leather to do build ups...build it up and skive it down. Taking a 8 D last and making a 10 1/2 E out of it is fairly simply...small build up on the toe and heel and lateral side, etc., but I've heard of some makers who use something like plaster, or maybe some form of putty to do build ups. DW and Jake mentioned the use of "tacks" at certain points....lost me, completely. Do you guys use something other than leather for build ups?

I'm not trying to open up cans of worms here, just seeking information. There's a world of knowledge on the Colloquy, and Lord knows I can use all I can get....thanks!

Good Bootmaking,

Riley

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Re: Lasts

#52 Post by dw » Tue Oct 01, 2002 7:14 pm

Riley,

Well, you invoked my name so...

The short answer is that I use nothing but leather--sole and insole leather--split and skived. Sometimes tacked to reinforce (because the build-ups don't hold all that well on plastic), and sealed and covered with press cement.

The beauty of using leather is that the build-ups can be taken off, tucked into a baggie, labeled for the customer, and the last can be used again. Try that with plaster! Or Epoxy...or Bondo. Image

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Mike Strong

Re: Lasts

#53 Post by Mike Strong » Tue Oct 01, 2002 10:24 pm

Shane,

I'm using last from the Montana Last Company to build the duty boots on that I'm making. So far the last are very good, Bruce is a good guy to work with also. I just got one of his cowboy last with an inch and 5/8 heel. It will be my first cowboy boot on his lasts. I'll let you know how it turns out. Or maybe if I got the posting of the pictures worked out I'll put a picture up.

Mike Strong

fneiii

Re: Lasts

#54 Post by fneiii » Wed Oct 02, 2002 12:29 am

Shane,
Bruce Flesch is the sole employe and owner. Bruce is easy to do business with, he also makes boots and other leather goods so he understands and tries to help you with whatever you need. Give him a call and he will send you charts and information. He has a variety of different styles of last. I posted the contact info before but I don't remember if it was before or after the CD library came to be so here it is again.
Montana Last Co. Bruce Flesch
110 N. Pony St. (406)685-3420
P.O. box 687
Pony, MT. 59747

I haven't talked to him for quite a while , please say hello for me if you call him.
Frank English

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Re: Lasts

#55 Post by gcunning » Wed Oct 02, 2002 5:23 am

DW
So if you pull off the buildups does that mean you don't keep the same last for that customer? Also, I think I remember most here don't grind on the last. Am I correct?

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Re: Lasts

#56 Post by rileycraig » Wed Oct 02, 2002 5:59 am

DW,

Okay, thanks...the use of tacks on build ups threw me for a few minutes. It dawned on me why and where they would used shortly after I posted my inquiry.

Yeah, I don't know anything about using epoxy or plaster, I just heard it somewhere along the line. I'm not really a neat-nick, but I hate messes, especially if I have to clean it up, and plaster or anything like that seems like it would be messy. Anyway...thanks!

Good Bootmaking,

Riley

Tex Robin

Re: Lasts

#57 Post by Tex Robin » Wed Oct 02, 2002 6:16 am

Gary,
I know your question was directed at DW, but I really don't think he can answer your question for everyone on the forum so I will answer for myself here.
I don't remove the build-ups from a customer's last when finished with it. The way I add the build-ups they become a permanent part of the structure of the last and the contours are ground to the shape of the last. Putting the same build-ups back in place is nearly impossible.
Also, yes I do grind a last when necessary. If you have a customer who wears a 7 1/2 from the heel to the ball but his toes are longer, yes you can build the toes up longer. But, if he has a 13 in heel measure you must remove material from the last to make it fit. I under stand that if a bootmaker only has a limited supply of lasts he doesn't want to grind them but remember if you can grind it you can replace it. I have found that very few customers wear a standard size last. If you want to fit them, you must be willing to grind them...TR

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Re: Lasts

#58 Post by dw » Wed Oct 02, 2002 6:53 am

Gary,

Depends, really. If I have to grind a last (I'd rather not) to the point where it substantially alters the measurements and lines of the last, I'll set that final mod aside for that customer.

If I can achieve a good fit and clean lines with build-ups alone...I don't see the point in reserving a perfectly good last for only that customer. The "custom" in the customer's fit is in the build-ups. Surely I can, with just a little care, put those build-ups back on that same size last over and over again...with results that are identical (or near enough as to be identical) to the first time.

Again....what do you want to do... and what are the trade-offs? I am not fast. I make boots for lots of reasons but the the last thing that motivates me (in my bootmaking) is a quest for money. So I'm not trying to be a "production" shop or trying to get "X" number of boots out the door in a given period.

What that means is that I watch my expenditures where I can. I try to rely on muscle rather than money. I use scrap leathers to do build-ups, scrap leathers for toe boxes, scrap leathers for fitter's models. And I don't have a million lasts. At some point, it just doesn't make sense.

Why does a person need a 10EE last when you can build up an 10E? Why does a person need a size 15 when you can build up a size 14? why does a person need a "J" toe when you can modify a medium round?

If you go with that philosophy, you will need ...let's see...five different toe styles times three different heel heights (minimum) times nine widths (AAA-EEE...again, minimum) times 28 length sizes (3-16 including half sizes)...three thousand seven hundred eighty pairs of lasts at...let's say $50.00 a pair (and it's probably closer to $100.00 a pair)...a mere $189,000.00. All before you buy leather, tools, equipment, pay rent, etc..

I may not make boots for money, but I'm not stupid...I watch my money and try to make decisions that maximize my resources (money *is* a resource). So while 3780 pairs of lasts may make sense if you want to be a factory, it doesn't make sense to someone whose stock and trade is craftsmanship, skill, a keen eye and a constantly changing set of ground rules--ie. the different measurements and requirements that come with each new order.

Long answer to a short question, I know, but it's an interesting question which begs other questions. Hope it helps....

BTW...I see that Tex has answered your question...and that's one approach. I had my answer framed and composed...when I went to post it, there was Tex's reply. So, I'll not change it. But I will add to it.

I think you *can* put build-ups back on a last. I've done it for nearly 30 years with excellent results. And with some horrendous build-ups, too--like with a guy who has club feet and needs a "foundation" last of 5E on his left foot (with build-ups it becomes a 5EEEEE with a single E heel) and a 8EE on the right foot.

As for grinding the last...it has been my experience that if your measurements indicate that you need to remove material from the heel measure, 10 times out of 10 the customer has a narrow heel--in width--and you can...and maybe *should* start with a narrower last to begin with. What's more, in such instances, 9 times out of 10 you'll find that the high instep on foot will also be smaller than the last...again indicating that a narrower "foundation" last is called for.

So there's another approach.

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Re: Lasts

#59 Post by cmw » Wed Oct 02, 2002 7:21 am

I have a silly question!
We use cork to build up sections on lasts when making a shoe ( and some plaster that I'm not sure of). Is there any reason for not using it on a last for a boot?

A cold Texan
CW

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Re: Lasts

#60 Post by gcunning » Wed Oct 02, 2002 9:03 am

DW
You know a peaon (sp) can't always agree with the masters. So here I go. In bootmaking we talk about precision so much. I am sure you feel comfortable putting buildups back on a last or you would not do it. I don't feel I could ever be able to take one off and get it exactly back in the same place.
I think exact is the key. I can't imagine trying to get the brass tacks out in the first place. If you grind on the last (which I was taught) it seems a lot easier to keep that last for that customer. Most know who taught me and he keeps a last for each customer. He doesn't have a ton of lasts hanging around because of repeat business. I don't know how expensive a "good" last is because I got a good deal on a bunch. I have seen most at $10 to $12. I understand this is one of those instances of preferences. It just seems like a lot of extra work. I just know, for me, when I FINALLY get a last that someone says "that fits great" I'll keep that last forever.
Tex, I learned pretty much like you are talking about.
Boy isn't this funImage

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Re: Lasts

#61 Post by gaid » Wed Oct 02, 2002 9:27 am

All,

Talking about lasts! I ordered 10 pairs of lasts from a Slovenian last factory yesterday. They charge $24 a pair. They make them in beech wood or plastic, hinged or scoop blocked. Last time I sent them (trough their dealer in Sweden) a last they charged $60 for the first turn. From that point I can order whatever size and width I want. I have used their lasts for about 10 years and never had any problem. Those I ordered yesterday are turned from a last which Carl Lichte made for me.

If any of you are about to order lasts this might be of interest since the price seems to be (with postage included) 1/3 of the US price.

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Re: Lasts

#62 Post by gcunning » Wed Oct 02, 2002 10:38 am

Janne
Here comes the ignorant question. How do you put in an order? Do you give them all the measurements from a specific foot or do you just ask for a size and do a final custom fit yourself??
That brings up a different question. Sizes are different in different countries. When a person wears a 9 what does that mean? Nine WHAT??

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Re: Lasts

#63 Post by dw » Wed Oct 02, 2002 10:56 am

Gary,

I don't see any peons on this forum...only people trying to learn and others trying to help...???

If you want to reserve a last for every customer, where's the problem with that? As I said once before, I don't care one way or the other...it's no skin off my back. All I'm doing is offering another perspective...the information is free...take it for what it's worth. If it's worth nothing to you...so be it.

But I will tell you one thing certain...if you take a size 10D last, for instance, and you put a build up on it, anywhere on the last, and you sand it, and seal and harden it with press cement, and then you take it off and label it with the size and model number of the last you are using, you won't have any trouble at all putting it back on the last in exactly the same position it was in originally. Even if it's a year later. The build-up simply cannot go back on the last out of position unless you force it. It won't even go on a 10E or a 10C last without forcing it.

You may have trouble putting it on a different model last even if it's the same size. You will undoubtedly have trouble putting it on a higher or lower heeled last, even if it's the same size. But in my experience, there will be no doubt in your mind where the build up goes if you ever try it that way.

As for $10.00 lasts...well, even with what I like to think of as lots of experience, I still believe that the last is the most important tool you have. I don't cut cost on any tool and especially not last. I've seen my share of $10.00 lasts and runs of lasts that come out of other shops. In my opinion, you must be real careful or it's a recipe for heartache.

I seriously doubt that I could make boots off the lasts that Tex or Carl or Lisa uses without major modifications--even in the standard sizes. And the reverse is probably true as well. I'd rather pay the extra to a lastmaker who has my models, and who I am confidant understands what it takes to *be* a lastmaker than buy stuff coming from who knows where. Again, I don't skimp on my tools. That's why I always liked dealing with Tippit--I trusted him.


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Re: Lasts

#64 Post by gcunning » Wed Oct 02, 2002 11:10 am

I don't see peon as a putdown. I understand my position as a bootmaker. I sometimes, as a bootmaker, only have an access to a limited view on boot making situations. To be honest with you if I could send off all my measurements to someone and they make me a last for $60 I would love it. The only problem with having a last maker is like the situation going on now with finding a last maker that knows what they are doing.
I do agree with you on tools. Sometimes I have been hurt or messed something up because I tried to cut corners with a cheap tool and it cost me more in the end.

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Re: Lasts

#65 Post by dw » Wed Oct 02, 2002 12:14 pm

Chris,

I don't want your question to be ignored...I was hoping someone else would take a shot at it.

As far as cork or plaster is concerned, you could try it. Frankly, I'm not optimistic about either material for longevity much less the ability to stand the gaff of bootmaking. My experience (very early in my career) with plaster is that it's pretty fragile.

One small point, whichever way you go....you generate scrap leather when you make shoe or boots. What do you do with it? Throw it away? You paid for it. Each scrap represents some amount (maybe small) of money. Why go out and buy plaster of paris or cork when you have the raw materials...the best suited for the job...to do the build-ups on hand and already paid for?

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Re: Lasts

#66 Post by dw » Wed Oct 02, 2002 12:18 pm

Janne,

What size last did you give them to model? Did they make more than one model? Did they make sizing models? Do they offer the options of having no bottom plates? Are the featherlines good and clean (one of my beefs with the JV lasts--although that may be related to the copies of my models they got from Sterling)?

Would you please post the relevant info on this company?

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Re: Lasts

#67 Post by gaid » Wed Oct 02, 2002 1:20 pm

Gary,

You send them the last you want to make copies of. They make the first turn and keep that one at the factory. From that one could they make whatever size/width you want. If you are used to grind down to the clients measurement order the lasts with extra width and grind them down.

I don't no much about all the different sizing systems. I use them just as a guide so I know in which box the nearest in lenght are. In the French system is it 6,6 mm in lenght between two sizes. In the English ditto is it 8,4 mm. Anyhow, if you want the factory to make them in the US system, no problem. Or you might have your own system, that's fine too. One advatage with the French system is that if you order them in half number the interval will be 3,3mm in length between sizes compared with the English 4,2 mm.

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Re: Lasts

#68 Post by gaid » Wed Oct 02, 2002 2:32 pm

DW,

I sent them a bespoke last Carl Lichte made after my foot tracing and measurements. I ordered a whole serie of lasts, from French size 39 up to size 46. They make them without bottom plate if you want. If the featherlines are good and clean on the last you send them the lasts they send back will be good and clean too. At least in my opinion they are as good as the much more expencive Fagus company.

I have mentioned about them before on this forum but here goes;

http://www.kopitarna-sevnica.si/ENG_Kopita.htm

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Re: Lasts

#69 Post by shane » Wed Oct 02, 2002 3:02 pm

Frank and Mike,
Thanks for the info.
Shane

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Re: Lasts

#70 Post by mnewberry » Wed Oct 02, 2002 9:22 pm

Gary-

I'm with you on the question of reusing lasts. From the very start, I have charged a $150 one-time fee for custom fitting. This covers the price of a (good!) last, and also gives my customers good incentives for returning - first, that they have already paid for their fitting and have what feels like a discount on subsequent pairs, and secondly, they almost always indicate that they like the idea that their last stays untouched. I have quite a number of customers who I've gained almost soley as a result of their disappointment with other bootmakers (not you D.W.!) who have failed to fit them the same way in subsequent orders. So I use it as a sales tool.

And as far as stocking 3780 pairs of lasts, of course I don't even try. I am always have enough of a wait list to allow me to order and receive the right last well before I am ready to make the boots. Actually, I endeavor to build the lasts for a new customer as soon as possible after measuring them - although I am not always disciplined enought to get it done... )I know that I forget some of the subtle info if I let months pass.) But I do always, right away, sort through the lasts that I have to see if I might have one that's right, which does sometimes happen, and if I don't have them, place an order. Certainly the problems with J&V makes it more difficult, and I may even raise my one-time charge, but I'm looking forward to trying Bruce. The biggest problem that I had when I was starting out was choosing which size to order, and having the will to order again if it wasn't right, since, of course, every model runs a little differently. But once you have used a couple of models that you like, you can refer to them to start to narrow it down a bit and increase the odds of getting it right.

As far as buid-ups go, I know a bunch of folks who use bondo. I seems to hold tacks well, and is not too expensive, in the long run. I tried it, and while it's nice to be able to spoon it on right where you want it and not have to wait for glue to dry on layers and layers for big build-ups, I feel like I've got enough fumes to contend with in the shop, and bondo is so inflexible that it seems to crack after the last has been used on a few pairs. Leather is so easy to make really secure. (And it looks great.) I'll repeat a tip that I gave a while back to use water based floor coating to harden and seal you build ups - I really like it. Fast and no fumes.

Oh yeah, and I think that you've got to be brave enough to grind a last when the time comes. Nothing radical, usually, but in my mind, a person can just as easily throw off the balance of a last by building up wrong as he can by grinding.

Can't think of anything else to say to stir the pot (actually that's not true, but...)

Matt

Bill Tippit

Re: Lasts

#71 Post by Bill Tippit » Thu Oct 03, 2002 8:02 am

First, thanks to all of you who offered your kind words about me. I DO miss this part of the business but I'm in the CAD software end of it now and it looks like that's where I'm going to be for the long term. Here are a few more thoughts:

1) When ordering from JV, you should be OK if you know the model number (I'll help if I can) and if you speak to Allen, Dave, or April. Spencer runs the factory and is a great guy but he'll be hard to get hold of and one of these three will be able to take care of you and they're all three great people.

2) JV didn't buy Sterling for the purpose of shutting down the custom last or boot business but we have to remember they are a PRODUCTION factory and the only one left in the US or Canada. It's a real tough business for them to be in and their overhead isn't like mine was at The Last Word. They are geared to do large production orders (which are more and more scarce these days). I was geared to do one pair at a time. It's just the nature of the beast that they can't provide the same kind of personal service that I, or Carl Lichte, Bruce at Montana, or Jim Bowman do or did...just as we wouldn't have been able to service Red Wing Shoe if they ordered 2,000 pairs on a style or a custom bootmaker wouldn't be able to fill a large order for a chain of department stores. It's really not JV's fault and certainly not the fault of the front line people you are dealing with. I think it's safe to say they realize that getting rid of Jason Bibb was stupid on their part but you'll be happy to know he's alive and well, very happy working for Meramec Group, a sole manufacturer in Sullivan, MO. He's running various CNC machines and CAD softwares including two programs they recently purchased from my company. The person who made the decision to terminate Jason is no longer with JV.

3) There are a number of last makers outside the US, like Janne's Slovenian company who are willing to provide this service. I think Al Saguto has mentioned a company in the UK and I know two in Brazil and two in Mexico that are more than willing to do the work. If anyone's interested, send me an email and I'll send you contact info. The prices will range from $45-$60, plus freight for the ones I know of. They're all good, quality last makers but I'm sure there would be growing pains at the beginning. I want to emphasize that I have worked with these companies in the past but, other than hooking you up, I won't be involved in any possible orders now.

4) One of the best ways to order lasts is, as someone suggested, find a couple of models that you like and then you'll be fairly sure of what you're getting in the future. The way Michael ordered from me was to reference a previous style/size he had ordered and indicate how much to grade the length and girth on the new order. There were never any "sizes". He just ordered for example, the TLW-0108 last, based on the one I did for his customer, "Tom", only 3/4" longer and 1" smaller on girth, and told me to stamp it "Dave". Because the ball, waist, and instep all grade the same, he could then estimate how much he might have to build up or grind off in these areas. It worked like a charm. The only pair he ever returned was the first pair he ordered because we tried to "talk the same language" and he ordered a "size". That led to this system and we never looked back. I think Allen would take this type of order at JV if you knew the model number but you'd have to check with him.

Well, that's it. I guess I'd better go back to my other life now. Best of luck to you all.

Bill

PS - as some who have taken me up on my offer to provide scanned pages from the old catalog have figured out, if you click my name at the top of this posting you should be linked to sending me an email and if you right click on my name in the new email window, you'll get the address. However, if it doesn't work on all systems, my email is: btippit@sbcglobal.net

DW - Don't worry about setting up a new password or id for me. I'll just keep posting like this.

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Re: Lasts

#72 Post by shane » Thu Oct 03, 2002 8:31 am

Matt,
I also use water based poly urythane to coat and harden my build ups. And I also use it to harden my toe boxes. The lack of nasty fumes is nice, and if I spill on my wood bench, it only helps to preserve it.
Shane

Tex Robin

Re: Lasts

#73 Post by Tex Robin » Thu Oct 03, 2002 8:43 am

Shane,
I have done some experiments with the poly-urythane and can tell you it has a greater tendency to stick in your boot than the press cement so make sure that you use powder or parafin on the toes of your lasts.

But you are right, it does work good as a replacement for the expensive and fumeous press cement. It dries fast and leaves a hard finish.

It has possibilities...TR

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Re: Lasts

#74 Post by cmw » Thu Oct 03, 2002 12:50 pm

DWF

Thank you for the answer.
With regards to the durability and the money issue, I see what you mean. I'll try the leather on the viking shoes I'll make next. Although I wonder if if has something to do with avoiding the extra nail holes. Can it be the othopedic shoe makers use cork because it is easy to work with (The forming process).
Just a little side note. Last time I was in a larger orthopedic "factory"They were beginning to use other materials altogether. No wood!

It's my bed time
CW

fjones

Re: Lasts

#75 Post by fjones » Fri Oct 04, 2002 6:40 am

Gary and gang

Why do a single out Gary? - just that I loved his exclamation “Boy isn't this fun”.

I have been following the discussion about modifying lasts with great interest. Partly because this is an area of shoe/boot making where I have little experience of doing much myself. I am always in awe of people who can measure feet and then modify a pair of lasts, so that footwear made on those lasts actually fit the feet. I think this is one of the hardest things to learn in shoemaking and it is certainly hard to teach, if it can be taught at all.

I am going to agree with both DW and Tex, so perhaps I should try being a diplomat in the Middle East (big smile).

There is a very good case for keeping the modified lasts for that particular customer. Not only are they readily available for the next pair, the very idea of “my bootmaker/shoemaker keeps a special pair of lasts which fit my feet”, is a wonderful marketing and advertising vehicle. The bespoke makers in London have been using it in magazine and newspaper articles for over 75 years. The journalists love the idea of a pair of lasts with the customer’s name on them. There are some very good examples in the pictures in “Handmade shoes for men” by Laslo Vass.

However, I have some sympathy with the view that keeping all those lasts is time consuming as well taking up a lot of space. The argument about cost is harder to make. The answer is to make a last charge when the first pair of shoes/boots are made. The only problem with this approach is that it might put some customers off having handmade footwear altogether, because the up-front cost of lasts is just that little too much to bear.

I like the idea of removable “fittings”. The idea goes back a long way. I first remember seeing it in an orthopaedic workshop in the 1950’s and they had been using this techniques for over 20 years before that. As has been mentioned, the hard part is getting the fitting back in exactly the right place. Record keeping does help. The makers I have seen who do this, keep the fitting/s in a small box labelled with the customer’s name. In the box is all the information on exactly where each fitting goes on the last. This is not 100% reliable but fairly close.

Finally I must add a word of personal appreciation. There is one particular reason I love the Colloquy that is nothing to do with footwear, it widens my vocabulary. I had no idea what a “peon” was but luckily I have a Websters Dictionary on the shelf. For the other non-Americans who might not have Websters handy, it is defined as a member of the labouring classes but also as a person forced into servitude to work off a debt.

So now you know (big grin)

Frank Jones
frank.jones@shoemaking.com

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