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The traditional way of last making is to shape a last from a spoke of wood with a last makers long knife and bench. The conventional wood is beach, maple or some other types of hard wood, up to date, those who still utilized wooden lasts still prefer American maple for it's properties. As reported by a long time footwear maker, D.A Satguto, "European red beechwood lasts from the Continent, I fear we'll need to brace ourselves as they are another experience if you're accustomed to using Canadian rock maple lasts, or even plastic.


The beech lasts I've seen are not very consistent, nor consistently bark-bottomed in their orientation. They tend to twist, warp, develop splits, cracks, and will "tack-out" [no longer hold tacks after repeated use] faster than maple[ which bark bottom tends to resist]. French "charme" or hornbeam lasts are nicer I think, but this wood is softer than beech, and much softer than maple. "


Historically, part of the last maker's job was to carefully select a wood that would give him the best shaping and lasting characteristics. Beginners in last making, hear that rock hard maple is the only type of wood that can be utilized for making lasts.  However, the reason behind why these woods are used is more important to understand than the finest wood to utilize. The characteristics of Maple and beech make them a good type of wood  for last making, however, other hardwoods (that have similar characteristics) can be utilized too.




1. A clean cutting wood.

i.e. a wood which cuts "clean " under the knife, with no tendency to fray. Ash and oak have the latter tendency, but beech has not.


2. A wood free from knots.

The presence of knots presents great difficulty in cutting, and, of minor importance, is unsightly. Again, after a time the knots are liable to fall out, and, consequently, may destroy the outline of the last. Beech and charme are singularly free from this affliction.


3. A wood not liable to split.

Liability to split would make knifing very difficult, and such an accident at salient points of the last would undo in a second hours of endeavor. Further, nails and rivets are driven into lasts, and these would quickly destroy a last with a tendency to split.


4. A wood, which has hardness of texture.

This is necessary to ensure that the last does not dent due to any blow, and that defined edges on the last keep their shape during wear and tear.


5. A wood, which is close, grained.

This property ensures a last, which will take a high polish.


6. A wood, which is not hydroscopic.   All woods are hygroscopic but some much less than others. However, lasts can be polished with wax, or enameled with cellulose, and such treatment protects the wood against the atmospheric conditions.


No wood satisfies all these ideals, but a careful selection of the wood and its proper treatment will lead to a satisfactory approach to them. 


Because of the characteristics of wood, these wooden lasts could not be relied on for absolute size and shape. To solve this problem,  preserve the wood and to help prevent swelling and shrinking lasts were soaked in Vaseline and gas solutions, many others concoctions.


 In the 1960's plastic was introduced as a more stable last making material, thus lasts began to be made from plastic instead of wood.  No longer the need for careful selection of wood, as plastic is a predictable material. Today, although some custom lasts are still made of hard wood,  lasts now are made of HDPE #2.  This plastic is a common plastic utilized for making milk bottles, medicine bottles, laundry detergent bottles, many other household containers, grocery bags and house wrap. It is an easily melt-able plastic that can be recycled to make newly formed lasts.  Although wooden lasts are still produced today we continue to promote utilizing plastic as a viable last making medium.


During the early 1900's the Gilman last making machine was utilized to crank out lasts faster than production last makers could.  It spit out more than a thousand lasts per day as appose to a few the last makers could make in a day. However, this machine still relied on an initial last maker to sculpt and shape the initial last ordered from the shoe designer before operations could commence. This first last, was called a pattern or model. because the model last was placed on one side and the newly forming lasts was shaped on the other. I believe a better name for this sort of machine would be a duplicating machine more than a last making machine. 


As last making went from the hands of the local cordwainer to the factories, new scientific experiments began to emerge regarding how the last can be shaped efficiently.  Luckily through these experiments, (each manufacture trying to gain a competitive edge) the last went from an asymmetrical foot like block to a medically scientific based rights and lefts. Also, along with this, journey last making theory was developed and continued to be developed through the 20th century.  It is thanks to the ambitions of footwear manufacturers of the this time that we have better fitting shoes than our predecessors and a solidification of last making theory.


In the late 19th century, many manufactures experimented with casting a foot and making a last with it.  Their experiments were not successful.  However, in the 1980's these experiments were revisited successfully for the purpose of of orthopedic and shoe therepy.  An art student, found a way to make orthopedic shoes by casting a foot and making a last from a foot model. These lasts began as plaster and ended up being made  of firm foam.  In the beginning the shoes turned out to look like feet with the toe bumps and all, had no artistic design, and the original shoes had a similar look to a moon shoe.  Later, however, his methods were improved upon, making his form of last and shoe making more desirable. The draw back to this type of last making is the lasts made from his method, did not have a heel option more than a half an inch, nor did they include modern sole shapes and styles, especially ladies shoe considerations. These shoes were not designed for beauty; they were designed for function and shoe therapy. None the less, his way of making lasts went on to become the prominent method of corrective ped-orthic lasts utilized today, His system is taught in many ped-orthic schools across America.  This art student developed his technique so well, that as computer technology was being integrated into last making manufacturing in the later 1980's, he was recruited to assist in many of the computerized last making software we know today. 


Although the computerized systems found a way to scan feet, they only used it as a fitting tool.  The software had been prepared with a multitude of previously carved and scanned lasts placed in its library for the last designer to choose from.   This software becomes a virtual fitting tool, as a person would try on a shoe.  Once a "close match" was achieved, the match was selected and last making adjustments were made directly into the program. The initial foot pair was forgotten and often only one foot was utilized for a "virtual last fitting".  As efficient as this may seem, many bugs still need to be corrected in this sort of system.  For example, it is guaranteed that most feet pair for one human are not the same size, thus utilizing one foot to match the other can be a gross mistake.  Secondly, if the individual is already having trouble finding shoes that fit, finding a "close match" is not what they are looking for in a "Custom" last pair. Additionally, if one is utilizing a last library as a virtual fitting tool but does not consider the planter surface of the individual's feet, proper foot support for ANY heal height would be difficult to achieve. Traditional last makers who followed the medically sound rights and lefts treated the foot pair by shaping a last for each foot individually.   Contrastly, in modern last/foot scanning software the foot being scanned is not actually the starting point for an individual  custom last pair. Instead,  a last shape is found (that slightly resembles that foot pair) small adjustments are made, the last is carved in wood or plastic block on a tabletop lathe that is computer numerically controlled, when the designer is satisfied  the foot pair is then forgotten. One might think that they were scanning the foot to make a last but this image is a misnomer.  As  explained in the paper written by Samual Lauchner called "The Automation of the Shoe Last" in order for a scanned foot to have a direct corrolation to a custom last  a reality more research must and needs to be done. As with most things, in order for computer software to be developed, items must first be hand crafted in order to program computer software to replicate the actions of ones own hands.  To this date, foot-scanning software remains still just a fitting tool for the custom footwear designer, however this computerized advancement is incredibly useful for factories and shoe designers developing lasts for a general market. 


My previous work as a fashion wedding gown designer gave me an understanding that to make an article of clothing truly custom; a form must be made beginning with a duplicate of the wearer. Therefore, my school has continued the work of creating a last directly from an identical model of the foot. Our science basted method of custom moulded last making combines the scientific research done from the factories through the 20th century. It is thanks to them who developed  proper last making theory that this theory is the foundation to all lastmaking classes we teach in our school when developing custom lasts. Additionally, we have successfully found the missing key that everyone overlooked regarding shaping a last from an identical replica of an individual foot pair In ANY heel hieght.


Treating each foot in a pair individually is key to a custom fit. 


By knowing what I have discovered and, you get a better control over your footwear designs based on what is the best look and fit, support  for the foot pair.    This information now completes the quest for a shoe that is comfortable, follows the contour of an individual, and can be manipulated into ANY fashionable footwear and in ANY heal height and shape for comfort, beauty and design.  For the custom last/shoe designer, learning the process of last design and shaping both traditional and our school's custom mould lasts will create quality-fitting footwear for one self or for your customers. What we teach is not relegated to orthopedic., although it can be utilized  for orthopedic shoe wear, it has no contraints regarding  heel hight. style or sole shape. This custom moulded last allows boots and shoes retain the planter surface of the individual, is guaranteed to replicate foot volume, breadth, that allows a more comfortable fit and fuction.  Finally, our system of developing lasts, takes the guess work out of the traditional measureing method and creates an exact fitting last making method.


In our classes we show you how to  optimized feet moulds and models as a beginning point to last making as we believe all modern scanned software should, We show you how to utilize Last Design Theory to your advantage, creating  beautiful footwear last shapes for walk able footwear that is truely custom. What is most wonderful about the custom mould last making method is that  allows  a beginning last maker to have success at last making from the start once they understand our methods of last making.  The intemediate course presents a comprehensive education in last making. This course can can be applied to our proprietary custom moulded last making method or any other last making method traditionally presented.  Because both ways are based from sound last making theories,  any other classes offered from Lastmaking regarding last making are epserps of the intermediate class. For a truly comprehesive education in last making, our intermediate course and privet classes are the best education you can find on the subject of last making. By teaching this method to boot and shoe designers, attain a competitive edge in the comfort results to their customers as well as individuals designing and making footwear for themselves.


In our future classes we will include classes on how to shape the last from a plastic or wood block based on the profile of an individual.


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