Sunday, June 26, 2011

Making basic shoe last

Last pattern making
The last is a model of the foot, or more importantly, a model of the inside of the shoe. This form is used to shape the shoe, usually by stretching the leather over it. Last were made of different materials throughout history. Clay was known to be used during the Roman period. Iron lasts are also mentioned in some sources, and most commonly wood. Few examples of period last have been discovered in comparison with the number of shoes found.
Period last were created of a large variety of wood: generally what was readily available. The last I have used, I made myself out of pine, because during my research, I have found hard wood last appear beginning in the 1700s.   Prior to this only soft wood last are found. Evidence points to a fact that last may have belonged to the client and not the shoemaker, which means far fewer shoes would be made on them than with a standard sized last used for multiple clients, as found in more modern shoe making shops.
I created this pair of last by gluing pine 2x6 boards together. Then I used a hatchet, chisel and hammer to carve out the rough shape, and then sanded them smooth. The actual techniques used with the last changes, depending on the culture, time period and style of shoes being made. Last also become of greater importance as shoe style and construction increase in complexity.
The first step in building a last is creating a pattern, by tracing the foot. I would suggest using poster board and a pencil. Below are some pictures and explanations of this process.
fig. 1
First step in making a pattern in which to guide your last making efforts is to have someone trace the profile of your foot. Place the poster board on a vertical surface, place your foot against it and stand straight up. (fig. 1) The toe of the profile view will have to be adjusted to the shape of the desired shoe.
fig. 2
The second step to stand on top of the poster board. The tracing around the outside of the foot should be done with the pencil held straight up and down. (Fig. 2) Trace the foot again with the pencil angled to reach as far under the foot as possible (as pictured below fig. 3). After the tracing is complete, before removing your foot some reference marks need to be made. One should be made at the center of the heel, one at the ball of the foot, and one between the big and second toe. (See fig. 4)

fig. 4
The tracings will be used to generate a pattern based on the desired shape of the shoe. Below in figure 5 is an example of how the shoe shape around the toes when creating the patern
fig 5

Measuring the foot
You will want to make accurate measurements of the foot. Make careful notes of these measurements prior to carving the last. Compare these measurements frequently while carving the last. Below is a drawing which will help guide you in this process. 
fig. 6
·         Picture above was found at:
Carving the last
The next series of steps is designed to show how to create lasts based on the patterns you created earlier. The first step is to cut four pieces of 2”x 6” pine board. Make sure each piece is the same length and long enough to accommodate the length of the shoe pattern. Glue the pieces together so you have two blocks, two boards thick. (fig. 7) Be sure to cover the entire surface with glue. Clamp the boards together and let then setup over night.
fig. 7
Take you pattern of the bottom of the last and trace it on to each block be sure to flip the pattern on the second block, so you have a left and a right. (See fig. 8)
fig. 8
After tracing the first pattern on to the block, carve away the excess material until you arrive at blocks resembling fig.9
fig. 9
Take the blocks and trace the silhouette pattern on the outside of each block, as in figure 10. Also trace the ankle pattern at this time as well. (fig. 11)
fig 10

fig. 11
After tracing the two patterns on to the block, carve away the excess material until you arrive at blocks resembling fig. 12
fig. 12
The following pictures should serve as a guide to help you understand the final process of shaping the last.

fig. 13

fig. 14

fig. 15
Fig 15 shows a pair of finished lasts.


  1. Great tutorial! I pinned it on my pintrest page.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.