Originally Posted by Nick V.
DW, forgive me if this question was raised in the past.
How do you pick a last? Do you modify something out of stock? Build it up with cork and leather?
Either way.....I would think that you have a nice inventory on hand.
For regular customers, do you save their lasts? Who owns them, they -or you? It's just a question of policy.
To me the real artwork and time is in making the last right.
Yes, it has been asked...and beaten to death, mostly by people who have never made a shoe or a last.
(And yes, I'm suspicious of your question...we do have a history, after all, and you do have a modus operandi. But I will hope and pretend, for the sake of those other readers who might really be interested, that this isn't a "too clever" way to instigate.)
Yes, I use stock lasts. It's not a secret. I've made no bones about it. I think that in the right hands, it is a very good way to model a foot and achieve a fit and a stylish shoe. Its primary drawback in my opinion is that it limits the maker to specified heel heights.
I have also said that I envy and admire those who can and do carve lasts from blocks of wood. That's how I started, actually, but never had the benefit or good fortune of formal training or proper tools. I think last carving/making, if done properly is nearly as difficult to master as shoemaking itself...if not more so.
And I think that, in the right hands, carving a last from scratch is a very good way to model the foot and achieve a fit and a stylish shoe.
I think that to a great extent the two approaches overlap more than amateurs and shoe groupies know or would like to acknowledge.
One is additive and other is subtractive. But the objective is the same. Anyone who can do the one well enough, can do the other.
It goes without saying that the carver will often add material to alter the last after the fact, and by the same token and for the same reasons, the stock-last-modder will very often subtract material.
I have even money that if a carver were to start with a stock last he would end up near-as-nevermind with exactly same shape and size...same bottom radiuses, same toe shapes, etc, as if he had started with a chunk of wood. And vice versa--if I, as a modder of standard lasts, were to start with a block of wood I have no doubt I would end up with a last that was identical to to what I would have if I had started with a standard last.
I currently have a size 7C (?) last that I am converting to a roughly 6A--it is a custom last and dedicated to one individual. I don't recommend that beginners do this but I myself often reshape and alter lasts significantly.
When I choose a last I look for much the same things I look for, and focus on, when measuring the foot.--heel seat and treadline width, heel-to-ball length, girths at 6 -7, 7 places that correspond to bones on the foot, etc..
If the last I have chosen is way out of range I chose another that is closer. If it is still too large or too small I either cut it or build it up with scraps of leather.
If I have not cut the last...relying on build-ups only...I do not retain it as a dedicated last for that particular customer but pull the build-ups, tag them, bag them, and save them for the next time the customer comes in. That allows me to reuse the last.
I own the lasts unless the customer wants to pay an additional fee for them--either to ensure that they will remain set up for their foot alone or to take...as is their preference.
"art", or at least aesthetics, in making a last. For the carver, it is like "finding" the shape within. For the modder, it is like the lost wax sculptor.
But the real artistry is in arriving at a last that embodies the salient measurements and features of the foot and yet creates a visually appealing and graceful shoe.
Again...the concept of "fair curves" is the key, IMO. And, much like the Golden Mean, if you don't understand what a Fair Curve is...even if only subconsciously...you have no basis for understanding art...or Art...either one.
--Edited by DWFII - 3/20/16 at 5:52pm