Riccardo Bestetti Bespoke projects.

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Roy, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Both have their points.

    Wood will swell or shrink with the ambient moisture. And every time you drive a nail or tack, you damage the last...imperceptibly, but it adds up. Lasts that are in constant usage, especially where pegging is used (and didn't I see a Bestetti with pegged waists?) will become nearly useless in time. The whole waist area will be "gouged" out.

    On the other hand, build-ups and modifications are much more secure on wood and more easily blended into the lines of the last.

    Plastic is self healing. It is stable. But even with the best contact cements, build-ups, especially those along the featherline, seldom adhere to the last properly for longer than one use.
     
  2. ThinkDerm

    ThinkDerm Senior member

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    I assumed that wood would be better than plastic for lasts, but less exact.

    Plastic lasts seem less authentic for some reason
     
  3. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, I share your sentiments.

    But wood for lasts is getting scare. If I recall correctly, quarter sawn beech and hornbeam were the standards at one point and I believe hard rock maple has been used. Coarse grained woods are not suitable, of course.

    I know Springline uses wood...I'm not sure what it is...but lastmakers in the US no longer offer wood as an option.

    Despite the lack of authenticity, if I had an open choice I think I would still use plastic for all the reasons mentioned above and especially for standard size lasts.

    My basic philosophy is: "If, after sweeping up the scraps, there is no appreciable diminution of quality or appearance, then it doesn't make any difference which technique (material) is used."

    In the absence of wood, or lastmakers who will turn wood, plastic is just as reasonable an alternative as nylon bristles are in lieu of hog's bristles.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  4. ThinkDerm

    ThinkDerm Senior member

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    New age, new techniques. Thanks DWF
     
  5. Xenon

    Xenon Senior member

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    As a hobbyist cabinet maker for over 30 years I can say that wood would be more precise than plastic. Woods like rock maple, hornbeam and all the oustanding tight grained tropical hardwoods (ebony, rosewoods etc. - too precious to use for lasts obviously) can take phenomenal detail and respond beautifully to sanding, cutting, gluing. No plastics that I am aware of respond as well to machining, cutting, sanding. Wood is just a pleasure to work with, the harder the better, plastic not. This should make no difference to the end consumer however.

    Never worked on a plastic last but DWFII mentions self healing nature which means a relatively softer substance. Softer = less detail possible. However wood would be far less stable with humidity swings (wood is actually like a sponge).

    All in all though if plastic works then please use it as wood is getting more expensive and scarce, and certainly why Bestetti and other use plastic.

    I personally have made about a dozen wooden lasts so far and use rock maple logs that were destined as firewood, raiding my parents and inlaws fire wood reserve:D
     
  6. ThinkDerm

    ThinkDerm Senior member

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    great insight. thank you!
     
  7. fritzl

    fritzl Senior member

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    i dunno what a plastic last costs. imo, it's more a question of finding a good lastmaker after all.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  8. Xenon

    Xenon Senior member

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    Yes absolutely. This means that you should let the last maker choose what he/she is comfortable with and gets the results you want. The material used for the last should not be a determining factor.
     
  9. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, I am a hobbyist wood turner myself...making mostly handles for shoemaking tools but occasionally vases and other hollow forms.

    I absolutely agree with everything you've said...

    That said, I cannot think of any real need for detail, such as you mention, on a last.

    The only real, functional "edge" (where detail and precision might be required) is the "featherline", which goes around the forepart and the heel...disappearing in the waist.

    It is sometimes nice to have a clean sharp featherline to cut your insole to, but some of the most highly regarded lasts of the 19th and 20th century did away with the featherline altogether...or just around the heel area sometimes. Such lasts are a challenge for the novice maker and I suspect they would present huge problems for automated systems, as well. As a result, lastmakers have universally adopted the featherline as a standard feature of modern lasts.

    It is well to remember as lastmakers or shoemakers, however, that the foot itself does not have these edges.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  10. Tobacco Man

    Tobacco Man Senior member

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    This thread is out of control. Thanks for posting the incredible pics! :slayer:
     
  11. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Springline will make last in wood or plastic depending on what is ordered. In central Europe beech is the preferred wood for lasts (that's what Springline uses), but that varies with the geographical location: I believe in Poland they use birch and southern Europe might opt for other woods. With the exception of Edward Green, virtually all factories have changed to plastic lasts in the last thirty or so years. But of course lasts for factories do not need individual adjustments as one-off lasts for bespoke or orthopaedic work.

    The problem with plastic lasts for individual work, they can easily be adjusted with the add-on method, but taking-off (reducing certain sections in volume) is rather difficult. Take a wooden last and a rasp and you have the heel narrowed (if that's what is needed for an improved fit) in a couple of minutes. Yes, I believe plastic lasts can be rasped down, although not as easily as wood. But there are a number of shoemakers who will only build-up and never reduce their lasts, because these firms do not store the lasts of individual customers. Once the shoe is finished and accepted, the leather build-ups get ripped off, stored in an envelope with the customers name and the last gets adjusted for the next customer. So the last has no different measurements or other variables than the ones the shoemaker knows.

    If our first customer orders another pair, the leather pieces get re-attached to the same last. This of course saves storage space and the continuous costs of raw lasts to be made into bespoke lasts.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  12. ThinkDerm

    ThinkDerm Senior member

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    what company do you work for bengal?
     
  13. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, that's what I do. However, I will say two things...first, I use a "finisher." Essentially a bank of sandpaper wheels and polishing brushes. That's the way I was trained. By the time of the hey-day of western (cowboy) boots--mid 1800's-early 1900's--finishers were becoming pretty commonplace in small bespoke shops in the US. With a finisher, modifying even plastic lasts is pretty quick. I can narrow the heel or the "comb" in probably a quarter of the time that it would take me to do it even if I were working with wood.

    Of course, there is a temptation to do shoddy or hurried work with a finisher. But in the end, it is no less dependent on the sensibilities and eye of the maker than if you were using a rasp. The finisher no more limits your accuracy or finesse than a lathe limits a wood turner.

    And while I am reluctant to "cut" a last, or "personalize" a last, again, it is a philosophical decision every maker must make regardless the tools---will he respect the foot or fake it?

    I have cut lasts. I have had occasion to make modification to every surface of the last. Every nuance of fitting the non-pathological foot can be addressed with build-ups and modification to a standard size last as readily as starting from a block of wood. Indeed, in the hands of a novice, perhaps more readily and more accurately.

    To be brutally honest, the reason I would rather build up a last than cut it, is that in almost every instance I have ever encountered, if the foot requires cutting the last, it is so far from a statistical norm that starting with a narrower last and building up the forepart is the only reasonable solution.

    The example of narrowing the heel is a perfect one. You have to understand that heelseat width is one of those factors on the foot for which there is no compromise. Sometimes you can make a shoe narrower in the ball of the foot than the footprint would indicate...as long as the joint girth is correct. But you don't have that kind of leeway in the heel. If the heel of the foot is narrower than the last and the insole, the foot is not properly fit.

    So...if a last has to have the width of the heel reduced. The better solution is always to start with a narrower heel to begin with. Indeed this configuration probably represents 80-90% of all bespoke work--wide forepart, narrow heel.

    Even if I were working with wood...even if I were carving lasts from scratch (and I have done)...a trial fitting would often mandate leather build-ups on the forepart of the last (sometimes even on the heel), at which point you're dealing with the last in exactly the same manner as I am.

    Finally, I suspect that less than 1% of all bespoke makers carve lasts from scratch. I admire those that do...it refines the eye and the mind as much as any meditation.

    BTW...and completely off topic but perhaps interesting, here is an applewood vase I turned. About seven inches tall with even walls about 1/8 inch thick.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  14. ThinkDerm

    ThinkDerm Senior member

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    love the vase. what are you using it for?
     
  15. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Thanks. Wife has dried teasel and eucalyptus in it.

    Apple is notorious for checking and cracking even after it has been thoroughly dried. I got lucky.
     

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