Upper Lasted (Moulded) and Boots Blocked

Hand-stapling an upper on to a last.

Hand-stapling an upper on to a last.

The shoe now goes on to its last (which will have been specified by the designer). The last is also be sized according to the shoe being -made. If it is a boot, the vamp will first be “blocked” on a fearsome-looking moulding machine to give it the curve that an instep and ankle require. All shoes will have some moulding and pressure applied to the heel to get it into roughly the right shape before lasting. In the image on the left, you can see a crease under the heel where the moulding machine has pulled the leather into a rough shape. We can still see the white ridge of the rib, as nothing has, as yet, been attached to it.

Uppers pulled on to  the last and about to be stretched and cajoled into shape

Uppers pulled on to the last … and about to be stretched and cajoled into shape

Stapled on to Last

At last (sorry again for being punny) – we actually make full use of the last to shape the shoe completely. In the image here, this is being done traditionally, using pliers to cajole the leather into place and tacks to hold the upper on to the last tightly. There are now machines that do this all in one go (ie the whole upper is pulled into place at once). This is more uniform and arguably kinder to the leather. At this stage, the choice of good quality leather, skilled cutting and the steaming process all pay dividends. If the leather is going to split or crack, it will do so when it is pulled properly on to the last.

Heat setting on last

This isn’t very picturesque – so no image. Shoes are generally subjected to carefully-controlled, but quite intense, heat at this stage to cause the shape to “set” in the leather. The last will be taken out quite soon and the shoe must retain the shape that the designer designed!