Silicone molding

The molding clay stop in place with the register dents.
The resulting silicone cast. See where the silicone cast is separating from the last at heel and toe?

I’ve got the first batch of silicone on my last and here are my observations.

First is that I shouldn’t put off until another day the continuation of the project.

Second is that I should put on a lot more silicone in the first coat.  I can work with what I’ve got, I just think it would have been better to keep at it.  When mixed 1:1:1, the combination is spreadable and sets up to the point additional layers could be added in under 2 hours.

Third, I should have used plaster instead of molding clay to build up the ankle and toe of my test last shape.  The silicone and molding clay separate beautifully . . . . but a little too eagerly.  Where the plaster will absorb the water the silicone puts off as it cures, the molding clay cannot and this creates hydraulic pressure which separates the silicone from the clay.  Despite that, I think I can work with this.  It’s just a test and the important bit is neither the top of the ankle OR the toe.  I’ll coat the silicone with a couple layers of mold release and then add the remaining layers of silicone.  I may have to pin the bits that are separating, but I don’t see that as a game changer.


I’ve been toying with making a pair of stitch-down sandal shoes ala Alan James Raddon but I could never figure out how to get the toe strap adjusted so it would be comfortably snug but not too tight.  When I need a solution to a problem, I’ve learned to just let things ferment.  Today I think I’ve found the answer.

Sewing sequence for the toe strap at

I was researching shoe making stuff and in a search on lasts shoes DIY I ran into a forum that led me to a website that had this picture.  The site is, a company that makes custom lasts and hold workshops on shoe making.

For making my own pair of sandal shoes, my brain was firmly fastened on sewing the outside first and I couldn’t figure out now to get the strap length right.  Duh.  This is just a little too obvious.  <rolls eyes at self>.  Sew the inside first!

In my weekly conversation with our son, I talked about what I’ve been doing to get lasts that would help me produce a better fitting shoe.  We’ve thrown a lot of ideas back and forth and it’s gelling.  We’ll see how it goes.

Outer Shaper

Outer shaper molded and trimmed.
Ready for sole trim and rhino-coating.

I’ve got a pair of shoes in the works.  I don’t know how successful this design will be.  The upper is a single layer of bison and all the support is built into the insole. The single pieced shaper is stitched through the bison layer.

The sole still needs to be trimmed very close to where it joins the upper.  Once the sole is trimmed, I will reinsert the last, get the shaper wet and reshaped.  This will close up the awl holes I made stitching the shaper to the upper.

Once the shaper’s completely dry I’ll paint bed liner over the shaper and the side of the sole.  The end result should be a funky looking sneaker.

There are two things I didn’t do that I probably should have.  I didn’t add a welt around the ankle opening.  That may have been an error and only time will tell.  This is something I can go back and do if I feel I must.

The second maybe oops is, I didn’t stitch the outer sole to the shaper before applying the shaper to the upper.  The one person I know with the machine to do that has developed a really mean case of early onset Alzheimer.  <wince>  Sadly, avoid is the name of the game there.

The side rings are to accommodate a strap that goes around the back of the shoe, through the side rings and across the top of my instep to secure the shoe for heavy duty things like running after horses.  The strap under the foot is, I believe, too long, but I won’t know for sure until I wear the shoes for a while.

Cydwoq (‘sidewalk’)

Cydwoq boots

What would a shoe look like if a California architect designed it?  Trust me, it gets pretty interesting.

Cydwoq produces some pretty interesting uppers and I’ve gotten some really interesting ideas from looking at the footwear on the site.

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any awareness of the connection between toe spring (how much the toe of the shoe lifts of the ground) and heel height.  Some of the low heeled or heelless shoes are made on lasts engineered to have more heel than provided on the shoe.


I had an epiphany last night.  I need to rethink how I’m making my shoes.  I don’t need to change a lot, but what I need to change will make a significant difference to how my shoes fit and my feet feel.

Because I have a really high arch and correspondingly high instep, I can’t wear a regular shoe and expect it to not hurt my arch.  Any pressure I put on the arch is downward as the lacing tries to press my arch down to fill the void left by the arch of my instep.

I need to do one of two things.  I either need to make an orthotic to fill the void or I need to build the shoe to fill the void.  Of the two choices, I prefer the later.  I hate having to move supports from one shoe to the next.

I’ve started on my first pair of *real* shoes.  I’m going to make a glued “sneaker”.  This will take one additional piece of leather.  I’m going to glue the lining to the insole, add the fill to level off the bottom, add the fill for the instep, glue the upper down over all that, add the fill for the upper, glue on my shaper (yeah, I’m gluing it outside the outer) and then add the final outsole shaping it to come just to the feather edge.  The last bit I’ll have to have Sunshine Shoe Repair do as he has all the wonderful shaping machines.

That should give me an all leather sneaker with superior support.  It should be fun.  Let the games begin . . .

Second pair of fitters

I finished the second pair of fitters this morning and overall, I’m very pleased. They aren’t fashionable, but they do tell me how I’m doing getting my lasts adjusted. I initially thought I would need to narrow the toe box but they’re just right. As to overall fit, the right shoe is perfect. There is nothing I would change about the fit of the right shoe. The left, though close, isn’t quite perfect. My left heel slides up and down just a little and the shoe is a tiny bit short. I occasionally feel the end of the shoe with my left middle toe. Once I fix these two issues, I think I will have great fitting shoes.

I want to add a little to the height of both lasts at the top front of the cone. I think the fit would benefit from having that part of the shoe cut ½” higher.

My next pair of shoes will be a “real” pair with pig skin lining and 4oz outer leather. I’m not saying I won’t wear the fitters. I will. The first pair will work great as house shoes and I’ve already been running around outside in the second pair. They’re not pretty, but otherwise they’re great; light and supportive without being rigid. I’ve added the pair of supports out of my dress clogs to keep my knees and hips comfortable. Picture me happy.

Ultimately, I want to reshape the lasts so the supports can be built right into the shoes. When I get the lasts perfect, I’ll make a mold and recast them in the final shape. That will give me a clean feather edge, something that would make the process of creating shoes on the lasts easier.

We’re skiving, we’re skiving . . .

Rough shape ready to skive
Skiving complete
A judicious spray of water . . .
Starting to shape . . .
A few twists and more nails, more hammering . . .
Sufficiently trussed


Lots happened today . . . and now we wait.  While we’re waiting for the leather to dry, let me give you a recap of the steps.

The day before yesterday I cut stabilizers from light weight soling.  These are to replace the toe box, side stabilizers and heel counter.  This  may not work, but you know me . . . I have to try.

I got the stabilizing mid-sole (the one between the inner and the outer) wet and wrapped them in newspaper overnight, then tied them to the bottoms of my lasts using strips of t-shirt material.  I wasn’t worried about perfect at that point, I just wanted the general shape so I could see if I needed to do any additional trimming before I skived the edge.

Yesterday my skiving knife came.  After carefully sharpening the knife, I skived 1/2″ of the outside edge, feathering it down to nothing.  I only cut myself twice!  <LOL>  Neither was serious enough to require bandaging so the job got done.  I want the edge to not show on the outside of the shoe so the quality of the skiving job was important.

The I sprayed the leather on the grain side and set my last into place and, using a piece of t-shirt material began conforming the leather to the last, spraying with water occasionally as I worked.

Next came lots of nails, some rubber bands, some more strips of t-shirt material, more twisting and hammering lumps to make sure all was smooth and lots more nails.

Now we wait for them to dry.

I need to get the other pair of lasts lengthened so they match this pair.  With two sets of lasts I can do two steps at the same time.  I could be shaping the uppers ready for gluing . . . Or, if I’d been smart enough to lengthen the other pair of lasts and use them for this step, I could be gluing the liner to the insole on this pair of lasts.

Hindsight.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Two part lasts

While they lack to sophistication of complex break apart lasts, they have all the necessary function.

Lorr’s making more than one set of lasts for me.  This set has been cut into two so they can be removed from boots, which is my first project.

Wadly and I are headed to Lorr’s Saturday.  I’ll get a little more detail on exactly how he did the molding, what product he used for the mold and what he used as a mold release agent.

Casting for lasts

Box for foot mold

I’ve finally got all my ducks in a row and have cast one of my feet in pursuit of lasts for making my own shoes.

I zipped together a box for the mold, using scrap pieces of 6″ plastic pipe to fill in corners so I don’t waste molding material.  I sealed the seams with some caulk I had on hand (butyl silicone).  I think just about anything would work as a sealer.  One pound of alginate fills the mold to my ankle.  How great is that?!

Foot impression filled with plaster

I taped my anti-arch support in the bottom of the mold before adding the alginate, then stood in the alginate until it set up.  Getting my foot out was pretty easy, just a little wiggling and I was free.

It takes 4 cups of plaster of Paris to fill the mold to the ankle.

The alginate is a nice molding medium.  It’s pretty easy to tear apart to remove the plaster of Paris positive and it faithfully reproduces whatever is molded.

Lorr, cleaning up the positive

I went up to our son’s to get a part for my table saw repaired.  While I was there he cleaned up the positive, a necessary step in getting it ready to mold.

The final shape, just needs a final clean-up and smoothing

And there you have it, a semi-ready form to cast for my left foot last.  I still need to skim-coat it with Bondo before a final sand to make sure it’s smooth, smooth, smooth.  I’ll get the right foot done this week.  Hopefully we can get the lasts cast this coming weekend.

Making shoes will be a good bad-weather project.  I really need shoes that will support my rotten ankle and keep my feet dry while running around outside.

Footie Stuff

Mold just slightly larger than my foot . . . yeah, I know, I have small feet.

I managed to get a mold made of one of my feet.  I used warm water to mix the first batch of alginate and it set up before I could get it out of the bowl and into the mold.  The second time around I mixed using cold water, poured the mix into the mold and stepped into it.  That worked great.

Alginate set up and filled with plaster.

I mixed plaster of paris and filled the mold.  I have to wait until it sets to unmold it.