The story of a shoe which has been commissioned begins with the measurement of the foot.
The measurements. The client is requested to place his foot on a sheet of card. The shoemaker traces the outline with a pencil and then marks:
the length, usually expressed using the English system, corresponding to 6 mm;
the circumference, calculated at the widest point of the ball of the foot;
the circumference of the instep, at the narrowest part of the foot;
the circumference of the arch, at the highest part of the foot;
the throat, beginning a centimetre down the central line which divides the front face of the foot, passing around the base of the heel and reuniting with the central line.
This consists of the outsole, the insole and the rand or slender layer of leather or cork which is inserted between these, the welt, the shank, the heel and the top piece.
Preparation. The soles are cut from the rump, which represents the best part of the hide; they should be at least 4-5mm thick, after which they are immersed for 12 hours in water so as to dilate the pores, before being left to partially dry. They must then be beaten vigorously and at length with a hammer to render them compact and soft.
The Construction of the Last.
The artisan takes a standard wooden last, rests it on the drawing and begins to mark the differences.
With the help of glasspaper and soapwort the last is finished, sanded and smoothed until it forms an exact replica of the client’s foot, imperfections included. Naturally in industry this phase does not exist, therefore the construction process begins using a standard last.
The upper consists of the vamp, which covers the front part of the foot, and the quarter panels (or Quarters) which encase the heels.
The Cardboard Template. Using the measurements of the personalised last, the master shoemaker prepares a cardboard template of the upper: he will use this to cut the leather (upper and lining).
Cutting the Leather. Taking a specialised tool, the knife, and using the cardboard template the master shoemaker proceeds to cut the various parts of the upper and related lining.
The Joining. This consists of a variety of quite delicate actions required to assemble and stitch together the various parts of the upper.
The Pre-mounting. The shoe is provisionally mounted and fixed on the last with a number of tacks.