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Bill Bird shoemakers take a new approach to hand carving lasts

Bill Bird shoemakers outside our workshop in the Cotswolds

Bill Bird Shoes has taken delivery of 60 pairs of beech spokes from Italy for making our hand carved bespoke orthopaedic lasts. This is the first time we have done this – most of our lasts have been made from beech planks from Germany.

The reason we decided to change is because a spoke is a log split into four. This makes it a much more efficient use of the wood and they are also cut from much younger trees.

“The way the last is cut from the spoke, the bark is parallel to the bottom of the last,” explains Bill Bird.

“There is much less tangential shrinkage along the width of the last than radial shrinkage in the height of the last. This means that the lasts are much more stable in shape and size over long periods of time.

“The final reason we decide to change is that the lasts can be made from one piece of wood, whereas with the planked wood they need to be glued up from two pieces. Again, this makes for a stronger last.”

This is a sketch of a cross section of the log. It is split into four and I have shown how one of the four sections, which are called spokes, are approximately the same shape as the last that will be carved from them.
This is a sketch of a cross section of the log. It is split into four and I have shown how one of the four sections, which are called spokes, are approximately the same shape as the last that will be carved from them.
The back outline of my right last to show how the outline falls within the shape of the spoke.
The back outline of my right last to show how the outline falls within the shape of the spoke.
A cross section of a spoke with the back outline of a last drawn on. The axe is what Bill Bird used to carve lasts with in a previous life before 1850! (only joking Bill)
A cross section of a spoke with the back outline of a last drawn on. The axe is what Bill Bird used to carve lasts with in a previous life before 1850! (only joking Bill)

 

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