Tip for making stitch-down shoes over lasts

Hopefully you can see a last under this sole. When making stitch-down shoes over lasts, the sole needs to be 1/4″ bigger all around than the sole of the last so the upper can be cemented, then turned out onto that 1/4″ that is visible all around the sole of the last.  Then, the sole needs to be nailed with a couple of nails to the bottom of the last, before the shoe is stitched together on that 1/4″ lip.

I can line the sole up correctly under the last, but then I need to grip the last with the sole below it so I can hammer in those nails. I try with all my strength to turn last and sole upside-down so I can put nails through the sole and into the last – but invariably I can’t grip it tight enough and it goes askew while I’m turning it over. It was a very frustrating problem!

I had a recent visit from a fellow who is an engineer – he suggested I try an approach that now I use every time I make stitch-downs over lasts. You can see the technique in this photo: first I drill a small hole in the bottom of the last at both the heel and toe. Next, I hammer a thin nail into these holes until 1/2″ or so extends from the last. I cut off the head of the nail and sand it smooth.

I took some soling I had to make a “washer” with a small hole in it. Then I made two marks on my sole patterns where the nails are located. After making the soles, I punch out those two holes in it. Of course the one in the toe won’t be seen inside a shoe, but the one at the heel is visible. I’ve decided it’s worth it!

When I place a sole under the last now, I slide the sole onto both of those nails, then push the washers in place. When I turn the last over, the sole is centered and there is a 1/4″ edge all around the last!