After this week is finished I will have spent three weeks working in the factory. I have learned more about boots, and Spanish, then I ever thought that I would! The first week was very difficult. Those who know me know that I do not like change. And this was a big change. But everyone here at Lucchese has been incredibly helpful and friendly. The workers are especially helpful, which I found surprising. Not because they are rude people, but simply because I did not think they would respond well to “some white kid” showing up to learn boots, and asking questions and making all sorts of mistakes. But again, they are all very helpful and patient. No one is mad when I make a mistake. They simply show me the right way to do it, sometimes several times, until I get it right.
I have done several operations or steps of the process, if you will. I have matched leathers (some exotics, like horn-back alligator, need to be paired with similar looking skins), cut leathers, corded designs, done overlays and inlays, sewn on pull-straps, flipped boots inside out, shaved excess leather of uppers, glued leather backers to uppers, and lasted. My favorite so far has been the lasting.
Lasting is the process where the leather of the boot is pulled around the last, giving the boot its footesque shape. Now, I can not really write this blog and not mention how important the last is to my family’s heritage. My great-grandfather Cosimo Lucchese created a last which had two unique features. First, the created a right and left last. Before this, every boot and shoemaker simply made two shoes, that went around a foot. There was no such thing as a “right and left” shoe until Cosimo invented the left and right last. He also created whats called the twisted-cone last. Cosimo created after much research on the human foot. A twisted cone last more accurately matches the shape of a human foot.
Now, back to lasting. Lasting is done by wetting the leather which makes it more flexible, and then stretching it over the last toe first. The leather is then nailed to the insole which is stapled onto the bottom of the last. An interesting thing is that when lasting you always need two hands: one holding the leather over the last and the second grabbing nails and hammering them in. The best way to do this is to keep nails in your mouth (yes I’ve had nails in my mouth the past week at work) then grabbing them right out of your mouth with the hand which has your lasting tool (pliers and a hammer in one) then nailing them into the last. It is a difficult process to describe. This video shows how a boot is hand lasted at Lucchese (from 3:30 minute mark). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OycogDJXIRc&feature=related
And also here are some pictures of me working! And meeting David Nail, a country star.