The first time I saw a seamless wholecut, I could hardly believe my eyes that this is possible. Seamless wholecuts are somewhat of a rarity, to my knowledge the industry has not come up yet with a machine which can mass produce them. So, until they do, a seamless has to be made by hand.

Disclaimer: This is just MY WAY of making a seamless. I could not find much about it on the internet, so this is what I came up with. There might be much better, smarter, “correcter” ways of doing it…

A few things are important though in my mind.

The last should be perfect, both in shape and in fit. The shape of the last is the only real design element. There are no broques, stitches or other embellishments on the shoe, so the beauty of it is determined only by the beauty of the leather and the shape of the last.

A perfect fit is always a nice thing, but on a wholecut it becomes even more of an issue. A bad fit will result in excessive ugly creases, the wholecut will show a bad fit without mercy.

The leather should not be too thick and have some stretch in it.

Recommended are brass nails because the leather needs to be lasted wet. Iron nails will leave nasty black spots, something which can be avoided with brass nails.

Making a seamless is actually easier than I initially thought, the key is that the leather needs to be “blocked”.

Actually, I block it twice. For the first time, I just stretch the wet leather over the last and let it dry.

This is just a rough stretch and I don’t use too many nails, important is just to put in the nails as far away from the featherline as possible and stretch the leather as much as it allows for the first time. There will be some creases at the featherline which is unavoidable – you try to fit 30 cm of upper onto 15 cm of insole, there must be creases and a lot of extra material….


I then put in an already prepared heel counter and block the leather a second time, this time using more nails and making an effort to have as little as possible creasing beyond the featherline. A little bit is fine, since this is not final anyway. Again, make an effort to stay away from the feather as much as possible with the nails. Since the final pattern is not cut yet and also the lining is not present it is better to be safe than sorry later and discover you have some nailholes where you don’t want them. This also the reason why I put in the heelcounter at this stage.


Why the heelcounter you might ask? First, the leather is being abused at the heel, it is being stretched to it’s limits and compressed at some places, so a strong heelcounter is a good idea. Second, the heelcounter will give me a clean line where the upper meets the sole. My heelcounter is skived next to nothing on the top edge but I leave it at it’s fullest thickness at the bottom.


Once the upper is dry, I take it off and pre-last the lining.


I turn the dried upper around and cut he pattern.


On these shoes I don’t want to use top beading, that would make them look too bulky for my taste, so I just bend the leather over at the edges.

Now the upper and the lining fit together nicely. I first glue them together so they don’t slip, then I stitch them.


I last the lining only and glue on the toe puff and heel counter. They are both polished with a deerbone to make them as smooth and perfect as possible.


To get a low and delicate toe, I trim it at the featherline. If I would do it the traditional way the toe would look too bulky and I don’t want that. I want the toe to look like this:




Since there is so much extra material from the upper, I believe the best way is to use a 360 welt.



The heelcounter is trimmed at the feather as well, it will give me a nice, crisp edge.







I glue the material which I saved when cutting the inside channel of the holdfast back in to achieve a smooth surface.


The shank is embedded in the insole.


The rest is business as usual, but I want to mention that I use a piece of strong plastic to avoid toolmarks from the awl.


And here are the finished shoes…

This project is an homage to my grandfather, an attempt to recreate a pair of shoes I got from him many years ago.

A pair of oxfords is pretty straight forward, however, this pair came with a few special challenges.
To achieve a clean edge the standard approach would be to simply fold over the leather and skive it neatly.

Unfortunately on this pair that is not an option. Folding over the crocodile skin looks ugly; plus the leather I am using is rather on the thin side and might stretch too much without extra reinforcement.
So, using a collar seems to be the way to go. But there is a problem.

Traditionally, a collar is being made by using a strip of leather folded over and glued together. To be able to bend it around curves, incisions are being cut out to avoid creases. This works fine on “normal” relatively thick leather. After having made a test of this method with the leather I have, it became clear that this is not an option. Even after the best skiving I could pull off, the collar still showed through.

So the workaround I try is to cut the collar in the same shape and curving as the upper, skive the side which is facing the outside of the shoe.


IMG_1449The folded over part of the leather has incisions only on one side – half of what would normaly be there if the collar was made out of a straight piece of leather.

IMG_1450They also are being skived after they have been glued on.

IMG_1774Since this portion is on the inside of the shoe – towards the lining, the collar blends in nicely and does not show through the upper anymore.


Another issue is the crocodile skin. The piece I have is very thin. It would not keep it’s shape and tear at the holes for the laces. So I back it with kangaroo leather, which – to my knowledge – is the strongest leather available and still thin enough to avoid too much bulk.



This pair should be as elegant as possible, so aside from using thin leather…



When cutting the inside channel for the holdfast, I save the leather and glue it back in after welting.
The surface of the insole is now very smooth and does not need any fillers like cork.


When stitching the outsole, I make the holes underneath the featherline. If the leather is wet, it can be bend down to allow a much steaper angle. The upper needs to be protected though. I use two thin but strong pieces of plastic taped together to avoid nasty toolmarks from the awl.


The stitching is visible when the welt is bent down…


IMG_1699…and disappears once the sole is bent back into place.

IMG_1520When cutting the channel in the outsole, I make an extra channel for the thread.

IMG_1701The stitching will be invisible once the outsole is finished.



I use woodpegs on the inside of the waist to keep it as slim as possible.

IMG_1657After sanding them, they are barely visible.



Gathering dust in my closet for many years now are these old “Gunboats”. I purchased them back in my starving actor years at a Goodwill store, must have been in the previous millenium. I have not worn them in the last ten years, except for once shooting a period piece. The lining is worn out and at the vamp the creases are cracked but I never had the heart to throw them away. They still have something solid about them. A perfect candidate for a rejuvenation project.


So, I take off the heels and out sole…


…and carefully separate the upper from the insole and lining.


Here is a good example of the infamous “Goodyear Welt”. I always crinch when some moron calls this the gold standard of shoe construction. Many people also confuse “Goodyear Welt” with a hand welted construction, where the welt is actually sewn straight onto the insole. Mr. Goodyears big contribution to the world of shoe making was not the invention of this construction – the machine was invented by a German shoemaker. He only marketed the new machine under his name. Since a Goodyear Welt can be stitched on by an unskilled worker (or now a child in the Far East) using heavy machinery in minutes, mass production of shoes became possible. Of course thousands of shoemakers got also screwed out of a job.


Modern “Goodyear Construction” uses the process of “Gemming”, where the welt is attached to the insole via a fabric or synthetic material which is glued onto the insole. Most RTW shoes are constructed this way, to my knowledge even G&G, EG and John Lobb use it.

To be fair though, on these -probably 50 year old – shoes the construction held up nicely and was pretty hard to take apart. I just find it kind of questionable to charge a premium price and marvel about the quality of a shoe which is held together by glue and a piece of cloth to save a few nickels….


Cutting out the cracked leather…


and sewing in new lining and crokodile skin for the vamp using the existing holes.


Lasting and welting the shoe is a bit of a challenge since there is not much excess material to work with and the leather is already a bit briddle in some areas. So I make the holes for welting not in advance but as I make the stitches, sometimes using the existing holes to avoid creating a big postage stamp.


The shoes get dyed black, receive a shank and the stitching channel of the welt is being closed with the material I saved when I cut the channel.


Leather for the back of the shoe, cork for the front.


The front part of the outsole is sewn on with hidden stitching…


…the waist and heel are being attached with wooden pegs.




I like how the crokodile skin has a pretty similar pattern on both shoes.


A comparison between old and new…


…and the money shot.

As I mentioned in my previous post, you will have to make a test shoe for a new last.

In my opinion, it is much better to make a complete shoe for a test, something you can wear at least for a few days because some problems with the last I made showed up AFTER A FEW DAYS OF WEAR AND NOT INSTANTLY.
I did glue together a few contraptions to check the fit of my last, everything looked fine then. The nasty surprise came later…
Also, you can’t really tell how nice the shape of a last is unless you have a somewhat decent looking upper, with lining and reinforcements.

Since I am a bloody amateur, it takes about 100 hours for me to make a pair of shoes. Craftsmen like Scheer do it in about 60.

Thats a lot of time invested in a test shoe and I am lazy by nature.

Here is the plan.
I will take a pair of old shoes I don’t wear anyways and recycle them. If the test works, voila, a new pair of shoes. If the last still is not perfect, there is not much lost. At least they were good for something.
It will save me a lot of time by not having to make the upper and by using the “Plain Veldtschoen Construction” I don’t have to stitch the upper and welt onto the insole which also saves a lot of time.


So, here we go.

An old pair of shoes I have worn maybe 3 times. Don’t know what I was thinking when I bought them. They are ugly and uncomfortable. But they do have a nice upper and are made of suede, the most forgiving material in terms of creasing. Kangaroo leather is the worst by the way.


So I carefully separated the upper from the sole…


removed the sythetic material and fabric lining on the front part of the shoe and put in some fresh leather lining.


I simply glued the lining onto the insole. Since I use plenty of material, this will be more than sufficient in terms of durability.

In the plain Veldtschoen construction, the upper is bent outwards.


I first glue the upper onto the outer sole, than glue the welt onto the upper.


Then I stitch on the welt through the upper onto the outsole.

Of course I cannot resist and make a channel to hide the stitching. Open channels are for suckers.


And here we are, a finished test shoe.



Update: The shoes were good enough to be selected by the director of my latest commercial as part of my wardrobe. So I got paid wearing them. Unfortunately they will not be seen in the commercial because they are under the table…


No two feet are the same.
Not even your own feet are an exact mirror image. We are not symetrical.
Specially when you get older you might develop some irregularities in your feet which make it impossible to find an off the rack shoe which truly fits. Thats why you see lots of old farts wearing sneakers. Because they are comfy. One of the sins in my youth was to wear cowboy boots which resulted in quite some damage in my feet. Don’t know what I was thinking. I’m not a cowboy.

Finding a Ready-To-Wear shoe which has the right fit does require a lot of luck.
Of course you can find shoes which are comfortable and look good on you when you try them on.
But ultimately, what really counts is how the shoe looks like on YOUR feet after you wore them for a few month without giving them special attention.
I find it pretty irrelevant how a shoe looks like brand new on the sales floor or on a glossy picture on the internet. The stunning shape, exquisite material, great construction, famous name and high price are completely useless if the shoe does not have the right fit.

Here is where the last comes into play. The last will determine the shape and fit of your shoes. The last is the foundation of a good shoe.

Without the proper last, your expensive John Lobb shoes look like this:


So, how do you get your hands on a last which enables you to make a shoe that deserves the label “Made-to-Measure”?

One route might be to start an apprenticeship with a good shoemaker, study for three years and learn how to make one from scratch.

Another route could be to order a pair of shoes from my favourite shoemaker, Rudolf Scheer in Vienna.
This company makes shoes since 1816 and produces only 300 pairs a year to ensure the quality of their shoes.
The current owner, Markus Scheer has studied medicine in order to learn how to make the perfect last, personalized for your feet only. Of course you will have to fly to Vienna twice, wait about a year to get your shoes and then shell out about 5,000 Euros. Then beg him to give you the last.

Well, neither one really works for me.
So I have chosen the crazy amateur route, making one myself.

I got a pair of lasts on ebay, a number or two bigger than my size to have some material to work with. Also I like the hinges in a last. Making one from scratch seemed to be a much to daunting task.
So, I took measurements, footprints, made a cast of my feet as reference and started to chip, rasp and sand away until the shape of the last fit the measurements and looked somewhat pleasing to the eye.

Here is a picture of the relevant measurements. (Not my last, but from one of my favorites, Hiro Yanagimachi)

Can one ambitious amateur make a great last in a few days and compensate for years of experience ?
Of course not.
The first pair of shoes I made on it were really comfortable and also looked ok in my mind – BUT…
After a few days of wearing them, ugly creases started to develop.
Now, you cannot avoid creasing entirely unless you wear rubber boots, but there is a difference between some shallow creases in the right places and deep ones in the wrong places.
To be fair, I noticed that most of the RTW shoes I own show the same creasing pattern.

So, about 100 hours of work, hand stitching ( I also stitched the upper by hand), welting, wood pegging and finishing produced a shoe I will probably not wear too much.
The lesson I have learned here is that even if your measurements and other parameters are fine, the last still can be less than perfect. This is why, good shoemakers make a “Test shoe” with inexpensive leather first and make adjustments to the last and pattern of the leather.

Well, lesson learned.