My last pair of boots. 4a: Decorating the shafts

Here are the latest photos on the progress of my Last Pair of Boots, under construction by the estimable Lee Miller of Austin, Texas. They were sent, and the captions written, by Lee’s wife and business partner Carrlyn. You can see how laborious it is to make this kind of inlaid decoration of the tops (“shafts”). It won’t be long now till the boots are done.
We’re into the nitty gritty of things now. I have quite a few pictures to send you.
Now we start on the tops. This is the back side of the kangaroo tops.
Jerry%27s Boots1
The cutting patterns have been cemented to the tops.
Jerry%27s Boots2
Lee is cutting out the pieces of the design. He uses a sewing machine, and the needle has been
sharpened and has become knifelike.
Jerry%27s Boots3
Here’s another view of him cutting out the rose.
Jerry%27s Boots4
Now he carefully uses an awl and pulls the cut pieces out.
Jerry%27s Boots5
Here is the top partially done.
Jerry%27s Boots6
 Here you see all the pieces from the back panels have been removed, along with the paper. [JAC: remember that the cut out portions will eventually be filled with different colors of inlaid leather. There will be four of these panels, so it’s a lot of work.]
Jerry%27s Boots7
Here are the front panels with the design cut out.
Jerry%27s Boots8
Lee is pulling the paper pattern off the tops.
Jerry%27s Boots9
The paper pattern is off.
Jerry%27s Boots10
The cut out pieces will be put back in. That will make sense later. Lee has marked which is for the
front and back.
Jerry%27s Boots11
This is what the back side looks like.
Jerry%27s Boots12
When he cuts out the design, both tops are cemented together and done at the same time. Here Lee is
pulling the two top panels apart.
Jerry%27s Boots13
Then he uses his hand to rub off the rubber cement. It comes off easily.
Jerry%27s Boots14
Now, he hand skives [JAC: skiving is shaving the leather so it’s thinner, to keep the boot with inlays at a uniform thickness] the edges and the design on the tops. That needs to be thinned down because there will be other leathers added to the tops, and without skiving this be very bulky and hard to work with.
Jerry%27s Boots15
Another view of Lee skiving.
Jerry%27s Boots16
Then he takes a match and burns whatever frays are on the back side. One top finished skiving. Three more to go.
Jerry%27s Boots17


  1. Linda K
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I may have missed a post somewhere along the way, so please remind us: Why must this be your Last Pair of Boots? Why not the “one in, one out” rule? Or, for boots, “two in, two out”? You still get to acquire more boots, but you trade some other pair in their place. You might donate them to someone who would love them as you did, or maybe auction them for a donation to a cause such as “Save Animals Made of Boot Material”. You’d certainly have a wide recipient base of readers from which to draw a winner. “Last Pair of Boots” sounds so final. Can’t boots evolve, too?

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      I see a problem with this. These boots are custom made. They won’t fit just anybody.

    • Posted June 19, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      I’ve got as many boots as any human needs, and my desire to get more has been sated (and I’ve run out of space). Believe me, I haven’t seen any on eBay that I want for months, and custom ones are expensive. I’m glad to have this be my last pair, and I’ll be able to wear a different pair every day for, well, let’s say a couple of months.

      The vast majority of my boots are not custom made-or at least were not custom made for me. But they all fit me.

  2. Posted June 19, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    many many thanks to you Dr. Coyne, and Mr. Miller and his team, for being willing to share the steps. I love seeing this kind of thing.

    • Dominic
      Posted June 20, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      “share the steps” – & the in-steps…

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 9, 2016 at 3:53 am | Permalink

      Well said–me too!

  3. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    he hand skives

    In EN_GB, “to skive” has a very different colloquial meaning – to be lazy and to avoid doing a real day’s work. Which is normally an accusation laid by the speaker about a job they don’t understand.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      (I suppose that “skive” is a cognate with “shave” in this context.)

      • Posted June 20, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        Yes, exactly. Skive is used many places to mean shave thin, thin, or the shavings cut off a bigger piece. (At least in the US.)

        • Posted June 20, 2016 at 8:15 am | Permalink

          In podiatry school in the 1980s, it meant to use a knife to bevel the edge of a felt pad, so the gradual decrease in thickness would feel more comfortable and natural under the arch. The inside edge wasn’t skived, because maximum support was needed under the highest part of the arch, but the other three sides (rounded to a D shape, altogether) were. This was preliminary to creating arch supporting orthotics. If the felt made a difference, then the orthotics would be even better. If not, don’t waste the patient’s time or money.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted June 20, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          It’s a very archaic usage in EN_GB. Not entirely unknown, but if you asked the “Man on the Clapham Omnibus” if he was a skiver, you’d probably improve the employment prospects of rhinoplasty surgeons.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Hand skive
      Hand skive
      Hand skive
      Doin’ that crazy hand skive

    • Dominic
      Posted June 20, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Yes – but skiving off is paring away from time that you should be elsewhere eg in school or work.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 20, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        Ah, that would be a credible etymology.

  4. Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m thinking that the phrase ‘decorating he shafts’ would make a good metaphor for wearing fancy boots, the ‘shafts’ being ones lower legs

    • Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      ‘decorating the shafts’ of course….

  5. Posted June 19, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Can Lee and Carrlyn’s work be turned into a book? It seems there are enough pictures, and the descriptions are that interesting. The process, altogether, is rather fascinating.

  6. Posted June 20, 2016 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Wow, amazing to see all the small steps that go into this. As I can attest from the work I do, what you don;t get from the photos is the mechanic’s feel for the materials and the exactly skill with the tools to produce the results seen in the photos. That’s the really hard bit (though knowing the techniques used (e.g. using the sewing machine to do cutting) helps) and is the reason one needs to apprentice to do this kind of work.

    It’s not the kind of work that can be fully specified in a work instruction.

    Sort of like some of the recipes I have: “Add spices until it tastes really good.”

    • darrelle
      Posted June 20, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Regarding the recipe example, my mother-in-law makes fabulous crepes and fudge (and several other things). She grew up in a large family on a farm in Québec and one of her regular duties from a young age was cooking.

      My wife and I decided some years ago that she had to give us her recipes for the crepes and the fudge. But she couldn’t! The best she could do was something like you described, only worse. No measures of anything, no quantifiable descriptions of technique. “Do this until it starts to feel like this, or look like that.”

      So I suggested that my wife work with her making the recipes and measure everything and take notes on technique. The resulting recipes are much better, but we still can’t make the crepes or the fudge come out like she makes them! Unfortunately when she passes they will be gone forever. Which will be a sad thing for the culinary world!

      Her fudge is so damn good. It is a plain fudge, i.e. not chocolate. It is only a few ingredients and it is amazing the taste and texture that results from them. I have always said that we should start a business selling the stuff. Two ways. Naked and enrobed in a quality dark chocolate, say 70%.

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