My last pair of boots. 8. Toe boxes

I’m told that my boots will in fact be done tomorrow, and shipped shortly thereafter. The pictures, however, are a few days behind. Today’s bit is largely about the “toe boxes,” the thick piece of leather that protects the toes and also gives them an attractive boxy shape.  Cowboy boot toes come in a number of styles, and of course when you order them you have to pick one. This is only a small sample of the choices, which range from very pointy (called “roach killers” because you can use the points to stomp a roach in a corner) to broad and round.  If you choose a box toe, as I did, then you also have to specify how wide it is across the top. In the following diagram, the box toes go from narrow (“Toe 1”) to a bit wider (“Toe AF”) to even wider (“Toe A” and “Toe K”). Mine will be, as I recall, about half an inch across (or maybe 5/8″), corresponding to something like AF:
Off-the-shelf boots have pre-bought toe boxes, sometimes made of plastic, but real custom ones require the construction by hand of a leather toebox that has been stiffened with hardeners and cement. Making one requires lots of experience. The following photos and captions (indented), all by Carrlyn Miller, show the process:
The boots have been lasted and are now ready to have the toe boxes put in.
Jerry%27s Boots1
The leather toe boxes have been cut out and are now soaking.
Jerry%27s Boots2
After a bit, the toe boxes are taken out and wrapped in newspaper to “mull.”
Jerry%27s Boots3
 Jerry%27s Boots4
Meanwhile, the leather is pulled back from around the toe.
Jerry%27s Boots5
The excess lining leather is cut away.
Jerry%27s Boots6
The area is now ready for sanding.
Jerry%27s Boots7
Jerry%27s Boots8
And, the lining is painted with cement.
Jerry%27s Boots9
As well as the toe.
Jerry%27s Boots10
The boots sit to dry a bit.
Jerry%27s Boots11
The leather toe box has been wrapped around the toe and nailed on.
Jerry%27s Boots12-1
And the toe has been sanded and shaped. Left boot has not been sanded and shaped, but the right toe has.
Jerry%27s Boots13
The toe has been painted with hardener.
Jerry%27s Boots14
The toe is painted with cement.
Jerry%27s Boots15
Cement is also applied to the leather.
Jerry%27s Boots16
And, the leather is pulled around the toe.
Jerry%27s Boots17
As the leather is pulled over, it’s also nailed down.
Jerry%27s Boots18
A string is wrapped around the nails to help keep the leather pulled down.
Jerry%27s Boots19
And, now it sits to dry.
Jerry%27s Boots20
The next set of photos will show how the bottoms are put on.


  1. alexandra moffat
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Dr C – you should please publish all these boot creation photos from start to finish in a booklet. People would be interested – and many need to see, learn, that not everything comes ready- made in a box from China or the North Pole. Crafts people deserve honoring!

    • Posted June 30, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      No can do. I will, at the end, just put up a short post that links the whole process in order. But, as far as I know, this is the first time that the entire process has been documented photographically anywhere, including books. And it’s cool that it’s MY boots!

      • Ken Elliott
        Posted June 30, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        It is pretty cool to see the process. I had always taken boots for granted growing up. All those I’ve owned in the past, I’m sure, had plastic toes. They’re a beautiful pair of boots, Jerry, and being custom made, by hand, with quality materials, I imagine they will supremely comfortable. How long, do you think, it will take to break them in? Or will they be quite comfy from the beginning given their custom fitting?

        • Posted June 30, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

          They will take no breaking in. From my experience with boots made to fit my foot, they are comfortable from the first moment you put them on, and you don’t have to suffer painful feet, blisters, or any breaking in of the boot itself.

  2. Posted June 30, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    AF is classic. What an elaborate process. Some of the toe box pics remind me of elastic reptile ligaments being innervated near the quadrate bone.

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Curious that the different toe patterns have both letters and numbers. I think I would have picked AF, too, because cowboy boots need pointed toes. But, like juice and cowbell, not too much.

  4. Posted June 30, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    My god these fill me with envy. I’ve worn cowboy boots my whole life and have always wanted sometning fully custom.

  5. Posted June 30, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I was sceptical at first, but the combination of what appears to be a dark blue-teal with the brown leather looks rather good. Well chosen, Jerry.

  6. kansaskitty
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Amazing! I can’t wait to see pics of you sporting them.

  7. Jiten
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    You’re going to go out in style! In $10,000 boots! My guess, seeing as I learned in a previous post (iirc)that Arnold Swartznegger paid $25,000 for his and I don’t think you’d be that extravagant.

    • Posted June 30, 2016 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      No way they cost $10,000–MUCH MUCH less. They’re not as expensive as you think. As one writer said, “there are __ custom cowboy boot makers in America, and not one of them is rich.”

  8. martinanderson
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    These are beautiful boots. It’s not just the aesthetics of the boots themselves but the craftsmanship that has gone into them that elevates them.

    I hope you get many years of enjoyment out of them!

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