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.
The leather toe boxes have been cut out and are now soaking.
After a bit, the toe boxes are taken out and wrapped in newspaper to “mull.”
Meanwhile, the leather is pulled back from around the toe.
The excess lining leather is cut away.
The area is now ready for sanding.
And, the lining is painted with cement.
As well as the toe.
The boots sit to dry a bit.
The leather toe box has been wrapped around the toe and nailed on.
And the toe has been sanded and shaped. Left boot has not been sanded and shaped, but the right toe has.
The toe has been painted with hardener.
The toe is painted with cement.
Cement is also applied to the leather.
And, the leather is pulled around the toe.
As the leather is pulled over, it’s also nailed down.
A string is wrapped around the nails to help keep the leather pulled down.
And, now it sits to dry.
The next set of photos will show how the bottoms are put on.