My last pair of boots. 10. Finishing the bottoms

 This is the next-to-last series of photos documenting the making of My Last Pair of Boots by Lee Miller of Austin Texas.  They’re actually done and have been shipped, but many bootmakers are superstitious and don’t like to show the finished product until they’re sure it fits, so I’ll put up the final series after I get them. Here we see the final bit of construction: putting on the outsoles, the heels (made from stacks of leather) and the heel caps. Note also the use of wooden pegs to fasten the outsole to everything else. (Wood rather than metal is used because wood, when wet, swells like the leather in which it’s embedded, keeping the fastening tight.) These are the sign of a good cowboy boot, for while they’re probably no longer required given the stitching and glue, they’re a tradition—one that involves a lot of hand work. The photos and notes (indented) are from Carrlyn Miller:
Lee is sanding the bottoms to prepare to put the outsoles on.
Jerry%27s Boots1
Lee takes another piece of leather and attaches it to the forepart of the boot. It will give you some cushioning.
Jerry%27s Boots2
Lee trims the excess away.
Jerry%27s Boots3
And, trims some more.
Jerry%27s Boots4
Cement is applied.
Jerry%27s Boots5
Everything is put outside to dry. The outsoles have also been cemented.
Jerry%27s Boots6
 Lee has laid the sole on and is now trimming it to the boot.
Jerry%27s Boots7
The boots are then wooden pegged. We use wooden pegs in the shank and around the heel.
Jerry%27s Boots8
Now it’s time to build the heels. The area is cemented and placed outside to dry. Nice to have such warm weather now 🙂 The pieces on the cardboard are the rand pieces.
Jerry%27s Boots9
The rand piece is the first piece to go on when building the heels. Here you can see Lee has put it on.
Jerry%27s Boots10
Again, he sands to shape it.
Jerry%27s Boots11
Lee begins to build the heels layer by layer.
Jerry%27s Boots12
Jerry%27s Boots13
The heels are built, and now it’s time to put the heel caps on.
Jerry%27s Boots14
The heel caps are on, and it’s time to dye, ink and burnish the soles, heels and welt. Here Lee has taped off a section of the sole so that the wax and ink don’t get into the bottoms stain that he’ll apply to the forepart of the sole.
Jerry%27s Boots15
Everyone does it a little differently. Some people burnish the entire bottoms. Some people only use polish to finish up the soles. Here is the boot waiting to be dyed and inked.
Jerry%27s Boots16-1
In this last picture for today, you can see the bottoms have been inked and dyed. They are again outside drying.
Jerry%27s Boots17


  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    They’re really coming along. I love the blue colour!

  2. Kevin
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Is there a standardized height for the heel? In this case the heel height appears to match well, aesthetically, to the boot.

    • Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Nope, you can choose heels all the way from about half an inch (“walking heels”) to two inches or more, as on some Paul Bond boots. This is one of the choices you make when getting custom boots. The bootmaker then compensates for it, as Lee did when calculating where the “pivot point” of my foot is.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 2, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      As I commented some time last week, one of my relatives used to be an orthopaedic cobbler. Even on one body, the heights for ach heel are not necessarrily the same, though for most people the difference will be negligible (and accommodated in wear very rapidly. But for some people, the difference between one heel and the other can be several inches.
      Once you get above about 4 or 5 inches difference, the surgeons were more likely to go for amputation and a peg leg than accommodating footwear – it depended on the particular case.
      Of course, these days there are many more surgical options, and prosthetics are much more flexible in design.

      • Kevin
        Posted July 2, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        I like the heels so when I select the boot I’m going to get some heels. I also have huge arches, enviable by ballet dancers and yoga instructor alike.

  3. rickflick
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I never knew making boots was so complex and requiring of such great skill and experience. Quite and art.

    • Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      It’s great that we get a glimpse.

      Thank you, Carrlyn for taking on the extra work of photographing and explaining. I love these Boot-Posts.

  4. Cnocspeireag
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Thanks for such an informative set of posts. The boots look absolutely splendid.
    May you enjoy them for many, many years.

  5. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I can’t quite – meaning can’t – identify the bass player on the coffee cup….

  6. Filippo
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I contemplate the monumental frustration of the industrial engineer, the efficiency expert, the economist, the CEO, and the capitalist investor in being unable to impose measures of “productivity” and “efficiency” on the independent artisan for the sake of profit maximization. The Masters of Mankind have little effect on this boot maker, or as little impact as can be had in this world.

    I’m reminded of Thoreau and pencil-making.

    It happens not infrequently that when I enter a classroom and students look me up and down and over and around, one will say, “I like your boots!” I am quick to respond, “Let’s be sure to remember the boot maker. After all, it’s a lot easier to wear them than to make them, eh?!”

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 2, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Now this is funny! Thanks for the chuckle 🙂

  7. Mark R.
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Those finished soles are so perfect, I would hate to scuff them! At least you have some nice photos of them before they’re used.

  8. Posted July 2, 2016 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    Note a Fender mug, in addition to the Fender strap seen the other day.

    My guess is that he doesn’t care much for guitars made in that “G” factory.

  9. HaggisForBrains
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    I’m curious about the pegs used to support the boots while drying. One looks like a drum brake with the halfshaft attached the wrong way, and another looks like a disc brake, again with halfshaft.

  10. MorsGotha
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    Sir PCC(E),

    Why do say it is your last pair of boots?


  11. Mike
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Love to see great craftsmen at work,and those are beautiful Boots.

  12. Taskin
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    What an incredibly fabulous pair of boots! Wonderful craftsmanship, I am amazed by the time and care put into the work.

  13. Wayne Tyson
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    Having grown up in Texas, I carry the physical and mental scars resulting from my preference for cowboy boots.

    “Cow” boots are designed for riding, not walking. My grandfather (in the 1940’s when I knew him), born in the 19th century, wore thin-leather lace-up boots with tops just above the ankle, when he was afoot, usually with them planted on the gallery rail, shoving his captain’s chair back at a comfortably angle, his Stetson tilted over his eyes, resplendent in a fresh, starched white shirt and fresh-pressed kahaki pants.

    Real cowmen tended refer to non cow-people who wore them as “dudes” (nowadays no longer the insult that it used to be until it became surfer lingo), and later “drugstore cowboys.” They considered wearing them off the horse pretentious, and “walking heels” sissified.

    I had flat feet, and my parents bought me expensive Florsheims with “arch-supports,” but they filled with sand, gravel, and rocks, and grassburrs stuck to my socks. The cow boots gripped my lame feet, the heel helped create an arch, and the high tops kept the sand, gravel, and rocks out, not to mention saving my ankles from injury as I worked on the farm. They were utilitarian, not fancy.

    But wealthy Texas oilmen began buying cowboy boots all gussied up and made up custom for them out of ‘gator and lizard hide, just to show off in. It also raised them up above other men their height, and made them feel secure in their superiority. Hollywood also got involved, and took gusseying up to absurd heights. When I was a kid in the forties, we thought the “westerns” were comedies. We just laughed and laughed at the rigs the so-called cowboys wore and how people like Johnny Mack Brown sat a horse like a sack of potatoes. Charles Starrett was something else, and Gary Cooper and a few others passed muster as “real” cowmen. John Wayne was liked as an actor-hero, but off-screen was considered a draft-dodger.

    When I was sent out to (Hollywood) California, my boots and Lee-Rider jeans didn’t fit in. Some of the local gang boys broke my shoulder. Levi’s were ok, so I bought my first pair on Fairfax Avenue for $1.99. I’ve worn them ever since. When I moved to the Mojave Desert, the boots came back on for walkabouts, but I wore the Florsheims to school. I razzed an Oklahoma boy about his boots and challenged him to a race—he won.

    In the 1960’s I wore them again, but in the ‘70’s I got teased by my new pal, Dayton Hyde for wearing them to a banquet at the Denver Stockyards where I let Bill Macy outbid me for one of Hyde’s books. The next morning at breakfast, he and another VIP littered the air with celebrity names like Amanda Blake, so we slunk away, not wanting to invoke the time I shot skeet with Roy Rogers just to get even. That sort of thing was frowned upon in my upbringing. Hyde was a helluva nice guy otherwise, and a really good storyteller. When he had graciously allowed us to stay at his writing cabin in Southern Oregon, I left him a copy of my book, arrogantly writing him a note in it, but never heard from him. I kept wearing my cow boots, but didn’t rise above him. The last I heard, he had moved to one of the Dakotas and was saving wild mustangs. Helluva good guy.

    While the cow boots did help with my flat feet, they mangled my toes, so now I don’t wear them anymore; I wear the ugly things prescribed by my podiatrist.

    So enjoy your cow boots, but be forewarned!


    • rickflick
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      Good story.

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