Handmade implies a superior process and product. Yet, it all depends upon whose hands made it. Handmade quality is determined by the quality of the craftsman you have chosen. Then, and then only, does the quality of the products used matter. This combination, great hands to make and great materials to mend, make a genuinely quality product- handmade.
Process is important. It makes or breaks the system by which leather footwear is properly constructed. It has a rich history and the processes involved in making leather footwear are many. From the ancient foot wear of the Egyptians to the modern day cowboy, leather has always been a logical and valued material. Today, many forms of footwear do not use genuine leather but replace them with cheap synthetics or imitation materials, which fail rapidly.
Our process uses all genuine leather ranging from both vegetable tanned leathers (primarily used in the foot bed materials or the insole and the outsole) and chrome tanned leather for shiny finished leathers for the uppers. Other exotic materials imported from all over the world are used to add a unique texture or look to the boot.
When it comes to decorative stitching, we use old cast iron Singer machines dating back to World War I and II. Our machines were made all over the world- Japan, Great Britain, Germany and America, and each gives the romantic sound of quality made goods of days gone by.
"The last comes first" as the great boot maker, Charlie Dunn, once said, and he was right. The last is a foot mold made out of either a composite plastic or wood. This mold or "last" is used to make the footwear three dimensional. Everything depends upon the last, it must be built first and it must be built correctly, matching as closely as possible to the human foot, while keep the shape and style of footwear in mind. The goal is to make something beautiful that fits well. To make this possible, great attention must be given to the "last", first. We build every last in store and file them for each customer for the years ahead.
Next, we make the patterns. In this step all of the artistic expression of the customer is considered. From elaborate stitching to simple initialing, we make every pair unique in its own way, desiring to give each a personal reflection of their wearer and maker.
For cutting designs we primarily use two techniques: Inlay- a process that places one piece of leather beneath another cut-out piece of leather, and attaching it, giving a depth effect. Secondly, a process called Overlay- a process of placing a cut-out design on top of a flat piece of leather and then attaching. Both require skiving- a process where a piece of leather is tapered from thick to thin, giving one the ability to layer leathers while maintaining a smooth transition.
When finishing the boots, we use a full leather insole that is shaped to the bottom of the last to make the impression of the customers foot. From there, a channel is cut in the insole and later will be used to hand sew the welt to the uppers.
Next, the boot is lasted, set to dry, toe boxed and welted. Between the leather insole and outsole we use a metal shank. This ensures a solid support in the transition and shape of the arch area beneath the foot. Once this is anchored down, we lay the soles and stitch them on through the welt down through the sole.
Once the sole is attached and sewn on, we use a wood working process known as "pegging". Pegs have been used for centuries in construction of log homes and other wood structures. They "sure up", or wedge, the materials together. In bootmaking, we use a similar process to press and hold down the shank area of the cowboy boot. Several rows of pegs are inserted to ensure everything stays nice and tight. Lemon wood or maple is the most common choice, a round hole is made with an awl and a square peg is inserted. Once driven in, the peg is wet and given time to expand, forming the wedge needed to hold the sole down tightly.
Lastly, all leather heel stacks are attached, nailed down, and the trimming and finish process begin.
Once the boots have been inked and burnished to the desired shine, we pull the last out and put on the final coat of conditioner and polish to complete the process. Every step is important and requires the utmost attention to detail.