2013

Well 2013 started a while ago. I haven’t written anything since then. I will employ the colloquialism: “oops”.

2013 has been a busy year for me. In January I was given a permanent position at work: Assistant Pattern Engineer. (Assistant means I don’t know anything yet). I am being trained by our current Pattern Engineer to do his job. What is pattern engineering? I am so glad you asked, you are going to find it so interesting. A pattern engineer’s job is to take a design of a shoe or boot and make a pattern for it. The pattern serves as blue prints for the factory. For example: every men’s size 9, D width boot has to have a particular size vamp, quarter, foxing (these are all pieces of the boot). A pattern engineer is tasked with figuring out how large each piece needs to be. Generally speaking when staring with a new design one will use the sample size (at Lucchese that is a 9D  for men) to create the preliminary pattern and run trial, or prototype, boots until a suitable boot has been crafted. Then, the engineer (yes I love that I can call myself an engineer) will take that pattern and scale upwards and downwards on every piece, either adding or subtracting material to end up with a size range. This process is known as “grading”.

I know what most of you are thinking, “Good heavens! What an interesting job! I cannot fathom anything more exciting!”. Well I share your sentiment. I have been able to learn a lot of things about the bootmaking process through this position. As we are creating essentially the “blue prints” for every boot you have to learn and understand a lot of the processes that our factory use. It requires an extensive knowledge of the machinery used as well. All of which I find fascinating, as I am sure you do too.

Well now that work is out of the way….

I moved! Huzzah! I moved out to El Paso, AKA Tatooine (if you do not get this reference you do not deserve to read this blog) at the beginning of March. Big ups to mother and father for helping me move out here. I got myself a little apartment on the west side of town. I have enjoyed it so far. El Paso is significantly smaller than Dallas but it offers more than people think. I do however miss the green and the shopping. El Paso needs a Nordstrom, stat.

I also got a puppy. She is my baby. She is a 1.5 yr old Terrier/Chihuahua mix and she is precious and I love her.

I think that is about all I feel like typing.

 

I Really Like Boots

I haven’t written in a while but I suppose to me it feels like not alot has changed. One thing I have not yet really mentioned is how I feel about boot making. Well, I love it. That in and of itself is very exciting to me! When I started working in January I had no idea if I would like boots. For all I knew, boot making could be worse to me than 3rd Period math class in junior high.

But I have found over these past few months that I have fallen in love with boot making. Not only that but I am good at it. Not too boast, mind you, but I was never really “good” at a lot. In high school I did not do much, if any, extra-curricular activities. I do remember trying wood shop class with my friends thinking I would love working with my hands. I saw myself becoming an expert craftsman (…not so much). I could barely craft a small stool. In fact, my favorite job became sanding, because I knew I was good at that! It was frustrating to no end! I wanted so bad to be able to make something with my hands, to call myself a craftsman! Yet I failed.

When I found I would be working in the factory, literally learning how to make boots, my brain ran back to the memory of that crappy stool in junior-high wood shop class. I thought to myself “There is no way I will be good at this…“. But, again not to boast, I have been good at it and I love that! I love the feeling of having created something with my own hands. It is an exciting thing to find something I truly am good at, and enjoy with a passion.

That passion I can only attribute to my family. I recently asked my mother if she thought my Grandfather would be proud of me for doing what he, his father, and his father’s father had done. She said it would make him very proud. My grandmother, whom we called Mimi, would have be proud as well, she said. It is at time frustrating to me having never met my grandfather. I really wish I could have had a relationship with him as I did with Mimi. And I miss Mimi very much. I do not know if I was ever a “momma’s-boy” but I do know I was a “grand-momma’s-boy”. To think I would be making them both proud bring me much joy.

Heels

For the past two weeks I have been learning how to attach a heel to a boot. This process takes place after the boot has been completely outsoled. It is a several step process that has taken several weeks to learn.

You begin by figuring out what heel to put on the pair of boots. You read the ticket for the pair which holds on the information you need when putting together a boot, including type of leather, stitching or cording pattern, etc. Lucchese uses several different types of heels all given numbers as names. We also have special heels for women’s fashion boots and a heel for riding boots.

Once you select the correct heel you put rubber cement on the part of the outsole where you place the heel and the topside of the heel. Then you remove the last out of the boot by placing it upside down on the last and essentially yank the boot off of the last (which is not as easy as it sounds).

You then take the heel, place it properly onto the bottom of the boot, and center it onto a nail machine (upside down) that places 5 nails into the heel through the insole of the boot. After the heel is nailed on you have to level the boot. The boot heels are not always flat on the bottom so you use a large sanding machine to level out the boot. You examine the boots looking them head on to see if each one is straight. 

After you have the heel properly leveled you then put rubber cement on the bottom of the heel and onto a small rubber pad which is called the top lift, and place the top lift onto the bottom of the heel. The top lift is the only part of a Lucchese heel that is not leather and is added for comfort and to prevent wear-and-tear on the heel. You place the top lift properly and then hammer it down to ensure it does not move. After that you have to be sure to close the front part of the heel with the outsole, as the heel, after being nailed, is not always flush with the outsole. Once you close the heel, you are finished!

Half Way There

The end of this week will mark my halfway point in the boot making process.  Over the past month since my last post I have learned a phenomenal amount about boots. I have spent most of that time in what is known as the “Goodyear” department. This department covers everything from the lasted boot, to the completely out-soled boot.

The process begins with welt stitching. The welt is a long piece of leather attached to the sides of a lasted boot. This piece of leather allows the outsole to be stitched onto the bottom of the boot. After the welt is attached the boot is sent to have a shank, shank cover, and dutchman added to the bottom of the boot. The shank is a long rectangular piece of metal which runs from where the ball of your foot lies to the forward end of the arch of your foot giving the boot the support for the arch. The shank is nailed into the insole after being hammered into a correct shape. Then the dutchman is added. The dutchman is a horseshoe shaped piece of plastic that lays on the heel of the boot. It is added because the welt does not go all the way around the boot; rather it stops before the heel. several pieces of leather are laid on top of the shank protecting it from the outsole when it is attached. The outsole is pressed with a machine onto the bottom of the boot, and stitched to the welt to secure it. An easy way to think of all this is a sandwhich: insole, shank and dutchman, shank cover and then outsole. The soles being the “bread”. 

This past month of learning has been a lot of fun but also difficult. I am beginning to miss Denton more, and the community of friends I have there. However it is certainly worthwhile for this experience. I also acquired my first injury as a boot maker. I smashed the edge of my thumb with a hammer while trying to shape the shank. To me it is a badge of honor!

I am looking forward to the next two months of this process and hope that I continue to learn as much as I have and perhaps not smash my finger again in the process.

Three Weeks In

After this week is finished I will have spent three weeks working in the factory. I have learned more about boots, and Spanish, then I ever thought that I would! The first week was very difficult. Those who know me know that I do not like change. And this was a big change. But everyone here at Lucchese has been incredibly helpful and friendly. The workers are especially helpful, which I found surprising. Not because they are rude people, but simply because I did not think they would respond well to “some white kid” showing up to learn boots, and asking questions and making all sorts of mistakes. But again, they are all very helpful and patient. No one is mad when I make a mistake. They simply show me the right way to do it, sometimes several times, until I get it right.

I have done several operations or steps of the process, if you will. I have matched leathers (some exotics, like horn-back alligator, need to be paired with similar looking skins), cut leathers, corded designs, done overlays and inlays, sewn on pull-straps, flipped boots inside out, shaved excess leather of uppers, glued leather backers to uppers, and lasted. My favorite so far has been the lasting.

Lasting is the process where the leather of the boot is pulled around the last, giving the boot its footesque shape. Now, I can not really write this blog and not mention how important the last is to my family’s heritage. My great-grandfather Cosimo Lucchese created a last which had two unique features. First, the created a right and left last. Before this, every boot and shoemaker simply made two shoes, that went around a foot. There was no such thing as a “right and left” shoe until Cosimo invented the left and right last. He also created whats called the twisted-cone last. Cosimo created after much research on the human foot. A twisted cone last more accurately matches the shape of a human foot.

Now, back to lasting. Lasting is done by wetting the leather which makes it more flexible, and then stretching it over the last toe first. The leather is then nailed to the insole which is stapled onto the bottom of the last. An interesting thing is that when lasting you always need two hands: one holding the leather over the last and the second grabbing nails and hammering them in. The best way to do this is to keep nails in your mouth (yes I’ve had nails in my mouth the past week at work) then grabbing them right out of your mouth with the hand which has your lasting tool (pliers and a hammer in one) then nailing them into the last.  It is a difficult process to describe. This video shows how a boot is hand lasted at Lucchese (from 3:30 minute mark). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OycogDJXIRc&feature=related

And also here are some pictures of me working! And meeting David Nail, a country star.

   

Beginning

As many of you know, I started working for Lucchese Boot Co. this year. Just this past month so much as happened, and I have learned so much. I wanted to be able to share everything going on in my now fairly chaotic life with my friends and family, so I did what any normal digital-age child would do: start a blog.

For those of you who do not know the story about how this whole thing got started, I will start with that story.

A little background info: My grandfather (Sam Lucchese Jr.) was the last Lucchese (and 3rd generation) to own the company. In 1970 he sold the company, but remained president of Lucchese until 1977. He passed away in May of 1980 due to cancer. Unfortunately I was never able to meet him. After he passed away our family had little, if any contact with Lucchese Boot Co. This changed last year, at my great-grandmother’s funeral. My great grandmother had been married to Cosimo Lucchese, Sam Sr.’s son, and Sam Jr.’s father. Yes, we Italians like to pass on names. At the funeral, which my mother met Randy Steele, a retail director at Lucchese Boots. They stayed in contact and in November he invited my mother and myself up to Santa Fe for the grand opening of the Lucchese Boot store there. It was there that I first any notion of working for the company. I met alot of the “higher-ups” of the company and they all begin to mention how great it would be to have a Lucchese working for the company again. I begin to seriously consider it after the trip. I expressed my interest to Randy, who in turn expressed that interest to the President Doug Kindy. To shorten things, in January they offered me a job as Apprentice Bootmaker and I accepted.

Now, I do not know anything about boots. Which is why over the next 4 months I will be in El Paso during the weeks, working in the factory, learning all the steps involved with making boots. I am incredibly excited about the next few months. I know it is going to be a lot to learn and a lot of hard work, but I fully intend to earn the right to work for Lucchese Boots.