Once upon a time, bootmakers used “order books.” These were big hardcover books that remind me of the world atlas my sister and I shared when were kids. Back then, pages were big and I was small… and I had to use my whole arm to turn a page.
Here’s how they work. Each customer would stand on the book, both their feet would be traced, and their measurements written down. Once the book was full, the bootmaker would start another.
If you look inside and old custom boot you’ll often see a couple numbers, like 8-86. It’s secret code… you need to open order book #8 and turn to page 86. There you will find the customer’s name, measurements and usually the original selling price of the cowboy boots.
A crimp break belonging to Tex Robin (Abilene, TX.)
Custom bootmakers will “crimp” the vamp (the leather across the top of the foot and toe of a boot) before attaching it to a cowboy boot’s sole. A crimp break takes away much the stretch from the leather using the pressure from the crank handle…and gives the vamp its curve. The vamp is then removed from the break and placed on a crimping board for even more shaping and drying.