April 5th, 1999
Economy Wading Boots
by Ernie Harrison
Making something associated with fly-fishing eased
my cabin fever during the winter months. Here is a
project that was fun and turned out well:
One winter I accompanied a friend of mine to an Army
Surplus Store where he purchased a pair of Army Jungle
Boots to clean up the wet muddy mess the rains had made
of his campground. After listening to him praise the
qualities of the boots, I decided to buy a pair.
California mountain streams have stretches of granite
that have been polished to a high luster by ancient
glaciers and basketball sized rocks that a little elf
with a bucket of grease paints every year. As one
fly-fisherman said, "It is the reason I walk with a
limp and talk with a lisp".
I was always trying new things to increase sole wear,
traction, improved foot comfort, and make boots faster to
put on and take off. The new boots looked like they were
just what I needed and I was soon into another winter project.
The first step was to remove the lugs from the boot
soles and heels, which I did with a hacksaw and then smoothed
the soles and heels with a wood rasp.
One day at the Flea Market I spotted a rugged piece of
carpeting about three feet square and asked the seller what
it was. He said it was boat deck carpet, and I knew the
material for the soles had been found.
Looking around for something to improve wear and traction
disclosed a can of big headed aluminum nails in the garage.
These were pushed through the carpeting and cut off flush
on the other side. The boot soles and carpeting were coated
with contact cement, and put in place. The boots were starting
to take shape.
My wife jokes about me using Velcro on everything I make.
I got some Velcro and Naugahide and took a wire coat hanger
from the closet. After a couple of false starts the boot
fasteners were finished.
The next summer I headed for the mountains in my old fishing
pickup which I named Buckshot. I called it Buckshot because
every time you hit a bump it bucked and shot you into the roof.
The boots were a pleasant surprise, traction and durability was
excellent. They were comfortable and easy to slip on and off.
I have since waded many miles of streams and no longer "walk
with a limp and talk with a lisp."
ASSEMBLY: (Illustrations are below)
- Army Jungle Boots - Get a pair of genuine Army Jungle Boots
if you can. The boots should be one size larger than your shoes.
- Boat Deck Carpet - can be found at Boat Shops. It has corrugations
on one side like a washboard and is smooth on the other. There are
two types, get the thick one for more wear. Buy scraps and save
money and get some extra for use in re-sole jobs.
- Velcro - can be purchased at a fabric shop. It comes in rolls
and they will cut it to the desired length. I use one inch
- Naugahide - can be purchased at a fabric shop. Get the lightweight.
You are going to use it for backing on the Velcro straps. I use black.
- Contact Cement - can be purchased at a hardware
store. Buy a small can.
- Aluminum Nails - can be purchased at a hardware
store. They should have large heads and be short, since
you are going to cut them off.
- Wire Coat Hangers - You probably have them
in your closet.
Remove the lugs from the boot soles. I turn the boots upside
down and put them in a vise and saw them off with a saber saw.
Don't cut the sole. Smooth them with a belt sander or a wood rasp.
If you bought a pair that has curved heels, cut the heels flat
across and fill in the spaces with Shoe Goop after you attach
Take contact paper like you line shelves with (sticky on one
side) and cut two pieces big enough to cover the soles of the boots.
Place the sticky sides against the boot soles and cut out a pattern.
Place the carpeting with the corrugated side down and put a pattern
(sticky side down) on the carpeting. The corrugations of the carpeting
should run across the sole. Cut the carpeting with a pair of heavy
scissors. Now do the other one and remove the contact paper. The
sole and heel are one piece.
Next take the aluminum nails and push them through the carpeting from
the smooth side of the carpet about a half-inch apart in the sole and
heel area. Keep an inch back from the edges and do not place them in
the arch. Cut them off flush on the corrugated side (figure 1).
Use a putty knife to spread a thin coating of contact cement on
the bottom of the boots. Now coat the sides of the carpeting with
the nail heads. Let it dry and place the carpet against the boot.
Start with the heel and work toward the toe. Use something to push
down firmly between the nails.
Stick the two types of Velcro together so you have one piece 18"
long. Cut it into six 3" lengths. Take one of the 3" pieces and
separate the two types. Place them with the furry and sticky side
up and overlap the furry one 1/2" over the sticky one. Pin them
together with a straight pin and sew them together. The furry side
and sticky side should be facing the same way (figure 2 & 3). Now
do the same for the other five pieces.
Cut six pieces of Naugahide the same size as the sewn Velcro straps.
Naugahide stretches in one direction and not the other. Cut the
Naugahide so the non-stretchy direction is going the length of the
strap. Pin the Naugahide backing to the back of the Velcro. Round
the corners off on the fuzzy end and sew the Naugahide on by going
around the edge and then make two X's across the middle (Figure 4 & 5.)
Fold 1/2" of a strap over on the sticky end with the Velcro outside.
Pin it and sew across the edge a couple of times to make a loop in
the end of the strap (figure 6 & 7). Do the same with the rest of
On one side of a boot measure from the center of an
eyelet to the center of a third eyelet (skip over one). Straighten
out a coat hanger and clip off the ends where it was twisted. Add 2"
to your measurement and clip 12 pieces of coat hanger to that length.
Bend one end of the wire into an L shape 1 " from the end. Now bend
the wire into a J shape 1/2" from the same end. Do the same to the
other 11 pieces of wire. Take six pieces and slide the straight
end of the wire into the loop you made in the Velcro straps. Bend
the straight ends of all the wire the same way you did the other
end so you have 12 C shaped clips with Velcro straps on six of
them (see figure 8.
Put the clips with the straps on the outside eyelets and
the ones without the straps on the inside. If there are more
than 9 eyelets on a side place the clips across the 3 top and
3 bottom eyelets. Place the third clip across the middle 3
eyelets, skipping extra eyelets. To install the clips, bend
the boots so the two eyelets you are installing them in are
close together. Use your other hand to put the ends of the
clip into the eyelets and release the boot. Install the straps
so the Velcro side faces up when the strap is across the boot
These boots are comfortable and slip resistant. They
are easy to put on and take off. Always dry them
thoroughly before putting them away and they will
provide several seasons of use. May your boots wade
as many miles of trout streams as mine. ~ Ernie Harrison
For more winter projects
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