Felt is great for soles on wading boots. But while it overcomes slippery rocks it does not overcome waer. But luckily it is easy to replace the worn down soles. Buy some felt, som glue and
As you can see from the picture to the right, a handy man's way with things is not always the right way... In the process of making my boots better, I actually wound up ruining them.
The stiches that held together the felt and the sole, appeared to hold more than that, and now my boots are slowly falling apart. I can have them stitched again by a shoomaker or restitch them myself, but if I do nothing, they will definitely die.
Take care not to do the same if you decide to refelt your boots.
If you - like me - prefer wading boots with felt soles, and - like me - fish often in a rough environment and walk a lot, your boots will some day be up for a change of felt soles. Most modern wading boots will last at least two or three sets of soles, and changing the felt only is a lot less expensive than buying new boots. The process is quite simple, and changing the soles can be done in a day.
But... and there is a but: the boots have to be absolutely dry. That means drying them thoroughly for a few days to a week. And you cannot use them the first days after the new felt has been glued on. So prepare for a break in your fishing.
Felt soles can be bought in most tackle shops. If they do not stock them, they can usually get them quickly. Many manufacturers produce soles especially for their own boot models. Chota had ready made soles for my STL boots.
The felt must be a rough and durable quality made for wading boots. Felt from a craft shop might work, but I would not bet on it.
The precut felt soles are fairly expensive, so be prepared. In some instances the soles come with heels. Sometimes you get studs and sometimes you get glue too. Make sure the soles are large enough to fit your boots plus a bit, and check that the new studs fit the threads in your boots.
And buy more glue! A single tube is not nearly enough, and I recommend buying a can of glue, preferably with 0.25 liters or more. That is about 10-12 fluid ounces for the non-metrically inclined.
Removing the old felt
The first step is to remove the old felt soles. These are mostly worn and in many cases already partly coming off by themselves, and doing the last bit is usually not difficult. You will need:
- A heavy set of pliers
- Tool to remove spikes if applicable
Grab a sole on the edge and use the boot itself as lever and break boot and sole apart. If the boots are stitched like my Chotas were and the stitches still hold, you will need a knife to cut the stitches before pulling too hard.
Take your time and try to get the sole off in one piece. This saves a lot of cleaning later on.
Studs: If you prefer unstudded boots, now is the time to get rid of the studs. The studs are usually threaded into knobs on the base of the boot. Use felt soles with no holes and cut and sand the bases or 'sockets' for the studs down after unscrewing the metal with a set of pliers. Proceed as if the studs never existed.
When the old felt is gone, you need to clean the underside of the boots, to make sure that the glue will adhere to the base. This is done in two steps: sanding and cleaning with a solvent.
You will need:
- Rough sand paper
- A rag
- Thinner or acetone
If your boots were studded, make sure to avoid damaging the 'sockets' for the studs. Carefully sand around them.
Warning: Working with thinner, acetone and contact glue is hazardous and not exactly healthy, so do the job outdoors or at least in a well ventilated room - and do not smoke, eat or drink while you work.
Because felt will absorb so much fluid you have to preglue or drench the soles before the final gluing to the boots. Start by spreading a generous amount of glue over the whole surface of the sole. Make sure you match the soles to the boots... there is a left and a right. Most soles have no over- or underside, so matching them symmetrically will be sufficient.
Felt for studded boots will have holes for the studs. Make sure these holes match, and be careful not to block them with glue in any part of the process.
At first the glue will almost disappear into the felt and leave little trace on the surface.
Let the felt dry for a few hours and apply a second coating. This time you will see the glue partly covering the felt, but the surface will still be rough and highly absorbing.
Leave the soles to dry again and apply a third coating. This time the glue should form a smoother layer on the surface of the felt, and three layers are usually sufficient. This will be the last layer prior to the final gluing step. Leave the soles to dry overnight.
Now is the time for the big step: gluing the soles and boots together. This will require two steps: pre gluing and assembling. These two steps take place with a 20-30 minutes interval. You will need the following for these steps:
- Stiff cardboard bits
- Hammer or other heavy metal object
- Rubber mallet
Now cover the cleaned undersides of the boots with an equally thin layer of glue. The boots need only one application. Set everything aside to dry for 20-30 minutes. The surfaces must be non-sticky, and no wet areas must be visible.
The next step is critical and calls for some precision. Put one sole on a table top and find the matching boot. Place the boot over the sole, but do not lower the boot yet! Grab the boot with both hands, and 'levitate' the boot a couple of centimeters or less (0.5") over the sole. Let your fingers run around the edge of the boot to make sure that the sole sticks out on all sides. Lower the boot slowly, constantly checking the placement of of the boot.
The instant the boot and sole connect, the deal is done. Gently press the two together from the center and out.
For studded boots you might want to do the opposite: put the sole on the boot. This makes it easier to see the exact placement of the holes in the felt over the bases on the boot.
The glue will bind immediately, and your job is now to make that bond very strong. This is done by hammering the two halves together. Use a heavy metal rod, a hammer or a similar heavy, dense object to create counterweight to the strikes of a rubber mallet (or another hammer).
Put the hammer into the boot and strike on the underside with the mallet. Work your way all around the felt surface.
The edges can be secured by holding the hammer to the upper side of the rim, which you usually find around the boot. Hold the hammer steady and strike on the edge of the underside of the felt sole. Work your way all around the edge. Check that the two halves connect and absolutely no gaps are left.
Ideally the sole will protude a bit all the way around the boot. Continue with the second boot.
Heels: If you want to add heels to your boots, follow the same drenching procedure for the heel pieces and the underside of the soles. When the last layer of glue has been left to dry for 20-30 minutes, mount the heels and hammer them thoroughly in place using a hammer as a counterweight inside the heel of the boot.
Leave the boots to dry for at least 24 hours. On my glue the instructions read that the glue would first bind fully after seven (7!) days. You can trim the soles before that, but it is probably a good idea not to use them before at least a few days.
Finally refit the studs or add new ones.