I know I've probably told this story before but Waxed Calf was, by some accounts, the leather for mens boots during the 18th and 19th century. Full wellingtons really came into their own in the 19th century and were often made of waxed calf both in the states and in Europe (Britain, mostly). During that period of time, shoe making was actually divided into two branches--those who made mens shoes and the lady's men.
Making shoes with the waxed calf was terribly dirty--the lamp black (soot) got over everything and especially into the skin of the maker.
Women's shoes were often made of high end fabric and couldn't be exposed to any process or material that might possibly stain the shoes.
When a gentleman had a pair of boots made from waxed calf they came to him with a high shine.This resulted from the burnishing of the wheat paste on the surface of the leather. The shine was every bit as mirror like as a really good spit shine. I've seen historical boots treated like this...actual antiques that still retained that gloss.
When the owner was done with them at the end of a day, he would leave them outside his bedroom door and someone from "downstairs" (a footman?) would re-burnish them overnight. To do that a full tree--toe to calf--was needed.
Following an old 19th century receipt (recipe) I tried making some waxed calf. Going into it I knew that my chances of success were limited--no access to best quality East India Kip (meaning a coarser fiber mat on the fleshside), no chance to store the stuffed hide in a warm attic, no full tree, and no lampblack. Nevertheless I got pretty close ( I know this because I had some vintage waxed calf to compare to).
Here's a photo of a pair of boots that would have been in vogue about 1880. The bottom is my own waxed calf (nowhere near the shine I should have/could have achieved but what the customer wanted). The top is the same leather turned grainside out. (I think you can click to see a larger version). Full pegged outsole.
Edited by DWFII - 7/31/13 at 5:16am