Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Odds 'N Ends - Work Attire (Cont'd)

Work Boots
Except for hunting, I always bought cheap boots.  They were not very supportive, especially when standing on a ladder or stepping on a nail, were usually so wide that, even with heavy socks, almost needed to be double breasted where they laced and they wore out quickly.  In anticipation of doing construction, I went to a large boot emporium and
My sticker-shock boots 5 years later
threw myself on the mercy of the court, saying something like, "I want to buy a good boot like professional contractors wear", and added something out of character for me, "price is not an issue".  Without hesitation the clerk took me to the Carolina boot rack and picked out a pair of short boots that cost just south of $180 (gulp! that is five times more than I had ever paid for expensive dress shoes back when the dollar was worth something).

Best decision I ever made.  The boots came in more than one width so fit was no issue.  There was no breaking-in period; they were comfortable from day one.  And they have special mid-sole construction to cushion the feet against ladder rung pressure.  As I was coughing up for them at the checkout counter, I ask the clerk, "How long can I expect theses boots to last if I wear them daily?".  She said, "About a year".  I did the math -- that's fifty cents a day if I wore them every day for 365 days.  Well, for whatever reason, she was way conservative because the boots are still going strong after five years.  And, believe it or not, the original boot-strings are still in them.

Making Boots Last
Seems to me that my investment in boots paid off for two reasons -- keeping the leather supple and protecting the toe from wear.

Growing up in the country, I was early on familiar with neatsfoot compound, an oil-based product available at most hardware, work shoes and shoe repair stores.  We used it on tack -- halters, bridles, saddles, harnesses -- as well on leather footwear. It waterproofed the leather and kept it supple.  I had used it in adult life, on hunting boots primarily, so there was no hesitancy about applying it to my new work boots and I am sure it alone has added several years to their longevity.

I think it is safe to say that the toes of most boots wear out first due to scraping on rough surfaces while working on hands and knees.  If the toes can be preserved, the life of boots
Kind of wear Tufftoe prevents
can be extended.  There is an after-market product called "Tufftoe" that is easily applied by the consumer and is offered as a service by some shoe repair and boot stores (our local bootery will apply it for $15 which is about what it cost me online for the product and I had to apply it myself).  It coats the toes with a tough rubbery material that sticks like glue after the leather has been properly prepared for it and protects the toes from wearing out.  I would recommend a visit to the Tufftoe website if you have boots or athletic shoes with vulnerable toes.  A word of caution however:  If you are doing both neatsfoot compound and Tufftoe, be sure to apply the Tufftoe first so its bond with the leather is not compromised by the oil.  Notice in the
third photo that the Tufftoe is peeling away on the top edges due to my having applied it after neatsfoot oil treatment. That said, I took the boots to the original emporium to be sure the the same model of boots would still be available when the old ones wear out and the clerk said that a certain amount of peeling can be expected in any case due to flexing of the leather over the toes.

Gloves
Seasoned construction workers have tough hands because they are typically young or
younger and have skins thick enough to protect against injury. Unfortunately with age, the skin thins out and injures easily. Consequently, I have had to wear gloves year-round and have experimented with several iterations.

Latex coated work gloves have proven to be the most useful --  both the warm weather variety shown here and the heavier colder weather variety.  The amount of dexterity they afford is amazing.  I have no trouble picking up small nails or washers and yet they are thick enough to protect against most injuries.  The heavier winter type are almost as dexterous but, unfortunately, are not thick enough to protect against severe cold.  Another advantage to the latex coating is that it reduces the amount of effort necessary for carrying heavy objects.  The friction between the latex and the surface of a heavy object frees up muscle power, that would otherwise be used for grasping, and reallocates for carrying the item.  If there is a knock against wearing most gloves is that they sometimes catch in the threads of drywall screws such that the glove on the non-dominant hand wears out fastest.

Health Issues
In the previous post, I advocated long sleeves, long pants and a broad brimmed hat as the best way to stay cool in hot weather.  Such a get-up is also important year-round as the best protection against basal cell skin cancer, which increases in frequency with age due to long-term sun damage.  I didn't cover up while young and have paid for it with more than a dozen basal cells removals in later life.

Wearing long sleeves after the skin thins with age affords some protection against scraps and bruises to the arms.  According to my dermatologist, my skin would not be so susceptible to laceration if it weren't for the sun damage in early life.  UV rays seemingly break down the attachment of the outer layer of skin (epidermis) to the inner layer (dermis) such that the epidermis literally peels away from the dermis with the slightest insult.  And the blood escapes not only through the wound to the outside, but also spreads laterally between the two layers of skin and produces ugly bruising.  So, young workers that go shirtless or work in short sleeves are not doing themselves a favor if they anticipate putting their skins in harms way late in life.

Sun glasses are important as well, not just to keep from squinting, but for long-term eye protection.  Solar radiation over time is a major contributor to cataracts.   

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