One hundred years ago, L.L.Bean Boots were handmade in a forty-by-twenty-five-foot basement space. These days, employees handcraft about 1,500 pairs of Bean Boots every day in our 130,000-square-foot Brunswick, Maine, manufacturing plant; and while manufacturing has remained fundamentally the same, we’ve updated our technology and hired additional employees to meet the constant demand for new Bean Boots.
Follow a pair of Bean Boots on its journey to your doorstep – from raw material to finished boot:
Step 1: CUT LEATHER
Bean Boots are created from half-hides of whole-grain leather that is inspected for insect bites, brands and other imperfections to find the best cuts. The leather is then placed into the “clicker cutter,” which stamps out the shape using 40,000 pounds of pressure.
Step 2: “SPLIT” PIECES
After the leather has been inspected, cut and arranged by boot size, it’s sent to the “splitter,”
where each piece is planed to equal thickness and beveled to prevent bunching or bulged seams that might chafe.
Fun Fact: Hide deemed less-than-perfect might be used for boot tongues, heel counters or other out-of-sight parts. We also make leather drink coasters
embossed with either our company logo or an image of the Bean Boot.
Step 3: STITCH PIECES
From the splitter, individual leather pieces are sent to the stitchers, where they are run through air-cooled sewing machines whirring at speeds of up to 7,400 rpm.
Fun Fact: Lovingly maintained and rebuilt for decades – some Bean Boot sewing machines date back to the 1940s or earlier.
Step 4: PUNCH GROMMETS
Next up for the sewn boots is the eyelet machine, which punches brass grommets into the leather upper. Each boot is punched with six to twenty-eight eyelets, depending on the model.
Step 5: SEW LINERS
For boots lined with Gore-Tex™, liners are sewn to a leather upper and sealed with seam tape at 385°F. Sealed boots are then pressurized and submerged in a dip tank. If bubbles rise from the submerged boot, the liner hasn’t sealed completely. When no bubbles appear, the liner is certified as 100 percent air- and watertight.
Step 6: MERGE TOPS AND BOTTOMS
While leather uppers are being stamped and sewn in Brunswick, Maine, their thermoplastic rubber bottoms are molded in our facility in Lewiston, Maine. The pieces are brought together in Brunswick, where cement and double-sided tape temporarily bonds the two halves together.
Step 7: SEW PIECES TOGETHER
A skilled stitcher using a triple-needled machine strung with a waxed cotton thread permanently unites the leather uppers and rubber bottoms.
Fun Fact: In L.L.’s day, stitchers made three passes with a single needle. Today, the triple-needled machines allow us to work three times as fast.
Step 8: OUTPUT FINAL PRODUCT
The factory line moves fastest with a standard Bean Boot, producing 1,500 pairs a day. When a more complicated boot like the waxed canvas style is on the line, production reduces to approximately 1,200 per day.
Fun Fact: The L.L.Bean factory produces about twenty styles of Bean Boots a day and is equipped to manufacture more than fifty possible styles. It takes about six months of training to become skilled at handcrafting L.L.Bean Bean Boots.
Step 9: SHIP TO CUSTOMER
Every boot bears a ticket generated by the Order Department that accompanies it through the factory. Custom boots are direct-shipped right to the customer.
Fun Fact: Forty-five different workers have a hand in making the boots, with an average tenure on the factory floor of eighteen years.
Learn more about L.L.Bean’s first 100 years in our 100th anniversary book, Guaranteed to Last.
Does our Bean Boot manufacturing process surprise you? Share your impressions in the comments below to contribute to our Million Moment Mission. Don’t forget, for every comment on our blog in 2012 we’ll donate $1 to the National Park Foundation, up to $1 million.