WOODEX Bearing Company, Inc.
MECO Custom Engineered Shaft Seals
 

Snowshoe bindings from an old Inner Tube
(with thanks to Vic Mower)

 

Cool Snowshoe Bindings



A little over twenty years ago, I complained at work to my friend Vic Mower that the leather bindings on my old, bearpaw snowshoes were a pain to fasten and I wanted to replace them. Vic told me to wait a day and he'd show me something.

The next day, he brought in his beavertails and showed me the bindings: a simple toe cup and elastic heel strap cut as a single piece from an old inner tube. I made a pair like them for my beavertails, and they're still on the old Northwoods snowshoes in these pictures. I've since bought some high-tech L.L. Bean and Tubbs snowshoes with fancy nylon strap bindings, and they're nowhere near so satisfying as the old, innertube design.

Pattern
Lay out an old innertube (yes, you can still find them - try a trucking company or truckstop) on a flat surface, then place a representative boot on top.

Use a Sharpie or a good ballpoint pen to trace the outline of the boot onto the innertube. Trace around the heel and up the sides, then - from the widest part of the boot - continue tracing straight lines from each side, to about five inches beyond the toe of the boot. In this picture, I haven't traced beyond the heel of the boot: you'll want to stretch the rubber.

Then draw a line perpendicular to the two straight lines, across that 5" point. The binding in the picture isn't exactly perpendicular, but it was my first try twenty-odd years ago, and it worked, so I never saw the need to correct it..

About 3/4" back from the perpendicular line, draw a couple of rounded "ears". These will extend to about 9" in total width for a men's size 10 green rubber Wellington, to 11 or 12' or more for a massive snowmobile boot. The taller the toe of the boot, the wider the ears (and the further beyond the toe the pattern should extend). With a 3/16" arch punch or rowel punch, put a hole in each ear, leaving about an inch all around.

Set in about an inch from the edges of the pattern, and bracketing the ball of the foot, cut two slits about 2" long, parallel to the long sides of the binding. Punch a hole at each end of each slit, to prevent it elongating.

Leaving an inch or more of material at the sides and heel, cut a slot beginning about 1" aft of your slits, and down to the heel. This will be your heel strap. At the two 90-degree corners, punch a hole - again, to prevent tearing.


Fold the front part of the binding back, and slide the "ears" through the slots. Pull these tight to form the toe cup. Use nylon twine to lace through the holes in the "ears" and around the usual pivot point for the bindings. Be sure to space the lashings far enough apart to allow the toe of your boot to fit comfortably between them. The top part of the toe cup will stretch to fit


Here's the finished binding attached to a shoe.

Note that the binding in the first picture at the top of the page has a "tail" at the end of the heel strap. After making the first binding, I discovered it would be nice to have some sort of handle to grab when stretching the binding over the heel of my boot. If I need to make a new set, I'll put a tail on both bindings, and I'll punch holes in the centers of these tails and tie on a rawhide or parachute line loop, to make it easier to grasp in gloves.

There are lots of references on the web to snowshoe bindings made from old innertubes - including one unbiquitous commercial version - but none I've found to date uses this closed-toe design. They all have a rubber flap that lies over the toe of the boot like a sandal.

Vic's design is superior in at least one respect. The "sandal" style allows the elastic heel strap to slowly pull the toe of your boot forward through the elastic toe wrap. Every time a tailgating dog tramps on the back of your shoe, your foot is jerked a little further forward, loosening the heel strap, and about the third time the tailgater gets you, your foot pulls out of the binding. This can cause an ordinarily-nice person to bark unnecessarily at the dog.

On the other side of the coin, if your boots are thin rubber wellies and don't have much substance, the constant pressure of the elastic heel strap against the closed toe cup will eventually crowd your toes in the boot. A good, rigid hiking boot, however, rides comfortably and a tailgating dog just makes you fall on your nose.

Vic Mower died early in 1989. He's missed, and I often wonder how many other things he might've taught me if he'd been allowed to stick around a little longer.

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Revised, 30 December, 2008



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