Heel to toe: Wood carver Pinske nails a giant workboot

The hollow sole of the boot made from a single piece of wood. All photos by courtesy Barre Pinske

By Cynthia Prairie
©2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Chester wood carver Barre Pinske — best known for his bears of many sizes — has been doing some sole-searching to create a gigantic workboot for a shoe and clothing shop in northern Massachusetts.

His transition from bear carver to Paul Bunyan cobbler began when he was contacted by Matthew Evans, owner of Evans on the Commons in Townsend, Mass., who was searching for an artist to create a bespoke image to draw attention to his business, which is located in a three-story, 1871 schoolhouse, that his family has owned for more than 40 years.

“We’re in a historic building and can only have the minimal signs that we have,” says Evans. “We wanted a creative way to tell people what was in the building. ” The iconic workboot is one of the main items sold at the store, which also carries clothing and shoes for men, women and children.

From left, Joe Fuhs, Ron Steers and owner Matthew Evans help guide the boot into place.

Evans said he had heard about Pinske’s work from a friend who had moved to Vermont, then sought him out to build the workboot, one of the main items sold at his store.

“We sell quality products,” says Evans, “and I could definitely tell Barre was the right guy for the job when he came to the store.”

Image signs harken back to Medieval European countries in which few people could read and businesses instead used pictures in clay, wood or metal  to help passersby identify what was in their shops, such as steins and pretzels for beer halls, mortar and pestles for pharmacies or a pig, cow or chicken for butchers.

Pinske began working on the boot in May of last year.

Pinske, who used photos instead of scale drawings, said, “My idea was to make it look as real as possible and make it out of large pieces of pine wood (and construct it) the way a leather boot would be made.”  His experience making wooden hats, he said, made him realize he could make the boot look like leather.

Wood carver Barre Pinske inside his boot.

Making the sole of the boot from a single piece of wood to give the boot strength and structure was an important factor in the build, Pinske said. And “having it thin and hollow has a number of benefits including weight and rot resistance. It’s hollow all the way through.” All told, Pinske estimates, the 8 foot boot weighs in at 350 pounds.

He finally finished the work and  delivered it on Wednesday, Jan. 4,  2023.

In the near future the boot will  be adorned with laces — about 60 feet of braided rope.

“I love it. It’s an amazing boot. Barre did a phenomenal job, better than I could have hoped for,” says Evans. “We believe it will get a lot of attention.”


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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Evans on the Commons is in Townsend, Mass. And you can visit Barre in Chester, his home. Both are easily found by internet search.

  2. David Newton says:

    Where is the Adams & were can we see more of Barre’s works

  3. True American craftsmanship!

  4. Tim Roper says:

    That’s fantastic! Well done, Barre!!

  5. Scott MacDonald says:

    I saw this last year when Barre had just started it. This came out great, Barre. There’s so many people out there carving bears, but this is off the charts. More people need to know about Barre’s art. There is a lot more to his talent than people see when driving by. Chester is fortunate to have Barre here within the mix of artists and makers who live in Chester.
    Inside his gallery, you’ll see the depth and range of his work, which is diverse, unique, and brilliant.

  6. Catherine Erskine says:

    Way to go Barre!!! The boot is awesome. I can only imagine the work that went into it.