About the Blacksmith Model
The Blacksmith is a fairly new model released by Red Wing Heritage and from what I have read, is meant to take the place of the much beloved Beckman. Both models are made on the popular No. 8 Last and are plain toe. One key difference is the Vibram 430 Mini-Lug on the Blacksmiths versus the Roccia Sole on the Beckman. The Beckman is known as more of a "dressy" boot while the Blacksmith is more for casual wear.
From the Red Wing Heritage Website:
Versatile and reliable, this style of shoe was originally used in farm fields and blacksmith workshops during the day before being cleaned and shined up for a night out on the town. The extra height of this 6-inch style, which would have protected feet and ankles from hot cinders at the forge, still keeps out snow in the winter and dirt in the summer, and its last-built construction keeps feet comfortable even after long hours of work.
Impressions After Two Months of Wear
I love this boot! It was love at first sight when I saw these at my local Red Wing Store. The employee told me they only had one pair... In my size! So I immediately got it (along with some Moc-Toe 3371s for the lady) and have been wearing them religiously for the past couple of months.
The main attraction to the 3345s was the tea-core leather. Tea-core leather is dyed twice. For the Black Prairie Leather, S.B. Foot Tanning Co. dyes the leather brown and then puts a layer of black dye on the top of the hide (I probably way oversimplified the process but you get the gist). As the leather ages, the black starts to wear away revealing the boots "true" color. The Beckman 9060s, which are made of Klondike Leather, are well known for this feature and are one of the more sought after Red Wing Heritage Boots. However, the model is uncommon in the States so I was thrilled to find a boot with similar characteristics in the Blacksmith 3345s. Having not handled the Klondike Leather in person, I cannot tell you the differences I see between that and the Black Prairie Leather. It seems, according to others, that the Klondike Leather has more of a shine and polished look compared to the Black Prairie.
Unlike my Iron Ranger 8085s, the Blacksmiths really did not have much of a break-in period. I found that to be odd as both models are built using the same last and have the same insole/midsole/steel shank/outsole combination. However, the "Smooth-Finished Leather"on the Blacksmith is much more supple than the 8085s' "Rough & Tough Oil-Tanned Leather" and conformed to my feet easily. Also, the backstay and counter of the Blacksmiths aren't reinforced with additional leather like the Iron Rangers and feature a nice, smooth cuff at the top. The result is a a boot that hugs the ankle nicely and, in my opinion, provides more stability and a better overall fit.
My 3345s (right) had no break-in period unlike my 8085s (left)
As it has only be a couple months and they have not be worn everyday, I cannot speak on the longevity of the boots. I can tell you that in snow and rain, the boots seems to hold up quite well and I have never had any dampness or moisture issues. The construction is top notch with the 270 degree Goodyear Welt and there have not been any stitching problems. The hardware is a dull brass color which is beautiful and I love the speed hooks! Honestly there is not much to complain about; they have even creased rather nicely! The shock absorption isn't the greatest but that could also be because I rotate these with Thorogoods which have amazing shock absorption, no break-in, and are basically built for comfort! Besides that little critique, I would say the Blacksmith is very near a perfect boot for me!
Great in Wet Conditions
Like all my Product Spotlights, I will be doing updates and the boots age. I am planning on doing a comparison write up between the Blacksmiths, my Thorogood Beloits, and my Chippewa Service Boots in the ultimate plain toe shoot out! Stay tuned!
The 3345s can be purchased at your local Red Wing Store, on the Red Wing Heritage Website, and at boutique stores such as Franklin & Poe.