Faces of Red Wing | Solid Manufacturing

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Alex and Dan Cordell

Dan and Alex Cordell: Owners of  Solid Manufacturing 

I grew up in a woodshop,Dan Cordell shouts above the sound of a lathe spinning a length of white ash. A shaft of sunlight is made three-dimensional by the dust in the air and chips fly as he deftly transforms the wood into a baseball bat using only hand tools. My Dad taught me everything I know.

Cordell and his wife, Alex, are the co-founders, and sole employees, of Solid Manufacturing, a company that makes and sells wood furniture, leather goods and a variety of household items you never thought youd need until you see them. Everything, from the wooden pour-over coffee stand, to the leather key fob, to the baseball bat, is made by Dan and Alex in a small workshop near a railroad yard in Minneapolis using domestic hardwoods and American made leathers.

Alex studied furniture design at Minneapolis College of Art and Design; while Dan focuses on the woodworking, she does much of the product development as well as the finishing worksanding and hand-oilingwhile managing the administrative end of the business. Watching them work together, it becomes clear that they complement each other well and play to their strengths.


The Solid Manufacturing duo started making things in Dans fathers woodshop just south of the city, selling their wares at pop-up events around town and through an online Web store. We couldnt do what we do anywhere else but Minneapolis,Alex says while she rubs a block of wood with linseed oil. Its a city driven by people and community and when we launched, we were immediately embraced and it gave us the motivation and inspiration for us to keep going.

Solid Manufacturing is one of the latest in a long legacy of Minnesota companies that make things of quality using traditional materials and techniques, a legacy that includes the Red Wing Shoe Company. This is not something lost on Alex and Dan Cordell, who were wearing Red Wing Heritage boots when we stopped by for a visitAlex in a pair of 9111 round-toe boots and Dan in a pair of Iron Rangers. At the end of the day, my boots are always full of wood chips,he laughs.

So what makes Minnesota such a breeding ground for the so-called makerculture, where DIY becomes a society of inventors, designers and tinkerers? Is it the long winters that inspire creativity? Or perhaps the frontier history of self-sufficiency that has been passed down to its residents. For Dan Cordell, it came from spending time in his fathers woodshop and a desire to make leather bracelets for Christmas gifts. He bought some scraps of leather and thread and taught himself. I grew up in a place where you make things, or you try,he says.

Solid Manufacturing Co. has an eclectic portfolio of products tied together with a common thread of honest Minnesota handcraft. But if Alex and Dan have a signature product, it is a three-legged stool made from black walnut, oiled to a rich brown, with legs painted in a number of bright colors. Its simplicity and stripped down purity of purpose are its appeal, not unlike a classic baseball bat, or a pair of Red Wing Heritage boots. In a wordsolid.

Updated – Beckman Chukka and Oxford

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Beckman Oxford and Chukka Style no: 9047, 9048, 9046


In the early twentieth century, Red Wing, Minnesota had only a few dirt roads. In the winter, or after a good rain, those streets would get muddy, making a good pair of boots a necessity. But our founder, Charles Beckman, a respectable businessman, wanted a pair he could brush off and wear right into his shoe store on Main Street. So that’s what his Red Wing Shoe Company made—sturdy, versatile footwear that could take some abuse and still look good. And that’s the kind of shoes and boots we’ve been making ever since.


Main Street, Red Wing, MN. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN
Main Street, Circa 1900, Red Wing, MN. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN


The Beckman name has always been reserved for Red Wing’s most refined footwear, and we’ve added two new styles that add to that legacy. Built around our number 210 last, the latest Beckman chukka and oxford have a more refined shape. We’ve used premium Featherstone (Smooth Finished) leather for a rich, classic look and added stitching details that make them more durable while adding to their elegance. The new Beckmans are built using Goodyear welt construction for maximum durability and underneath, our lugged Roccia sole gives traction so the shoes can go from muddy streets right into the office. Charles Beckman would no doubt approve.

Red Wing Heritage Brown Beckman Oxford
Beckman Oxford Style no: 9046


Red Wing Heritage Black Oxford
Beckman Oxford Style no: 9047


Brown Red Wing Heritage Beckman Chukka
Beckman Chukka Style no: 9048

Special Delivery: New Postman Oxford Styles

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Red Wing Heritage Postman Oxford
Postman Oxford  Style no: 3103, 3107, 3108, 3104


In 1954, Red Wing introduced a humble shoe that would go on to cover more miles than any other we’ve made. Called simply the No. 101, it would come to be known as the Postman, thanks to the legions of mailmen who wore them on their rounds. We’ve never stopped making this popular shoe so it’s no surprise that the Postman is one of the company’s best sellers. The same nonslip sole and one-piece quarter that were added in 1960 still make the shoe as comfortable and durable today as it was pounding the pavement over 50 years ago.

Red Wing Heritage Postman Oxford 101
Postman Oxford Style no: 101


This year, Red Wing introduces two new colors to the Postman collection, our rugged Copper Rough and Tough (No. 3107) and a stylish Navy Abilene (No. 3108). These comfortable and versatile shoes feature our white Atlas Tred sole for excellent grip, Goodyear welt construction, and low maintenance, durable leathers from the S.B. Foot tannery. They’re built right next to the original Postman shoes at our factory in Red Wing, Minnesota. And of course if your uniform, or your taste, demands it, the original style No. 101 is still available in shiny Black Chaparral, ready to put on the miles.

Red Wing Heritage Postman Oxford 3107
Postman Oxford Style no: 3107


Red Wing Heritage Postman Oxford 3108
Postman Oxford Style no: 3108


Faces of Red Wing – Hai Truong

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Hai Truong of Ngon Vietnamese Bistro

Hai Truong: Chef and co-owner of Ngon Vietnamese Bistro 

Hai Truong is an autodidact, having taught himself how to swap out a clutch, sew a leather seat for his Moto Guzzi, cook a mean duck ph, or brew his own beer.

Truong is the son of immigrants and grew up in and around his familys Vietnamese eatery on St. Pauls University Avenue. Though he had a promising career in finance after college, the pull of the family business inspired a life change, and about ten years ago he reclaimed the restaurant where he grew up, put his DIY skills to work and created Ngon Bistro.

The cafe specializes in French-Vietnamese cuisine and offers craft cocktails from a space that Truong resurrected from its past. The menu is filled with familiar Vietnamese specialties like ph and bún but with influences from Vietnams French colonial era, and produce and proteins bought from local farms.

Local sourcing also extends to Truongs choice of footwear. I sort of discovered Red Wing boots around the same time I started looking into local ingredients and it led to an interest in American-made products.Truong wears an old pair of Engineer boots that hes had resoled a few times, and owns two pairs of vintage steel-toed Red Wings that he likes for motorcycling. I like that you can just keep resoling them instead of buying cheap disposable stuff,he says.

Boots of Choice: Engineer 2991

Red Wing Heritage Weekender | Ireland

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Ireland1Early the first morning I made my way into an adjacent pasture from where we were staying. Two horses, and one pony greeted me as they enjoyed delicious food before sunrise

Ireland2The Weekender and pony hooves.

Ireland3This one was the most curious and clearly has a good taste.

Ireland3aVibrance all around.

Ireland4You can’t visit Ireland without tasting delicious whiskey.

Ireland4aSpending much of my time in the deserts of the American Southwest, being reminded of what this much rain can do for the landscape was refreshing.

Ireland4bAnd the stout just tastes better.

Ireland5The necks on small, and newly constructed copper pot stills used for making Irish whiskey.

Ireland5aJonah Bayer kept me in stitches the entire trip.


Ireland10 Ireland9 Ireland8 Ireland7 Ireland6Weekender Chukka style no: 3321

Ireland12By chance we flew over just the Southern-most tip of greenland on our flight back the the US. A new place to explore!

Work Hard, Play Hard: Introducing the Red Wing Heritage Weekender

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Red Wing Weekender

Red Wing Shoe Company has such a long history of building work boots that sometimes it’s easy to forget we’ve also made footwear for after the workday ends. As far back as the 1950s, we were making shoes for the weekend, when work boots were left by the door. We’ve called this “off the clock” footwear many things over the years—the Great Outdoors Boot, Dunoon, hikers, chukkas—and now there’s a new name. Introducing the new Weekender collection from Red Wing Heritage.

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Faces of Red Wing | Christopher Winters

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It’s cold at the shipyard in mid-February. The north wind off of Sturgeon Bay whips around the lake effect snow and subtracts a dozen degrees from the thermometer reading. Thousand-foot freighters are docked side by side as if huddled for warmth, their hulls frozen in place by 8 inches of ice. The locks and channels that connect the Great Lakes are closed for the season and these ships are in for their winter maintenance. Despite the frigid weather, the shipyard buzzes with activity—cranes removing scrap from the boat decks high above, trucks and forklifts scurrying around the limestone yard and hard-hatted workers crawling all over these iron leviathans, getting them ready for the spring fit-out which is now only a month away.


Working in the midst of all this activity is a lone photographer, Christopher Winters, who’s been documenting the work here for the past decade. Bundled in insulated coveralls, a battery-heated jacket and his Red Wing Ice Cutter boots, Winters fires his camera in frenetic bursts, darting up and down the gangways, inside the engine rooms and under the massive propellers in the dry dock. He’s no impostor here. The workers accept his presence and respect his work because he respects theirs. The Milwaukee-based Winters is one of the foremost maritime photographers and historians in the Great Lakes region, a published author of two books who drives and sails port to port, April to December from Duluth sometimes as far as the Gulf of St. Lawrence, camera in tow.

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Raw Ingredients – S.B. Foot Leathers

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A good chef will tell you that the best meal starts with the best ingredients. Similarly, a good boot has to start with good leather. At Red Wing, from the very beginning, that relationship between raw ingredients and craftsmanship has gone hand in hand. When Charles Beckman started Red Wing Shoe Company back in 1905, he didn’t have far to look for the best leathers with which to work. Just up the road from his factory, on Trout Brook Road, was the S.B. Foot tannery, which had been tanning hides since the 1880s. A partnership was quickly formed and S.B. Foot has been a supplier of leathers to Red Wing ever since.


So what makes S.B. Foot leathers so special? Ask any of the old timers who work there that question and you’ll see a twinkle in their eyes. Is it the hides themselves, which are of uniform thickness and free of blemishes?


Or is it the proprietary mix of tree oils, dyes and tanning agents used to give the leather its rich color and durability? Or is it the traditional wooden drums they’re tumbled in for hours?


The answer is “yes”. The fact is, from the meticulous grading process of blue tinted hides as they come in, to the precise mix of tanning solutions, to the timed tanning in the wooden drums, followed by the gradual drying and stretching and oiling, S.B. Foot leathers are a big part of what makes our Heritage boots so special. Charles Beckman recognized this early on, and Red Wing has been getting its leathers from Trout Brook Road ever since.


Faces of Red Wing | Tom Adams

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Classic Chukka 3140


We sit down with Tom Adams, the co-founder of Pitt Cue, as he gives me the low-down on his restaurant.

Starting modestly on the banks of the Thames in 2011, the guys have grown the business through their creative yet simple approach to great tasting, honest food that is crucially sourced from their own farm.


Where did it all begin with Pitt Cue?

It was formed with a bit of luck; there wasn’t a predetermined plan. I was working in a restaurant and my head chef knew someone that needed help at a new café. Jamie (the co-founder of Pitt Cue) was eating there one day and after we got chatting he said he wanted to do a food truck. I said well I can cook.

Have you always had a background in food and knew it was something you wanted to do?

I didn’t go to culinary school. I would have liked to and actually even applied at one point but in the end I just went straight into a kitchen. I took the normal route, starting on the bottom rung, washing dishes. And it just so happened that along that pathway Pitt Cue happened.


Would you say that the environment you grew up in helped to inspire your ambition in life and with Pitt Cue?

I’ve always been into cooking from a young age; we had pigs at home. Mum butchered stuff, we made bacon, we had a smoker, we had chickens. We always did it that way. It was a natural thing. My brother makes wine. It’s always been a massive part of the family. Doing it from scratch was embedded in me and that’s why now my biggest interest is the processes before the restaurant. Rather than the cooking and the dining, my biggest love is the farm and what comes before. I think that’s what my family is, we’re all farmers. My brothers not a sommelier, he’s a wine maker. And as I grow older I think that’s where my position lies, not the chef, I want to be the farmer. I want to complete the connection between farm and restaurant.

How important is it for you to be fully immersed in the whole process?

Not only is it super important as it’s the only way you have absolute 100% knowledge of what’s coming to the kitchen, you know its good and you trust it; but for me it’s the achievement and the excitement of that goal. The most satisfying thing is knowing that you’ve been involved in every step of the process. You’re not just the finisher, the executer; you’re responsible for everything and I think that’s a nice thing.


You clearly have an appreciation for your pigs and a careful consideration and use for every part of the animal. Is this vital for you?

Absolutely. For the same reason I’m obsessed with using the hairs from the pigs for the flies that I fish with. It’s the same principle, no ones going to know about it, but as long as it happened that fulfills something in me. We don’t put on the menu that everything is from our pigs but we don’t have to if it satisfies us then that is fine. We use our own animals to not only guarantee quality but for our own satisfaction. A good restaurant will be using someone that they themselves would source. It is super important because a well-kept animal and a happy animal is gonna taste better. The chef wants their product to be better but also the knowledge that they’re doing the right thing.


What inspires your menu?

There is no plan, it’s a case of what we can get in. It’s all about getting by with the size of the restaurant and the kitchen. Creating a menu that’s small enough to justify having a restaurant, but not too big so that life is manageable. Everything is super tight and concise, cooked to order. We don’t have much, we can’t have much. It’s a thrift restaurant!

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Faces of Red Wing | Cody Wellema

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Walking into Wellema Hat Co. in downtown Santa Barbara, California is like going back in time. Part speakeasy, part old-world workshop, the feeling of the place couldn’t be any further from the palm trees, beaches and Spanish Colonial style that surrounds it. Pre-war blues plays quietly from a record player in the corner and there at the work bench is owner and hat maker Cody Wellema, deliberately crafting another custom hat in the traditional style. Beautiful hats in striking color combinations hang from the walls and it’s hard to believe they were made by someone who is almost completely self taught. But Cody is a throwback in every sense of the word and as you get to know him you begin to understand how passionate he is about hats.


How did you get your start?

My interest in hatmaking developed out of wanting to work with my hands and really loving what hats symbolized, kind of a bygone era. And I really wanted to put those two together, so I really researched how hats were made at the turn of the century, the early 1900s and mid-twentieth century and just got started.

Did you have an mentors along the way, or are you completely self taught?

I’m not completely self taught, but pretty close.There were a couple guys along the way that helped me out, that have been at it for 20, 30, 40 years, that gave me a few tips here and there. I found that a lot of people that I reached out to when I was first researching and trying to figure this out– they were shut off about it, and did not want to tell me anything. It was kind of a “super secret society”, I don’t know what it was… but I understand where they were coming from now.They put so much effort into learning it themselves, it was kind of like their baby. They were worried about who they were giving the information to. Is this just some kid off the street or someone who is really passionate about it? So once I earned some respect I did get helped out. Specifically, my friend Linda Kerr who I met as a seamstress working for some master hatmakers in New Mexico. She taught me everything I know about sewing–period. Specifically when it comes to sewing by hand for hats, the sweatbands, the liners, the trim, all that fun stuff. She has a lot of knowledge and we found each other at the right time and we have a great relationship.


Who were your role models when you were younger?

My parents in ways, growing up in split houses and how they raised us in their own ways. My grandparents and even more so my great grandfather. I don’t remember much about him, but I do remember going to his house, and just the real genuine gentleman quality of him, a family man, someone that was always happy, just talking and telling stories about the wars. It was always comfortable there. There was something that was different, that really stood out to me, and still does from what I remember of him.

Do you think of yourself as a “process” or “results” oriented person?

This might be a cheesy answer, but a little of both. I absolutely love the process of things, working through it, learning what I’m doing… but I also love to see the end result. For example with my hats– I love making them, but then seeing the reaction and the person being so satisfied and happy with the final product. It’s finally on their head, and was made specifically for them.


You make hats start to finish, how important is doing every step?

It’s vital, it’s everything that I stand for with my hats. From sourcing materials, to talking to the customer, I want to make sure that each and every part of the process is cared for. Through the most intricate details of the hat making process–with my hands being on it and my eyes being on it– I am making sure it gets done properly and to the highest quality.



What does the word quality mean to you?

Quality, to me, means something that really withstands the test of time. Something that can not only be worn as a fashion or leisure item, but something that can be worn in the elements, traveling, through different seasons: snow, wind, rain or shine– that it can hold up to all that. And the quality of an object like that can have stories to tell. You can have a wallet, or a shirt that somebody made, or a pair of boots, or a hat and you can tell you grandkids about the time you traveled the world with that item, or the time you got caught in a snowstorm in a particular jacket was made for you– and it becomes very sentimental. So I believe the quality of those items have the ability to eventually tell stories, and that’s important to me.


Can you talk about sourcing and working with quality materials?

Sourcing to me is very important. I do my very best to get 100% of my materials here in the States, because I know that  they’re the best quality and they’ve been cared for. When I work with these people, I try to go through mom-and-pop shops. I work very personally with them and make sure I’m getting the right material for the right person. The materials that I use come from some of the only fur felt factories in America, and the world, for that matter. Fur felt is something you don’t see much anymore. You see a lot of wool in hats, a lot of random materials– but fur felts are how hats used to be made, and in my opinion, should be made, because fur felts, depending on the type of fur, can withstand the elements. Pure beaver is the finest quality a hat can be made from. Rain, snow– it can hold up. It’s not a replacement for an umbrella, but it can definitely stand up. As far as ribbons and trims– vintage trims from the early nineteen hundreds, from the teens– a lot of my stuff is from the 30’s through the 50’s. They just don’t make quality ribbon like they did back then. The blends of the cotton and rayon, or just rayon, you just can’t find it anymore in a modern shop. Although I did find one mill that is fantastic and I do use them now to get some modern ribbon. But when I can, I try to source vintage ribbon because the quality was so much higher back then.

When you look at old photos— you see a lot more people in hats. Why do you think that is?

There are two reasons that I’ve seen when I’ve researched this. One is the invention of the automobile. When you’re sitting in a car and you’ve got a brim on your hat, like a fedora, it gets annoying with the headrest. So people stopped wearing hats, or that’s when people started wearing the Flat Caps, the  “Gatsby’s” or “Newsies”, because there was no brim in the back. The second thing a lot of people talk about is JFK’s Presidential Inauguration. Up until JFK, every single president wore a hat at the inauguration, but he did not. People say that he didn’t wear one at all, but he actually wore one all day, in the limo, etc. then took it off for the actual speech. So people say that JFK killed the hat, I don’t know if I believe that.

You talk about being inspired by old films and music, what is it about those art forms that inspires or informs your craft?

I think it just goes back to the previous question, when you look at old photos you see hats everywhere, ball games, cities, family photos. The music that I love to listen to, a lot these musicians came from a place of struggle and poverty, a lot of pre-war blues, even jazz in the early 20’s on the East Coast in Harlem– Fats Waller was great, Blind Boy Fuller, Ma Rainey– when you see old photos of them, or you look at the album covers, you always see hats. That type of music and the lifestyle that they came from– the hats really became symbolic of that time to me.

What inspires your personal style? Do you feel it is a reflection of your craft?

Again, and I probably sound like a broken record, the early 20th century really inspires who I am– not just with style but just in general. I feel like there was a very different way of living back then: you had to work for everything you got.  But there was a very beautiful simplistic lifestyle that they lived, and it was just kind of the norm. All the guys wore suits and hats, ladies wore dresses- and a hat as well from time to time– but there is something about those suits, and the guys working the yards with their hats, that really inspires me to always be dressed for the occasion I guess.I love dressing my own way, from early 1900’s work wear to suits–I think a hat fits it all.


If you had to wear one hat for the rest of your life what would it be?

No doubt it would be pure beaver because I know it would last me forever. It would be some sort of of fedora…2.5” brim, with a teardrop crown.

What is your favorite style hat to make?

I really enjoy being able to communicate with the customer, being able to make it specifically to their desire and their personality.  If I had to pick, I really like making a very traditional 30’s fedora, a little taller crown, decent size brim, maybe a teardrop or a three point crown. Something that would really stand out, but in a very simple way. Maybe black on black, or black with grey, something classy but that you wouldn’t see as often.


If you weren’t making hats, what do you think you’d be doing?

At this point I really don’t know. I’d want to be doing something with my hands, maybe I’d be working for Red Wing, working in their factory (laughs). Before this I was working as a pastor, so maybe I’d be doing that. Doing something I enjoy– I know that. I really can’t see myself doing anything else.

Red Wing boots in three words?

Superior Quality, Heritage (strong family-rooted heritage) and Passion. I think those guys have a passion for what they’re doing.