I have been in the cadets for a while now. After wearing my shoes a while and not polishing them they start to flake. What I normally do is just put in about an hour to make the show ever again. But you can still see the different layers and where it has previously flaked off. Does anyone have any tips or advice?
I find that putting a very thick layer on and leaving it for several days before bulling helps to smooth it out - otherwise you’ll just have to strip them back.
Do yourself a huge favour and strip them back to bare leather.
I got lazy with my normal parade night shoes and although they are mirror like, you can see the imperfections due to old polish that has stripped off and i have attempted to then fill in. Like @MattB putting a thick layer on and leaving it for a few days does fix it but its not the best solution. They will still be better than 90% of other shoes but they annoy the life and my OCD tendancies out of me every time i look at them.
I am now in the dilemma of starting them again from scratch but with 10+ hours work each in them its something i have been putting off for a few months now. Do it now before you get to the point your not sure its worth it for the 1-2% visual improvement it will make.
What’s the best way to strip the shoe?
There is loads of different ways to do it.
My most common method it to leave them in front of a window with the sun shining on them for a few hours checking on them every 20 mins and wiping them. Failing that a hairdryer continually moving the heat round the shoe and wiping as you go. Be very careful with either of these though as ive seen plenty of wrecked shoes over the years by people using too much heat (leaving the hairdryer pointing at the shoe for too long etc).
You could buy some saddle soap, plenty of online tutorials to do this, i have got some to try but have not used it yet so i cant comment on its effectiveness.
You can use lighter fluid or some type of solvent (Acetone nail polish remover/rubbing alcohol) to clean them off, but i do not personally like the risk of using flammable liquids on leather. This is a last resort and should be done by someone who knows what they are doing.
All the above things have risks to ruining your shoes and potentially hurting you/burning your house down, ask an adult to help (who knows what they are doing rather than just being over 18!).
Thank you, I will do one of those methods. But my shoes tend to flake fairly often so I can see this being a very repetitive process. Is there anything I can do to preserve the shoe or do an extra step once stripped to reduce the chance of flaking?
There will be plenty on here that will say its the type of polish you use, but it has never made a difference for me.
Couple of tips:
- Try to avoid using too much water when you are polishing your shoes, less is more.
- Try and keep the maintenance up on them. polishing them at minimum 2-3 times weekly should keep them from flaking.
- Murder anyone who goes within 100 yards of them.
- Keep them cool, i always ruin the polish on shoes in summer, store them in a cupboard away from radiators or windows.
- Finally they will flake, its just a bit of a fact of life, get a big pot of polish and get ready to never stop polishing shoes.
You certainly don’t need lighter fluid, heat, saddle soap, or anything else like that.
What’s happened to your shoes is perfectly natural. The polish will flake once a large enough layer has been built up.
What you need to do is dead easy… Grab some fine wire wool (000 grade works nicely but so long as it’s not heavy, course stuff, use whatever you find) and make the same small circle ‘bulling’ motion with the wire wool using a gentle pressure.
That will gently remove the excess polish and smooth everything out. Once you’ve got a nice smooth finish, just rinse them under running water to remove all the dust, muck, and bits of wire wool and then bull them again.
It won’t take anywhere near as long to get them back to a good shine as you think it will - you haven’t removed all the polish, you’ve just smoothed out the original base layers.
Thank you for your help
why people feel it is necessary to add heat sources and encourage Cadets to do so baffles me.
i use a knife, if not confident use the back of the blade (not the sharp edge) and run it over the shoe. it will scrape off the layers without scratching the leather.
if you have confident with a knife use the sharp edge of a blade, but be weary it can dig in and cut the leather…
far quicker and less likely to damage the show or leather than any of the above methods
The only time I have ever used heat was to beeswax my oxfords. (And ammo boots…but let’s not discuss that)…I strongly discourage cadets from even trying it.
You do realise you never set light to it? It would ruin the shoes in about 3 seconds if you did. The leather is far far to thin for that amount of heat being applied.
Like @AlexCorbin i once tried to beeswax my original pair of parade shoes to see what happened, the toe cap alone ended up with divots and waves all over it
Clean jiffy cloth and some white spirit or some other product like mentioned, apply it to cloth and wipe over your shoes, 30 seconds the shoe is back to having zero polish on it. Clean the shoe with warm soapy water, dry and then apply leather conditioner and the shoes are better than new.
I personally like the wire wool method for a quick damage repair but i like to remove all the polish so i can clean and condition the shoe, having polish left on it wont allow the conditioner to seep in completely.
It really is each to there own, in my personal opinion i have seen more damage to shoes and people from people using wire wool (think brillo pads!) or a knife than i have with my method.
really you surprise me [/sarcasm]
but do the Cadets realise this?
do they see it as the excuse to use fire because someone on the internet said apply a flame?
does it work? yes
but there are easier, safer, just as successful ways producing the same result without risk of injury from a burnt thumb held on a lighter, ruined shoes or worse!
your own suggestion of spirit and cloth evidence of this
I don’t understand why someone would go the extent of removing all the polish from a shoe - thus requiring a start from scratch - when a simple process with a fine abrasive will smooth it all out and still leave polish there, which makes bulling them again a matter of a few minutes.
Same principles apply for the “smart” repair for car body work. Sand it down…apply polish…job done
I found that the “complete removal” of the old polish permitted the longest “stability” of the subsequent layers of new polish.
I think that (as told to me by a QCS instructor), they would use a small piece of very fine wet / dry paper + then “refresh” polish for “emergency” scuff repairs at a venue, but of course, they also bees-waxed their boots / shoes.
(My toe-caps were bees-waxed too!)
And yes, I used heat (maybe not so safe methodology at times!) to remove the old polish - but I have been “highly polishing” shoes for a very long time - & still do if I have to buy an occasional pair from our local Army surplus shop to help out an impoverished cadet.
I find myself having to wire-wool my shoes every few years at most, and I’ve never bothered with a complete removal in the 24 years I’ve been doing it.
I suspect - like much to do with shoes - it’s dependant on technique. We all do it slightly differently.
I never could bull the way my mate does, and he never could get it to work doing it my way… But we both ended up with the same high gloss in the same short time doing our own.