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Secrets of the Shoe Trade - Burnishing Men's Shoes

Pin-Pointing a role to conclude what seems to have been a quite popular news series in the Shoe Room has proven to be rather burdensome. We were looking for an operation that would do this room the sincere justice that it deserves, whilst at the same time covering a diverse range of skills that would offer some tantalizing inside information to our readers...

Secrets of the Shoe Trade - Burnishing Men's Shoes

All of these factors then led us to Mark Firkin, the Crockett & Jones Burnisher. Before beginning, here are a few terms that should help assist with the analyzing of this operation:

Burnish – The term for adding an Antiqued effect on leather shoes to create a variation in shades.

Burnishing Mop – The component of a machine that is made up of several doughnut shapes of cotton that move in circular motion to burnish the shoes.

Polishing Mop – Another component that is made up of lots of strips of cotton that move in circular motion to polish the shoes.

Topping – The process after burnishing to apply a layer of Antique before then going back to the Burnisher to be polished.

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Mark has been burnishing shoes at Crockett & Jones for almost 15 years, so he is most definitely the ‘go-to’ gentleman in the shoe room.

The first piece of advice that Mark was given when being trained how to burnish shoes was that in the end, the finished article should look like a pair of shoes that have been made out of a really old piece of leather.

The process of burnishing is meant to bring out the highs and the lows of the shoe, strongly focusing on drawing out the depth of the leather.

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This operation requires minimal equipment, only a burnishing mop and a bar of specific burnishing wax (also made in Northamptonshire) and then the rest is all down to the skill and expertise of the operator to achieve the best possible finish.

Each individual shoe takes several minutes to perfect, having to burnish the entire shoe with particular care and attention being paid to the cap and counter. This is by no means a simple task. If a shoe is mopped too much, it will begin to burn and leave large dark patches over the shoe. Alternatively, burnished too little and you are left with a mediocre finish.

The shoes are sent on for topping and then returned to Mark to go under the polishing mop to really emphasize the contrast and add a sleek shine.

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On average Mark burnishes around 300-400 pairs of shoes per day and expresses that the only difficulty of his job is to maintain his own high standard of work whilst keeping up with demand!

Read about the secrets of the Crockett & Jones Heel Department here