Originally Posted by Gerry Nelson
I have a few questions for those of you that achieve a mirror shine on a regular basis (and I know that there are quite a few here):
- How many layers would you expect to put on bench grade leather starting from scratch before you get a true mirror?
- Do you consistently get a mirror shine in the same amount of time when starting from scratch?
- Time-wise, when you take that little dot of polish and start swirling it around on the leather with the water droplets, how long do you do this before you breath on the leather and continue?
- How much pressure do you use - the weight of your hand or lighter/heavier?
Sorry for all the questions - I find that I'm not getting consistent results and want to drill down on where my technique is going off. I don't do this on all my shoes but I'd like to be able to get a consistent result when I do.
Many thanks in advance.
I can't wait to see the response you get to these questions. There are so many skilled people in this thread, that each have their own take on this process, and what works for them.
Here is my 2 cents worth:
I always start with a base of a well brushed cream polish shine. This allows me to know that the shoe has received at least some conditioning from the oils in the cream polish, and that the wax in the cream polish has covered most minor imperfections in the leather that I might encounter. So, in my opinion, a good mirror shine starts with a good brush shine of cream polish.
The number of layers depends on the slight contours of the leather I am trying to mirror shine. A broad, relatively flat, quarter brogue, cap toe is the ideal surface for a mirror shine. Getting the same level of mirror shine on the toe of a wholecut usually takes me more layers of paste. I use very thin layers of hard paste that is high in Carnauba wax (I even made my own blend specifically for this purpose). It usually takes me between 4 to 6 layers to get a mirror shine on the aforementioned cap toe. I can usually get a mirror shine on any toe in no more than 8 to 10 very thin coats. Because the number of coats vary by the toe, so does the time. I could probably put a mirror shine on a cap toe in around 10 minutes if I needed to, but I prefer to enjoy the process and do it at a leisurely pace.
Because I use a hard paste, it goes from haze to shine in around 20 seconds of rubbing (I then rub a little more). I try to avoid heavy breathing around my shoes (it concerns my wife), so I don't breathe on the leather, I just add another coat. I find the trick is in the amount of moisture in the applicator at a given time. I start with more moisture in the applicator for the first coat, and almost no moisture for the last coat. I add moisture as needed. It should feel like you are pushing the paste, not pulling the paste.
Pressure is a pretty important factor, and is more of an experience type of thing because it is so tactile. I would say that you start with a heavy hand and finish with a light hand. Pushing too hard can smear previous layers and impede the process. You can also oxidize the wax by using too much water, which traps the oxygen in the wax and causes hazy areas in the wax coat.