Originally posted by @Lear

I've had quite a few PM's regarding my mirror shine. Until joining SF, I had absolutely no idea how to shine any shoe, let alone generate a mirror! Below has been my standard reply. It works for me (with absolutely no flaking, cracking or damage), but might not for you.

Mirror Shine
The problem is that each dab, swirl, brush and polish is open to so many variables and interpretations. A spot of polish to me, could be twice that amount to you. Waiting until you feel friction and drag can mean totally different things to different people... the list goes on. I now believe that it can only be learned through self-experimentation. This takes time and patience. Don't get bogged down in endless 'how-to shine' posts.

The RM boots you see are all standard yearling. The RMW Saddle Dressing I found too goopy (it remained sticky). I will use Saphir Renovateur occasionally. It seems to even out and blend previous layers; especially a rain splattered boot. But I always leave this stuff to dry overnight and then buff. Then a single coat of Saphir MdO coloured cream. I never leave this stuff to dry for more than 15 mins -20 mins, otherwise it sets solid and resists any attempts to blend it in. Lastly comes the solid MdO wax. Apply a 'normal', medium thick coat (that's it). Buff this, and consider everything after this as going for the mirror
. The secret from here is very thin layers... and lots of them.

Common mistakes:
  • Too much water: I'll put a couple of millimeters in a flat container, then take a single drop with a felt cloth. The felt is bought from a haberdasher. The cheap stuff (like the stuff your shoe bags are made of). Each single water drop is matched by a single, tiny dab of solid wax.
  • Too much pressure: As the shine appears, you'll need less and less pressure.
  • Not enough coats: The RMW yearling has a fairly pitted surface. The shine will not appear until all those micro-bumps have been leveled out. This can take fifty plus coats. My black ones took less; the claret ones more than a hundred! It takes time. Simply do 10 coats a night (not the entire shoe, just the toes and rears).
  • Use your lips: I think some on SF thought I was joking - run your lips over the toe. You'll feel how coarse and warm the leather is. Fingers aren't sensitive enough for this. As you add more coats, keep on running the soft part of your lips over the toe. The more coats, the smoother and colder it should feel. This way you KNOW your making progress. Sounds silly, but it works for me. Once your lips know what a true mirror feels like, there'll be no more guessing.
  • Area too dark: Until you can generate a true mirror, try to do all polishing under natural clear light. In the beginning I'd over polish, convinced there was no shine present.
  • Use your warm breath: As you come to the end of each dab of wax, breathe warmly onto the leather, then swirl some more. Remember, all wax is applied with tiny swirls. You move your tightly wrapped finger over the toe, while still swirling (think tornado).
  • At the end of every swirl, you'll find a tiny smidgen of wax polish left on the felt. Adjust the felt by a millimetre to access it. This micro dot of polish is perfect for finishing off that single swirling session, BEFORE you go for another dab of water. In fact, this wax micro dot + warm breath is usually the moment of truth.
One thing you'll find is how strangers constantly stop and comment on your shoes. I get it about four times a week. Last was the Ritz Hotel VIP chauffeur. He ambushed me for twenty minutes to discuss shoe shine techniques; wanting to know how I did it and what I used. I'm not a VIP, nor do I stay at the Ritz.

I cannot find Saphir products anywhere in London (mail order from abroad is possible though). Got a stash when in France. The Paris shops have it on every street corner. Most on SF reckon that the Lobb stuff is in fact the inferior Saphir range, not the MdO. Having said that, many do a splendid job using Kiwi. It's more about the technique than the product. Most people never seem to generate a proper mirror. Without being witness to what they're actually doing, I have no idea why this is. The failure rate (unless you're in the forces) appears to be high.

Remember: everything I've stated above can easily be contradicted. It seems that shoe polishing is more black art than anything else.

Hope that helps
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