- Jul 27, 2003
- Reaction score
Following the intrepid lead of one of our fellow shoe lovers, I decided to try my hand at refinishing some leather and, subsequently, some shoes. Â For the initial try, I used some high quality calfskin which I purchased at Crack & Sons in Northampton, England. Â This leather is a medium reddish brown. Â On its own, it is quite a nice piece of leather. Â I used acetone to remove the finish, and the leather after the acetone treatment was returned to its "crust" state, i.e. with no significant color of its own. Â I then tried a couple of treatments of this leather - the application of different shoe polishes and the use of some shoe cream. Â Each left the leather a different color; I preferred the shoe cream over the shoe polishes, as I think it left a slightly more mellow and subtle tone to the leather, although some of the shoe polishes gave the leather a nice color as well. After this experiment, I decided to try my hand at some shoes. Â I own a couple of pairs of Allen Edmonds that I've rarely worn, in part because I don't really like their color, so I decided to test things out on these shoes. Â The first pair is a pair of bluchers, with a skin stitched apron and toe seam, in what I guess you might call a London Tan. Â However, I have always thought the leather was a bit too yellow, and it looks a little "˜plasticky' to me. Â The application of the acetone brought this shoe to a near crust state with relatively little effort. Â Because of the color I was going for, I used an Edward Green Burgundy shoe polish to color the leather. Â The shoe has acquired a tone fairly similar to that which it had originally, but the overall appearance is, IMO, much better. Â The removal of the factory treatment seems to yield a leather that is much more attractive, with a sort of 3D appearance (it seems like you can see into the leather, sort of like you can with certain types of wood) that I find typical of nicely polished calfskin. I have also found that I can burnish/antique the leather in this process. Â All that is required is a bit of elbow grease to build up some heat in polishing the desired section of the shoe; the heat in essence scalds the leather, yielding a darker appearance. Â The challenge in doing this is to go slow and not overdo it, since (I think) the burnishing is a one-way street -- overdo it and there may be no way to redeem things. Â I added a touch of antiquing to this first pair of shoes. ]This is the first pair, with the original finish on the left, the refinished shoe on the right.This is a close up of the toe, where you can see some of the antiquing.This is another image with the original finish on the left, the new finish on the right. My next pair was a pair of AE Chester wingtip oxfords that are a dark brown. Â I have always found these shoes a bit lifeless, since the brown is just sort of dull. Â The application of the acetone left these shoes lighter than they were to start, but not all the way back to a crust state. Â For this pair, I used a medium brown shoe cream from Cavalier. Â The shoe is now what I would call a chestnut, again with a lovely 3D quality to it. Â I then did some burnishing of the toe area, the sides, and the inside heel. Â While not quite up to Edward Green standards, the burnishing looks nice.This is the wingtips, with the original on the right, the new finish on the left. Â Note: this picture is before I have added the antiquing to the new finish.This image is the newly finished shoe, with antiquing, on the right, the original finish on the left.One other pic of the newly finished shoe, with antiquing. A couple of other points. Â I tried this technique on a two pieces of black leather, with no success, and also on a very dark brown piece of cowhide, again with essentially no success. Â I don't know if it is the tanning or the initial leather color that determines success or failure. Â You need to be a bit careful with the acetone; it is highly flammable, so do this outside. Â Also, the acetone seeped into one of the stitching seams on my uppers and left sort of a "˜water mark' along this seam on the upper. Â This mark is noticeable even after the application of the polish, so go easy with the acetone. Â It can also be a bit of a challenge to get the original finish off the leather right under/next to a seam. Â My wingtips have a hint of a darker tone right next to the stitched areas where the leather overlaps, though this is barely noticeable.