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Bulling Boots

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The Butler's Guide To Shiny Footwear

All advice seen here plus more available from: [1]

Equipment

  • Tights, ladies, GS, non-folding. No fishnets or other patterns.
  • Three tins of polish Black, Brown and Neutral. All must be Kiwi (no other polish is good enough as the wax leaves smears), as it contains natural beeswax. (Kiwi do a parade gloss this is an excellent polish)
  • Two good bristled boot brushes labelled 'On' and 'Off'.
  • Forget the beeswax. I have been waxing boots and belts for over twenty-five years, and believe me it is not a task to be taken lightly. Beeswax should only be used on the initial burning of the boots

Preparation

  • Use the Selvyt cloth on your brasses for a bit, then scrub it and give it a good rinse. This reduces the nap of the material to a decent level for bulling your boots.
  • Always work with a damp diddley (cloth).
  • Fill your tin lid with clean, cold, or use spit as the acid in it helps remove the smears caused by the wax in the polish (see execution)
  • Never use the same polish to brush polish and bull, as it gets grit in it.
  • Always brush polish your boots first. It feeds the leather and helps to remove grit and polish flakes and helps you build up your layering.
  • Whatever boots you are 'bobbing' (bulling) - either combat, ammo( ammo boot require the bobbles to be smoothed down burning) and this is where beeswax is needed, or even plimmies (old sod), you must break them in first. Let them attain their natural creases as this will help reduce flaking when you walk.

Execution

  • Remove excess dirt from your boots if necessary, then apply a good quantity of polish from your brush polishing tin using your 'On' brush. Remember to pay attention to the welts, removing all dirt.
  • If your eyelets are a bit worn and brass is showing, use a black marker on them.
  • Using your 'Off' brush, polish the shoe vigorously until a nice shine appears.
  • Repeat steps 1 and 3 leaving time to dry to build up a thick undercoat
  • Using your tights (rolled in a ball), rub over the boots as this gives a very good shiny finish that goes down a treat on first parades.
  • Tie a piece of string to one corner of your damp diddley.
  • Arrange your hand in the style of a Boy Scout's salute, i.e. three- fingered.
  • Wrap the diddley around your three fingers making sure the writing is on the outside - using the string to secure it around your wrist.


  • Dip your diddley (please don’t snigger) in your water; get it nice and wet and then dip it in your bobbing polish.
  • Apply to one section of your boot at a time rubbing in circles; this is to build up the polish layers on your boots.
  • Keep applying polish and water and soon you will begin to see a dull shine.
  • As your polish builds up on the leather it will start to shine - that is when you start to reduce the amount of polish you apply. Just dab your fingers in the Kiwi lighter and lighter, enlarging the polishing circles. A lot of people have problems finishing off and their boots can have a smeary, or even scratched appearance. If this happens to you then try finishing using the water bobbing method.

Water bobbing

Equipment is cotton wool balls and cold wrung water. Take your boots into the bogs and use a sink. Run the cold water and put a cotton wool ball under it.

  • Rub the wool ball on your boots in a circle and a shinier finish will start to appear. Keep rinsing and changing cotton as it will pick up polish flakes that will scratch your boots.
  • When you are happy with the finish, make sure you remove all water from your boots as it dries and leaves white marks if you don't.
  • You can if you wish bob over this finish with your diddley and try an even deeper shine.

When you are happy with your boots; the next bit is a real cringer. Wear them! Put them on, lace them up, and do a quick stroll round the block. "Why, you mad bugger?", I hear you ask. Your boots will crack along your natural creases if you go on parade with them like that - you will impress no one.

When you have the natural crease cracks formed do the following:

  • Brush them hard with the 'Off' brush.
  • Brush polish them with the 'On' brush.
  • Brush them vigorously with the 'Off' brush.
  • Rub them with your tights.

Then bob them up again. This time the creases will have less polish in them, and the rest of your boot won't crack as much.

Don't Do's

  • Clear floor polish - even a cadet instructor will spot that bluff.
  • Set fire to your polish. Never understood that one; it depletes the natural oils and wax.
  • Why boots were burnt? Well when we had DMS the leather was nobbly and if you heated a spoon and burnt down the bumps it became easier to polish the now smooth leather. Covering the whole boot in polish and setting fire to it was a bluff to confuse the ignorant.(but it did look good)
  • Gloss paint. Oh yes I've seen it done: looks great ends in tears.
  • Tornado nose-cone paint: a tough, rubberised black paint available through the system (whether or not it is actually used on the nose-cones of Tornados, I do not know). It produces a smooth finish which minimal bulling will finish off a treat; however, after a few 'bend & drive with the knee's, it will detach from your boots and peel off in a rubbery skin, leaving untreated leather exposed for your drill instructor/ Pl Sgt/ CSM to spot and beast the living daylights out of you.
  • Morello. A German shoe product. Actually very good, but I've seen toecaps fall off on parade. Works well on welts and heels.
  • Pledge. I've seen this widely used by King's Troop, RHA as a finishing method.
  • Desert Boots. As tempting as it may be for any Household Cavalry or Guards nig, suede is not ideal for bulling. Do not bull dessies; and if anyone tells you to just use brown Kiwi, they're lying.(this was not added by me as I have turned a few dessy boots into a nice looking pigskin boot by applying boot polish. Nit recommended though)

Note: In the cavalry we use our whole hands once proficient at bobbing, and you get a feel for when it is right to reduce your polish and water quantities. I am telling you this method because it easier for a beginner to start off with three fingers, and I know any cavalrymen reading this will laugh but you've got to start somewhere.

I first learned when I was an 11 year old ACF cadet with a yellow duster and one finger. My basic at Bovington did not teach me any different and it was not until I became Officer's Orderly that the other more experienced orderlies taught me the proper way to bob boots with a diddley.

As you get better at it you will develop your own style of what works for you. This is only a rough guide to get you started.