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Friday, June 20, 2014

Proper Hard Yakka - Trying To Make A Patina For RM Williams Boots

Some of you may have read an article I wrote for A Suitable Wardrobe on making a patina for a pair of RM Williams boots I owned. That article received two very positive comments and this week I decided to keep up the enthusiasm and go full steam ahead into another pair of RM Williams boots. This time, however, I decided to try something very different.

Black boots are invariably....  black.... and not a lot goes on with black boots to improve their lot. Texture can sometimes be applied through leather stamping (think a crocodile print), natural occurences in skin (think ostrich) or weaving techniques (think Bottega Veneta) but tonality and depth of tone in black is pretty rare, especially in the case of RM Williams chelsea boots.

The original RM Williams crafstman boots used to create this patina

So in order to proceed I had to rummage around and I found a pair of black calf leather RM Williams boots to work with. The process began by sanding back the shoes to scruff up the leather. I used a fine sanding paper and I wasn't particularly aggressive with the shoes because I was still in un-chartered waters. I noticed that the sanding paper often made the deepest impression on ridges and seams and accordingly this is where you will see the biggest effect of the patina.

RM Williams Black French Calf Boots After Light Sanding

The next step I did was to strip back the leather using leather thinners I got from Birdsall Leather in Botany, Sydney. These are generally industrial chemicals so you are not able to buy them over the counter but if you ask nicely you might be able to secure a small amount in a plastic bottle.

Once the leather was stripped back it was easy to mark the effects of the sanding. Now it was time to start applying dyes. In this particular instance I was looking to see how the colours whiskey, electric blue and black would blend in with the newly found grey that was revealed after stripping the leather. I slowly mixed the whiskey first with plenty of alcohol mixed in, in the form of methylated spirits. I then painted on an even glaze over the shoe. I let them dry and then I went at it two or three more times liberally. Once this was done I used masking tape to the paint the toe of the shoe in as deep a black as I could make it. Here I did not dilute the dye with alcohol because I was attempting to get a rich contrast to the patina effect I was chasing on the rear.



After this was done I lightly used some electric blue over the shoes and then I finished the shoe with La Cordonnerie Anglais polish which I burnished on with a cotton rag made of shirting which I rubbed on in circular patterns and then I burnished it to a shine using a fine / sheer stocking from a local chemist.



The results are surprisingly good for an amateur attempt. I do not claim to be proficient in this art form and the more I do it the more I respect the professionals I have come across like Ivan Crivellaro, Landy Lacour and Steven Skippen as well as brands like Berluti, Santori and Corthay. But, regardless of whether I did a good job or not, a patina is present and it's my own signature recipe and it took a fair bit of elbow grease and a big wad of hard yakka.





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