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Church bookbinder/corrected leather

The Knize

Moderator Emeritus
Anyone have any thoughts on "shining" a pair of oxblood Church bookbinder/corrected leather finished shoes? I have had these for about 30 years. They were expensive back in the day and have held up nicely except the finish/color is uneven. There is some light cracking where the shoe bends on top of my foot, but I do not care about that, it essentially adds character and I understand there is nothing to be done anyway, at least according to Kirby Allison of the Hangar Project.

As I understand it, the bookbinder finish involved artificially smoothing leather and applying an acrylic coating. I suppose the idea was that they would be inherently very shiny with only a wipe of a damp cloth. But one also cannot much apply wax. cream, or even leather treatment to it and have any of it penetrate. I have been fairly success in putting a mirror glaze on the toes with Saphir Mirror Gloss wax. But is there anything else that can be done? A solvent perhaps? Or even taking a light sandpaper to the surface? If I could get the leather to absorb any kind of colored wax or cream I think the color would even out into a nice patina, with darker and lighter areas, but not places that look like they have lost all color.

I can see inexpensive shoes using corrected leather as a cost savings. But why Church would use it, I do not understand. I think Church promoted it as something better and special. I had a mentor you paid big bucks for shoes and clothes, and who went to NYC to buy Church shoes before they became available in the Washington, DC area. (I think they were sold in the States as McAffees, then. At least that was his story and he generally knew clothes and shoes.) He seemed to go out of his way to get a bookbinder finish rather than calf. He kept his shoes shined like a mirror all over. I remember the first time I met him being impressed with that.

I will figure out how to send photos, if folks think that will help!


I'm calling the U.N.
Moderator Emeritus
I have been fairly success in putting a mirror glaze on the toes with Saphir Mirror Gloss wax. But is there anything else that can be done? A solvent perhaps? Or even taking a light sandpaper to the surface?
No real idea but ...

.. I'd suggest trying the least-intrusive methods first and working up from there. Save the solvent and sandpaper for later. Can a Saphir wax polish do a decent job? It may not penetrate much or at all, but ... if it can hold a thin layer on top of the leather and be shiny pigment, that might be "good enough".

You might want to ask someone with specific experience with this ... a good cobbler or shoe repair guy of some sort. He may have some experience getting success with this sort of leather. You are probably in a situation where the better solution is to "paint" a colour on top of the "leather" rather than expect pigment to soak into the leather in a generally consistent fashion. The woodworking analogy would be that a good solid piece of wood is great for staining with a quality oil, but cheap particle board is better painted over. But I have no idea whereof I speak.

Good luck.

I share your perplexity as to why an otherwise highly-reputable shoemaker would use this sort of "leather" on their still-expensive shoes.

The Knize

Moderator Emeritus
Good analogy. Good advice. I do not know if I have anyone available to me who would have more expertise than this board does collectively! I thihk you are right about the wax. Since I am able to get the toe to mirror up with neutral mirror gloss, I should be able to get a colored wax to thinly layer on the leather. If I had to get a burgundy mirror gloss paste to use, that would not be a big problem. I would not need to get the whole shoe to a mirror gloss to get the color to stick.

The Knize

Moderator Emeritus
Thanks for the suggestion. Very out of the box. I never did get back to working on these, much less taking any photos.

I will eventually. In the meantime, I sort of decided that the blotchy light and dark coloration could be considered patina! I have not sprung for burgundy mirror gloss. I have Saphir mirror gloss in neutral, brown, and black. Wonderful stuff, but what is that, about $80 worth?

I have not been sending in photos of shoes treated with Saphir sole guard. They pretty much all look the same! But I am about 3/4 of the way through the bottle. I guess I have done maybe a dozen pairs of shoes. I am impressed as to just how thirsty my leather soles seem to be for this stuff. Using it really has the feel for doing something nice for ones shoes.