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How To Bull Boots: The Art Of Polishing For A Military Shine

All you need to know about the art of bulling military boots and shoes

Bulling is the term used by the military that refers to the method of how to polish leather boots to give them a shine with a mirror-like finish.

The art of bulling can take many months or even years to perfect.

How To Shine Military Boots

Here is how they do it …

First, boots must be packed full of sand. This is to ensure that when the leather is heated, it does not shrink.

The Ministry of Defence buys beeswax in bulk for personnel to use in this next part of the process.

Heat And Beeswax

Using a heat gun/paint stripper, the boot is heated to a high temperature, then beeswax is melted into the leather.

Boots BFBS

Once the beeswax dries, and the boots become solid, the next part of the process can begin.

With a firm bristled brush, you need to brush polish on to the boot, then brush off – this is to remove any excess wax or sand and to prepare the leather for bulling.

Now the process of building up layers of polish (bulling) on to the leather begins.

Boots BFBS

How To Bull Boots For A British Military Shine

Bulling is done by using a Selvyt polishing cloth. It must be cleaned with soap and a nail-brush before every use – this is to remove any dirt or debris, as any grit would cause imperfections in the final shine.

Then the hard work begins … the trick to bulling is to add the perfect amount of polish to the cloth, then apply just the right amount of pressure to the boots, with the correct amount of moisture in the cloth. This is the art.

After many hours, days and weeks, many layers of polish will have been added to the boots and this is what gives them the deep shine and mirror finish.

Each pair of boots can take up to two tins of black polish to get them to inspection ready standards.

Boots BFBS

What Shoe Polish To Use?

There are many makes and brands out there, but the go-to polish for Guardsmen is black KIWI shoe polish, as it gives the best overall shine to the leather.

Bulling – Love It Or Hate It?

Most Guardsmen will tell you that some find it therapeutic, others hate it and would soon rather pay a colleague to do their's, before doing it themselves.

All this hard work can be undone in minutes.

When standing on guard outside Buckingham Palace in the soaring summer heat, you can feel your boots melting in the sun and there isn’t a thing you can do about it.

Mostly all you can do is cry inside, knowing you are going to have to stay up most of the night bulling your boots back to parade standards.