A word on whether to wear taps or not. If you choose to fit your team with taps, you need to be aware that taps requires practice to be able to synchronize the team’s movements because taps; toe, heel and/or side-heel (cheaters); highlight every little detail of movement.
Thank you to Andres Ryan, former Army Soldier and Old Guard Drill Team member for the information on the sandpaper and process of shining side heel taps- called cheaters or clickers.
To shine your heel taps, you need to begin with low 60-grit sandpaper and work your way up to high 2000-grit sandpaper. The sandpaper steps you need to take are: 60-80-120-220-320-400-600-800-1000-1500-2000 and then jeweler’s rouge with a buff wheel. The 60-120 takes the waves out of the steel and then the rest polish all the way up to a literal mirror finish.
You must not skip steps. See the waves in the steel tap on the left above? It’s shined to a point, but there are still flaws. Here is my first attempt at seeing if just using 320 to 800 sandpaper would work- I was making sure you saw the outcome- it doesn’t work. No shortcuts. You must begin with the 60-grit and work your way up and sometimes start all over.
And the final product. There is still more to do, but this is a great beginning. What I did not get in time for this article was the jewelers rouge and a cloth to obtain the final mirror-like shine. Click here for an example of jeweler’s rouge compound. And here for an example of a polishing cloth.
I have both the rouge and wheel now. It is useless unless you follow all of the steps above- as I said, no shortcuts!
To answer your question, yes, you need to sand the back and the edges to keep rust away from the steel and corrosion from the brass.
Here is a picture provided by Justin Lemon, a member of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team. This is the finished product: highly shined to a mirror finish. You can see a couple of scratches which means that he would have to take the taps “back down” using the 60-grit and work back up. Thanks for the picture Justin!
The Army’s Old Guard and Navy’s Ceremonial Guard, both shine their brass cheaters for their ceremonial uniforms.
The Marines don’t use taps at all, they don’t add anything to the uniform except for the Silent Drill Platoon which adds black stretchy material panels behind each shoulder so the blouse does not move while manipulating the rifle.
The term, poromeric, refers to a class of breathable synthetic leather.
Corfam (not “Corfram,” “Clorfam” or Clorfram”) is made by the DuPont Chemical Company.
Clarino, manufactured by the Kuraray Company, is another synthetic high-shine leather found mostly in flagstaff harnesses.
Patent Leather, first created in England in the late 1700s, gained popularity after inventor Seth Boyden of Newark, New Jersey created his own version with linseed oil.
Whatever you wear of what is mentioned above, it’s all synthetic resins of plastics.
Pros: Never shine shoes again! Just keep the heel sole, and welts black with high-gloss edge dressing. You do not “shine” poromeric leather shoes, you clean them. Cons: They can get HOT! If you are facing the sun for a long time, you may need to treat the tops of your toes for burns. Really. Wear two layers of thin dress socks or a thicker dress sock to protect your feet.
Note: to clean poromeric shoes and equipment that have scuffs or run marks, use Brasso.
Shining Standard Leather Shoes/Boots
They can be tough to shine but, polish, a little water, cotton balls or an old cotton t-shirt are perfect for making leather shoes like mirrors.
Brand new leather shoes are perfect for shining. Sometimes there is an oil coating on the shoes that will hinder a shine. If so, it is best to remove it with some rubbing alcohol and a rag. Now you are ready to begin.
I first learned how to shine shoes from my dad, but to shine them to a mirror finish, Old Cadets taught me when I attended New Mexico Military Institute. We used Kiwi there and it always worked really well for us.
How to shine: Using shoe trees helps. Lightly wet a cotton ball, dab it in the polish and work the polish into the shoe making little circles. When the cotton ball starts to make scratches, get a new one. It takes many hours to build up a base coat of polish and then have it shine like a mirror, but once you have the base coat, you can easily touch up your shoes. If you are going to make all of the shoe mirror-like, be aware that as soon as you take your first step, where the shoe naturally bends with your foot, the polish will crack and flake off. So, you may want to limit the mirror parts to the heels, the sides and as much of the toe as possible, highly shine the rest- including the tongue!
Like the Tomb Sentinel said in the video, it is all about building up a base and when you first being it will seem like it takes forever, but as you progress, it will take less and less time to shine your shoes. If your shoes have leather soles, you will be able to sand the outside of the sole and shine it with shoe polish as well. If your soles are rubber or some sort of synthetic material you will have to use edge dressing.
How to Remove Edge Dressing: After a few coats with edge dressing, you will need to strip the welt (where the sewing is) and also the sides of the sole so as not to have that buildup that eventually looks terrible. For the outside of the sole, use steel wool to scrape away excess, a putty knife works well also. For the welt, you can use the putty knife corner, but be careful. Sometimes the edge dressing will flake off or come off in small chunks. If not, you may have to use Leather Luster Remover. Sand (very fine sandpaper is best) the sole and the side heel tap (if attached) so that it is even and then reapply the Angelus Edge Dressing.
The man-made, synthetic lighter soles are not the most desirable for the military Driller but are the most prevalent. Leather soles are desirable. Make sure to blacken the sole if it is a lighter color.
Pros: Break-in period can be shorter than synthetic shoes/boots Cons: Shinning them over and over and over and over.
Side heel taps (“Cheaters” or “Clickers”) are great whether you execute closed-toe movements or use the traditional 45-degree angle. You can get different colors: silver, gold or black. Silver and black are great if you want shiny and black will need to be coated with the Angelus mentioned above. Note: if you have black and put edge dressing on them (which you should), it will chip off and you will need to strip the metal and reapply so it doesn’t ‘cake’ up. Attach them with black wood screws.
If you have cheaters that are shiny gold or silver in color, keep them shined and attach them with the same color sheet rock screws.
When attaching cheaters, you can put spacers (washers) behind them or screw them solidly into the side of the sole. Since these taps are curved, you can either match your heel curvature or put a space between the tap and the heel to see if there is better sound quality.
Horseshoe taps can be dangerous and mark up floors, but sound awesome- especially in a large formation. Ask any farrier, horseshoes need to fit a horse’s hoof exactly all the way around the hoof. Ask any cobbler, horseshoe taps don’t. As a matter of fact a cobbler usually offsets the tap into the center of the heel by 1/16 of an inch from the back and keeps a gap of 1/8 of an inch on the sides. Horseshoe tap sizes are for smaller and larger feet (heels) and nothing else.
Toe taps are excellent for creating sound marking time.
All of the taps and cheaters are available at Glendale!
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