Craftsmanship - You gotta give people a reason to come back.

Most folks spend their days daydreaming or finding clues
My whole life I've been here at the train station shining shoes
I started when I was nine, on my own and taught myself
No complaints, I'm doing pretty good and I got my health
Memories and calluses, my hearing's probably next to go
Sometimes I do a little handy work for extra dough
But mostly this here is how I spend my time
And I've perfected a technique I call the dry shine
Some guys use lots of water on the shoe but then
When it's out in the open air it's gone in ten minutes
That whole approach to the job is dumb, in fact
Dollars to donuts, that customer won't be coming back
This is the most common mistake of the amateurs
Going for big numbers to satisfy their managers
Anyway, the dry shine, the first thing I mean to do
And this part is very important, I clean the shoe
The residue and old polish to keep the shoe from being ruined
All you need to do is use a rag with some cleaning fluid
If the shoe's all caked up with gunk you need to think
The shoe can't breathe and that's what causes the feet to stink
They took Carfoine off the market, I believe
It was a few years ago cause that leather couldn't breathe
Now once you've cleaned the shoe and it's dried
Your base coat of polish can now be applied
Then you brush, cause what that tends to do
Is clean the shoe a little more and gets rid of the residue
And then you do the second coat just like the first one
You brush it, you rag it, and voila, your work is done
And that's it, you treat each shoe like it's special
Care about your work, and be a professional
There's a right way to go about your job and a wrong one
I find this way is much better in the long run
It ain't about the dollar or trying to go fast
Unless you take pride in what you're doing, it won't last
Craftsmanship is a quality that some lack
You got to give people a reason for them to come back

The world's a different place than what I was introduced to
They don't wear shineable shoes like they used to
Casual clothes in the office, what is this
The villain in sneakers is killing my business

Making Wooden Shoe Shine Boxes

Here are the mitred corners on our Ultimate Shoe Shine box in Douglas Fir coming together.   It looks easy but almost a full day went into setting up the table saw to get it perfectly aligned so these 45 degree angle cuts would come together like this.   


Building boxes in the garage. #woodcraft #carpentry

A video posted by Shinekits (@shinekits) on




Somebody worked hard to make these. I'm going to take care of them.

Had a steak dinner Saturday night with the boys.   25 of us get together in the local butcher shop four times a year and we eat all the things our wives don't want us to eat. We drink and make merry and get into trouble the way men in their 40's do.  We're a bit beyond shots of tequila now and our debauchery these days tends more to involving butter, bourbon, tender sous vide beef and Burgundy. 

Victoria is a pretty casual city and since moving here from Ottawa there's about 14 suits and blazers that haven't been coming out a lot for special events.    Most days in this incredible climate the clothes of the day are cargo shorts and a t-shirt.    Had to finally put on a pair of pants for dinner and I decided to wear a good pair of shoes that I had been practicing my shoe shine technique on with the new glacage water dispenser.   I do own a shoe shine company after all.   Laid down a few coats of black and used the water on a  flannel polish cloth to build a really nice mirror shine on some black laceups.  Still love the Angelus black polish.  It works up a gorgeous shine.  

glacage shoe shine water dispenser

One of our local chefs attended that evening.   He dressed up with a blazer, a fedora and a great pair of black leather shoes.    I commented that his shoe shine was first rate.  

"Somebody worked hard to make these.  I'm going to take care of them."   I quite liked that.    There's something to be said for looking after your stuff, and honouring the people who make it for us.    Always great to meet another kindred spirit.   Now I've got to go get my oil changed....


The Amazing Brift H. Shoe Lounge in Tokyo

We've been getting busy on Instagram keeping up with the world of #shoeshine, #glacage and #patina and one name in Japan keeps popping up in our feed.  Brift H.   

Yuya Hasegawa takes the craft and art of shoe shine seriously.    His Brift H. lounge in Tokyo's Aoyama district has taken the craft of shoe shining to a next level experience in artistry. The attention to detail and the pursuit of excellence is immediately apparent when you see black leather shoes shining like glassy dark obsidian.   His polishing cloth wrapping technique and use of a glass water dispenser for glacage are beautiful to watch.  I love the focus, the immersion in the task, and the love of the work.  This is a master at his craft.  

If you're interested in getting serious about your shine and want to try the water dispenser pick it up here.


Grandpa's Shoes

Today's guest blog is by Steven Briggs from Hanover, Illinois

GEORGE DEWEY TYE.  He was my Grandpa.  I’m told my first steps were taken toward him --- running.  I don’t remember that, but I do remember him holding my hand as we walked along the streets of Inglewood, California in the early 1950s.  Of course, I was closer to the ground than he was, and his eyesight “wasn’t so good” as mine.  I could see shiny particles in the sidewalk, and I used to ask him “Why are there diamonds in the sidewalk.”  He said it was to “remind us that our shoes should always shine.”  He also advised that it was important for me to “take good care of” my things, because I was lucky to have them.  Then he told me that he didn’t get his first pair of shoes until he was 12 years old.  He said he loved those shoes. I remember asking him probably too many times after that, “Grandpa, tell me again about the shoes.“

One Saturday morning when I was about ten, Grandpa said he wanted to show me something, and he told me to get my “good school shoes” (black leather brogans) and meet him on the back porch. We sat on the steps in the sun, and he handed me a brand new “Griffin Shinemaster” shoe shine kit.  You know, one of those ubiquitous four-footed boxes with the angled foot platform on top.  It had two cans of polish (black and brown), two brush applicators, and two buffing brushes.  It was right then and there I was about to move up in the world.  And man, did I ever.  Grandpa taught me how to shine shoes.  

From then on, every Saturday morning, Grandpa and I would shine our shoes together.  He taught me to clean ‘em off first.  “Get the mud off real good,”  he’d say.  I wondered how many times as a 12-year-old boy in the hills of Tennessee he had done that himself.  Grandpa showed me how to pry the polish cans open with my thumbs.  He said I should take off the shoelaces so I wouldn’t get polish on them (this may have been a veiled attempt to teach me how to lace them up again).  And then came the most fun part of all --- he showed me how to spit in the can!  To this day, I still do that, just like Grandpa did.

Well, that was 58 years ago.  That Griffin Shinemaster is broken apart, but it’s still here.  I’m sorry to tell you that Grandpa isn’t.  And I got out of the habit of shining my shoes.  I’ve always missed Grandpa, but I didn’t realize until recently that I missed shining shoes too.  So I bought a new “shoe shine kit” about a week ago.  A nice one.  A really nice one.  Since then, I’ve probably shined a pair of shoes every other day.  It’s a ritual now.  It takes me back.  It “centers” me.  It makes me feel like a gentleman.  

The smell of the polish, the sound of the applicator and buffing brushes on the leather, and the relatively instant gratification of seeing shoes that look proud to be shoes.  All that stuff makes me feel alive.  It makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to have shoes.  And it reminds me of that gentle, caring man --- my Grandpa --- who took the time to show a little boy how to shine his shoes.  As it turned out, that simple lesson taught me so much more.

Steven Briggs

P.S.  In about three years I’m going to show my grandson how to shine shoes too.

Why women should shine their shoes too.

Today's blog entry is a guest post by Nicola Lyon.

My father is an expert shoe-shiner. I think his mother taught him the value of being impeccably dressed and a stint doing national service honed his polishing skills, but he has a real passion about it. I always used to wonder what all the toothbrushes in his kit were for and why would you need a cloth and a brush? But he knew and our shoes were always clean. Very, very clean. Our shoes would go missing at night and reappear with a sheen as if Grimm’s elves had themselves been involved. Now, when I visit home, they still do. I personally think I rebelled against the routine because rebelling is what a lot of daughters are supposed to do, is it not? But he definitely made an impression. I feel remarkably untidy in unpolished shoes and I do live by the adage that you can learn a lot about a man by his shoes. Women too! We are told not to judge others, but we do. If people didn’t judge a book by its cover I would never have got a job as a graphic designer.

I am not saying I have never ventured out in dirty shoes but I have done so distracted, in the same way that I might feel if going out in creased clothes, or made up for a party in perfectly applied make-up but no lipstick.

Swarovski rhinestone covered heels are all well and good and a lot of fun and those embellishments can cover a multitude of sins including misshapen feet. However, I do crave a simple well made shoe, perfectly designed to enhance the foot and ankle and elongate the leg. I find myself glancing down at them admiringly when my mind should be elsewhere. Quality leather feels just as good on the inside as it looks on the outside. But they have to be perfect. Minimalism calls for attention to detail and every scratch and bump will cause distress to my distracted mind and my anxiety will rise as I notice a dull area that I know cannot be fixed by rubbing with a damp finger but I try anyway. 

I myself, have not been blessed with beautiful toes and a slight tendency to walk pigeon toed means I am prone to scuffing. One foot has a cheeky bone sticking out, a “bunion" (such an ugly word), that becomes painfully obvious when the colour of the leather wears away even a little, highlighting the dome of the offensive area like a spotlight.

I have come to judge hotels by the goodies they leave in bathroom. It’s one of the first things I check out after I’ve claimed my side of the bed. I can do without the shower cap and overly perfumed body lotion but a sewing kit and shoe shining glove are a sign that the hotel knows their clientele are those rare birds who can still sew on their own button and don’t require room service to polish their shoes. Invariably though, I find myself searching out a local store for that little jar of polish and have collected various brands with instructions in several languages. A souvenir bought along with a vow that next time I will pack better. I am very impressed if I am provided a single serving application of polish, though it is rare. How I wish they were provided in disposable wipe form - maybe they are, somewhere. The lone shoe mitt is good but not much use to me when I am faced with a patch of bare beige leather on a pair of black court shoes. I do, however, strongly appreciate the gesture and they do make excellent cleaning cloths for your laptop screen.  

The truth is I think subconsciously I like the process of buying the polish. A travel kit is so simple. Reassuring simple. And cute. Some polish and wax, a couple of brushes and a cloth. Usually wrapped up in a leather wallet. Shoes and a bag - two of a girl's favourite things are they not? So why are women not so interested in the process? Women are happy to paint their own nails if they can’t get a mani/pedi conveniently. Some of us can french tip our friends’ nails with the precision of a brain surgeon. Why not look after the ridiculously expensive shoes we’ve been craving after for six months? If only to examine them in detail as we do it.

I’m a strong believer that we should learn how to do these simple processes well so we are prepared in an emergency. Come the apocalypse, we may not be looking judgementally at each others feet as I do today but it would be nice to know we are confident about doing a simply task well. Like making a good cup of tea. So many ways, so many traditions. How charming is that? So "Jane Austin”. I haven’t much to boast about on my list of acquired skills but I have managed to procure a husband regardless. In a technologically savvy world isn’t it comforting to go back to some basic tasks and do them well? And they don’t all need to be “girlie” tasks. I’m the one who puts the Ikea furniture together. I’ve been the one to figure out why the car is making that awful noise and if there’s an accident involving blood I’m your go-to girl. But when I put on my little black dress I have a pair of well polished pumps that I cleaned myself and I know they have been done well because my dad taught me how. 

- Nicola Lyon


Reclaimed Mahogany from the SS Princess Mary (1911)

We recently got some very interesting reclaimed wood to use in the construction of our Douglas Fir shoe shine kits.   It is over one hundred years old and came from a steamship called the Princess Mary. 

The SS Princess Mary was a famous steamship in the Pacific Northwest.   She was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway by Bow McLachlan and Company  in 1911 in Paisley, Scotland.    Princess Mary was part of CPR’s “Princess Fleet” with ships including the SS Princess Adelaide, SS Princess Alice and SS Princess Sophia.   

A small ship at just under 250 feet and 2155 tons Princess Mary was known as a “pocket liner” having been outfitted with luxurious amenities common to the larger ocean crossing vessels of the day. The interior was trimmed with beautiful long wooden strips of mahogany that most likely came from Cuba or Honduras.     

Under CPR the ship serviced a route including Powell River, Nanaimo, Comox and Vancouver.    During the First World War, Princess Mary took the 30th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to combat in 1915.  

In the 1950’s the ship was retired and broken down.   The converted hull was made into a barge and lost at sea under tow with a tug in a storm off the Alaska Panhandle  in 1954 with a loss of 14 lives.  Part of the dining hall and smoking room was cut away from the superstructure and used on land as a coffee shop for the employees of the Island Tug and Barge Company.  Word spread about the fantastic seafood chowder and It later become a much loved local seafood restaurant in Victoria BC famous for shrimp cocktails and Sooke oyster brochettes wrapped in bacon with butter, mushrooms and tartar sauce.     My wife and her two older brothers have many fond memories of fish and chip dinners with fried clams, shrimp cocktails and Shirley Temples.    The Princess Mary restaurant closed recently and we knew someone who had salvaged some of the original 1911 mahogany trim during a renovation a few years ago.  

It makes for a beautiful insert with a wonderful historic connection to the island grown Douglas Fir we use.  


What Makes The Best Shoe Shine Box?

shoe shine box

Here at shinekits.com we have a simple goal - to sell high quality shoe shine kits made locally with locally sourced materials wherever possible. Our shoe shine boxes are made by local craftspeople using wood grown right here on Vancouver Island. We think we have that part of it nailed. But there's one item conspicuously missing from our shine boxes that you may have noticed. Yes - it's that wooden shoe-shaped doohickey on top.

Here's a picture of the kind of typical shoe shine box you see on many sites:

Image courtesy of amazon.ca

Notice the wooden foot rest on top. I think this fits many folks' notion of a traditional shoe shine box, but the question is - how useful is that thing, and is it the best design for your own shoe shine kit at home?

When I'm shining my own shoes at home, I have the shoe in one hand and I work the polish and brush with the other hand. There's no way you could put the shoe on a shoe rest on your box and have it stay still while you polish it. Similarly, you'd have to be mighty flexible to keep your shoe on your foot, get your foot up there and shine your own shoes while hunched over the box. That's because that wooden foot rest you see on a lot of boxes is really for shining other people's shoes.

It's a leftover from the days when you'd see kids on the street shining people's shoes for change. Here's a photo of a shoe shine boy at work back in the day:

image courtesy of http://hyperallergic.com/

This image gives you a good idea of how the wooden shoe holder is useful if you are a shoeshine boy, but is next to useless for shining your own shoes at home.

To us, the wooden shoe holder is a throwback that, while good for nostalgia, isn't practical on a modern day shoe shine box for home use. It makes the box awkward and unwieldy and prevents it from being stowed away easily in a closet or under a bed.

That's not to say we'll never make a shine box with a wooden shoe holder. We've discussed making a kit for professional shoe shiners, or maybe making a kit with a detachable shoe holder for people who want it all.

For now though, we think the best shoe shine box is one that is sturdy, beautiful to look at, made of quality materials, and is made right here in North America.

Pocket Knives Made In Canada

This is just a short blog post to remind everyone that we sell more than just our fantastic shoe shine kits. We also have a variety of cool products that every guy should have and among them are our classic Made in Canada pocket knives.  These knives are made in Pictou, Nova Scotia by Grohmann and they've been making quality knives right here in Canada for decades.

One of the gems is the "Mini Russell Lockblade", a folding pocket knife with truly classic styling. This is the mini folding version of one of the best knives in the world - the Russell Belt Knife. Field and Stream called it one of the 20 best knives ever made. Grohmann puts the same care and craftsmanship into their knives that we put into our Canadian made shoe shine kits.

We're proud to carry these fine knives. They belong in the pocket of every guy who appreciates quality and classic styling.  

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