First clean your webbing
It is always best to clean your webbing first, even if brand spanking new. Unblanco’d webbing will then ‘take’ the treatment better and previously treated webbing will be returned to a colour, dirt and grease-free state.
Remove brass ware where possible. If it isn’t possible then now is the time to clean the brass – metal polish residue that gets on the webbing will removed in the cleaning process.
Using a stiff nail brush (or similar bristle brush) and a soap flake solution get scrubbing! The entire blanco process is messy from beginning to end – its a job for the garage or outdoors, not the dining room table. Thoroughly scrub all your webbing and rinse thoroughly. Incidentally, its much less graft to use the washing machine method here: Removing Blanco from webbing
Applying your Blanco
This is the ‘wet’ method of application.
Get yourself a small container – a plastic cap off a spray can will do but I’m using a small ceramic pet’s bowl. Crumble into it a chunk of Blanco. Add sufficient amount of water and mix thoroughly. How much water? The colour or the liquid needs to be solid but the consistency needs to be thin. You are not applying a paste nor painting a pretty watercolour. The colour you are applying will soak right into the webbing, not just apply a surface finish. Make the solution to thick and you will be wasting blanco that will have to be brushed off afterwards, make it too thin and you will have to apply two or more coats to get a decent evenness of colour. Err on the side of being too dilute – the inconvenience of having to re-coat is better than wasting valuable Blanco.
The Blanco solution will need to be stirred every time you dip the brush in as it drops to the bottom. I suppose more accurately you have a thin slurry rather than a solution of colour like a dye would be and there is a very high percentage of solids in the Blanco compound.
To apply the Blanco solution I am using a stencil brush obtainable from a DIY store but a small old paintbrush with cut-down bristles is just as good. The idea is to use the short bristles to get a good ‘scouring’ action rubbing the colour into every crevice, pore and thread of the webbing.
Start ‘painting’. Load the brush with solution and apply to dry or just-damp webbing. The liquid needs to soak down into the fibres as you are rubbing with the brush in all directions. This ensures colour goes into the webbing fibres not just sit on the top. Work back and forth as quick as you can but do be thorough. Pay attention to the edges, seams, joins and attachment points. Don’t let one end of the piece dry out before you have done. Be methodical! By the way, don’t apply Blanco to the back of straps, pouches or packs or unseen areas. Not only will it rub off on your clothing but its a pointless waste of valuable Blanco.
Continue the process until all of your webbing is done then hang to dry. Once dry take a stiff hand brush and give the webbing a quick once over to remove excess powder from the surface otherwise it will just end up on your clothes. Do this outside or you will turn your living room green!
The dark green/brown colour of the wet painted webbing in now a much lighter khaki.
Here is a comparison (top to bottom):
Used and worn blanco’d belt;
‘Shoe cream’ method on virgin belt; ( more info The Shoe Cream Method )
Genuine Blanco using method detailed above on virgin belt.
(Note that unevenness in colour isn’t apparent to the eye!)
Allow your pot of Blanco to dry out. Next time around you can just add water to redissolve – so no waste. Originally the Blanco was supplied in zinc plated (to prevent rusting) tins and you would have swirled a wet brush in this to make your liquid Blanco for application. When the contents were used up you bought a refill block and reused the tin.
Couple of notes:
1. Some people prefer the ‘dry’ method of Blanco application. This method requires damp webbing onto which you crumble/sprinkle dry Blanco directly onto the webbing (like you would use an Oxo cube) and then work the colour into the webbing using a wet brush. This isn’t the author’s chosen method but some people prefer it.
2. I think there ought to be a distinction between ‘Working’ Blanco’d webbing and ‘Parade’ Blanco’d webbing. Parade standard treatment needs a much denser application of colour so that it is perfectly solid colour over the entire webbing set. Cleanliness and evenness of colour is the intention. This will have colour sat on the surface and you won’t be brushing excess off. This isn’t at all practical to the working soldier at the slightest touch will mark it. Indeed, if the RSM doesn’t like you he will point out a blemish with a tap of his stick – creating the blemish in the process! Think of it as bulled boots – hopelessly impractical but whiles away a few hours and looks dead smart. Most of us reenactors will be more concerned with the look of the working soldier – a clean, uniform set of webbing with a finish that is both smart, camouflaged and durable. This is achieved by following the above process.
Photographed and written by David Pratt