RAF Blue-Grey – Shoe Cream method


Spurred on by other’s experimentation with Tarrago shoe cream and the very successful KG3 and my own 97 DIY repro I thought there must be some mileage in doing the same for RAF Blue-grey. The ‘shoe cream method’ has much going for it – easily and cheaply obtainable product, easy preparation and easy application. Indeed, it is easy to see why the ‘Pickerings’ tinned product was sought by the forces as a practical and ‘modern’ solution to the messy business of smartening up webbing.

So, here we go with the control piece – a well-washed virgin RAF grey ammo pouch with genuine Pickerings renovator. The product is quite stiff (at least it is now, probably lost some turpentine solvent by now) and so needs brushing very thinly, a little at a time, to avoid caking and filling in the canvas weave.

Pickerings RAF Blue-grey

Pouch renovation complete alongside the companion pouch ready for repro application.

Pickerings RAF Blue-grey

So, the mix is:

One pot of 50ml ’15 Dark Gray’ plus 15ml ’16 Midnight’

or for a nice batch probably sufficient to do a full webbing set and some left over for touch-ups:

Three pots ’15 Dark Grey’ plus one pot ’16 Midnight’

Nice and easy quantities, 200ml for around £10.40 plus postage.

Seen here are the two Tarrago base colours, the mixed colour and Pickerings tin.

RAF Blue-grey blanco shoe cream method

Step by step guide

Add the 15ml of ’16 Midnight’ to the pot of ’15 Dark Gray’. I pinched some measuring spoons from the kitchen drawer. (Or one pot of ’16 Midnight’ to three pots of ’15 Dark Gray’ – no measuring required!)

Start mixing. At first you will think this will be far too grey but keep going and be thorough and the colour will emerge. It will look slightly too light and pale but the colour does darken down once applied and dried – do not be tempted to add a ‘bit’ more colour to the mix! By the way, making a single jar is a bit tricky as there is little space in the pot – of course, its much easier when mixing the full four pots-worth in a small jam jar or similar.

My test virgin un-blanco’d pouches have been scrubbed with a nail brush in hot soapy water to clean it thoroughly to remove sixty or seventy years of storage grime and grease. Rinse very well and pack the pouch with newspaper so it dries in a good shape.

RAF Blue-grey blanco shoe cream method

Start applying the shoe cream. I’m using a stiff, short bristle brush for this to work the colour into the canvas texture. Don’t use a toothbrush – too spiky and will pull cream out of crevasses instead of pushing it in – besides, it would take ages!. Brush rapidly into the weave – I use a circular scouring motion then finish with straight strokes in the weave direction. Brush out well and thinly – do not allow blobs to remain in weave depths as this will end up caked with polish and not look good at all. Complete the article and set aside to dry. Once dry then apply a second coat. This fills in pin holes and missed areas from first time around and adds colour to the canvas surface which tend to get scrapped off first time as the shoe polish doesn’t fill the cotton with pigment like wet Blanco would do. This second coat uses very little shoe cream as the porous cotton has been sealed by the first coat. As an aside, the shoe cream is much easier to apply than pukka Pickerings, which is stiffer and required much brushing out to prevent caking.

RAF Blue-grey blanco shoe cream method

Note: Although the Shoe Cream Method gives a waterproof coating and will not wash off in use, Tarrago scrubs off webbing with some effort – soak in hot, strong solution of oxy-action for a while then scrub with a nail brush. There will, as with Pickerings, be some colour left behind. It has to be said the original Blanco block product comes off easier but this applies to use in the field as well! More information on webbing cleaning: How to remove blanco from webbing

Additional note: It may be useful to know that the shoe cream method works well on clean khaki webbing, should RAF grey webbing not be available. It will need a third light coat but the coverage is complete and the colour as good as on grey webbing. Of course, with wear the khaki will show through and spoil the effect, as will opening a pouch revealing khaki interior. Still, it may be of use should an item of grey webbing not be to hand.

RAF Blue-grey blanco shoe cream method

Tarrago Shoe Cream currently costs £2.60 per 50ml pot (plus postage) direct from the Tarrago UK web site http://www.tarrago.co.uk/

Photographed and written by David Pratt