When I first saw the deer bone, I was surprised a tool with such a hard surface could be used on leather without marking the article. The smooth surface of the oil-embedded bone actually has the opposite effect, smoothing the surface of the leather. Depending on the shoe pattern and type of leather, the deer bone can lessen vamp creases, remove small dents from everyday wear, and help restore a shine.
This particular deer bone is sourced from Abbeyhorn, located in Holme, UK. The current managing director recalls seeing the deer bone over 40 years ago when he first started as an apprentice. They used the bone to polish shoes after applying wax. This method was also utilized by army soldiers to polish their boots.
Today, the deer bone might be more commonly known for its effect on shell cordovan but we have found similar satisfactory results on a variety of leathers. The key is to make sure the bone can push across the upper without resistance, using a cream or polish to aid the process.
The first step is to insert shoe trees. This is necessary as you will apply pressure with the deer bone and the upper needs to be supported.
We cut strips from a cotton t-shirt to use as a polishing cloth. The length helps wrap it around your hand to keep tension while applying cream or wax.
The next step is to prepare the surface of the leather. In these photos, we are applying neutral Venetian Balm to make sure the leather is hydrated and slick. We have found Venetian works well in this process as it won’t make the leather tacky. Also, this derby is in Horween’s Chromexcel leather. Venetian products are used and suggested by the Horween tannery themselves so it’s an easy choice when working on their leathers.
The amount of cream needed is subjective and dependent on the leather tannage, color and type of product being used. In general, conditioners and creams are meant to nourish the leather, while wax polishes are used to create a shine. Since this shoe is a more casual style in Chromexcel leather, we find that a slight sheen is sufficient and save the wax polish for the dress oxfords.
With the deer bone in hand, you apply pressure to the upper, pushing back and forth quickly. We prefer to work toe to heel due to the deer bone shape.
While it may look like an excess amount of cream, we have seen great results when the leather is sufficiently nourished. The final step using the horsehair brush will displace any remaining cream.
In most cases you will be targeting vamp creases and marks around the toe area. With a plain toe pattern, this is much easier since you won’t need to navigate around stitching, pinking or perforations. In those trickier scenarios, using the back of a spoon is a great way to reach tighter areas, applying pressure to smooth the surface.
With practice, you will find that the leather reacts well to greater amounts of pressure from the deer bone but, like anything else, it will take time to have a feel for this.
Most of the casual leathers are thicker and softer, which allows them to dent easier than the likes of a calf leather. The character is what makes the articles special but smoothing out these indentations makes the shoe look clean and rejuvenated.
Once we are happy with the leather surface, we use a horsehair brush to buff the upper. This final step helps disperse any excess cream and creates an even sheen. This step is important but frequently overlooked. You will notice with time your brush will accumulate wax in the bristles, which helps shine the leather even when quickly buffing a pair before walking out the door.
With this method, the deer bone produces a glowing, even appearance that is satisfying to master. Give it a try! We have a feeling this addicting tool will ultimately become a staple in your shoe care kit.
You can view and purchase these shoe care tools in our Grant Stone Accessories collection page.