This article was contributed by “Uncle Barry” Lewis (bl@dcssb.sj.hp.com) and included here (slightly edited) with his permission. – AL

Uncle Barry's Non-Skid Material Information

Criteria

The factors I considered during my evaluation of nonskid materials are as follows:

Traction
Each dancer must determine this for themselves.
Residue on the dance floor
I decided not to add anything to the floor. This might cause unhappy janitors and hall owners. There are dance halls that stipulate nothing is to be put on their floor except bare feet (quite informal), socks (not THE CAT), or soft soled shoes.
Adherence to shoe soles
Must bond to the shoe sole.
Durability
Must last at least one season.
Color
Clear is the best; black on black shoes acceptable. White, orange, etc. most unacceptable. Must not leave marks on the floor.
Ease of application
Must be easy to apply; this leaves out two part materials.
Reapplication possibilities
Must be able to redo when needed.
Cost
When I was doing the application as a service and charging a small fee, plus buying in quantity, cost was not a big problem.
Availability
This is not a problem for me; not the case for others.
Repeatability
Must give the same results after each application, and with similar shoes.
Effect on other dancers
Must have no effect on others.

Materials

The materials I investigated to one extent or another were: RTVs, liquid rubbers, glues, caulking compounds, ground erasers, powders (corn meal, soaps, etc.), rosin, and over the counter dance floor additives. Just exactly which ones and to what lengths I tested these I do not remember; after all, that was about 15 years ago.

The grounds for rejection were and are:

  • RTVs, liquid rubbers, glues, caulking compounds, and the like suffered from poor adherence, color (colour), made them stiff and/or formed a glaze on the shoe sole which would slip.
  • Rosin will form a smooth surface on the shoe sole and will need to be periodically scraped.
  • Floor additives were rejected because of the residue they left, their durability (or lack thereof), the reapplication possibilities and repeatability and their effect on other dancers.
  • The RTV I settled on fits all of the above items, although cost and availability can be a problem and quite a large one for many dancers.

The application of Uncle Barry's Non-skid

This non-skid material will work on any untanned leather shoe sole. I have even used it on shoes for Vintage dancing. I have been using this material since the early '80s and found nothing better.

The non-skid material is an RTV #3140 made by Dow Corning and sold only through their distributors, which in the San Francisco bay area is:

K. R. Anderson
2800 Bowers Ave.
Santa Clara, CA 95051
Phone (408) 727-2800

This RTV is semiliquid, water clear when cured. It is nontoxic, but read and adhere to any cautions on the label. Do not get it on your clothing, for it will not wash out. If you do spill on an unwanted surface you may wish to let it cure then try to peel it off. Wiping can be counter productive.

Tools you will need

Spreader
I use my finger; other things will work like an icecream stick, tongue depressor or grandmother's antique sterling silver butter knife, although grandmother will not be amused.
Sander
I use a small power finishing sander with very course grit (for worn shoes).

New shoes

Using a spreader of your choice apply a thin layer of RTV and work it in a bit. A thin layer is just enough to cover the fibers in the leather, you are not trying to buildup another sole. This will take some practice. If some of the RTV spills over onto the tanned leather leave it and remove after curing. Curing time Two (2) days; may vary due to temperature and humidity.

Worn shoes

Use the sander to remove any wax, dirt or grit; sand down to fresh leather, it will not look like new, but must be clean. Caution do not sand through the leather or any stitching. Apply the RTV as for new shoes.

Other considerations

When first dancing in your newly treated shoes you will find them quite sticky, but after a while they will wear to a point where the slip to nonslip ratio is to your liking. When you are again sliping too much, reapply the RTV. This will be only after a lot (years) of dancing.

The RTV comes in tubes or cans, the cans are cheaper, but like good wine must be finished once opened. So if you buy a can have a shoe treating party and do the lot at one time.

Be careful on wet or frosty floors.

Put your name on the instep of the shoe sole before treatment and it will remain there forever.

I hope this will help. Questions - comments welcome

Uncle Barry