Many bootblacks start out working with makeshift equipment. The author of this site started out using an army surplus ammunition box as both a container for his kit and a place for customers to place their feet, relying on the venus to provide a tall chair in which customers could sit. Many bootblacks find that their performance is significantly enhanced when they are able to use a purpose built bootblack stand. As well, using a stand also enhances the professional image of a bootblack, making potential customers more confident that the bootblack indeed knows what he or she is doing. So many bootblacks decide they want to have their own stand. Unfortunately, there are few avenues through which one may obtain a bootblack stand, so bootblacks may find they must design and build their own stands.
There are several considerations which must be taken into account when designing bootblack stands. These include: appearance, comfort, durability, weight support, portability, safety, ease of set-up, and price.
Appearance - Stands can be as ornate or as austere as one likes. Appearance often conflicts with other requirements such as portability and price, as well as the skill of the person constructing the stand.
Comfort - Stands should be comfortable for both the bootblack and customer. A bootblack may spend several hours at a stretch working at a stand, so it is important that the configuration of the stand maximize his or her comfort. Stands that position the customers' feet too low or too high not only are detrimental to a bootblack's performance in the short-term, but also are injurious to the bootblack's health, particularly if it forces the bootblack to work for extended periods of time in difficult positions. Likewise, a stand should be designed to maximize the customer's comfort as well. A customer that finds that sitting at a stand is uncomfortable will become progressively unlikely to return. Moreover, a stand that requires excessive effort from customers to simply mount or dismount the stand is likely to reduce the customers' enjoyment of the bootblacking experience. While some design aspects address the comfort of all bootblacks and customers, some aspects must be tailored to the bootblack who will use the stand most often or must be made flexible to accommodate a wider variety of users.
Durability - Certain aspects of the bootblacking process can place unexpected strain upon construction materials. In particular, substantial force is exerted upon the footrests both by the customer and by the bootblack. A stand should be designed with contruction techniques and materials that are rugged enough to withstand the repetitive forces that they will encounter through the use of the stand.
Weight support - If a stand is expected to be used by a wide variety of people, it should be designed to support weight significantly in excess of the heaviest person expected to utilize the stand. This is true for several reasons. First, as a stand ages and wears, its weight capacity will decrease, sometimes preciptiously. Second, the weight of a person is not an immobile weight. People move around, sometimes in unexpected ways. For example, a person who chooses to jump off of a stand will exert substantially more downward force to get airborne than they exert simply standing on the platform. Similarly, it is not unheard of for two people to be on one stand at the same time. For the sake of safety, a stand should be capable of supporting any weight that could be placed on it.
Portability - Most stands will be expected to be movable. As a result, stands will generally need to be able to be disassembled and it is advantageous for each component of the stand to be light enough to be carried by a single person of moderate strength and compact enough to fit in most small passenger vehicles. Portability often winds up being in direct conflict with both weight support and appearance. Balancing those aspect can be the most difficult part of designing a usable stand.
Safety - Safety is related to durability and weight support, but addresses additional aspects such as preventing accidental falls from the stand. Safety rails are quite useful in prevent chairs from accidentally sliding off the edge of a platform. It is also important to understand that the lighter in weight a stand is, the more likely it is to tip over when someone is standing or sitting on it.
Ease of set-up - A difficult to set up stand can be a huge problem. Additionally, the more tools and equipment required to set up the stand, the more likely that problems during setup will occur, either due to tools being forgotten or misplaced or due to equipment breaking. Also, a simpler set-up allows inexperienced people to assist in setting up.
Price - The materials necessary to properly address all of the above aspects are not cheap. Existing bootblack or shoe-shine stands can sell for thousands of dollars. The process of designing a stand should take cost of materials into account and attempt to minimize the expenses involved.
These specifications are intended as guidelines only. Specific situations and individual bootblack preferences may alter these specs.
If a stand is designed to have a chair placed on a platform, it is advisable for the platform to be at least 30 inches square to accommodate a wide range of chairs. A 36 inch square platform is optimal as certain chairs, particularly molded resin patio chairs, may require that much space. It should also be noted that a stand with a broader footprint will pose less danger of tipping over if a customer stumbles while mounting or dismounting the stand. It's preferable that the stand have a footrest for both of the customer's feet, rather than requiring the customer to switch feet. The feet should not be too close together, as this will not the provide the bootblack enough space to work. Likewise, the feet shouldn't be too far apart, as customers may find such a position uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing. Positioning the feet 18" apart is ideal. The vertical position of the customer's feet is generally best at between 24 and 36 inches (the lower end of the range being more appropriate for stands where the bootblack sits to work and the upper end being more appropriate for a standing bootblack). The elevation of the platform itself should be no higher than the elevation of the feet. That is, a stand should not put the customer in the position of having their feet lower than the platform they are sitting on, as this is an uncomfortable seating position. Generally, it is not comfortable for a customer to sit with their feet more than 12 inches above the level of the platform. Ultimately, a platform elevation of 24 inches is probably the most flexible. Steps up to the platform should be no less than six inches tall and nor more than 12 inches, with eight or nine inches being ideal.
Platform dimensions: At least 30" square to 36" square
Platform elevation: 24" above floor
Footrest position: 24" - 36" above floor; no lower than platform elevation; no more than 12" above platform elevation.
Distance between footrests: 18" is ideal. No more than 24", no less than 12".
Stair step: height 6"-12", 8" or 9" is ideal.
Of all available construction materials, wood is the most easily obtained, the easiest for inexperienced people to work with, and the least expensive. Metal has drawbacks in that it can be expensive, hard to use without specialized knowledge, and heavy, but it can be effectively used, particularly if one has experience building with metal.
If made of wood, weight bearing components of a stand should be constructed out of two-by-four or larger lumber. One-by lumber and two-by-twos are simply not strong enough to securely sustain a platform on which people will sit and stand. Unless the platform surface is supported underneath by a grid structure, sheet stock lumber should be no thinner than 1/2". When a platform is constructed, a moderately-sized adult should not cause the sheet stock to flex appreciably when they place their weight onto the point further from the supporting frame. Any significant flexion can cause the lumber to break down. Even if no flexion is noticed, consideration should be given to crossbracing a platform.
If made of metal, generally the only workable materials will be steel and aluminum. Other metals will likely prove too heavy or expensive to be worthwhile. Metal components that bear weight should not be flat, as creasing can cause sudden unexpected catastrophic failure. Metal legs can be made of angles or tubes (square, triangular or round) and any planar surface should be crossbraced. Any evidence of creasing or metal fatigue should be remedied immediately before the component is used.
There are two stand designs which are presented here:
The first design is for a wholly wooden stand that is easily collapsible and, once initially constructed, can be assembled without tools.
The second design uses a collapsible aluminum platform base made by a theatrical company, but collapses to a very compact size and requires only a single wrench for assembly.