Polishing, the Attention to Detail

Posted on 06-Oct-2014

Feature by Corporal Nathan Chan of 10th Kuala Lumpur Company

Published October 6th, 2014
One of the first things learned as a recruit in BB is how to polish both brass parts and leather boots. After a while, polishing gets boring. After all, all you do (depending on the method) is wipe metal or leather with a cloth or your thumb containing polish over and over. Repeat this every week and get punished if you don’t. It gets pretty annoying.

Boring as it may be, polishing is an activity that, like drill, is not an end to itself. The polished articles are a symbol of the ongoing commitment to the Boys’ Brigade. When a belt buckle is “polished” with brasso, the tarnished layer is scratched off by an abrasive solid in the liquid brasso.

Over time, the exposed layer will tarnish again, requiring another polish to shine again. Only by polishing consistently can a shiny surface be maintained. It is because such a repetitive act can be boring that commitment is shown through it.

When polishing, we are forced to take note of even the tiniest of details. Having a shiny shoe or belt buckle is not the only objective. To successfully pass an inspection, each article also has to be consistent - each part must be equally, equally shiny. A single smudge can result in push-ups

Detailing is not just important in polishing. Details are the difference between something done and something done well. In the drill competition earlier this year, my company (10th Kuala Lumpur) only managed to get the 2nd-runner up.

The only thing that separated us from the position ahead was a single point. One single point. It only thing that separated us were the details. The tiniest of tiny details. Sometimes, details can define whether we succeed or fail at a task. It certainly does when polishing.

On a microscopic level, the seemingly smooth leather of a boot is actually a collection of alternating “mountains” and “valleys”. This shape makes the surface seem dull simply because light is coming from a single direction is reflected in many directions.

By polishing, the ”mountains” are worn down into hills, and the “valleys” are filled at least partially. This allows the surface to act more like a mirror, reflecting light in roughly the same direction, giving it a shiny look. A tiny change, but it makes a huge difference.

The same can apply to us. Many times we shun the little things we can do, like picking up a tiny piece of trash. Yet that one small task done gives a sense of pride and achievement which will encourage us to do another task, and another, and another, and another...

By the end of the day, that one small task, that one piece of trash picked up will have turned into many tasks done. Sometimes even the smallest of tasks that no one sees will bring results that everyone wants.

Polishing every single week may be boring, but if we look beyond the repetitive movements and see its true purpose, it becomes a whole lot more meaningful.

Page Created: 6th October 2014
Last Updated: 6th October 2014