A word on whether to wear taps or not. If you choose to fit your team with taps, you need to be aware that taps requires practice to be able to synchronize the team’s movements because taps; toe, heel and/or side-heel (cheaters); highlight every little detail of movement.
Thank you to Andres Ryan, former Army Soldier and Old Guard Drill Team member for the information on the sandpaper and process of shining side heel taps- called cheaters or clickers.
To shine your heel taps, you need to begin with low 60-grit sandpaper and work your way up to high 2000-grit sandpaper. The sandpaper steps you need to take are: 60-80-120-220-320-400-600-800-1000-1500-2000 and then jeweler’s rouge with a buff wheel. The 60-120 takes the waves out of the steel and then the rest polish all the way up to a literal mirror finish.
You must not skip steps. See the waves in the steel tap on the left above? It’s shined to a point, but there are still flaws. Here is my first attempt at seeing if just using 320 to 800 sandpaper would work- I was making sure you saw the outcome- it doesn’t work. No shortcuts. You must begin with the 60-grit and work your way up and sometimes start all over.
And the final product. There is still more to do, but this is a great beginning. What I did not get in time for this article was the jewelers rouge and a cloth to obtain the final mirror-like shine. Click here for an example of jeweler’s rouge compound. And here for an example of a polishing cloth.
I have both the rouge and wheel now. It is useless unless you follow all of the steps above- as I said, no shortcuts!
To answer your question, yes, you need to sand the back and the edges to keep rust away from the steel and corrosion from the brass.
Here is a picture provided by Justin Lemon, a member of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team. This is the finished product: highly shined to a mirror finish. You can see a couple of scratches which means that he would have to take the taps “back down” using the 60-grit and work back up. Thanks for the picture Justin!
The AFHG blacks out their silver cheaters with Angelus Roll Call Military Grade Edge Dressing for their ceremonial uniform, but for their utility uniform, the Airman Battle Uniform, they shine them.
The Army’s Old Guard and Navy’s Ceremonial Guard, both shine their brass cheaters for their ceremonial uniforms.
The Marines don’t use taps at all, they don’t add anything to the uniform except for the Silent Drill Platoon which adds black stretchy material panels behind each shoulder so the blouse does not move while manipulating the rifle.