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I have been told that restoring/preserving old leather is a tricky business but after reading a few of the threads here that seems to apply to most objects.

Someone mentioned Neatsfoot oil but on doing a bit of googling it appears that Neatsfoot oil, and most other leather dressings, can oxidize with time and actually contribute to the leather becoming more brittle. It also may leave an oily residue that can attract dust.

I also found that a product, Pecard's Antique Leather Restorer, may be OK as is Lanolin.

Leather rot is irreversible but can be arrested - see http://en.wikipedia....t_%28leather%29

Does anyone have any experience with leather restoring/preservation on antique items?

Stuart

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Hi Stuart,

Coincindently I was talking about this every same topic with a friend just yesterday.

Years ago Neatsfoot oil was THE product to use on all leather goods and like a lot of those products time has proved them to be less than promised on the lable.

I forgot to mention Saddle Soap when I was speaking with my friend and only remembered it after reading you post. I believe Saddle Soap has lanolin as one of the ingredients. Perhaps a search on Google (I know I should have done that before responding) will reveal whether it is a good alternative to Neatsfoot Oil or not. It could be just Neatsfoot Oil under a different name.

Not much help but perhaps a place to start.

Regards

Brian

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Hi Brian,

funny about that.

I just looked up Pecard's http://www.pecard.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=Pecard&Product_Code=PLD32-A&Category_Code=antique-dress and it looks to be the real deal.

It mentions flaking so can be used to arrest leather rot by implication. As always it should be tried on an inconspicuous area as a test.

Stuart

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Hi Stuart,

That does look like an interesting product. You may have found something that many of us here will want to give it a go.

If you do try it please keep us informed.

There is a product called Conservator's Wax that claims to be good for everything including leather. I've only used it on metal objects but I'll try it on an old pair of work boots I have.

Regards

Brian

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Neatsfoot oil, I read way back, softens the leather to an extent but when the apparently softened & supple leather is manipulated it's actually tearing itself.

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Brian told me that the Amish use it on their leather traces and other horse gear. But I suppose that stuff would be rather heavy duty and would last quite a while regardless.

Stuart

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Brian told me that the Amish use it on their leather traces and other horse gear. But I suppose that stuff would be rather heavy duty and would last quite a while regardless.

Stuart

I will ask my cousins (yes,really) what they use. I'll working up in "Amish country" later this week and will stop by.

Regards

Brian

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Hi - Stuart. The subject came-up a little while ago and had some very good suggestions and responses. I stand by the one I suggested - which I have used for years. Top car companies with leather seats in their vehicles, sell a very good , nourishing formula cream. This does not leave any residue on the leather - which is good as any stickiness will only attract more dirt.

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Personally, I don't like the fact that you have to kill all those Neats and cut off their feet to make oil. LOL

In any case, here is what I learned from Australians. I always wondered about ancient waterproofing techniques. I knew it couldn't be high tech and had to be low tech. In fact, the leather "duster" jackets is what led me down the path. From what I gather, they (or something similar) had been worn by the Royal Navy hundreds of years ago and I wondered how something simple could be effective as a rain coat and yet remain stylish today. Yes, I own a short and a long coat and love them. To make a long story short, the answer is bee's wax. When leather starts drying out or loosing its finished look, hit it with bee's wax. I have noticed that the bee's wax also has some type of oil in it. I rub the bee's wax on my dusters and they look great and become waterproofed again if they started loosing it. The jackets last a long time as well.

Hope this helps! It seems to have been the solution to your problem for 100's of years anyway.

Tom

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Neatsfoot is awesome!! I once used it to restore and save a WW1 French canteen i found in an old barn where it had been hanging for decades! The leatehr came back perfectly! I have just used it to restore the gun traces of an old civil war cannon that was abandoned in the local history society shed! It is awesome!! :jumping:

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Hi Tom,

Regarding Neatsfoot Oil,

Personally, I don't like the fact that you have to kill all those Neats and cut off their feet to make oil. LOL

Well, it's Danish Oil that I have always wondered about, isn't that just cruel?

Regards

Brian

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Personally, I don't like the fact that you have to kill all those Neats and cut off their feet to make oil. LOL

In any case, here is what I learned from Australians... When leather starts drying out or loosing its finished look, hit it with bee's wax.

Tom

Blacksmiths using traditional tools and methods also use beeswax to seal wrought iron. While the iron is still warm from the forge it is rubbed with a lump of beeswax which, of course, melts and even soaks in to some small degree, thus inhibiting rust.

It also has the advantage - on iron or leather both, I think, that it can be removed again, something professional conservators are very big on, as doing anything to an artifact which can't be undone is strang verboten!

Peter

Edited by peter monahan

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Brian,

Since we are being so serious, maybe you can answer a question for me? banger.gif On the left of each post below our names, why is there a sexual reference? For example, Mervyn Mitton is listed as having an Honorary Member (wow, his is so big to be listed as honorary), peter monahan is listed as having a Full Member (like I believe that). Yet, I am listed as just having a Member! While I definitely will not agree that mine is what might be considered as "average", I would like to know who measured it, especially since I have no recollection of any such measurement. love.gif I would also like to know what the measurement rules are. I can only imagine what is going on with your member for someone to categorize it as "Old Contemptible" speechless1.gif

Enjoy,

Tom

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Brian,

Since we are being so serious, maybe you can answer a question for me? banger.gif On the left of each post below our names, why is there a sexual reference? For example, Mervyn Mitton is listed as having an Honorary Member (wow, his is so big to be listed as honorary), peter monahan is listed as having a Full Member (like I believe that). Yet, I am listed as just having a Member! While I definitely will not agree that mine is what might be considered as "average", I would like to know who measured it, especially since I have no recollection of any such measurement. love.gif I would also like to know what the measurement rules are. I can only imagine what is going on with your member for someone to categorize it as "Old Contemptible" speechless1.gif

Enjoy,

Tom

Tom,

Memory can be affected by many external and internal factors. Blunt force trauma for example would be considered external while the loss of memory do to the lack of brain cells due to excessive use of alcohol would be considered internal.

I do not know your age, however, memory loss can be caused by the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. A low sugar count also comes to mind. So as you can see the problem you seem to have recalling events such as the measurement session noted above can be the result of many different causes and even combinations of said causes. I would suggest that you contact a physician if these symptoms presist.

I've known both Mervyn and Peter for some time now and have never detected any signs of memory loss so I regret that I cannot comment on the state of their mental capabilities regarding memory loss.

As for myself Nick was left with either deeming me an Old Contemptible or simply a Contemptible Old Buzzard as was the popular opinion. The decision was made that Old Contemptible was a shorter title, least I become vain, and there was no chance of invoking the rath of the SBNAS (Save the Buzzards of North America Society) by this decision. You probably know the bird as Cathertes aura.

I hope this answers your question. :lol:

Regards

Brian

Edited by Brian Wolfe

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Tom,

I suppose that the subject you raise is appropriate in a thread on leather preservation since the Dutch introduced a leather condom in the 15th Century :D

My, my we do go off on tangents ;)

Stuart

Edited by Stuart Bates

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Thank goodness we have a sense of humour - as Stuart said - does this have anything to do with special properties of Neats Foot Oil, that we knew nothing about ?

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Hi Stuart

How about British Museum Leather Dressing. Usually used for antique books with fragile leather bindings and can be bought from conservation suppliers on web.

Damian

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Hello Damian,

I have not heard of British Museum Leather Dressing, but will look it up. Have you any experience with it?

BTW: a belated welcome to the forum cheers.gif

Stuart

PS: Bootsie?

Edited by Stuart Bates

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Hello again Stuart,

I have used BM leather dressing on leather book bindings and bayonet scabbards and it seems to help to restore suppleness but I don't know whether it actually has any benefit in preserving the leather; there seem to be lots of different opinions on the benefits of leather dressings or otherwise. Very confusing.

I felt as though it did the job ok without any adverse results.

Bootsie yes - thats going back a bit!!!!

Damian

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I have used BM leather dressing on leather book bindings and bayonet scabbards and it seems to help to restore suppleness but I don't know whether it actually has any benefit in preserving the leather; there seem to be lots of different opinions on the benefits of leather dressings or otherwise. Very confusing.

"British Museum" leather dressing is aimed at stabilizing old leathers so the items can be displayed and handled (often with caution), but not for actual use. Pecard's is a very similar product based on the same forumula the British Museum uses, although the materials used are not of the highest possible quality.

Nothing undoes damaged leather or reverses the destruction of cellular material done to cured and tanned skins/leather, or what happens through wear and tear through use. Broken cellular structures turn into a fibrous material that does not have the same cohesion, flexibility, etc, as living tissues. The more leather is worn and used, the more fibrous it becomes and consequently less sound.

Leather treatments often are literally skin deep or only to the surface. The important thing, is to get oils and lanolin into the interior of the leather. A good way to do this, is by warming the gel-like compounds to about the temperature of luke-warm tea so that it turns thin and runny but not so hot that it is uncomfortable to the touch, and also to have the leather being treated, at room temperature or slightly above. Apply several thin coats sparingly with several days or more between applications allowing each application time to penetrate into the leather. I would not apply an amount that leaves an excess or requires being "buffed off" as that buffing process means handling and rubbing the leather more than is necessary. On some badly aged or worn pieces it's always best to proceed cautiously.

Bear in mind, the usual adage of never do what can't be undone...unless absolutely necessary. Adding chemical compounds to leather is not reversible. However, aged leather that is beginning to flake, turn powdery, and is turning into something that's on it's way to oblivion, means considering whether the piece is important (historical associations, a collector piece which is not a unique specimen but still important, if it has sentimental value, etc) and whether doing something or not is a choice between "saving" the piece or looking for a dumpster.

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Les is correct, there is absolutely nothing you can do to reverse natural aging and deterioration of the fibres in old leather, I have a friend who is head conservator in Kelvingrove Art Galleries & Museum in Glasgow, his advice is to leave old leather alone, for anyone who needs to display something thats already deteriorating use a reproduction and keep the original safe especially anything that might be of historical importance. Anything thats dried out or has flaking and cracking of the surface is past restoring, its already lost its natural oils. all you can do is keep it away from hot dry conditions, and try not to handle it too often. Using neatsfoot and other preservation oil products may appear to work superficially by softening and making the leather pliable again, what its actually doing is soaking into already damaged fibres deteriorating them and stretching the fibres further, which on the surface makes it seem more pliable, the more often you use it the quicker the leather deteriorates, eventually leading to a failure in the fibres and consequently a break. All these products are made to preserve and seal leathers that have not lost their natural oils not to replace them. He also says never use Saddle Soap as it clogs the pores of the tanned surface of the leather and stops the leather breathing naturally. Saddle Soap is also Alkaline and that actually damages leather, back when they had no other means to soften new leather, saddle soap was the only alternative, its definitely not meant to restore depleted natural oils in old leather. So unless its a last gasp attempt to save something thats not historically important and crumbling to dust anyway, its best left alone.

Edited by jocktamson

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Posted (edited)

Les and Jocktamson provide the most knowledgeable discussions of this topic. Their advice and warnings are the best suggestions about whether to treat older leather or not. 

 An antique furniture restoration craftsman in Massachusetts recommended Skidmore's Leather Cream to me for treatment of the leather seat on a Campeche chair made by William Spratling in the 1940s (Spratling was from New York, educated as an architect in New Orleans, and made his name by reviving the Mexican silver industry in Taxco combining indigenous and art deco elements, he also made some furniture; Marilyn Monroe bought several pieces of furniture from Spratling shortly before her suicide; Spratling also assisted Diego Rivera in obtaining some of his early commissions for murals). This leather cream is made in Port Townsend, Washington state, USA. It contains no animal products, silicone, or driers. It has unspecified compounds from plants, trees, and beeswax. Skidmore also makes other beeswax products for wood finishes. As Peter Monahan noted, beeswax is used in some museum curation for attachments, rests, and holding items together as it is very reversible. The chair seat had suffered much use, some water damage, flaking, etc. I have found the treatment with Skidmore's Leather Cream (on both faces of the leather) to be most successful in restoring suppleness and protecting this leather. Skidmore's Leather Cream is, of course, not a museum curatorial product, but it is a good compromise between my wish to protect this valuable item for the future and enjoy sitting in it. This is not a product I use on the cattle or exotic leathers of my shoes, western boots, belts, etc. (where I use Lexol brand cleaner, conditioner, and then colored or neutral shoe creams for maintenance and protection of items in everyday use). 

RG Spratling chair.jpg

Edited by Rusty Greaves

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Hello , Beewax is used today by the Blues and Royals for their parade boots in the inside . on the outside ,normal leather cream .personally i used for old and very dry leather items a the following a mixture of egg yolk and olive oil yes the same of the mayonaisse, but not whisked to the point of that . only gently blended. proportion one yolk for a spoon of olive oil . after clean the leather of dust and dirt dry it well and apply the mix with a soft brush uniformly . once done left the mixture to dry for about two hours and then polish the item with a piece of wool cloth

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