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Recondition Extremely Dry Leather?


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#1 Mechanical Cowgirl

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 09:33 PM

I've looked around the 'Restoration and Repair' section for about an hour and couldn't find exactly what I'm looking for, maybe someone could help me out? I have a very used saddle that I'm cleaning and repairing for a guy, it's been stuffed in a shed for years because of broken stirrup leathers, so the mice and birds have made good use of it and the leather is extremely dry. I've scrubbed it down with saddle soap and put a coat of neatsfoot oil on it and it's still stiff as a board. How much oil can you put on the leather to see if it softens, or should I be doing something else? When you try to flex the leather it starts to surface crack, is there such a thing as too far gone?

Thanks!

#2 Luke Hatley

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 11:23 PM

I've looked around the 'Restoration and Repair' section for about an hour and couldn't find exactly what I'm looking for, maybe someone could help me out? I have a very used saddle that I'm cleaning and repairing for a guy, it's been stuffed in a shed for years because of broken stirrup leathers, so the mice and birds have made good use of it and the leather is extremely dry. I've scrubbed it down with saddle soap and put a coat of neatsfoot oil on it and it's still stiff as a board. How much oil can you put on the leather to see if it softens, or should I be doing something else? When you try to flex the leather it starts to surface crack, is there such a thing as too far gone?

Thanks!

IF IT IS CRACKING ...........IT'S GONE..........
Luke

#3 TwinOaks

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 11:42 PM

You can add 2-5 light coats of neatsfoot oil,and see if it helps..... but I think Luke is right- it's probably too far gone.
Mike DeLoach

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#4 alb

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 11:54 PM

It's hard to say without seeing the saddle. I've reworked saddles with surface cracking that had lots of life left in them. With others, the surface cracking was just the tip of the ice berg. After doing a lot of them you start to get a feel.
The best products I've found for restoring leather are those from Preservation Solutions. http://www.preservation-solutions.com/
The company has good customer support as well.
Whatever you do, don't just keep adding oil....
Ann

I've looked around the 'Restoration and Repair' section for about an hour and couldn't find exactly what I'm looking for, maybe someone could help me out? I have a very used saddle that I'm cleaning and repairing for a guy, it's been stuffed in a shed for years because of broken stirrup leathers, so the mice and birds have made good use of it and the leather is extremely dry. I've scrubbed it down with saddle soap and put a coat of neatsfoot oil on it and it's still stiff as a board. How much oil can you put on the leather to see if it softens, or should I be doing something else? When you try to flex the leather it starts to surface crack, is there such a thing as too far gone?

Thanks!





#5 Tosch

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 01:56 AM

I would try this http://www.farmvet.c...ather-balm.aspx . My experience is it makes leather used in western saddlery items pliable. I have used it on an old and very dry (although probably not as dry as yours) ca 1950s saddle I onced owned for decoration. After I cleaned the saddle I used this stuff sparingly and it worked fine. You may want to wait a day or two before you decide to put another coat on. Some people like to oil new harness leather reins to make them more pliable. If you use this stuff even very sparingly, my experience is that after three days you would find out that you have ruined the reins because they are way too soft.

Tosch

#6 TwinOaks

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 07:05 AM

I guess I should have been more specific: a few light coats of oil and check it. The oil will need at least a day to distribute through the leather. I absolutely agree with Ann, don't just keep adding oil, an d even if you do add oil, do so sparingly. Since you have the oil on hand, you could use it an a test area to see if the leather is salvageable.
Mike DeLoach

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#7 alb

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 08:57 AM

I've only been doing this for about a year but I've worked with a lot of saddles in that time. Certainly some flexibility can be returned to leather by oiling. But in my experience on leather that is "stiff as a board" you would have to add way too much oil to get flexibility. If the leather is stiff, but not flaking or degraded in other ways, then sometimes laying a wet towel over the stiff parts and covering with a plastic bag for a couple of hours may soften the leather. There are products in the Preservation solutions line that can then be added that will migrate into the leather, replacing the water, and allowing it to maintain the flexibility.
One of the several potential problems with this, is that you have then raised the humidity tremendously and it's possible that mold spores will be activated. Also, you should not use water on leather that is flaking or damaged. And no product can eliminate or reverse the effects of red rot.

There is definitely a point at which leather is beyond being able to be salvaged. You should take into account what parts of the saddle you are working on. Degradation in the rigging is a safety issue. Worn leather on the seat jockey may or may not be depending on the riding conditions and who is doing the riding. I find the feel of the leather and how it is reacting to bending, stretching, etc. a better indication than what it looks like.

Hope this helps,
Ann





I guess I should have been more specific: a few light coats of oil and check it. The oil will need at least a day to distribute through the leather. I absolutely agree with Ann, don't just keep adding oil, an d even if you do add oil, do so sparingly. Since you have the oil on hand, you could use it an a test area to see if the leather is salvageable.





#8 Mechanical Cowgirl

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 10:08 AM

Thanks for all the advice, since I have neatsfoot oil on hand I'll try another coat tonight and see if that helps. This saddle has been ridden to the point that the brass in the rigging has worn flat spots in it (a few of the copper rivets are worn to the point of almost being gone) and all the top grain is pretty much gone from the seat, fenders and swells. It has drop plate rigging, it seems better than the rest of the saddle, but still has a patch of surface checking on each side. Just as a point of reference, I'd be comfortable riding this saddle myself, but not using it for heavy roping, and definitely checking the rigging every ride or so (I'm might be hyper-safety conscious I do this on every saddle I'm getting on). Would you sent the saddle back to the guy with a note to this effect?

#9 oldtimer

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 11:20 AM

Dry rot is what occurs if nothing is done to leather to preserve it.

The oils in the leather fibers have dried/evaporated to such a point that oxidation has begun to effect the fiber bundles. As time goes on, oxidation continues, the leather often lightens in color, looses strength (and maybe surface finish), then evidences obvious powdering. This process is called "dry rot" and has nothing to do with fungus or bacteria. If untreated, all leather will dry rot.

No matter how you oil dry rot leather, it is beyond rescue.

Tell the owner that he shouldn´t ride it for his own safety!

My two cents worth / Knut

Edited by oldtimer, 13 November 2010 - 11:23 AM.

"The gun fight at the O.K. corral was actually started by two saddlemakers sitting around a bottle of whiskey talking about saddle fitting"...

#10 Mechanical Cowgirl

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 07:27 PM

I don't think there's any dry rot on the saddle, and it has softened some since the last oiling. I'm not familiar with dry rot, I just moved from the coast of Washington last year where everything stays damp and molds so i have been enjoying not having to fight molds all winter! I'll just keep my eye on the saddle for the next week or two and see how the leather responds, I talked with a local saddle repairer today and he said it will take a few days for the oil to copmletely distrubite/soak in etc.

Thanks everyone for the advice!

Dry rot is what occurs if nothing is done to leather to preserve it.

The oils in the leather fibers have dried/evaporated to such a point that oxidation has begun to effect the fiber bundles. As time goes on, oxidation continues, the leather often lightens in color, looses strength (and maybe surface finish), then evidences obvious powdering. This process is called "dry rot" and has nothing to do with fungus or bacteria. If untreated, all leather will dry rot.

No matter how you oil dry rot leather, it is beyond rescue.

Tell the owner that he shouldn´t ride it for his own safety!

My two cents worth / Knut



#11 buckeroo1

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 07:33 PM

Save your money and do not put a lot of ANY kind of oil on it......too much oil is as bad as not enough oil!! My gut tells me that you should just let the "mice and birds" have at it.....and find something else to do with your time.

#12 Mechanical Cowgirl

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 11:21 AM

I like that answer! On to the next project then...

Save your money and do not put a lot of ANY kind of oil on it......too much oil is as bad as not enough oil!! My gut tells me that you should just let the "mice and birds" have at it.....and find something else to do with your time.



#13 Saddlebag

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 10:29 PM

I wouldn't completely give up on this saddle as it gives you an opportunity to experiment with different techniques on different areas and learn from the results.

#14 TwinOaks

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 04:28 AM

Dear Customer,
I am sorry to inform you that the saddle you asked me to repair appears to be beyond reasonable repair. As you know, almost all hard use items reach a point at which replacement is the best option, and this appears to be the case with your saddle. After a detailed inspection, there is ample evidence that the leather, hardware, and critical components have worn to the point that safety is a concern, and I must advise you to stop using this saddle. I can, at your discretion, arrange for return shipping or disposal of the saddle. I can also provide reference to a saddle maker that may be able to use the saddle for a pattern to build a replacement. Please let me know how you'd like me to proceed.
Thank you,
YOUR NAME


Of course, if the local saddle repairer doesn't build saddles, leave out that last part. This kind of message tells the customer all they need to know, and gives the option to be rid of it or to retain it- you never know, maybe it was Grandpa's saddle and holds special memories. If they tell you to get rid of it, then you can do some experiments, and maybe perform an autopsy on it to learn a little more about saddle making.
Mike DeLoach

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