Ken Price

Olive Oil Vs Neetsfoot Oil

46 posts in this topic

I have noticed the mention of Olive oil in the treating of the leather prior to finishing. I was wondering about thoughts on this method. I currently use Neetsfoot on my holsters and had another maker in the area report it was acidic and would eventually rot the thread used. To date I have not found any problems with this method and would appreciate input from others on the preference and use of the 2 different oils. In addition do you mix the olive oil with other products to achieve different colors.

Ken

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There is no problem with using ANY plant or animal oil.

Cod liver oil is also very good and was originally where the very romantic smell of leather comes from. Try it - I did after one of the leather chemists at the tanneries told it to me. I soaked a large piece of leather in cod liver oil and the fishy smell lasted about three hours. Then it changed into a pure leather smell. The very good Brittish conditioner, Dubbin, is made with cod liver oil.

On their forum, the leather chemists were unanimous: animal/plant oils were not bad for leather; mineral oils would deteriorate leather over time. In fact, they went further (might have been in a different discussion) to say that acidic is good for leather (pH of 4 is ideal). Leather is actually acidic as it comes out of the tannery: place pot metal on wet leather for 90 seconds and see what happens.

So, I really don't think there is a major difference between using neatsfoot oil, cod liver oil and olive oil.

Coloring? I have never mixed oils and dyes, so that one someone else can give you an answer....

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Like any debate there are contradictory statements. Cod liver oil as any fish oil become rancid very fast, yet they're used at the tannery. Actually most natural oils are prone to rancidity except for mink. At this point I don't know what else to believe.

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My personal opinion only:

I use oil, not as a finish, but a suppliment for leather after tooling. For me (I am not chemist and I do not play one on TV either) I find that tooling dries out the leather causing it to become a bit stiff when it dries from the stamping. Now, there are a lot of variables to the above statement. I based this on my own experiences.

Now, I use two types of leather sources depending on what I have on hand or need last minute. I am at the end of my Hermann Oak stash, I purchased 5 double shoulders from Siegal of CA and in a pinch I have purchased some of Tandy's imported leather. For my Hermann Oak, it is a toss up when I tool on whether I use oil. If it a big project that will take a lot of carving and stamping, I will probably apply oil after tooling. My Siegal leather is also a toss up on the application of oil depending on the status of the leather part. The Tandy Leather is almost definately in need of oil after tooling. I could commit homicide due to the stiffness after tooling. On some of Tandy's leather (the one that has a 8 o'clock shadow of skin on the flesh side) I will definately have to apply oil to both sides. I've thought about making a swatting paddle out of a piece due to the stiffness of the leather.

As for which oil I use. I have found (again, my opinion) that the neatfoot oil will darken my leather a bit, but more than a bit on Tandy leather or any other blonde colored veg-tan. The EVOO will not cause a darker shade after application. So...........If I am using Tandy leather or my Seigel leather, I may very well use neatfoot since I know that it will turn it a darker shade of brown. My Hermann Oak, not a problem, stick EVOO on it and move on.

I would highly recommend that you test out pieces of leather that you have on hand to see how things work out for you!

Good luck

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Your friends point about it deteriorating the thread is right and wrong from what I've been able to learn over the years, it was said to break down the old linen thread used many years ago,and the theory is still often repeated today. But from what I've learned from makers working even fifty years ago it sounded as if it was debated even back then. The materials used in thread today has been greatly improved, and the manufacturers I've asked about it over the years seem to agree it will have no effect on the thread of today.As for the oil, I've used a great deal of both neatsfoot and olive, they both work good. The olive oil penetrates very well and disperses itself very evenly, the neatsfoot is a heavier oil and tends not to absorb as evenly, sometimes more likely to cause a splotchy job especially on leather that has a few issues of it's own. I like neatsfoot on utility items, and work saddles, but we use olive oil on everything when finish and appearance are the goal. Everyone has their likes and dislikes and everyone gets different results, I think method of application, temperature,amount of sunlight, humidity in your area, and definately the brand and quality of leather used all create a lot of variables that you just have to experiment with. Following instructions from someone else is not a guarantee you'll get the same results in my experience. I wish I could tell you it was more of a perfect science than that and this will work and that won't but in twenty years I've found no cut and dried method or formula that's foolproof.

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How do you deal with the rancidity?

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I've heard a lot of concerns about olive oil turning rancid but never had a problem with it myself, I would think you'd have to have so much soaked into a piece of leather it would be saturated and dripping two days later to be concentrated enough to turn. The amount it takes to "oil" a piece of leather just to soften, preserve, and give it color isn't really that much, by the time it is absorbed into the leather and the fact that it is now out in the air and no longer in liquid form so to speak, I guess is why I've never dealt with it turning rancid like I've heard about. And maybe the climate you're in may have some bearing on it, I live in basically a desert and everything here gets dryer by the day no matter what you do so maybe that is different than what you'd have in a climate where heat and humidity combine. Again I have no sure fire answer and haven't yet met anyone who does, I can only speak with the experience I've gained, and this has never been a problem. But someone else may have had a totally different experience with it than myself.

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Would you mind sharing a link to the leather chemist forum?

Thanks,

Ann

On their forum, the leather chemists were unanimous: animal/plant oils were not bad for leather; mineral oils would deteriorate leather over time. In fact, they went further (might have been in a different discussion) to say that acidic is good for leather (pH of 4 is ideal). Leather is actually acidic as it comes out of the tannery: place pot metal on wet leather for 90 seconds and see what happens.

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It has been my understanding back when I started using EVOO that pure olive oil may give you the rancidity effect, but the proceeded or extra virgin olive oil will not. Now, I agree with JRedding that the amount used on any given leather project is minimal and nowhere, even on here will you read that people are 'dunking' or 'soaking' their leather in any oil. Causing it to drip even after a prescribed 'soaking in' time period. I can see where this maybe a problem. More than not, you will read or hear people describing the application of a 'light coat' of oil being applied. I have even read on here where some leather artists have applied oil to their projects and then post it outside in the sun for short time to 'tan' a bit.

People use different processes and therefore have different results. Either way, I would run some of your own tests to see how it works for you.

Plus, a generic bottle of Costco EVOO is much cheaper than neatsfoot oil. Since I run a hobby shop and not a business, my funds have to be stretched since they are not replenished after a sale.

Good luck.

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Here are links that pretty much answers all the questions above:

http://www.jarnaginco.com/reenactor%20leather%20care%20article.pdf

http://www.jarnaginco.com/leather%20preservation.htm

Summary

Too much oil is bad, too little is bad. As for rancidity it remains unanswered for now. Heck I won't worry anymore

Neatsfoot oil rotting thread is a myth. Quote:"The problem of thread rot is not the oil itself but the moisture

trapped in the leather by the “over use” of the oil. The fact is, leather must breath. As air

humidity rises and falls leather constantly takes up and loses moisture. As one adds

excessive oil leather will loose its ability to breath until it gets so much oil that moisture

is virtually trapped. Bacterial action from debris and the trapped moisture is what rots the

thread."

"Only natural products are therefore recommended.

Those containing natural and authentic ingredients such as tallow, Cod oil,

lanolin, lard and of course, neat’s foot oil are best. If you use neat’s-foot oil be

sure to use “pure” neat’s-foot oil rather than “neat’s foot oil compound” which

contains mineral oil. Immediately after removing the excess oil apply a coating

of warm tallow or other animal grease. Gently rub into the leather with a

woolen cloth. Let stand for a few hours then wipe off the excess."

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Much like the experience of others who have posted to this thread, I've used both extra-virgin olive oil and pure neatsfoot oil over the years. I have no problem whatsoever with neatsfoot oil, but find that EVOO is lighter and seems to penetrate easier -- meaning I have to apply less. I also notice that EVOO darkens leather less than neatsfoot oil. I've owned, used and otherwise followed leather items treated with EVOO over the past seven years, and I've never seen any problems (rancidity or other).

I think either one works fine, and the selection of which to use is simply personal preference.

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Leather Chemists Forum

Would you mind sharing a link to the leather chemist forum?

Thanks,

Ann

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My father is an old saddle maker, and he has used a variety of oils over the years, including neat's foot, olive and even vegetable oils.

Pure neat's foot is a good oil, but expensive. He would often use olive oil as an alternative for some projects; however vegetable based oils have one flaw - they can attract rodents. This might not be a big deal for a hobbiest or holster maker, but a big problem for an expensive custom made saddle that is stored in a barn.

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My father is an old saddle maker, and he has used a variety of oils over the years, including neat's foot, olive and even vegetable oils.

Pure neat's foot is a good oil, but expensive. He would often use olive oil as an alternative for some projects; however vegetable based oils have one flaw - they can attract rodents. This might not be a big deal for a hobbiest or holster maker, but a big problem for an expensive custom made saddle that is stored in a barn.

I've never had this problem so I just never thought of it, talk about learn something new everyday, I did have a customers new saddle that had a run in with a rat in Texas but it was just neatsfoot oiled, is there anything about it that attracts rodents that you know of or was that likely just a meal of opportunity? I mean I have seen rats get under the hood of a Ford truck and pretty much eat everything except the engine block.

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I've never had this problem so I just never thought of it, talk about learn something new everyday, I did have a customers new saddle that had a run in with a rat in Texas but it was just neatsfoot oiled, is there anything about it that attracts rodents that you know of or was that likely just a meal of opportunity? I mean I have seen rats get under the hood of a Ford truck and pretty much eat everything except the engine block.

Agreed. I've had mice shred old carpets in my basement, shred synthetic flowers, and eat just about anything. Rodents will go after leatherwork, too -- regardless of the type of oil used in finishing.

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It may just be coincidence, or an "old leather workers tale."

It made sense to me. If the oil smelled more like food, I would think the rodents would be more prone to take a nibble.

My background is in metal and grease, so I'll defer the last word to the guys with the experience.

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I've never had this problem so I just never thought of it, talk about learn something new everyday, I did have a customers new saddle that had a run in with a rat in Texas but it was just neatsfoot oiled, is there anything about it that attracts rodents that you know of or was that likely just a meal of opportunity? I mean I have seen rats get under the hood of a Ford truck and pretty much eat everything except the engine block.

Kia Ora, an addition of 5% Kerosine will rodent proof saddle oil.

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For those of you who may be inclined to dig in and research this topic, I came across an old book on archive.org called "The application of oils and grease to leather" from 1919 Application of OIls & Grease . If you do, please report back a summary of findings :innocent:.

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My father is an old saddle maker, and he has used a variety of oils over the years, including neat's foot, olive and even vegetable oils.

Pure neat's foot is a good oil, but expensive. He would often use olive oil as an alternative for some projects; however vegetable based oils have one flaw - they can attract rodents. This might not be a big deal for a hobbiest or holster maker, but a big problem for an expensive custom made saddle that is stored in a barn.

Adding a drop or two of kerosene to the EVOO will keep the varmints away.

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Castor oil is supposed to keep vermin away.

Kevin

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Does pure neatsfoot oil rot in the bottle? I have a quart that I bought a few years ago (3-5 years, I can't remember exactly) and it smells like it's starting to go bad once it's on your hands. It doesn't smell on the leather or sheepskin while it's applied, but only on your hands. Maybe its always smelled that way and I'm just now noticing, but I don't think so

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Hi, my first post. Here goes...

Interesting discussion

Castor oil is supposed to keep vermin away.

Kevin

I've been trying to sort through contradictory advice in books and on the web re. oils/saddles soaps(soft/hard)/neatsfoot oil/neatsfoot compound/cod liver oil/lanolin/glycerine(glycerol)/beeswax/etc. - and castor oil is looking quite promising as a possible alternative to neatsfoot oil (neatsfoot oil looks promising too, for softening & waterproofing).

I wondered if anyone has tried using a castor oil based grease (e.g. "red rubber grease" or "red lithium grease")? I see that Ko-cho-line (Carr & Day & Martin by Appt. to HM the Queen no less) lists its sole ingredient as "red grease" but no specifics. It seems well liked for softening & preserving leather by those that use it & it is supposed to offer good protection when leather is stored.

418LlBo%2BYML.jpg

Ko-Cho-Line Leather Dressing

The main things I've gleaned so far though is:

1. There are a lot of different opinions out there, often contradictory :) and

2. if you use any type of oil use it sparingly, don't overdo it - a little now & then rather than saturating it.

Edited by Tannin

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Just curious as I'm a noob to leatherwork and this process seems promising... a quick question:

I understand that the oil (EVOO or Neatsfoot) is applied after tooling and before finish, yes?

If that is accurate, how long to wait after applying oil until its optimal to apply the finish?

Thanks so much- I've learned a ton already and have barely scratched the surface here.

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You will find as many opinions about that as have been expressed above on the original post. Myself I wait at least 24 hours to allow the oil tim to migrate through the leather. On thicker or really dry leather I may wait a couple of days. When you first apply the oil you will notice darkening and possibly even some splochiness given some time this will even out lighten up and the sploches will fade away..

Edited by camano ridge

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Sorry for the noob question here but the application of the oil is essentially to take the stiffness out of the leather? Also, I assume that applying dye over say the evoo is no problem as well?

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