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One of my favorite lines in leather treatment is "if you wouldn't put it on your skin, why would you put it on your leather?"

 

That statement is meant to avoid using harsh chemicals or unknown recipes on leather, if it makes your skin feel damaged what's is it going to do to leather. So on reverse engineering I decided to wonder "if it makes my skin feel good, what will it do for my leather?"

 

My wife makes soap and lotion blends so we have all sorts of natural cold pressed oils laying around and I've started applying them to test pieces. So far I've tried grape seed oil, olive oil, coconut oil, she butter, cocoa butter and argan oil on separate test swatches. I have to say all do a decent job at conditioning but some wear off in days like it never even happened, others remain flexible as if they were soaked being ready for a wet form the rest so far lie in between. At first a few of the oils seem splotchy but after a decent rub down and some resting time they even out and only slightly darken the original test swatch.

 

I am going to set up a more controlled experiment and see which one seems to work the best for the results desired but was wondering what oils other people use other than the traditional mink oils and neatsfoot. The one thing I've noticed between animal fats versus plant fats is the animal fats seem to still wear off onto your skin or clothing where the vegetable oils after a rest eventually saturate deep enough that they don't rub back off.  Any thoughts and preferences would help, I'll eventually post pics of a step by step test of swatches vs each oil. 

Edited by CelticPrint

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4 hours ago, CelticPrint said:

Any thoughts and preferences

I experiment with various leather conditioners, typically a beeswax/neatsfoot oil blends, with things like pine pitch, etc. What I've found is that some leathers allow for penetration, while with other leathers the conditioners stay on the surface. You mentioned plant vs. animal fats, and I was reminded of a friend in elementary school who didn't have any neatsfoot oil for his baseball glove, so he ended up using olive oil instead. The olive oil penetrated the leather, but did not reside close enough to the surface to offer much protection, then over time the oil turned rancid, his glove began to smell and look terribly dark and discolored. Not sure if I would be willing to try vegetable oils (or fats).

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I actually make my own blend using Pure Neatsfoot Oil (byproduct from the cow), Filtered Organic Beeswax, and Pure Raw Cacao Butter to create my own concoction that I use on every piece I make and also sell.  The trick is in the ratios and that is where each one of us who makes our own blends kind of keep the recipe close to the vest.  I have another local leather craftsman that buys a tin of it every few months to use for his Mustache wax (one hell of a handlebar mustache going on this one).

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12 minutes ago, LatigoAmigo said:

I experiment with various leather conditioners, typically a beeswax/neatsfoot oil blends, with things like pine pitch, etc. What I've found is that some leathers allow for penetration, while with other leathers the conditioners stay on the surface. You mentioned plant vs. animal fats, and I was reminded of a friend in elementary school who didn't have any neatsfoot oil for his baseball glove, so he ended up using olive oil instead. The olive oil penetrated the leather, but did not reside close enough to the surface to offer much protection, then over time the oil turned rancid, his glove began to smell and look terribly dark and discolored. Not sure if I would be willing to try vegetable oils (or fats).

Good point about turning rancid, I honestly don't even cook with olive oil because I feel like it is more volatile than other oils and I personally don't like the smell even when it's not rancid. Some animal fats like mink oil never seem to turn rancid but might have a stabilizer added to them, still new to which witch is which. I got turned on to shea butter because I do carpentry in the north east mountains, we have some vicious winds and it stops my face and hands from cracking so I tried it on some leather, so far in the short run it seems decent but I will have to keep data on the long run, could be a huge waste of time if I'm wrong, only one way to find out. This argan oil penetrates quickly and dries nicely but again, not sure on the long run. I use mink oil on my belts but sometimes it makes marks on my pants, luckily though those marks are hidden by the very same belt.

5 minutes ago, NVLeatherWorx said:

I actually make my own blend using Pure Neatsfoot Oil (byproduct from the cow), Filtered Organic Beeswax, and Pure Raw Cacao Butter to create my own concoction that I use on every piece I make and also sell.  The trick is in the ratios and that is where each one of us who makes our own blends kind of keep the recipe close to the vest.  I have another local leather craftsman that buys a tin of it every few months to use for his Mustache wax (one hell of a handlebar mustache going on this one).

Both of you have mentioned beeswax, I wonder if it would help stabilize either oil animal or vegetable, the whole reason I started fooling around was the original skin balm was part Cocao butter, part Shea, and a small part beeswax. We called it "invisible glove" because if you put it on your hands you could walk outside in sub zero temperatures and high wind and not feel the bite of the cold. That blend works on leather but does darken it a bit and my oldest piece treated is only 6 months old so I don't know if it turns rancid. Mustache wax lol, with a tiny dab of this stuff I can pull my beard into a devils spike.

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I use a mixture of flaxseed/linseed oil + beeswax + turpentine.

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A problem with tests, is that they are normally done on flat fixed leather patches rather than the real use they were intended for so have no bending or stretching like in real life.

The old saddle / harness maker / sailor/ bootmaker had years of experimenting on users actually using the product over many years or the full life of the item, something we don't normally get these days

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16 hours ago, chrisash said:

A problem with tests, is that they are normally done on flat fixed leather patches rather than the real use they were intended for so have no bending or stretching like in real life.

The old saddle / harness maker / sailor/ bootmaker had years of experimenting on users actually using the product over many years or the full life of the item, something we don't normally get these days

Very true. I'm making my tests 1 inch by 8 inch, bending and flexing them everyday but it's still nothing compared to real life use. My last few projects were knife sheaths for people that live in the mountains up here around me and not only do they use their knife every day but completely abuse all of their equipment from temperature and humidity to abrasion. So far on just the few test runs there have been dramatic changes in some of the samples. The one I loaded with a blend of shea butter and bees wax can't even be cut by my leather shears anymore. Had to cut the last sample with a serrated knife using a sawing motion. I'll have to not only put the swatches and test strips through real life experiences but also look up qualities that matter, things like linoleic content but what turns rancid, what absorb quickly etc. I have the oils and I have veg tan scraps so it's worth a shot. I'm just going to try to stay as empirical as possible, if it doesn't work I'll face that and move on. 

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Turning rancid is a real problem with a lot of animal/vegetable products, which is why beeswax/neatsfoot oil/lanolin are used in a lot of "recipes". One other possibility is tallow (rendered animal fat, preferably suet), this doesn't go rancid and stores well. I mix it with beeswax to help soften it.

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8 hours ago, dikman said:

Turning rancid is a real problem with a lot of animal/vegetable products, which is why beeswax/neatsfoot oil/lanolin are used in a lot of "recipes". One other possibility is tallow (rendered animal fat, preferably suet), this doesn't go rancid and stores well. I mix it with beeswax to help soften it.

Suet, now there is an idea I haven't tried. I did after all this testing find a 5 year old batch of part pure unrefined shea butter mixed with bee's wax, it was meant to stop skin from chapping in the cold. It's at least 5- 6 years old and still smells the same as the day as it was mixed, I wonder if the bee's wax prevented it from going rancid. It was also stored in a sealed bin so I have no test data on how it would hold up as a conditioner. On my last project after dying I rubbed all the excess dye out by blotting and light buffing, then just mink oil paste from a leather goods store up here for a finish. Too hesitant to risk ruining a project just yet. I find that if I dye it slowly and in even layers I don't need resolene, so far no bleed outs.

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I made a batch several years ago (to use with my muzzleloaders) using a slow cooker, took several hours to rend down. I just store it in a shed where it goes through extreme temperature changes and it's still good.

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Ahh the slow cooker and it's many uses, I've used it to render out leaf lard for cooking, I suppose I could try a run at tallow. Pretty sure I saw cuts meant just for that at our local butcher. Thanks

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No worries. I just asked the butcher for the "offcuts" from lamb/mutton that were headed for the scrap bin.

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On 1/17/2019 at 4:25 PM, dikman said:

No worries. I just asked the butcher for the "offcuts" from lamb/mutton that were headed for the scrap bin.

Thanks for the advice, butcher pointed to the loose cuts section, it's not as cheap as I thought but 1.49 a lb won't kill me. Gonna clean it up a bit, cut it into chunks and have a go at the crock pot. Looked it up on a few pages, the consensus seems to be 1/4 of water so the crock doesn't shatter and chop the suet into clean chunks. Cook it for 6-8 hours then strain through cheese cloth. By the end of the 8 hours the 1/4 cup of water should evaporate out I assume but if not it's not that hard to separate fat from water.

20190206_140344.jpg

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I don't think I put any water in, just threw the lot in the slow cooker, left it on low until I had crispy bits in the bottom and poured it out through a sieve. Can't get much simpler, I reckon.:)

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