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What went wrong?

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So I'm getting started in leather working, and made my first project the other week. A field notes case from veg tan that came out pretty decent for the first go. Looking forward to trying another I modified the plans to include loops on the ends of the cover so that when closed a pen could be inserted through them keeping it closed. I also created my own design for accent pieces that I added to the cover. I was getting excited with my progress having it mostly built, but not stitched, and decided to dye it while it was still a flat piece.

It seemed that a couple of coats of the straight dye made a nice color, but dried out the leather some. I was expecting that, as I read to treat the leather after to put oils back into it. I treated it with Neatsfoot oil liberally, but the leather remained rather rigged and curled a bit at the ends. After trying another heavy treatment the neatsfoot it felt a bit better, but still curled and rigid. I decided to use the barge cement to glue it up and sew it thinking that it would work it self out and the gluing/sewing would flatten it back out anyway.

I've had very good luck with the barge cement, letting dry to a tack and then putting it together and tapping it down (as seen on youtube;)). But this time it seemed like it wasn't bonding well. I placed it on a book so the loops could hang off, and then placed my block of marble over it for the night hoping it would all set up. After taking off the weight today, no luck. The leather is still hard, flatter but not right. The glue didn't really hold at all. The tabs where not pressed all, but are cracking. I don't mind a loss of the project at this early stage of my experience in leather working. However, I feel I'm missing the learning experience because I don't really know where I went wrong.

I had never died anything prior, so I'm guessing that was the issue. Any thoughts on what the problem is,  and what I should do different next time? Should I try salvaging this project somehow? Cut the loops off and just stitch it? 

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Where did you get the leather? It looks like it could be some old dried out stuff. Good leather needs only a small amount of neatsfoot oil to feed it after dyeing. A wipe over with a sponge dampened with nfo can be enough

A couple of things which could have prevented the glue from sticking, a: too much nfo and b: it looks like one surface is smooth grain [?] Glue don't like smooth grain, you need to rough it up some with 40 or 60 grade sandpaper. Even burnished flesh side needs roughed up some

The cracking on the loops is leather too dried out and you probably [I'm guessing] did not wet the loop before bending it over

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I was just thinking that wetting the leather might have helped with the loops. I did not rough up the smooth leather. I had done that before, but not this instance.

I was also wondering if the quality of the leather could have something to do with it. I stopped in the nearest Tandy and talked with a sales person there on what leather I should be using for small projects. He should me some larger pieces of veg tan (about 15sqft) that were on sale for $80. It was about 3-3.5oz, so I thought it would be could for this type of project. Maybe it is to dry, not sure if there is a particular way to tell? Should I treat it with nfo before I even start using more of it, or should I just scrap it and get something better to not be frustrated with?

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I went to a Tandy* once and checked over some leather. A lot of their leather was stored on shelves in a shop, in direct sunlight and high warmth. The leather was all as stiff as thick cardboard or mdf. imo it should not be. Even the thickest should be flexible. With the Tandy stuff I could not bend 2.5mm leather without it starting to crack - that is way too dry. I have all thickness of leather and I can bend them right back on themselves with never a crack. I have the last piece of a 3.5/4mm water buffalo hide which is now about 12 years old; it has cracked where it is folded over, but other than that area the rest is still flexible and useable

Adding nfo to very dry leather aint gonna do much, it can help slightly dry leather or to replace oils lost during dyeing and casing

Use what you have on simple projects but I'd advise getting top quality leather from another supplier. Others might join in here and advise you on suppliers in your area. Using poor quality leather can frustrate you, it'll throw up problems for you. With good quality leather you'll be encouraged to do more

* there is only one Tandy anywhere near me

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Thanks for the reply fredk. I throw out my own suggestion for others to maybe let me know what they think. www.districtleathersupply.com. Watching Stock & Barrel on youtube; 

led me to this because of the 8x18 size of Wickett & Craig available. Seems like good way to get some good leather for someone like me. I'm in Central NY (Utica-Rome-Oneida) area. I'm not aware of a good leather source in my neck of the woods, so I'm mainly looking online.

Any better ideas appreciated.

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37 minutes ago, fredk said:

Adding nfo to very dry leather aint gonna do much, it can help slightly dry leather or to replace oils lost during dyeing and casing.

Is there anything else that can be added to bring back a dried out leather? I ordered some Obenauf's Heavy Duty LP Leather Conditioner that I thought would be good for finishing projects, but that I think is a bit pricey to start dumping into a poor quality leather for the sake of it.

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You can buy sides from Wickett & Craig in PA - they will normally split it to whatever thickness you want at no extra charge.  I get their monthly email specials and you can usually get nice sides for $150-160 plus shipping.  That should last you a fairly long time if you are doing small projects.

Springfield leather also has nice leather at reasonable prices and they will cut smaller pieces so you don’t have to buy a whole side.  I have heard good things about most of the advertisers listed in this forum, but I have only dealt with W&C and Springfield.

Gary

Edited by garypl

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   Hi, I'm guessing you went to the Syracuse Tandy, I have used their vegetan on a few projects and was a bit disappointed in the quality. The other leather and items I have gotten were all ok. I don't know if it is a storage problem or just Tandys  source in general but I stopped getting my vegetan from them. Springfield has some good stuff and as @garypl stated you can get the amount you need so you are not stuck storing a big piece until your next project.  

If you have a lot left from this project I would give it a good even coat of NFO on the grain side before storage, give it time to soak in and distribute. See if it is any better after a day or two. If its better but not quite there another light coat should get you something usable.

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That's the Tandy. Nice people, maybe they move allot of leather there. Spring field looks like a good option.

Couple of other questions. How long is to long to let barge glue set? I started only letting set about 3 minutes and it was working. From what I read I then started letting it go 15-20 minutes. It still works but I cannot tell if it's any different.

Also, silly, but I don't care for the smell of neatsfoot. Is there a better alternative or should I just deal?

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Yes they seem like very good people, they've always been very helpful. I have never used Barge but have used several other contact cements and they are pretty much the same , 20 or 30 minutes usually is ok. You do need to scuff the smooth surfaces quite a bit for good results, sometimes a second coating is helpful.

Some people like olive oil instead of nfo. I don't think you need extra virgin, just the cheap stuff, but I'm not an expert on any of it, just my experience.

 

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Would olive oil ever go rancid? I've used mineral oil to treat wood, but never heard of anyone using it on leather. Mink Oil as good as nfo?

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If you rough up the leather you can use less cement and it should dry faster.  Tap with a smooth hammer to help bond.

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Olive oil like any other animal/plant oil can go rancid. If you do want to use it in place of nfo, choose an extra virgin olive oil from a company you feel confident is giving you a quality oil. Extra virgin should mean you are getting a pure, cold-press olive oil without additives, but like anything else, those two words on the bottle aren’t a guarantee. Honestly though, you’ve gotten your answer to the cracking problem- a quality, wetted leather won’t need a coat of nfo or evoo to make a bend like that. I would only suggest a light coat of oil if you continue to use the water-based dye, they do have a reputation for “drying” leather. I’d recommend making the switch to Fiebing’s oil dye. 

Edited by heydox

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Casing leather and bending skin to skin first, will give some stretch, prior to bending flesh to flesh, it loosens the fibresjust enough, usually.

Just my 0.02

H

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Tandy leather is hit and miss for the most part and that is why anyone who is serious about creating nice looking finished pieces should invest in the better quality leathers.  Besides, a person can get the best leathers at wholesale for much less per square foot than the best grade from Tandy; I do it every time I order my leather (I get Hermann Oak for $7.95 a square foot and it isn't the low end stuff; and that is the everyday wholesale price that anyone with an account would pay).  Stay away from vegetable based oils for conditioning, they can go rancid as others have said and it also attracts unwanted critters; it is a food stuff and they can smell that a mile away (or more).  And, as has been mentioned several times already) always dampen any fold lines on the flesh side (fuzzy sied) of the leather and let it penetrate a bit before you fold it over.  This allows for the leather to be more flexible and by doing it on the flesh side you won't be risking some discoloration that you are sure to get on the grain side.  Basically, you have been given several tidbits of information on everything that caused an issue for you and if you put all of them to use in your process you will find the success that you are looking for.

Like the accent pieces that you put together for this one, gives it a bit more eye-catching detail.

And don't over oil.  You used the term "liberally" when mentioning how much oil you applied which typically means that you applied quite a bit; this can give the leather too much conditioning that will now not set and your leather will become spongy and won't accept adhesives very well regardless of whether or not you sand/rough up the contact areas for the glue.  Too much oil will also result in color bleed no matter how much you buff; it has nowhere to go but out.

Edited by NVLeatherWorx

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Thank you all for the help on this one. In the next day or so I'll try to post some update picks if it works out. I decided to cut off the pen loops. I pulled it back apart rather easily and removed the glue. Then I scratched up the glue areas good and glued it back together. Held very well this time. The leather may not be the greatest, but I finished stitching it up and burnished the edges. Looks good so far. I was going to wet the spine to get it to bend right, but I was wondering if I would get a waterline if I only did that part. With the reinforcing decorative parts I added I didn't think a light dampening would be sufficient. I decided to soak the spine for a few seconds and then soak all of it for a few. I have it wrapped around my glass burnisher drying. Hopefully I'll have a decent project when I pull it out to finish it tomorrow.

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