NeilMott

conditioning old leather - advice needed

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Hey everyone.  

First post and a true newbie to leather, so be kind!  I'm starting my leather working journey trying to make leather watch straps.  I like to reuse items, so I picked up an old leather rifle sling.  It was pretty dirty and stiff, so I initially cleaned it with saddle soap.  Afterwards, I tried to soften it with neatsfoot oil compound (my local hardware store didn't have 100% NFO).  I applied it using a small paint brush - both to to the top and bottom.  The sling really soaked it up.  I wasn't worried about darkening it - which did occur.   I wasn't sure how much NFOC to use, but I thought since it soaked it up so much, I continued to add coats until it was basically saturated.  No surprise to anyone here, when I went to glue it together (after skiving), the glue would not adhere to the leather.  I'm using barge cement.... 

Right now I'm trying some corn starch to soak up the oil (I read that here).  After this I was thinking of saddle soap?  As a chemistry teacher, I'd think the soap would get rid of some of the oil.  I also read hot water, but wasn't sure how that'd displace the oil. 

I totally realize I may have ruined this piece of leather....BUT, I'm still in the dark about which product to use for conditioning leather.  Besides the NFOC, I do have Bicks 4.   For some waterproofing I do have SnoSeal after the strap is made.  I've got a couple more slings coming in the mail.  

Tips and thoughts are appreciated.

Neil

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First off, do not put the leather into hot water. For sure you'll be putting it into the trash after that. Hot water will 'cook' the leather, shrinking it and tightening it up.

2. I once put too much NFO on a piece. I ended up dumping it as no matter what I then tried would lessen the oil content - corn starch, cat stuff, newspaper, certain chemicals. These days I'd try washing it down with cellulose thinners [aka lacquer thinners] and clean rags. I'd try to get it back to a 'dry' condition which read 'feed me' then I'd start again on it. I know from experience cellulose thinners does remove oils out of leather but whether it will work on this scene I do not know

hth

Edited by fredk

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Hey Fred.

Thanks for the advice.  I have some paint thinner in the garage that I can try.  So I'd put some on a rag and then wipe and repeat as necessary?

As far as conditioners, any recommendations?  

Best,

Neil

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basically yes, try just one end, or a piece of the strap. Really soak the leather and keep wiping it. I think it will eventually start to show being too dry again.

There are many and good conditioners available in supermarkets. Don't use a cheap one tho. I'll not mention any by name as I'm in a different country and I don't know brands available to you.

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Well, I went after the leather with paint thinner, but soon realized it was just too far soaked to get it out.  I've got another 2 rifle slings on the way.  I'll clean them with saddle soap and then condition with Bicks 4.  I'll report back.

Neil

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I'd be interested to know how Bicks 4  worked for you. I've never tried it. I'm wondering if there's any advantage to using that rather than neatsfoot oil (which I've been using my entire life).

I think the lesson here is to use neatsfoot in moderation. Let it soak for a few hours or even days before applying more. Also worth mentioning is that neatsfoot can ruin molded holsters if you apply too much. It can make leather limp and mushy. That probably applies to anything that was intended to be rigid.

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My two "new to me" rifle slings will get to me in a few days.  I'm no expert but from what I've read and seen in some videos, Bick's is supposed to NOT darken the leather.  I actually don't mind and possibly prefer the look of darker leather for watch straps....  I think what I'll do is cut the length of straps I need and do some experimenting.   I'll have enough just to try 1-2 treatments of neatsfoot oil (I'll get the 100% this time) alone, Bick's alone and then maybe a combo - NFO then bick's....  I'm not sure which order I should try NFO then bick's or the reverse.

 

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Alrighty, got my two rifle slings in.  I have cleaned them with saddle soap, let them dry.  Then conditioned them with Bick 4.  They feel a bit softer and have lots of cool water stains and signs of use.  I like the look anyway.  But, I was thinking of darkening and conditioning them with neatsfoot oil.  I was only going to do one treatment to darken the leather but don't know how the leather will respond since it's already been conditioned.  I was also planning on doing a Sno Seal treatment as well to waterproof it.  From what I have seen on videos, the Sno Seal can darken the leather a bit...  Any thoughts on how you think the leather will respond to the additional different treatments?

Here's a pic of the rifle slings.

1688087259_newrifleslings.JPG.f9cf310002d8adf7a178ff3b3f738c08.JPG

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