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Yesterday, I tested seven different finishes. These were applied over Fiebing’s Pro Mahogany.
I was looking for: color change, level of gloss, flesh burnishing and waterproofing qualities.

This report is not super organized and may contain errors but I think it conveys the basic results of my tests. I do not wish to spend more time to perfect it because it was a casual test anyway.

I put two drops of water on each sample. After one minute, I wiped off one drop of water and let the other sit until it was completely absorbed (over an hour or two). I wanted to know the short term and long term water resistance of these products. When the samples were completely dry, I buffed them in attempt to “repair” them as much as possible, without re-treating them. Buffing did slightly improve their appearance.

The damage actually came in the form of cratering. It appeared that the solution had evaporated completely off of the sample. The edge was easy to see and feel. The crater was approximately 1/20 of a millimeter deep.

Resolene won the water test. It was completely waterproof. I had a thick coat on there. The color change was quite dramatic but Tan Kote was even more so.

Tan Kote was second best. The one minute test showed damage only if the light was reflected off of it in just the right angle. The long term test was a little bit easier to detect but not too bad. Tan Kote resulted in the deepest color change. Shocking, actually. Very dark brown.

Satin Shene was a surprising third. The short test did show a  very slight discoloration and some loss in gloss. You could tell there was some damage but it was minimal. Color change was very significant.

Gum Tragacanth and Tokonole were tied. More damage on both areas than Satin Shene. 

Sno Seal and Shoe Polish were by far the worst. I must qualify this by saying that I did not warm the leather, nor use multiple coats. I smeared on one coat, rubbed it in and buffed it off. The water damage on these looked like they had burned with a cigarette or like acid had eaten into them. 

Satin Shene, Tokonole and Gum Tragacanth were the easiest to work with and they all resulted in a very similar semi-gloss finish. 

Resolene and Tan Kote were sticky and impossible to apply smoothly with a dauber. An air brush would be a much better method of application for these two products. BTW, I did not thin them for this test. I know that is protocol but I am lazy. Both have superior water resistance to the other products tested. Tan Kote can be applied with a dauber and then quickly spread with a finger to smooth it out. This actually resulted in a nice smooth finish that was second in gloss to Resolene, and significantly glossier than the others.

If for some odd reason, I could only have one product for flesh burnishing and top coat, Satin Shene, Tokonole and Gum Tragacanth would all work but I would go with Satin Shene, because it had slightly better short term water resistance and it was the best of all the products for burnishing the flesh side. 

I do not consider this testing to be definitive in any way as it was not scientific and I may get different results if done on different leather on a different day.


Top row: Tan Kote, Resolene, Tokonole

Bottom row: Gum Tragacanth, Satin Shene, Neutral Shoe Polish, Sno Seal



Finish  test LW.jpg

Edited by wizard of tragacanth

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I love when people take the time to field test stuff.  Too often we get caught up in doing what we've "always done" or listening to someone's advice that may have no basis.

Doing any kind of craft, you learn from your successes AND your failures.  Good knife makers have thrown away at least dozens of blades, for example.

I'm a little surprised that Sno Seal performed so miserably.  I would have thought that a wax would perform well.


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I was also very surprised by the results with Sno Seal and Shoe Polish, but as I said, I did only one application and did not warm the leather.

In the next day or two, I am will do a second coat on all of them and re-test. The results could change significantly.

Maybe this time, I will remember to put a Control Sample in the test, especially for color comparison.


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Thanks for sharing. I really helps to see side by side. Some of those results do make you go hmmm.

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I found this to be pretty interesting, thanks for sharing Nick! I was a little surprised by what you found and had some time this morning so I tested the finish on a few items I had handy. My test was done on my very well worn OWB 5" 1911 holster that is in semi retirement, a "worn once" OWB I made for a GP100 that I just never really use, should be the equivalent of a new holster and my phone case. Both holsters have my standard carry holster finish of Fiebings pro-oil dye cut with alcohol a wipe down of NF oil and then a top coat of 50/50 Mop & Glo/water. My phone case has my standard tack finish of several coats of NF oil and a coat of Fiebings Aussie Wax left to soak in the sun until it's absorbed. I used items I had on hand as I didn't want to take the time to properly finish samples. 

Test samples;


I placed a drop of water on the back of all three;


5 minutes later this is what they looked like;


I "flipped" the holster/case to shake the water off and this is what they looked like;


Then I wiped off any remaining water with a cloth and had this;


They sat for another 10 minutes and looked like this;


It seems the pictures tell it all but just in case What I saw was that the "new" holster finish shed the water and didn't really allow it to soak in at all. The worn holster finish did allow some penetration, but not much and after 10 minutes of drying time it wasn't visible. The tack finish allowed some water to soak in and left a very visible water spot, although there is more to that story. I expect items treated with the tack finish to move and be flexible. It's a different finish than a carry holster and I give my tack items occasional maintenance. 

Here's the tack finish after a quick wipe down with NF oil;


And after a quick wipe down with a scrap of sheepskin that had some saddle soap on it;


Still visible if you know where to look, but basically good as new. 

And just for fun, what happens when you get caught by more than just a drop of water. Left to dry out then wiped down with a little NF oil followed by glycerin saddle soap. No damage at all, just gives a person a reason to clean things up. 


Anyway, not totally different than Nick's test and hopefully some additional interesting info. 

Have a great day folks! 


Edited by Josh Ashman

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