Now that my circa project is done, I've kicked some other things up the pole.

I have a few large sheets of leather that was the property of my Great-Great Grandfather. He was a blacksmith and this was to repair his bellows. So, the leather has been lying about for a while. Which leads me to ask this: is there a product or procedure anyone's used to reinvigorate leather?

I'd like to use this to make a binder, but I need to soften it up. What's been recommended before is something from the automotive world.



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mink oil

You can buy it in most shoe stores/shoe departments. It comes in a little jar or tin, and it rocks for conditioning leather. I use it on my boots for the waterproofing and conditioning it provides - I think it would work well for what you're looking to do.
But try a little on a small section just to be sure!

Seems like...

I might have tried that. What I need more than conditioning is deep moisturizing.

I'll revisit mink oil to be sure. I just saw some last week in the shoe shine box.

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life

I've used mink oil before,

I've used mink oil before, but I've also been told that it is not the best option as it breaks down within the leather some and can cause decay. I've also heard that this is not true. *G* (Leather conditioning is one of those topics where everyone has some bit of wisdom they've heard.)

I do know from experience that mink oil often leaves leather feeling kind of greasy. So it might not be ideal for something you'll be handling. Also, I believe it will darken some types of leather.

Same goes for any leather conditioner that contains lanolin. It doesn't stay "in" the leather, and transfers to other objects that touch it.

For leather we have to handle a lot (like leather leads and collars for the dogs), we use neatsfoot oil.

Whatever you choose, you will likely have to make a few applications. One of the things I like about the neatsfoot oil is that it soaks up into the leather really fast. (I've got an entire side of leather at the moment being carved up for making custom leads, so I've been doing a lot of oiling of leather the last few weeks.)

You can google for leather care and find tons of information, most of it contradictory about what you should use (though everything says you need to condition leather to keep it supple, of course). Also, check the actual ingredients of what you're using, if possible. Many companies now make conditioners from all sorts of combinations of things. Mink oil is not always the same thing, ditto with neatsfoot oil.

If possible, maybe use small edge pieces of the leather to test out conditioners before doing the entire thing. That's what I've done in the past...taken small irregular edge pieces off to test how a conditioner affects that leather before I use it.

OffLead Blog - Dogs and other of life's joys.

neatsfoot - oh yeah!

Didn't think about this - isn't that what we used to soften baseball gloves with as kids? I remember working the stuff into the pocket, and leaving it with the ball in the web. Worked like a charm.
And yeah, mink oil can be greasy, so you need to go easy on the stuff, and like I said, test a small area before using it on the whole piece.

I used neatsfoot on some

I used neatsfoot on some leather and found it did leave a slightly greasy residue; might be worth contacting a local store/supplier of saddles or a shoemaker and ask what they would use.

I worked with leather making shoes, pouches, belts etc, I was involved in early medieval re-enactment at the time, and found once leather has dried out completely there is not much you can do that isn't oil based and even then the results are a bit hit and miss. But Neatsfoot or similar might be your best bet; a friend of mine used to swear by baby oil - it is pure mineral oil, I can't say as I never tried it.

Last thought, you could melt some bees wax and work it into the leather; that way you get the effect of the oil and when it cools you can polish it.

I found some saddle care instructions


Hope it helps
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Thanks for the suggestions

Everyone thanks. I think I'll do a side-by-side of neatsfoot and mink. I have some mink oil so I'll pick up the neatsfoot to test.

The beeswax melted sounds compelling. Will try and I'll let ya'll know.

Thanks again for the help. It'd be very cool to have a hand made binder of a hand made circa planner from leather bought by an ancestor!

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life

Let us know how you get one

Let us know how you get one with a pic or two if possible.

Will Do

That is, if the local big box has the neatsfoot in stock. If not, I'll lay out the leather tonight and do some segmented treatments with what mink oil I have, plus a few other treatments. Pics shouldn't be too difficult. It's some ancient stuff from a long dead critter. The original owner died 50+ years ago, so it'll take some work.

I've heard rumors before of using some substance with prolonged low heat - think a 150 degree F oven. Never gotten to that stage and the pieces are too big for that.

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life

Leather Shots

I was able to sneak into the workshop tonight and work on the leather a bit. I was able to dig up some Mink Oil, some Shafmaster Leather Cleaner and Conditioner. No neatsfoot oil at the big box :(.

There are a total of three sheets of the size depicted. My hope is to be able to use at least one to make a custom circa/planner cover holder, like my Lee Valley Portable Office holder. We'll see how the conditioning works.

Pictures here
[lynked by ygor - I hate copy/paste]

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life

Thanks ygor

I'm a bit gunshy now of linkified links.

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life

Check up

I was just down in the workshop and the mink oil looks promising on the better areas of the sheet. The suppleness was returning and I applied some more to a larger area to see what happens.

Hopefully, it'll be smooth and supple enough to be made into a planner.

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life