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View Full Version : Spin-off: Leather has "evolved" beyond oil?



mvp
Aug. 6, 2009, 01:40 PM
Or, don't tell an old lady like me where I can stick my neatsfoot oil. I know exactly what to do with oil and naked, virgin skin.

Seriously. Apparently many tack companies and some leather gurus with no obvious axe to grind (like PROTACKGUY) say that modern tanning methods make neatsfoot the wrong stuff to use on new tack.

Can anyone give me an unbiased but authoritative ruling on this? Or at least put in your own cranky but heartfelt two cents.

I know not to over-oil, but I think that gen-u-ine oil provides something unique and necessary to new tack: It puts back some of the natural oil that was taken out of the skin when it was tanned. You can care for the surface all day, but that won't help the inside-- the very structural heart-- of the piece of leather. I don't understand the peeps who don't oil the underside (the fascia side) of their saddle flaps or strap goods.

I do understand that high quality "pre-oiled" like that which comes on Black Country saddles in the form of their "vintage leather" might need a much lighter first meal of oil that would your standard leather. I think Hadfields bridles are in the same category. The pre-oiled leather in Pessoa saddles are a remedial solution to the perma-thirsty leather they used awhile back. IMO, however, this leather (or its tanning process) are not of the same quality as the BC and Hadfields' stuff.

What are your thoughts on oil and pre-oiled leather? I have never bought this kind of tack.... not wanting to skip the oil massage step needed to bond with my tack. What kind of person would I be if I just hopped on my saddle sans ceremony or foreplay of any sort?

Vindicated
Aug. 6, 2009, 01:52 PM
Cute.

Quite a few people still look at me funny, but my saddle gets OILED at least 4 times a year...seems to need it, eats it right up. (Extra Virgin Olive Oil is my oil of choice). I let it sit for 10-15 and then wipe off extra. I always oil the underside of my tack-maybe I am too old school?

Never seem to get the same result with the new dressings.

hellerkm
Aug. 6, 2009, 01:54 PM
Or, don't tell an old lady like me where I can stick my neatsfoot oil. I know exactly what to do with oil and naked, virgin skin.

Seriously. Apparently many tack companies and some leather gurus with no obvious axe to grind (like PROTACKGUY) say that modern tanning methods make neatsfoot the wrong stuff to use on new tack.

Can anyone give me an unbiased but authoritative ruling on this? Or at least put in your own cranky but heartfelt two cents.

I know not to over-oil, but I think that gen-u-ine oil provides something unique and necessary to new tack: It puts back some of the natural oil that was taken out of the skin when it was tanned. You can care for the surface all day, but that won't help the inside-- the very structural heart-- of the piece of leather. I don't understand the peeps who don't oil the underside (the fascia side) of their saddle flaps or strap goods.

I do understand that high quality "pre-oiled" like that which comes on Black Country saddles in the form of their "vintage leather" might need a much lighter first meal of oil that would your standard leather. I think Hadfields bridles are in the same category. The pre-oiled leather in Pessoa saddles are a remedial solution to the perma-thirsty leather they used awhile back. IMO, however, this leather (or its tanning process) are not of the same quality as the BC and Hadfields' stuff.

What are your thoughts on oil and pre-oiled leather? I have never bought this kind of tack.... not wanting to skip the oil massage step needed to bond with my tack. What kind of person would I be if I just hopped on my saddle sans ceremony or foreplay of any sort?

HUMM a very unsatisfied person??? LOL!
For what its worth I like to clean and oil new tack , like you there is a "bonding" process. But really it might just work for me because everyone runs and hides when the tack cleaning supplies come and and I get a good two hours of peace and quiet.!

War Admiral
Aug. 6, 2009, 02:01 PM
Another cranky old lady chipping in to point out that a lot of the saddlemakers recommending you not use oil just happen to have their own brand of high-priced "secret sauce" they'd loff to sell ya...

Yes; I still oil mine. Now, that said, I'm SO oldskool I still have German-made saddles. The French leather MIGHT be different; but since I'm never going to spend $3k for a saddle so fragile you can't wear jeans when riding in it, I'll never know! :winkgrin:

xabbracadabra
Aug. 6, 2009, 02:08 PM
I actually just bought a new saddle and the first thing I did was go out and get neatsfoot oil for it. I oiled every bit of that saddle, espically the billets because they are a pain when new. I have heard that olive oil can rot your stitching but I've never seen it happen. I don't belive any of that crap used to break in saddles except for real oil. For regular conditioning I might try their products.

Renn/aissance
Aug. 6, 2009, 02:18 PM
I read an article over the winter about how different tanning processes required different maintenance, and the writer suggested that perhaps it was time for us to reconsider the traditional Castile soap, glycerine, and neatsfoot based on the type of leather we own.

Hillside H Ranch
Aug. 6, 2009, 02:52 PM
I bought a BlacK Country saddle this spring. They actually told me not to use neatsfoot oil. They didn't reccomend a particular product, just told me NOT to use neatsfoot. I've been using Lederbalsam on it and so far, so good.

SmartAlex
Aug. 6, 2009, 02:58 PM
I don't know... my new Stueben saddle was getting pale rub marks under the stirrup leathers. No amount of Stueben leather products would remedy it. So, I put Neatsfoot on the underside. Now it's Be-U-Tee-ful. If it eats through it in five years, I'll come back here and post my repentance.

mvp
Aug. 6, 2009, 03:27 PM
You guys are great-- the horsing version of the four friends in _Sex and the City_ who aren't afraid to speak in frank terms about oil and leather.

I think I can add an update: The "oil will rot the stitching" was true when most tack was stitched with linen thread. Now that most of is it nylon, I believe we can oil with impunity, or at least as long as the leather is getting its groove on.

And for the BC and french-calf owners: If you have BC's vintage leather, I can see why the company would try to dissuade you from using neatsfoot. They assume you have no restraint and are trying to protect you (and themselves when you call, really pissed off) from over oiling. I'd offer at least one coat of oil to even a pre-oiled saddle.

I would not oil french calf, and I even hesitate and use conservative, good judgement with oiling any calf. When I bought an Aussie-made Bates Caprilli long ago, the instructions said to oil everything but the seat and knee rolls. I followed their advice for years and it looked pretty good, even if these parts stayed a little light for my taste. But when I decided to give the seat a drink around it's 8th birthday, the oil made previously invisible spider cracks show up in some predictable places on the seat. I was horrified. They disappeared again when they oil soaked in.

So I'm also confused about how to moisturize the inside of calf-skin. I'd never buy a saddle that couldn't tolerate jeans and add insult to injury by costing an arm and a leg. But I see many of these used pups with spider cracks. What causes them and how to we prevent them?

Gwendolyn
Aug. 6, 2009, 03:34 PM
Must be a marketing ploy.

All I own is a sponge, a bar of glycerine soap (which only makes an appearance on RARE occasions, like when I skip wiping down my bridle for a few rides), and a quart of neatsfoot.

My bridle gets wiped down with PLAIN water after (mostly) every ride, and oiled when it feels dry (twice a month?). My (smooth leather) half chaps and paddock boots get wiped down with PLAIN water after every ride, and oiled or polished as needed. My saddle a cheap HDR) gets OIL about once every 6-8 weeks.

That is all. Tack is gorgeous. (especially my $50 bridle that I am particularly proud of which I've had and abused for 3 years and still looks good enough to go in the ring :) )

chawley
Aug. 6, 2009, 04:24 PM
I've been caring for tack for 30 of my 38 years on this planet. I oil everything. I don't use Neatsfoot, but do you Hydrophane -even on my 'finer' pieces, including my beloved Hadfield bridle (older one that is still in gorgeous shape & needs to last forever) and calfskin saddle. I've always oiled every saddle I've ever had at least once a year, and my tack is in outstanding condition and has always held up very well.

I also wipe it down daily w/ either just water or water and a little glyc. soap - Belvoir is my favorite.

I know everyone has an opinion, but this process works for me and hasn't let me down so far.

My trainer - who is much older than me :) also oils his $3K+ calf skin saddles when they are new and then as needed, and his tack is gorgeous and lasts forever!

Just my two cents....:) Happy cleaning everyone!

klmck63
Aug. 6, 2009, 04:46 PM
I oil all of my tack when it's new and then once every two or so months whenever it's feeling a bit dry. After every ride I wipe it down with a rag with just a very little little bit of Belvoir tack cleaner on it. I sometimes follow that up with some of the Belvoir conditioner if it feels a bit dry but I have no time to do a thorough oil and clean job.

I have a french saddle with calf leather and so far this has worked great for me! I wouldn't say that this is old fashioned or going out of style, I'm only 17.. Hahah :)

I would kind of assume that saddle makers are saying not to use oil because you SHOULD be using their lovely and expensive saddle conditioner.

LLDM
Aug. 6, 2009, 04:48 PM
Pure neatsfoot oil will not rot stitching, linen or otherwise. Nor will linen thread breakdown in sunlight after a while. Nylon thread however, will.


I read an article over the winter about how different tanning processes required different maintenance, and the writer suggested that perhaps it was time for us to reconsider the traditional Castile soap, glycerine, and neatsfoot based on the type of leather we own.

And who is it that said this?

SCFarm (another old fart)

Vindicated
Aug. 6, 2009, 04:58 PM
I would hate to own a saddle that I had too be mindful of what I was wearing while riding.
I have a Forestier...Any thoughts on what it is "made" of, besides leather?

My first saddle was some soft leather-and I hated it...showed every scratch ding and dent.


Here is a question? How can Olive Oil rot stiching any more than another oil? Will someone get techincal about this?

Peggy
Aug. 6, 2009, 07:17 PM
I oil my saddle when seems to need it (2-3 times per year?) and use hydrophane. Likewise bridles, tho those don't seem to need it as often. Latest new saddle (Antares Hampton Classic) came with a little bottle of oil and instructions on how to use it which were basically in line with what I've done before. New bridles and other strap goods get briefly (15 minutes?) dipped in the hydrophane and then hung in the sun for a bit. People routinely comment on how nice my saddle looks. Maybe it's the old-fashioned care or maybe it's just that I actually clean it regularly. Have noticed that the fancier leather dressings (Passier) don't keep the leather as dark.

Foxtrot's
Aug. 6, 2009, 07:26 PM
Sigh - I just happen to have forked out $24.00 for the "secret sauce" recipe Stubben makes for my beeeeutiful new Stubben 1001 bridle - somewhat against my better judgement, but I have this mark on my forehead that says "sucker"!! And it is very thick and greasy. Don't like it much. However, two coats later I feel bonded to my new bridle, my horse is so handsome and my hands are very ladylike and soft.

Actually, it has white stitching - will I just have to adjust to it as it gets greyer and greyer with use and cleaning?

LLDM
Aug. 6, 2009, 07:34 PM
Here is a question? How can Olive Oil rot stiching any more than another oil? Will someone get techincal about this?

I don't know about olive oil, as it is a vegetable oil. I do know that neatsfoot oil (pure) is 100% animal fat made from the lower extremities (which allows it to remain in a liquid state at room temps.) Neatfoot oil compound adds mineral oils or petroleum based oils into the mix, which is what breaks down the linen stitching. As I said above, sunlight breaks down nylon stitching.

Most vegetable oils get sticky. But I don't know about olive oil.

SCFarm

Dakotawyatt
Aug. 6, 2009, 07:52 PM
Just bought a new saddle ... a BdH. First thing I did after riding in it was clean with Lexol cleaner, then oil every single inch (except the padded flaps) of it with warm olive oil. I have before and after pics!

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v729/Dakotawyatt/CIMG0230-1.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v729/Dakotawyatt/CIMG0283.jpg

I painted on the oil with a paint brush, then let it sit ... the leather absorbed every bit of the oil and it left the leather soft and supple, not oily at all. Although, I do have to say that upon sweating, both the panels and the seat did bleed a little bit. It wasn't bad though, and I've done probably ... 4 thorough coats of the oil in the last month. Doesn't seem to need any more right now ... plan to use the Effax lederbalsam after cleaning now.

Renn/aissance
Aug. 7, 2009, 11:08 AM
I would not oil french calf, and I even hesitate and use conservative, good judgement with oiling any calf.

Why is that? My old calf Antares came with a bottle of the Antares oil (of course ;) ) and the directions, from the rep, to oil the crap out of it. So I did, applying the oil with a paint brush and working it in with my hands.

Regarding my comment on the article that suggested we reconsider the traditional methods of cleaning based on the type of leather we own--I am trying to find that article. It believe it was in Equus or the Chronicle.

RugBug
Aug. 7, 2009, 11:29 AM
I use Hydrophane oil and a variety of cleaners, depending on my mood: Tattersal, glycerine, Turf Soap or Castile. Those have remained in my tack cleaning line up. I bought some Stubben products that quickly made their way to the bottom of the tack truck never to be seen again.

Old/broken-in tack (I have a bridle, 2 martingales, a girth and a saddle over 20 years old plus the countless new stuff purchased in the last 7 years) gets cleaned about once a month, and oiled only when necessary (1-2 times a year).

Brand new tack gets cleaned and then oiled. Strap goods are rolled/massaged during oiling. Process is repeated every other week or so until tack is officially broken-in and then it moves to the other category.

The only problem I've had with my old tack would be the seat of the 20+ year old saddle that split. I don't think that has anything to do with oil, but rather riding in jeans for years and being a bit of a cheaper saddle (Moritz Elite: PdN knockoff).

Renn/aissance
Aug. 7, 2009, 12:46 PM
From Kit Hazelton's blog:


remember that oil really isn't necessary on today's english saddles, thanks to changes in the tanning processes.

http://saddlefitter.blogspot.com/2009/07/leather-care-101-irony-in-skin-game.html

I asked her for more information. :)

dghunter
Aug. 7, 2009, 01:05 PM
Flame suit on-I've never, ever oiled anything I've owned :lol: I didn't even know you were supposed to until I started coming on here :eek: That being said, I've had my Pessoa A/O for about 5-6 years and it's still in great shape and looks great (doesn't have an orangey glow or anything). I've never had to replace any of my tack and nothing has cracked. Perhaps I've just gotten lucky :winkgrin:

I also had some kind of Collegiate that lasted for about 8 years with me and who knows how long when we gave it to my friend and it was never oiled (this was from about 1998ish)

Also my Mom has a dressage saddle (It was a Schomacher or something? I have no idea to be honest) and it's never been oiled and it's about 6 years old now as well and still looks awesome.

I do clean it with glycerine soap and condition with the Effax Leatherbaslm (sp?)

Saskatoonian
Aug. 7, 2009, 01:16 PM
For whatever it's worth, when I got my new Stackhouse a few years ago, I was instructed to oil every bit of it with olive oil. Apparently David hasn't heard that leather has evolved. It doesn't get sticky at all.

zoryphoros
Aug. 7, 2009, 01:42 PM
I'm waiting on my brand new CWD full calf (I'm sorry, I'm just a proud to-be-momma) and we'll see what I'll do with that (first cull calf anything). I'm too young to be considered "old school" but even I oil everything.

For instance, a few years ago I got my first saddle - a semi custom Rembrandt that had been sitting on the shelf of the "local" (come on, there's only one tack store in the city) tack shop for six years! (Funny story: when I was a wee one in kindergarten and first grade I used to drool over the $1500 saddle, little did I know that eight years later it would become my own for a mere $600.) Granted, it wasn't the nicest of leather (English pig skin panels with "calf" seat and knee rolls. Yeah, sure ;) ).

Now that was my first "real" leather purchase, and by golly I did everything to make it look like a custom saddle. It came to me "blonde" but after a good scrubbing with glycerine and elbow grease, I got the finish that had been on that saddle for god-only-knows-how-many years. Then it got a good basting with some warmed oil (two parts to one part neatsfoot to one part vegetable) and that kept it nice for a good two years. Recently I just stripped cleaned it (vinegar and ammonia no where in sight :eek: . My leather is just not high enough quality to withstand that) and used mink oil to get it to a bea-u-tiful mahogany color that the seat and knee rolls finally match.

So mvp, I guess you can rest easy - if a sixteen year old girl still instinctively oils all of her leather then I'm sure there are still others out there. As for ever buying pre-oiled tack - if it was right for the horse and me, sure, but that won't stop my bonding process.

KimPeterson
Aug. 7, 2009, 02:55 PM
Not all leather is tanned the same and usually the cheaper leather has not been tanned as long lending itself to needing some fat based product or even oil to get that softer more expensive feel. The more expensive thick "pre oiled" leathers example frank baines new oiled leather is fantastic, are better off without the extra oil. The now popular covered french leather on some brands is thin take care because it is so soft you have to treat it like a fine purse. I prefer fat based products on all leather, I don't like the oil getting into the seat or panels esp on wool saddles and it can break down stitching.

Fancy That
Aug. 7, 2009, 04:18 PM
<snip>
I would not oil french calf, and I even hesitate and use conservative, good judgement with oiling any calf. When I bought an Aussie-made Bates Caprilli long ago, the instructions said to oil everything but the seat and knee rolls. I followed their advice for years and it looked pretty good, even if these parts stayed a little light for my taste. But when I decided to give the seat a drink around it's 8th birthday, the oil made previously invisible spider cracks show up in some predictable places on the seat. I was horrified. They disappeared again when they oil soaked in.

<snip>

Hey - call me stupid but I didn't know my older Bates Caprilli close contact saddle had calf skin seat and knee rolls. Is that the case, you think? It does "take" conditioner/oil very differently and is a different color. But it's not one of those drastic color contrasts like I've seen.

Can someone advise? How am I supposed to know exactly what kind of leather is on which part of the saddle? (sorry, dumb question :)

Here is is:
http://i279.photobucket.com/albums/kk150/elaineshickman/PICT0221.jpg

dogchushu
Aug. 7, 2009, 06:00 PM
What happens when leather you can't oil gets rained on, sweated on, etc.? I don't mind the pre oiled stuff since that seems to come with the protection oil provides. However, while I do take good care of my tack, I can't say that I manage to avoid all inclement weather nor can I ensure my horse doesn't sweat! :lol:

lauriep
Aug. 7, 2009, 10:01 PM
So, let me get this straight. It is ok for the manufacturer to "pre-oil" (think additional cost) their saddles, but it is verboten for the buyer to do same if they don't like the look/feel of the leather. Why does this make no sense to me at all?

Like everything else in this world, saddlers want to make the maximum buck for their product. So, if selling a certain type of care product gets them some sort of kickback, they are going to do it. Maybe some of it is justified, but my gut tells me most of it is just to get more of your money.

Since I ride in an old Blue Ribbon, I guess tanned the "old" way, I will continue to care for it as I always have. So far, I have not given in to the glossy ads for leather care.

Go Fish
Aug. 8, 2009, 12:46 AM
Another cranky old lady chipping in to point out that a lot of the saddlemakers recommending you not use oil just happen to have their own brand of high-priced "secret sauce" they'd loff to sell ya...

Yes; I still oil mine. Now, that said, I'm SO oldskool I still have German-made saddles. The French leather MIGHT be different; but since I'm never going to spend $3k for a saddle so fragile you can't wear jeans when riding in it, I'll never know! :winkgrin:

I have a French saddle (DelGrange) and I use Neatsfoot oil on it a couple of times a year. Contrary to what you think, it's a very durable saddle, and yes, I ride in jeans and half-chaps. Whoops - I did pay in excess of $3K, but it was the ONLY saddle that fit both me and my horse.

5
Aug. 8, 2009, 09:40 PM
Seriously. Apparently many tack companies and some leather gurus with no obvious axe to grind (like PROTACKGUY) say that modern tanning methods make neatsfoot the wrong stuff to use on new tack.

Can anyone give me an unbiased but authoritative ruling on this? Or at least put in your own cranky but heartfelt two cents.


PROTACKGUY is right. the Tanning methods were changed in the mid 1980s to comply with the new environmental regulations. So you have leather that is not nearly as tough or forgiving as the old style and the new leather has to be babied.

Vindicated
Aug. 9, 2009, 11:54 AM
So if tanning methods changed in the mid 80's we should have SOME people that can advise us to either step away from the oil, or keep it up.

Some of these new fangled leathers have been around for a while, anyone notice that their saddle is wearing worse one way or another....?

I for one, just put a good coat of the OO on my saddles, and 2 of my three bridles...
They needed it BAD

Equibrit
Aug. 9, 2009, 12:05 PM
Modern Tanning;
http://www.leathernet.com/tanning.htm


http://www.militaryhorse.org/resources/ordreport/1940/ch1sec1.asp
CHAPTER 1
What and When
Section 1
Leather

1. ORIGIN.-Though its proper care depends largely upon a proper knowledge and understanding of its origin and the processes of its manufacture, it is perhaps unnecessary to give a definition of leather. Suffice it to say that leather originally was the skin of an animal, and that through a chemical process called "tanning" this skin is made into leather. It is not so generally known, however, that while the antiquity of the processes of tanning are unknown, the industry was practiced in the remote ages by the Chinese. It was practiced as early as 900 B.C. by the Egyptians (as evidenced by pieces of eather now in the British Museum taken from a mummy case of that age). It was practiced at the beginning of the Christian Era by the Romans, who accidentally discovered the tanning processes and grew to be much skilled in the preparation and finishing of leather. Strange does it seem, therefore, that despite the almost universal use of skins by savages, so many aboriginal peoples remained, almost up to the present time, ignorant of the art of tanning. The answer probably lies partly in the fact that the chemical processes are more or less complicated, depending upon the method of tanning used, and partly in the fact that proper chemicals were either unknown or unavailable.



2. TANNING.-In its original raw state an animal's skin is made up of three layers, the outer, or hairy, which has no blood vessels; the middle, which is the true skin, made up of gelatinous fibers; and the inner, a fatty layer, in which are imbedded the perspiratory and sebaceous glands. All processes of tanning have generally for their first object the reduction of the skin to the middle layer, or true skin. The inner, fatty layer and the outer, hairy layer are removed by steps called "cleaning" and "depilation."
The cleaning of the hides is accomplished by soaking them in frequently changed water until they are soft, which may take two to three weeks, after which all adherent fatty tissue is scraped from the inside. Depilation is accomplished in two ways, - by sweating and by liming. In the sweating process, for the production of what is called "raw" leather, the hides are suspended in pits at a uniform temperature (64.50 F.) and in a moist atmosphere until they undergo a partial decomposition, the ammonia produced saponifying the fats around the roots of the hairs, after which the hairs may be scraped off. In the liming process, for the production of what is called "finished" leather, the softened hides are soaked in lime water until the hair may be removed, the lime acting as a saponifier, after which the excess lime must be removed from the hides by an acid (sulphuric) which, in turn, "plumps" the fibers, materially increasing the hide's thickness. The hides must then be treated with a putrefactive or fermenting element called "bate" (such as sour bran), which softens the hides and abates the "plumpness". After these processes have been accomplished, the hides are ready for tanning.
In this country there are two common methods of tanning called, respectively, the vegetable (or tannic acid) and mineral methods. The vegetable method, in which the tannin generally comes from oak or hemlock bark, produces what is commonly conceded to be the best leather for many purposes, especially heavy leather, but takes a long time and is therefore relatively expensive. Generally, in this process, the bark is thoroughly ground, then leached to extract the tanning principle from it. The hides are first placed in a weak solution of this tannic acid and then transferred successively to vats where the liquor is stronger until the processes are complete. Depending on many conditions, the complete process may require from two to fifteen months.
The chrome tanning process, which is the principal process of the mineral tanning method, was discovered by an American, and first used about 1890. It is a quick, relatively cheap method, requiring much less time to accomplish tha ii the vegetable method. Used mainly for tanning lighter leather, it produces leather with great water repellant and heat resisting properties, generally of great tensile strength, but much more difficult to dye than that tanned by the tannic acid method. Briefly, it consists of treating the hides with a weak solution of dichromate of potash to which sufficient hydrochloric acid has been added to liberate chromic acid, which is the tanning principle. After the skins have taken up a bright yellow color throughout their texture, they are drained and transferred to a bath 6f hyposulphite of soda to which hydrochloric acid again is added. This liberates sulphurous acid, which reduces the excess of chromic acid to green chromic oxide, which, in effect, coats each fiber with a casing that preserves it, and gives the resulting leather a characteristic pale bluish-green color. Upon removal from the bath, the leather must, because of its water repellant properties, be dyed while still moist by applying the color dye desired. If allowed to dry before dyeing, it can never again be sufficiently wetted to dye properly. Even then the dye does not penetrate the surface greatly, which is shown by the finish of boot uppers wearing where the stirrup strap crosses the shin, and prevents its being ever redyed properly.
There are also for different animal skins, such as chamois, sheep, pig, calf, etc., different tanning processes, such as oil tanning, smoke tanning, Indian tanning, etc., followed in this and different countries, all of which, however, are directed generally to the same end, i.e., the conversion of the gelatinous tissues of the skin into the non-putrescible substance we know as leather. (See section II and V, TM 10-226.)
3. CLASSIFICATION.-During the tanning processes if the hides have not been "bated" (steeped in a mixture to soften and reduce the swelling of the fibers), the resulting product is called "raw" leather; if bated during the tanning process, the resulting product is called "finished" leather. In order to finish raw leather it is necessary to scour it and compress it. by a strike pin and roller. If the leather is stuffed with oils to increase its resistance to water and to make it more flexible, it is then called "dressed". It may then be dyed or stained, after which it may be grained by rolling, if desired. Nearly all items of manufactured leather equipment (harness, saddles, bridles, etc.) are made from dressed leather.Agents for Cleaning and Preserving Leather

4. GENERAL-There are so many agents used for cleaning and preserving leather, both raw chemicals and mixtures of them sold under trade names, that it would be impracticable to list all of them here. In an effort to give some idea, however, of the composition and properties of a few of the better known and more generally used ones, the tabulation indicated in succeeding paragraphs has been made.



5. CLEANING AGENTS.-Cleaning agents are as follows:



a. Soap -The purpose of all soaps is to clean, which they do by exhibiting, in their lathered state, an attraction for the dirt particles exceeding the attraction of the leather for them. Formed generally by the union of a fatty acid with a base (compound of a fat with an alkali), soaps should not be caustic if they are to be used on leather; they should also, to be classed as "saddle soaps", possess some fixed oils that assist in preserving the leather after the lather itself has cleaned it. If properly used, the saddle soaps will clean the leather and at the same time, at least to an extent, oil it. A proper method for day-to-day cleaning and preserving is to work up a light lather with saddle soap and sponge, going lightly over both the inside and outside surfaces of the leather and working the lather into it, after which any excess of the lather may be removed with either an almost dry sponge or with a light flannel cloth. It must be emphasized that in day-to-day cleaning and preserving with soap as little water as possible should be used in working up the lather, so that the lather itself will be "light and dry". If it is desired periodically, to thoroughly clean with soap, as prior to oiling, the lather should be heavy and wet, which will require the use, in contrast to daily care, of copious amounts of water. A proper method of thoroughly cleaning with soap will be outlined in a succeeding paragraph, "Preparing Leather for Storage". Satisfactory soaps are considered to be:

Glycerin soap which is considered to be a superior cleaner and preservative, but relatively expensive. The imported item is usually better, although more expensive than the domestic, with the domestic constantly improving in quality.
Castile soap, which is an excellent cleaner, and the oils of which are excellent preservatives for long periods if the leather is given only normal usage.
Saddle soaps, which are made especially for the purpose of cleaning and preserving leather, many brands of which are satisfactory. Some imported saddle soaps are considered excellent but are expensive, many domestic saddle soaps being as satisfactory when the item of cost is considered. The saddle soaps to avoid are the cheap ones, which are apt to contain burnt fats, and which are likely to decompose into the soap's original components. If decomposition has begun (as is the case with some issue tins which have been in storage for long periods), leather cleaned with it will have a greasy feeling and will collect dust and dirt rapidly. The dust and dirt will not only be ground into the surface of the leather, causing it to deteriorate and discolor more rapidly than normal, but will also cause boots, breeches, and other items of equipment to become soiled quickly.b. Chemicals.-The purpose of all chemical cleaning agents is to dissolve the undesirable fats or fatty acid compounds that might be present in leather, to chemically reduce organic matter, to loosen coloring matter, or to bleach. Great care must be taken in their selection to insure using no agent that will have a deleterious effect upon either the surface or body of the leather. Among such undesirable agents would be strong acids or caustic alkalis; while among the agents considered suitable, in proper solution, are the following:






(1) Ammonia water, which is a solution in water of ammonia (a gas composed of nitrogen and hydrogen). It is highly volatile, and has a very characteristic penetrating odor. It combines with acids to from ammonium compounds, and with fatty acids to form ammonium soap, the most soluble soap and one of the best leather cleaners known. It also assists in loosening corrosion and verdigris from metal, and from leather stained by metal fittings, after which it may be more easily removed by soap or mechanical means.

Oxalic acid, which is a mild vegetable acid, formed generally by the decomposition of sugar by nitric acid. In proper solution, it is perhaps the best known and most generally used bleaching agent for leather, being used almost universally during the tanning process for the production of all so-called "blond" leather, and leather which, after bleaching, is to be dyed bright colors. The fact that it is a poison should be impressed on all using personnel, and its use supervised accordingly.
Alcohol (Wood or Methyl), which is a colorless liquid obtained by a process of distilled organic matter. It is an excellent cleaning agent or solvent, especially for "wet" or "dry" dyes, and, in addition, acts well as a "carrier" for bleaching agents. The fact that it is a dangerous poison if taken internally should be impressed on all personnel using it.
Acetic acid, which is a mild, colorless acid (C2H4O2) produced by the oxidation of common alcohol and many other organic substances. It is often useful in a weak solution for neutralizing the basic (alkaline) dye reactions in leather. Commercial vinegar is a dilute and impure acetic acid produced by acetic fermentation of dilute alcoholic liquids, such as cider or malt.The above chemicals may be purchased for the following approximate prices:



Oxalic acid crystals…………………15½ cents per gallon
Wood alcohol……………………….40½ cents per gallon
26° Ammonia water…………………60 cents per gallon



Preserving Agents - The most common preserving agents are enumerated below:
a. Dubbins are compounds usually of a rendered, unsalted animal fat, such as beef or mutton tallow, mixed with other preservative substances. When properly applied to the previously cleaned leather, they are considered excellent preservative agents, either in preparing leather for storage or, in some cases, for leather in daily use. Compositions of the more generally used dubbins are as follows:
(1) 20 lbs. beef tallow, ½ lb. rosin, 5 gals. inedible cod-liver oil, ½ lb. melted bees wax
Excellent forpreparing leather for storage.
(2) 50% beef tallow, 50% glycerin. Excellent preservative for leather in use.
(3) 40% mutton tallow, 60% prime neat's-foot oil. Excellent preservative for leather in use.
(4) 50% beef tallow, 50% prime neat's-foot oil. Excellent preservative for leather in use.
(5) 50% mutton tallow, 50% neat's-foot oil, small amount melted bees wax. Excellent preservative for preparing leather for storage.
In the preparation of all dubbins, great care must be exercised in rendering the unsalted tallow to prevent the burning of the fats, which would make the resultant tallow, and therefore a dubbin made from it, unsuitable. In order to remove as many impurities as possible, the suet should be cut into small pieces and put into a suitable utensil, with sufficient water added to prevent burning, and rendered out slowly, all cracklings (pieces of flesh, etc.) being removed as they appear on the surface. After rendering, the melted tallow should be strained first through a coarse colander and finally through a very fine colander, then allowed to cool and solidify. After solidifying, the tallow should appear white and clean. The water which will be at the bottom of the container should be removed by piercing the layer of solidified tallow with an ice-pick or other implement, and turning the container upside down to allow it to drain off.
In order to prepare all dubbins, the ingredients are heated together until melted sufficiently to mix well, preferably in a double boiler, to avoid burning the fats. It is best after they are prepared to place all dubbins in small containers, such as olive or pickle jars, so that during the process of their use the contents can be shaken to insure their being properly mixed when applied.
Before applying the dubbin it should be melted by heating in a double boiler and then it should be allowed to cool until lukewarm (never above a temperature than can be borne by the hand) and applied to the leather with a small sponge, piece of sheepskin, or other suitable agent. The applicator should be saturated with the warm, thoroughly mixed dubbin, and the dubbin applied to the article, first spreading it quickly over the entire surface of the still slightly damp (previously cleaned) leather, then rubbed in well by band. Any excess that remains after a short time has been allowed for the dub-bin to penetrate the leather should be wiped off with a clean, dry cloth. The leather is then ready for storage, or if to be used currently, the oil should be allowed to penetrate for a period of about twenty-four hours, after which the excess surface oil should be removed by a cleaning with soap before the leather is dressed and put into service.
b. Glycerin is a clear, colorless liquid of thick syrupy consistency, made by the hydrolysis of animal fats or fixed oils, purified by distillation (as by action of super-heated steam on palm oil). It is slightly antiseptic, and is a solvent for fixed alkalies or alkaloids. It is an emollient, hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the atmosphere), does not evaporate or become rancid, and is much used as an ingredient of lotions and ointments. Mixed in proper proportion with other substances, it is considered an excellent leather preservative and softener.
c. Oils suitable for preserving leather may be animal, vegetable, or mineral derivatives, but generally the animal oils are considered superior, with few exceptions, for this purpose. Among the more generally used oils are the following
(1) Neat's-foot oil, which has long been recognized as the best of all oils for leather. It is a pale yellow, fixed oil, made by boiling the feet, less hoofs, and skin bones of "neat" cattle (cattle of the ox type as distinguished from horses, sheep and goats). It is the preservative base of many saddle soaps and an ingredient of many oil polishes. Due to the fact that it is difficult and expensive to obtain in its purest or "prime" state, many commercial products termed "neat's-foot" are likely to have been "cut" with some mineral oil.
(2) Petroleum jelly, which is obtained from refining mineral crudes, applied very lightly to leather surfaces is believed by some to protect leather equipment from the harmful effects of sea air during overseas shipment. Useful for this purpose also would be any of the more generally used dubbins, to which a small amount of paraffin has been added.
(3) Castor oil, which is generally obtained from the castor bean, but may be derived chemically from other sources. Chemically, it is a combination of glycerin, fatty acids, and ricinoleic acid. The acids in castor oil are undesirable constituents of an oil to be used in preserving leather, but many officers have used castor oil with great success in dubbins, and in combination with saddle soaps. In these cases, the undesirable acid effects of the oil are apparently neutralized, at least to a large extent, by the combination of the acids with the fats in the dubbin or with the alkalis in the soap. If used with the soap, caution is recommended in the amount applied, for if too large an amount is applied, or if allowed to penetrate too long before soaped, the leather is likely to be so softened, as for example in the case of saddle skirts, that the "body" of the leather is lost, and its strength undesirably reduced. Like glycerin, however, if used properly, castor oil has the advantage that it will not appreciably darken the leather on which it is used.
(4) Other oils known to be good leather preserving agents, but which either are likely to excessively darken leather, to turn rancid, or to be too expensive, are olive oil, unsalted butter, and palm oil.
Itmust be realized that the application of any oil will darken, to an extent, any previously bleached leather, and that too much of any oil is deleterious to leather and will greatly lessen its tensile strength. In this last connection, it might be said that more leather equipment has been ruined, or its serviceability impaired, by the application of too much or too hot oil than ever by the application of an insufficient amount. In order to properly apply any oil, a piece of woolen cloth, such as a small square of salvaged blanket, should be dipped into the preferably warm but never hot oil, squeezed out, then passed lightly over the whole surface of the almost, but not quite dry, previously cleaned leather, and finally the surface oil rubbed in by hand. After oiling, the oil should be allowed to penetrate, and the leather "dry out", which may take twenty-four or more hours. Thereafter, especially while in storage, any excess oil appearing on the surface of the leather or exuding from its pores, should be removed with a clean, dry cloth. Before being "dressed", any excess oil remaining on the surface of the leather should be removed by cleaning with soap.
d. Dressings or polishes are used not only to assist in preserving the leather but to give it a luster. Any of the better grades, applied according to directions, should be satisfactory. If it is desired to make a polish, the following formula would probably prove satisfactory:
Melt together 55 parts of carnuba wax and 55 parts of crude montan wax (221° F.) ; add 10 parts nigrosine base (for black leather), or 10 parts other color dye-stuff soluble in oil (for other than black leather), dissolved in 20 parts stearic acid; then add 150 parts ceresine (a form of wax) and finally 900 parts oil of turpentine.
e. Waxes have for their object the imparting of a luster to the leather, as for inspection, etc. Any standard grade of wax, or wax polish, should prove suitable, provided no "wax cleaner", which might contain ingredients injurious to leather, is used. The wax should generally be applied with a very slightly dampened soft cotton cloth that has been impregnated with wax, the leather being given a very light coat. Then, before the wax is dry, it should be spread with a soft brush, and the final polishing given with a soft woolen cloth.Care of Leather Equipment - General

7. SERVICE REQUIREMENTS.-Regarding the requirements in the service as to the care of leather, we find, generally, that in the field our main consideration is to keep the equipment serviceable, without regard to a high state of appearance. To do this, however, under campaign conditions is, as every soldier knows, difficult. Constant exposure to weather (sun, wind, and rain), mud, road water (moisture, decaying organic matter, dirt, etc.), sweat, and extremely hard usage, combines not only to wash the essential preserving oils from the leather, but to grind into it substances that cannot be considered otherwise than deleterious. If, therefore, we can, in the field, keep our leather clean, protect it in camp from weather as much as possible, and periodically renew its oils, we should be able, not only to preserve it and maintain its serviceably, but return with it to garrison after a period of extended field duty in such a condition that we can, with a minimum of labor, bring it back into what might be called "garrison shape." By garrison shape we mean a condition in which the leather is not only serviceable and constantly ready for campaign, but also in which the leather is of nearly uniform color and can be readily brought, despite daily use, to a high state of appearance, as for Saturday inspection, parades, reviews, etc.
While it may seem that these requirements are somewhat in conflict, it is nevertheless believed that they can be met by following one of the methods for care and preservation to be outlined. At the outset, it must be stated that, if the leather is not too far gone from the effects of hard usage, neglect and previous dyeing, particularly if the dyes have been burned into the surface of the leather, there are many ways in which this may be done. Any method that meets the requirements is at least a satisfactory one. Experience over a long period of time, under all conditions, is the only laboratory for establishing the relative merits of any one method. Likewise is the same statement true in regard to the selection and use of cleaning and preserving agents, a wise and very old rule to follow being: "Put nothing back into the leather that was not taken from it during the tanning process." Also are we concerned with the availability and cost of materials, which limits us to the use either of issue items or those that can be otherwise universally and cheaply obtained. Fortunately, it can be said that all issue items that meet government specifications are of excellent quality, and that their correct use will go far toward meeting the requirements previously mentioned.
8. EQUIPMENT IN STORAGE. All leather equipment in storage should be kept in a cool, dry place; and, depending either upon excessive aridity or excessive rainfall, should be inspected periodically as follows:



(1) In temperate climes - once or twice a year.
(2) In semi-tropical climes - two or three times a year.
(3) In tropical climes - three or more times a year.

Where inspections disclose the following-named conditions, the procedure should be as follows:
(1) Dampness.-Hang or place the damp article in the sun or other dry place where there is a free circulation of air, but do not leave exposed to the sun after the dampness is gone.



(2) Mold.-Remove all mold (a fungus growth, which if allowed to remain will destroy the leather fibers) immediately by wiping with a moist cloth and allowing the article to dry by exposure to air before returning to storage.
(3) Excess oil.-Inasmuch as too much oil is detrimental to all leather, all oil that appears on the surface of the leather, or exuding from the pores, should be wiped off with a clean, dry cloth.
(4) Dryness.-Since no leather should be allowed to dry out entirely, if found so (hard, brittle, lacking "life"), it should be given a light re-application of dubbin, any excess of which should be wiped off before restoring.

9. EQUIPMENT IN SERVICE.-Generally speaking, all serviceable equipment in daily use can be maintained perfectly by a proper daily cleaning with a good grade of soap as soon as possible after use. This should always be done before sweat, mud, etc., have been allowed to dry and harden, which not only subjects the leather to the deleterious effects of these substances, but makes cleaning much more difficult. It should also be given a periodic polishing with a good grade of leather dressing. A thorough cleaning and reoiling two or three times a year is also necessary, depending upon usage and climatic conditions. Good grades of saddle soap and leather dressing both contain oils that, if used correctly, will preserve leather for long periods of time with normal garrison usage under normal conditions.

Cleaning Methods

10. GENERAL.-In order properly to clean and preserve any leather equipment, proper facilities must exist. Mention has already been made of the fact that a sufficient time allowance must be made; in addition, and most importantly, a place must be made available, equipped with proper cleaning racks, tables, and all other necessary equipment; and finally, this place for cleaning equipment should not be the place where the equipment is kept. In other words, the cleaning room should be separate and distinct, though adjacent to the tack room In organization stables where such facilities do not exist, experience has proved the advisability and made worth while the devotion of thought and effort to establishing such cleaning rooms. These rooms not only result in a great saving of time and energy on the part of the men, but in much superior equipment, for it is a well-recognized fact that equipment once in perfect shape is easily kept in perfect shape.
11. NEW EQUIPMENT.-When withdrawn from storage and issued to troops, all new government issue leather equipment is in more or less of a dehydrated state of preservation, maintained by an agent (dubbin), that not only by closing the pores of the leather, excludes most atmospheric moisture, but retains almost indefinitely the natural preserving oils tanned into the leather at the time of manufacture. As long as items of issue that have been "dubbed" remain in storage and are not put into daily use, this coat of dubbin should not be removed, due to the fact that it is an almost perfect leather preservative. However, before the item can be put into comfortable use, it will usually be found necessary to "break it in" by removing this protective coat of dubbin and by restoring the natural life and flexibility of the leather by additional oiling, cleaning and reoiling, if necessary, during a short period of normal use. The fact that a short period of normal use is absolutely necessary in order to break in new equipment cannot be too strongly emphasized, for any known method of shortening the "breaking-in process" is likely to result in getting too much oil into the leather, the deleterious effects of which have already been discussed.
In order to put such new government issue items of equipment into use, the following process is recommended:
a. Make a saturated castile soap solution by dissolving in hot water as much shaved castile soap as possible. Add eight to twelve tablespoonfuls, depending upon how hard the water may be in the locality, of strong ammonia water (26° U.S.P. or 28% ) to about one G.I. mess cupful of the saturated castile soap solution. Then add sufficient water to make one gallon of the castile soap and ammonia solution.
b. Thoroughly scrub the article with the castile soap and ammonia solution. A nail brush, or a brush no stiffer than a nail brush, is best to use for this purpose. A stiff brush, such as a G.I. scrubbing brush, is considered too stiff as it is likely to mar the surface of the hair, or grain, side of the leather. The ammonia and soap solution should produce a heavy lather. ]f it does not, more ammonia or more soap solution, or both in small amounts, should be added until a heavy lather is produced. If mixed and used properly, the ammonia and soap solution will dissolve and clean the surface of the leather of dried waxes and oils; it will also assist in loosening verdigris (a copper salt) and metal stains.
c. Rinse off thoroughly with clear water, wipe as dry as possible with a clean cloth, and allow to dry.
d. When almost but not quite dry, apply either dubbin or oil in the manner previously described, (par. b) and allow to dry thoroughly. This drying and absorbing process may require 24 or more hours in a heated room, during which any excess or exuding oils should be wiped from the surface.
e. When thoroughly dry, again clean the exposed surface of the leather of excess surface oils with a very light soap lather. The saddle is now ready either for normal use or to be dressed, if dressing is desired.
f. When thoroughly dry from the previous step, apply leather dressing, if desired, according to directions. If the first application of dressing does not give the luster desired, allow itto set and the oils to penetrate for a few hours; the surface of the leather may then be gone over with a slightly damp cloth and re-dressed. -
g.If a particularly high standard of appearance and luster is desired, it may be obtained by waxing, as previously described, after the second application of dressing.
12. USED OR REPAIRED EQUIPMENT.-In order to put used or repaired equipment that has been in storage into use, or to periodically refinish equipment that has been in use, the following process is recommended:
a. Thoroughly clean with the ammonia and soap solution, as described in paragraph 11.
b. Dissolve four to eight tablespoonfuls crystallized oxalic acid, depending upon the condition of the article and whether or not it has been previously dyed, in one pint of wood (methyl) alcohol, and add sufficient water to make one gallon of the solution. Using this solution on a clean sponge, rag, or soft brush, thoroughly go over both hair (or grain, as it is sometimes called) and flesh sides of the leather, particularly where discolorations are evident. Continue the process until all remaining oils, greases, as much dye-stuff as possible, and organic matter are dissolved and washed out, and the surfaces clean.
c. Not later than fifteen minutes after the preceding step, thoroughly reclean with the ammonia and soap solution. (This not only neutralizes the oxalic acid, but assists in washing out of the leather those undesirable substances loosened by the oxalic acid-alcohol solution.) Rinse thoroughly with clear water, and wipe as dry as possible.
d. If the surface of the leather appears to darken after the preceding step, due to the presence in the leather of basic dye-stuffs, sponge the leather off with a mild acetic acid solution; made by mixing one tablespoonful of acetic acid, or one pint ordinary household vinegar, with sufficient water to make one gallon of the solution.
e. Allow the equipment to dry out in a heated room. This drying process may take twenty-four or more hours in a room kept at about 70 F.
f. If, at this time, the leather is not bleached sufficiently to insure a good, natural color, steps b, c, d and e may be repeated before the equipment is oiled, but never should the oxalic acid be used either in stronger solution, nor more than three times on any given set of equipment. If the equipment is so badly stained or dyed, or the dye burnt into the surface or fibers of the leather, that three oxalic acid solution applications do not bleach sufficiently, the chances are that the dye pigments are so thoroughly imbedded in the gelatinous tissues of the leather that to remove them would ruin the leather.
When sufficiently bleached and almost but not quite dry, oil as previously indicated, allowing the oil to penetrate and the equipment to dry out in a heated room for twenty-four or more hours.
g. If, after oiling, there are any surfaces of the grain side that are rough and have been worn through to the inner fibers, these surfaces may be refinished and made smooth by the following process, after the surface oil has been removed by cleaning with a very light soap lather:
(1) Mix thoroughly three heaping tablespoonfuls of powdered gum tragacanth and one heaping teaspoonful of pulverized oxalic acid crystals. Stir this mixture into one quart of water and let it set (about twelve hours) until about the consistency of soft jelly or gelatin.
Apply this compound with a small sponge, rubbing it well into the surface, always in the same direction, and finish by allowing it to dry slightly and then rubbing hard with a dry cotton cloth. This will lay and fix all of the exposed rough fibers and leave a smooth surface, which will be an excellent base for a later dressing.
(2) The same results can be accomplished by the use of any other commercial leather cleaner, the principal base of which is powdered gum tragacanth, mixed with a small amount of oxalic acid in the same proportions as described above, and applied in the same manner.
h. Stain if desired, and dress as previously indicated.
i. Apply wax, if desired.
To summarize the effects of the various chemicals in this process, the ammonia and soap solution neutralizes and washes away fatty acids, dirt and grit, and organic matter; the ammonia, as well as being a neutralizing solvent, acts as a soap "builder". The oxalic acid-alcohol-water solution kills molds and mildew, runs dyestuffs, and bleaches. A re-use of the ammonia and soap solution neutralizes traces of any remaining acids, preventing any harmful effects either on the leather or stitching, and washes out any residues. The mild acetic acid solution, which soon harmlessly evaporates without trace, neutralizes the alkali effect on any basic dyestuffs that might previously have been used. The oil softens and preserves. The refinishing lays and binds exposed fibers and smooths worn surfaces. The dressing preserves and finishes The wax preserves by protecting the finish and gives a high luster.
13. EQUIPMENT IN SERVICE.-Once equipment is in proper shape, it may be easily kept in shape by a daily cleaning immediately after use with a good soap, which should be used generally with a minimum amount of water; by periodic dressing or polishing, as desired or required; and by a periodic thorough cleaning, refinishing and oiling, as previously described. Depending upon conditions and use, it should not be necessary to completely refinish and reoil more than once or twice a year.
14. STORAGE OF LEATHER EQUIPMENT.-Before putting used leather equipment into storage, it should be thoroughly inspected, repaired, if necessary, then cleaned and oiled as follows:
a. Articles of Black Leather. Remove all hardened grease with a thin piece of wood (do not use a knife or a piece of glass) and dampen a sponge in clear, lukewarm water (hot water must never be used nor the leather allowed to soak in any water), and pass the sponge over the article until all dirt and sweat have become soft (rinse the sponge often, and frequently replace dirty water with clear). Clean thoroughly by obtaining a good lather with harness soap and giving the article a heavy coating, continually rubbing the lather into the article until all dirt and sweat are removed. Rinse thoroughly with clear water and a clean sponge, wiping away all excess moisture. When leather is nearly but not entirely dry, apply warm dubbin, made by one of the processes previously described. If ammonia is available, the ammonia-soap-water solution may be used instead of harness soap for cleaning.
b. Articles of Russet Leather.-Proceed exactly as outlined for black leather, except use saddle soap instead of harness soap, or use the ammonia-soap-water solution, if available.
Inasmuch as it is not possible, during the tanning process, to stuff russet leather with oils to the extent possible with black leather, it might be further stated here that russet leather equipment will need more frequent oiling and better general care than black leather. (From this fact might be deduced a conclusion that black leather, if color were not a consideration, would be a more practical leather for service requirements. It would, all other things being equal, be always of a uniform color, and much easier to properly maintain under all conditions, garrison or field.)
C. Metal Parts.-Wash with warm water to remove saliva, sweat, mud, etc.; polish any rusty article; wipe thoroughly with a cloth slightly moistened with oil, so as to leave the surface of the article covered with a thin oil film.

PROTACKGUY
Aug. 12, 2009, 07:47 AM
Or, don't tell an old lady like me where I can stick my neatsfoot oil. I know exactly what to do with oil and naked, virgin skin.

Seriously. Apparently many tack companies and some leather gurus with no obvious axe to grind (like PROTACKGUY) say that modern tanning methods make neatsfoot the wrong stuff to use on new tack.

Can anyone give me an unbiased but authoritative ruling on this? Or at least put in your own cranky but heartfelt two cents.

I know not to over-oil, but I think that gen-u-ine oil provides something unique and necessary to new tack: It puts back some of the natural oil that was taken out of the skin when it was tanned. You can care for the surface all day, but that won't help the inside-- the very structural heart-- of the piece of leather. I don't understand the peeps who don't oil the underside (the fascia side) of their saddle flaps or strap goods.

I do understand that high quality "pre-oiled" like that which comes on Black Country saddles in the form of their "vintage leather" might need a much lighter first meal of oil that would your standard leather. I think Hadfields bridles are in the same category. The pre-oiled leather in Pessoa saddles are a remedial solution to the perma-thirsty leather they used awhile back. IMO, however, this leather (or its tanning process) are not of the same quality as the BC and Hadfields' stuff.

What are your thoughts on oil and pre-oiled leather? I have never bought this kind of tack.... not wanting to skip the oil massage step needed to bond with my tack. What kind of person would I be if I just hopped on my saddle sans ceremony or foreplay of any sort?

MVP please be nice. No need to flame. I just have seen too many problems with neatsfoot oil. My opinion, Keep it at that.

lauriep
Aug. 12, 2009, 07:54 AM
I think the problem lies, and always has, with poor understanding of HOW to oil. Usually resulting in over oiling which will ruin tack. But in the hands of someone who knows how to use it properly, and how to follow up with proper care, I haven't seen any leather yet that didn't benefit from some oil.

I should add, however, that I deal (at this stage of my career) almost exclusively with bridles and halters. No saddles in our barn other than my own old, flat Blue Ribbon.

PROTACKGUY
Aug. 12, 2009, 09:10 AM
Pre-Oiled Pessoa's?

Actually MVP you are right that even the pre-oiled Pessoa's need to be oiled before use. The pre-oiling is done by the leather manufacturer to provide a more supple leather from day one. However they should be oiled again before use to help seal in the finish and as you say keep them from being thirsty from then on...

Renn/aissance
Aug. 12, 2009, 11:06 AM
Protackguy, would you mind elaborating on the problems you have seen with neatsfoot oil, and what you would suggest using instead?

PROTACKGUY
Aug. 12, 2009, 11:27 AM
I still prefer Hydrophane. It works well and I have never heard of any complaints. In terms of neatsfoot oil I have seen a number of saddles were the oil penetrated to far into the stitching and the padding inside the saddle. Not really sure why, but often when a person had a problem like that and I asked what they were using they mentioned Neatsfoot oil.... Perhaps it was the variety of neatsfoot that is not pure.. I will call some of my friends in England who make such products and see if I can get any better information.

BAC
Aug. 12, 2009, 12:20 PM
I read an article over the winter about how different tanning processes required different maintenance, and the writer suggested that perhaps it was time for us to reconsider the traditional Castile soap, glycerine, and neatsfoot based on the type of leather we own.

Was that the article in COTH? If so, I read the same one and it makes sense to me, if the tanning process has changed it stands to reason that perhaps our care of leather needs to be updated too. And while I still oil new leather (unless the manufacturer specifically says not to), I mostly use other conditioners (Akene, Lederbalsam) after the initial break in period, although if I were to get caught in the rain I would use oil.

lauriep
Aug. 12, 2009, 05:44 PM
I still prefer Hydrophane. It works well and I have never heard of any complaints. In terms of neatsfoot oil I have seen a number of saddles were the oil penetrated to far into the stitching and the padding inside the saddle. Not really sure why, but often when a person had a problem like that and I asked what they were using they mentioned Neatsfoot oil.... Perhaps it was the variety of neatsfoot that is not pure.. I will call some of my friends in England who make such products and see if I can get any better information.

It would have to be TOO MUCH oil. There is no way that painting on, or massaging on with hands, a light coat of ANY oil would go through the leather to the padding. Even too much Hydrophane would be damaging. I've used pure neatsfoot and neatsfoot compound exclusively for 40 years, and have never rotted stitching or padding. Because I use a light hand.

"If a little is good, a lot must be better" is not the mantra to follow!

mvp
Aug. 12, 2009, 10:01 PM
I can't believe this fussy thread is still alive.

PROTACKGUY-- No flame intended! I mentioned you as the guru you are re: leather. I didn't know (or remember) that you are deeply bigoted against neatsfoot oil. Oh wait...perhaps that wasn't nice either. OK, I'll just quit while I'm ahead and apologize in public.

But Laurierep is right, IMO: Don't confuse a kind of oil with too much of it. I bet I could get a saddle drunk/oil-logged on hydrophane if pressed. Of course, that would cause me to break my hippocratic oath of leather care.

tikihorse2
Aug. 13, 2009, 01:47 AM
PROTACKGUY, when I oil leather, I use the oil specified by the manufacturer.

My Beval Natural was oiled with Belvoir Neatsfoot Compound (two light coats, never oiled since). Cleaned with Lexol cleaner or water, conditioned with Lexol, any soap was plain glycerine. This was in accordance with their website.

My Pessoa (dark, not orangy light) was oiled with their Pessoa oil, cleaned with their soap. No other products.

My new (and VERY, VERY expensive!) CWD was treated with their leather balsam and is now cleaned with their glycerine soap. I like the soap, but will probably just use plain glycerine when it runs out.

My question is--why the difference? Why is one to be oiled with a "compound" and another with their own? Previously I had always used Fiebing's PURE neatsfoot oil. I always had good luck with that oil--the pure stuff, as I said, not the saddle oil or the compound. Does each saddlery buy their own hides and have them tanned and finished by different places, or finish them in different ways themselves, so that you "need" a different sort of oil?

I can understand, maybe, the balsam for some types of leather, but how can pure neatsfoot be more damaging than compounds of neatsfoot? Or is it just that I'm older and grew up with that "don't use the compound, use the pure neatsfoot" ringing in my ears?

Kim

mvp
Aug. 13, 2009, 07:18 AM
I think neatfoot compound has petroleum products in it. That does nothing for leather. It would be like eating the cardboard your happymeal came in. Am I wrong?

lauriep
Aug. 13, 2009, 08:33 AM
I think neatfoot compound has petroleum products in it. That does nothing for leather. It would be like eating the cardboard your happymeal came in. Am I wrong?

I have always HEARD this too, but personally have never had a problem with the compound. I prefer the pure, but have been in the position of only having compund available, or didn't know the difference when I was younger, and haven't caused any damage. Again, could over oiling be the culprit?

paintlady
Aug. 13, 2009, 09:06 AM
When I purchased my rather expensive custom Albion Ultima GP saddle, the dealer told me to oil it and oil it often in the first year. She told me to use 100% neatsfoot oil - no compounds.

Here is some additional information I found about cleaning/oiling tack from Dutchess Bridle & Saddle (http://www.dutchessbridlesaddle.com/downloads/leather_care_guidelines.pdf):

A word about Neatsfoot oil…The pesky myth still persists about Neatsfoot oil rotting the stitching on bridles and saddles. 100% PURE Neatsfoot oil is traditionally made from boiling the hooves of cattle. Today, Neatsfoot oil can be made of liquefied animals fats or a blend of other fats. Neatsfoot oil COMPOUND can and may contain
petroleum based additives that are more harmful to the leather than to the stitching. Be sure to read the listed ingredients if in doubt. The thread used in today’s bridles and saddles are nylon based which resists rot. However, a piece of leather which is never oiled or super-saturated will crack or tear around the perfectly intact stitching. Saddles that are excessively dry due to lack of conditioning may begin to show light gray areas (on black leather) where the top layer of the leather’s grain has been worn away by friction.
For brand-new saddles, using well-broken in, used leathers will help to break in the flaps and be less abrasive than a pair of brand-new leathers.

PROTACKGUY
Aug. 14, 2009, 11:09 AM
Damn hate to be wrong but I must stand corrected. MVP is right in that Neetsfoot oil works well. The issues that I had with neatsfoot oil were with a specific brand of the compound. That aside the brand is no longer on the market, so I would also have to agree that neatsfoot oil compounds are good as well..

tikihorse2
Aug. 14, 2009, 07:09 PM
OK, my point is that I always used a pure, 100% neatsfoot oil when oiling tack. I understand that the reason for NOT using compounds in the past was that they often contained petroleum distillates that harmed leather and broke it down--this is why I still won't use Horseman's One-Step cleaner on my tack, although I know that many people swear by it.

My questions--I see now that I wasn't clear before--is:

Why isn't pure neatsfoot, such as Fiebing's 100% Neatsfoot, all right to use on the newer leathers? Does every saddler buy and finish hides differently so you HAVE to use these compounds/balsams/whatever that are particular to their particular line?

Or is it all a marketing ploy--we're all so frightened to ruin our tack, some of which costs about as much as a used car?

Kim

mvp
Aug. 14, 2009, 11:06 PM
To answer the question that started it all and put my money where my mouth is, I'd say: No, pure neatsfoot, judiciously, skillfully applied to new new-fangled leather is fine.

And to back that up, I challenge Ann Hazelton (the expert whose blog on the subject is given a while back) to a saddle conditioning duel. Any where, any time, any leather. I'll bring my trusty neatsfoot plus other finishing supplies. Y'all can watch and place bets.

On the subject of caring for older tack, take a look at the saddles pictured on Fine Used Saddles: http://www.fine-used-saddles.com/index.html

Though the age of the saddles, their degree of wear and quality of leather vary, the are uniformly well-cleaned and conditioned. I want to know that tack guru's product/procedure of choice.

Foxtrot's
Aug. 15, 2009, 12:42 AM
The stirrup leather guy (subject of another thread) says not to use neatsfoot oil on his leathers.

tikihorse2
Aug. 15, 2009, 05:46 PM
The stirrup leather guy (subject of another thread) says not to use neatsfoot oil on his leathers.

Is it because it might make them too soft and stretch? I'm guessing here, but it's the same reason I don't oil billet straps, and use conditioner on them very, very sparingly. I also only clean stirrup leathers with glycerine or Leather Combi, and, only once a year maybe, dab a teeny tiny amount of conditioner on them. Had a bad, bad experience with a pair of leathers that I oiled, like a fool, which stretched out to giant's leg size.

Kim

lauriep
Aug. 15, 2009, 07:48 PM
Is it because it might make them too soft and stretch? I'm guessing here, but it's the same reason I don't oil billet straps, and use conditioner on them very, very sparingly. I also only clean stirrup leathers with glycerine or Leather Combi, and, only once a year maybe, dab a teeny tiny amount of conditioner on them. Had a bad, bad experience with a pair of leathers that I oiled, like a fool, which stretched out to giant's leg size.

Kim

The problem is, however , if you don't have them conditioned enough, they can be TOO dry and snap. Have had it happen. It is a delicate balance, but I would err on the side of stretching (that's what hole punches are for) than not conditioned enough.

Renn/aissance
Aug. 15, 2009, 09:14 PM
Is it because it might make them too soft and stretch? I'm guessing here, but it's the same reason I don't oil billet straps, and use conditioner on them very, very sparingly. I also only clean stirrup leathers with glycerine or Leather Combi, and, only once a year maybe, dab a teeny tiny amount of conditioner on them. Had a bad, bad experience with a pair of leathers that I oiled, like a fool, which stretched out to giant's leg size.

Kim

I expect my stirrup leathers to stretch some; any leather to which 150lbs of body weight is applied daily is going to lose its shape over time. I buy nylon-cored, stitched leathers and punch holes as needed, and my old Lundmarks didn't have more than 1/2'' of stretch over seven years. They got oiled (with olive oil, since someone is going to ask) fairly regularly.

tikihorse2
Aug. 15, 2009, 10:03 PM
I clean my stirrup leathers every time I ride and check them for wear. I switch them every other ride. I condition them, as I said, perhaps once a year. I have a pair of Courbette leathers that are eight years old and in beautiful shape. They've stretched minimally and are NOT dried out or cracked or in any way dangerous.

Of course--eight years old is mere YOUTH when we're talking tack! :yes:

Kim

MintHillFarm
Aug. 16, 2009, 10:24 AM
I often use Lexol in place of water with glycerine soap. I occassionally oil my tack as well. I see no reason not to oil either when new or aging...

I've used olive oil as well as Pure Neetsfoot and for me they both work equally as well....

Here is a question, on new billets (finally replaced the 20 yr old + ones on my 20 yr old + Butet). Would you oil these?? I have not done anything yet, I just got the saddle back. For some reason, I thought no to oiling as they may stretch or this is totally wrong?

5
Aug. 16, 2009, 10:46 AM
Out here in the desert on my older (pre- 1980) I have found that the emollient* type dressings feed the leather better by putting back the moisture the leather loses due to the low humidity. A good 90% of the leather care products don't have this option.

When shopping for products I look at the ingredients and since I am trying to refat and moisturize the leather I am looking for products containing tallow and water. I look at the brand name after.


*RM Williams leather dressing is my personal choice(Made in Aussiland- who would guess it would be a CA persons favorite- you don't think the same climate might have something to do with it do you? but Beval makes a similar product as well.