I would like to keep the back rest the original leather with horse hair as cushion. Can the leather be softened. I imagine the horse hair carries bacteria, but is it to any excess that we should automaticaly discard it? Thank you in advanced.
if the leather has survived, you could try applying something like Obenaufs leather treatment, it softens and preserves leather. but if your leather is too broken down then its just going to fall apart.
Here is an older post on the subject
As far as old horse hair, bacteria is no worry, just don't eat it, mix in a drink, or wiggle a open skin cut in it!
p.s. Nice '12
A good friend of mine is deathly allergic to horses and I always wondered if this old stuffing would be bad for him, or others.
I have never seen a product that really can bring back old dried, cracked leather. Many will help preserve it, but no product I know of can turn back time on leather that old.
based on the pictures of your newly aquired 1912 i would say that leather is pretty toast,
I mean you could treat it, and it would look decent, but if you used it it would begin to fall apart.
Harness oil, called Fiebing's Brand, Neatsfoot Oil.
We used a lot of it on Horse buggies, and carriages, and Harness, saddles ect.
The only thing I know that will bring it back, the oil will go all the way through, not just set on the outer surface.
I personally would never use neatsfoot oil on leather upholstery unless you never plan on sitting on it. It will end up getting on your clothes.
With your recently acquired 1912, the first thing I would do is simply clean the leather with mild soap and water.
If you ever reupholster the car, the horsehair sometimes can be cleaned and reused.
Using any type of oil on leather is not recommended if you want to preserve it, if you want to use it and it is dry and cracking, you really can not harm it as it is already ruined. Leather treatments are intended for leather that is being used, and as such the leather is expected to be discarded when it is no longer viable.
Lexol. Sold in some auto parts stores. Our local NAPA store has it.
Rub it in with a cloth, let it set a couple of days and do it again.
It will soften and last a lot longer than if you do nothing.
There is also a Lexol leather cleaner that you can use first.
look into obenaufs leather treatment, alot of leather treatments can actually harm leather overtime, ive been using on boots for a few years now, and it is pretty amazing how well its taken care of my boots as my boots are daily walkers/workers.
they sell it in a heavy wax like form, or in an oil like form, it does not leave leather oily like some others do, it leaves it like new.
Trying to coat a leather surface will do nothing to prevent cracking. What you use has to go all the way through the thickness of the leather.
You do have to watch the clothes for a while, but it takes time for the oil to soak in. You don't just dump a half gallon on, and take a broom and spread it around.
It is best to set it in the hot sun, and also rub the excess off.
You can also take lacquer on clean rags, or a good grade of paper towels.
When that job is done, we always used a good grade of saddle soap to seal it.
I have never seen any treatment for leather,that will bring back old dried out leather then harness oil.
That's what it was made for. It just don't do any good to put on any thing on the surface, it will not keep it from cracking.
We used to have about 19 horse single seat Buggies, two seat carriages, surrys with the fringe on top. We only bought the good stuff that had all the original diamond tucked leather seats. They were always dried out, and that brought them back, just don't over do it, as it don't take much.
Just try it on a piece of crap leather first.
You have nothing to lose in trying.
You need to break it into steps to have any chance of success.
First is getting the surface dirt off. Use a vacuum that has one of those adjustable slide plates in the upper nozzle and leave it almost wide open for the first pass. Then again slightly more closed. You don’t want to pull at the leather, just pull at the dirt.
Next you need to break away the dirt and dust from the surface. Leather does NOT like detergent yet the science says detergent lets the dirt holding tension go away. Another T paradox!
Put 3-4 drops of a good soft detergent in a quart of water. Buy a box of soft towels or diapers. Wet the towel, wring it out and fold it. Then blot, blot, and more blot folding the towel like you would if waxing a car. The more diligence and time you put into it, the more dirt you ‘lift’ and remove. Just remember, damp and never wet.
As others point out, once the leather is gone it is gone. The smooth hide side no longer want to stick to the substrate because the oils that kept it limber have broken down and even though tanned is still an organic base.
As much as some of the sites taut their product as a restoring agent, their product sometimes does more harm than good and you have to think of it as the detail man in the used car lot. Makes it look nice, makes it slippery, but sometimes the compound just goes and accelerates the root cause.
Were it to be me, with all due respect to others comments, my next step would be to use a home brew of 1/3 regular vinegar and 2/3 linseed oil. The vinegar part will help get the pH back where it needs to be, the oil is the best oil for soaking in with least damage. Some say that cold pressed linseed oil is better than boiled linseed oil but I usually only have the boiled laying around and it has worked well for me.
Once you are sure that you have as much dirt removed as possible and the surface has dried you can go on to the next step. Do not ‘work the mix into the leather but rather dab it on with just a touch of pressure…let the infusion happen by itself. Let it stand overnight and lightly buff. It may take 2-3 times to do the job. Then for the linseed to fully set, maybe a week or so or more at least before even trying to test the supple. Linseed oil takes forever to catalyst itself, and is not used as much today as yesteryear because of the time is money world however nothing beats what it can do for anything when done.
Try this on a scrap or something you’ll be trashing anyway, as if the bond is already broken nothing will help anyway and it may just fall apart. Also be aware that Linseed oil needs air circulation while it dries as in folds it can ‘cook’ to the point it creates a nasty problem of going ‘poof’. As long as there is air circulation it will never ‘poof’. Need discipline in the towels too. Never chuck them in the trash folded. Lay them out flat, allow them to dry before disposing of them.
The cracks will always remain, the way it goes. After the oil treatment, you’ll need to do a little coat maybe once a year or so to keep it from aging more.
Good luck, nice find!
I used some stuff called Soffener, made by Color-Plus. It's like water, and you brush it on, and it makes the leather fairly soft again. Here is what I've found on the '13 roadster I'm working on that is like yours: That leather is 100 years old, and is not plyable any more, I don't care what you put on it. It was fine until I started sitting on it, and using it like a car. It has started cracking, and splitting everywhere. I'm going to have to make new leather seats for it before too long.
Here is an old thread from 2010 on leather rejuvenation in which I recommend the best leather rejuvenation product I have ever used, called "Leather Care", sold by Griot's Garage. This product actually does revive and rejuvenate old dried leather to the soft suppleness of new leather: www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/118802/133601.html.
Sounds good Jim.
Something else to consider: I have a leather loop on a key holder that I wear on my belt. The leather had gotten brittle and stiff due to getting washed in the washing machine too many times. On a whim, I rubbed it with the applicator on a bottle of KIWI brand heel and sole edge color renew which comes in a 2.5 fl.oz. plastic bottle with a foam applicator. With just one application, the leather softened up as supple as a baby's butt. I don't think anything will rejuvenate leather that has already cracked from age, but this might be worth a try. 'd try it on some place that isn't in plain sight, first.
Over time, l've watched Bill Formby transform crap old dried leather seat backs into something of beauty, it takes a long time, yes it can be done, plenty of the stuff in a can to soften.
By the way, Horse Hair is actually curled pig bristles and not at all horse hair. They sell it by the bale and the last one I bought cost me $140 back in 1985.
Another leather seat issue. My 1913 Hack has leather seats as well as leather covering the back rest. I have noticed on the back of the back a white film or hazing which I think is either mildew or mold. Any thoughts on a treatment that would not discolor or hurt the leather finish?