What is the best way to preserve 103 year old leather. It is a barn find 1912. I am not restoring the body, I have overhauled drive line.
Amdy Loso rebuilt the engine, Stan Howe rebuilt the carburetor
Thanks in advance,
Dan in Minnesota
(Message edited by adminchris on April 10, 2015)
Here's an earlier thread:
I used old fashion Neatsfoot oil on the dry original leather in my 1909 Sears. I applied it twice a year, every year, for about 3 years and the leather has softened up pretty good. The other products that are in the link that was posted seen to work too. The only thing, it takes many applications of whatever you use and time for it to work. The only thing I wouldn't use is the silicon base rejuvenators. There is a lot on the web about how they will soften old leather, but then in time, they make the leather gummy and cause it to deteriorate. The silicone stuff if probably fine for newer leather but seems to destroy the really dry, 80-100 year old stuff in a few (10?) years.
In my opinion, cleaning and good storage is about the best thing you can do.
I would get as much dust and dirt off it by gently brushing and vacuuming it.
Then I would wash it with mild soap and water. I like to use Murphy's oil soap to clean leather - mix it according to the directions on the bottle - 1/4 cup per gallon. Use a sponge or a terry cloth rag. You can also use a toothbrush to get into the crevices. Don't over saturated the leather. After cleaning it with soap and water, go over it again with just plain water and a rag.
You can use saddle soap but if you have no experience with it the trick is to use as little saddle soap as possible on the damp rag. Folow the directions on the can. I prefer soap and water as saddle soap leaves a waxy residue.
I'm against using neatsfoot oil or any type of balm, salve, lotion, etc., on any article of leather than you plan on sitting on - it will transfer to your clothing and your wife won't be happy when you go in and sit on the couch.
For the leather or leatherette door panels, after they have been cleaned and dried, if you wish you can apply some black Kiwi shoe polish and buff with a shoe brush.
Here's an example of what can be done to conserve leather.
This is a 114 year old Kodak camera that I recently conserved. It is covered in seal leather and has a leather handle.
First photo - camera as found. Note condition of strap.
Second and third photos: camera was cleaned with Murphy Oil and water. The strap was re-dyed black followed by black shoe polish and buffing. The camera body was given two coats of cordovan shoe polish, buffed between coats.
Erik and I may disagree about what to do after, but I totally agree with his method of cleaning the leather. What ever you decide to do, the first step is cleaning the surface as he outlined. Yes, leather oil will leave a residue caused by the oil that hasn't been absorbed. That should be removed by rubbing with a soft cloth and the surface will dry in time. I have also used shoe polish on old leather after it has been rehidrated with a good leather oil. Erik, that camera looks super and your process worked great, but the leather it is not nearly as thick or dried out as what Dan is working with.
Use of soap and water will make old leather like a potato chip. Hard and brittle. Be very careful what you do and research it well.
If you gingerly use soap and water and a damp rag or sponge, you should have no problems. The idea is to get the dirt off the surface, not to get the leather soaking wet.
If you get the leather soaking wet and then let it dry, it can get stiff as you describe. That's not the object of this exercise.
You can always test a small area first.
Thanks for advice.You guys explained why, I am going to be careful.When I get my young techie we will repost pictures. WE made a mistake they all went on one page. Thanks a lot Dan