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Best leather conditioner for "loosening" a stiff jacket

Novos

One of the Regulars
Messages
192
Location
Canada
Hi all, I've always used Pecards for all my leather conditioning needs. But I have a couple particularly stiff old leather jackets that even with a few coats of pecards remain dry and stiff. Is there a conditioner out there I should be using for these tricky buggers? I've heard a lot about Lexol, but I really have no idea which is the best for this particular issue.
 

Seb Lucas

I'll Lock Up
Messages
7,573
Location
Australia
I use both. Some leather won't respond to either. In my experience Pecards is more likely to do the job on a really tough one. But you also need to wear the jacket a lot to relax the leather.
 

rocketeer

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,612
Location
England
Hi all, I've always used Pecards for all my leather conditioning needs. But I have a couple particularly stiff old leather jackets that even with a few coats of pecards remain dry and stiff. Is there a conditioner out there I should be using for these tricky buggers? I've heard a lot about Lexol, but I really have no idea which is the best for this particular issue.

There are several threads on this topic over the past several years. Everyone has his own opinion.
Agreed;)

Be careful if the leather is dry rather than just stiff. No matter how much conditioner is applied it could just split. And too much, the surface could remain 'greasy' for years.
 

simonc

Practically Family
Messages
918
Location
United Kingdom
I did a lot of research into this on a lot of leather forums, saddle makers etc, and they all swear by Neatsfoot oil used sparingly on a rag, three coats over a three of months, to allow it to work gently into the leather. Horween also suggest this product. That and believe it or not Virgin Olive Oil came second.
 

scotrace

Head Bartender
Staff member
Messages
14,347
Location
Small Town Ohio, USA
The problem with neatsfoot oil, in my own, direct experience with old leather jackets and belting, isn't that it doesn't work - it does. It softens leather up nicely. The problem is that the item is a slave to it forever. Stop using it (change of owner, jacket gets stashed or forgotten in an attic someplace), and it dries up like a potato chip at a faster than usual rate. Edison phonographs used leather belting, and the company recommended neatsfoot oil to keep it supple. When one still saw original belts, they were always hard, dried up sticks. Left to its own devices, leather dries out, but it doesn't become untouchably brittle. A jacket I saw from the war had been carefully treated with Neatsfoot for a few years afterward, then forgotten. It was as stiff as if it were made of plastic. Very brittle plastic, and pieces of it could be broken off. I read of this problem several years ago in my own research, and I have seen examples. Something about that stuff, over a period of years, seems to cause accelerated, total drying out. I may be full of rubbish, but this is why I always follow up recommendations of neatsfoot, no matter how vehemently backed up by Horween or anyone else, with a warning. Short term, it's a wonder. Long-term, it may be very damaging.
 

simonc

Practically Family
Messages
918
Location
United Kingdom
Very interesting and thanks, however your references, and lets face it assumptions, regard items that have been stored for 60 years + are of no relevance to me, but thanks for the Edison belt info. Thing is Scotrace I wear boots new, made for me, and jackets - Aero same. I wear them daily and probably would treat them once a year, if that. In it's defence Neatsfoot is natural, absorbs fast and deep, and must be used very sparingly as you are right, it really works. What I'm reluctant to accept (as I have tried them all) is the slurry of soapy brands each with their own magic sauce of chemicals added to them; but all cut with natural oils such as neats foot as a base, to help their brand appear natural and stand apart. Most of the brands mentioned above are fine but I have no time for this when there is a natural product if used stringently will outshine all others for my lifetime. If I can add anything to this thread it is to say at the end of the day one shouldn't really treat any boot or jacket at all, the aesthetic of worn leather is by far and away superior to buffed shiny leather all day. But if you must breathe some life into an old leather use something natural in tiny quantities, be patient, do this over months and step away from Professor Marvel for a one hit wonder.
 
Messages
10,523
Location
DnD Ranch, Cherokee County, GA
I used Neatsfoot Oil on an old baseball mit & like Scotrace stated, it became a Neatsfoot junkie. I was told not to use Neatsfoot Compound because it would damage the stitching.
In restoring an old saddle found in my grandfather's barn, I used Leather New products & have used it for bridles, belts, boots, etc. to recondition old leather back into service. http://farnamhorse.com/product.php?mainkey=200005&pid=100133&key=300002
I use Lexol conditioner wipes as regular maintenance on motorcycle seats, saddlebags, jackets, vintage hat sweatbands, etc.
Heard good things about Pecards but never used it personally.
 

handymike

I'll Lock Up
Messages
9,784
Location
SoCal
Not too long ago, Wade from Insurrection posted what they use on their really stiff vintage jackets...
I thought I had it written down, but lost it.
Give him or Carrie a buzz.
 

frussell

One Too Many
Messages
1,409
Location
California Desert
If nothing else works, try Blackrock Leather n Rich. A well-known western auction house that specializes in collectibles recommended it to me specifically for old, cracked leather, and I used it on some old saddles that had been sitting in a hot Texas barn for 30 years untouched. Did really well. Small cans, so order two. Frank
 
Messages
10,195
Location
Pasadena, CA
The problem with trying to rejuvenate leather that's really dry and hard is that it's damaged. You can't undo that damage, only mitigate it. It's like trying to take a pice of toast and make it into fresh bread again. You can steam it; microwave it, etc. but it only stays soft for a few seconds and becomes worse that when you started. I've seen pics of guys that used tubs or bottles of "stuff" and all they had was a greasy, heavy jacket after. If it's too brittle, I pass. Otherwise it's good for a mannequin and not much else...
 

scotrace

Head Bartender
Staff member
Messages
14,347
Location
Small Town Ohio, USA
The problem with trying to rejuvenate leather that's really dry and hard is that it's damaged. You can't undo that damage, only mitigate it. It's like trying to take a pice of toast and make it into fresh bread again. You can steam it; microwave it, etc. but it only stays soft for a few seconds and becomes worse that when you started.

Quite so.
 

armscye

One of the Regulars
Messages
143
Location
New England
Stiff leather is sometimes damaged leather, but sometimes not. Microscopically, leather is lightly glued spaghetti with a little butter sauce, so that the strands can slide against each other. But old leather can be in any of several conditions. If the leather has simply dried out, the strands are now stiffly glued. Flex them, and many of the strands break, but condition with a penetrating conditioner like Lexol before flexing, and you might save the item.

More often, I see jackets that were stored in a dusty barn, garage or attic, and picked up a surface coating of gritty dust that is now intermixed with hardened oil. In those cases, you can try softening the hardened oil/dirt mixture with neatsfoot or lexol, followed by washing the jacket (as I have described in previous posts) to dissolve the gunk. I have seen some amazing transformations-- washing has far more dramatic effects than just conditioning. The dark side of washing a vintage jacket is that any damage already done will be exacerbated.
 
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