Leather sweat band care?

Discussion in 'Hats' started by SET, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. SET

    SET New in Town

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    San Francisco Bay Area
    I'm moving to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, so clearly the tropics. On my last 2 trips, I destroyed the sweat band on my Akubra slouch hat (modified to a fedora style, vintage 1971-1972) due to sweat. I've since had it replaced. The shop that put in the bands (Paul's hat Works, San Francisco) has been bought by some very nice young women, but they are more familiar with hats as a fashion accessory in usually chilly San Francisco. They really don't know much about serious bush/safari conditions. I asked them if they would put in the waxed silk liner that used to be a readily available item, from hat suppliers. They never heard of it. For those of you who don't know, this was a piece of waxed silk, placed under the forward(1/3?) part of the sweat band, where your bare forehead contacted the band. It was to prevent your sweat borne skin oil from seeping through the hat and helped prevent those stains. The stains look really authentic in cowboys movies, but the hats look better without them, unless you really WANT that look.

    Where does one buy the waxed silk? Is there a hatter that knows about it and puts them in?

    Next question: After doing a lot of research, including emailing the shop floor manager at Akubra as well as the Australian Army, I realized that (well duh!) all these light horse and irregular units wearing slouch hats were HORSEMEN. They had whatever they used 100+ years ago to preserve their saddles and tack, and likely used that on their hat sweat bands. The Australian Army guy I asked about this problem said, "oh, we'd likely just replace the hat..." Easy enough to say when you're in the Aussie depot and have plenty laying about. Not bloody likely if you're in the bush in South Africa! So what I discovered is Pecard's leather dressing. It's made in USA and after finding it, I also found that David Morgan (Akubra dealer in Washington State) stocks it.

    So I've just applied it to the rough side of my first sweat band and I'm glad the hat wears a puggare (pugarre?). I have other fedoras, panamas, Homburgs I'm taking with me and am a little concerned about oil bleed through from trying to keep the sweat bands alive. Hence the question about the waxed silk.

    Does anyone have experience with keeping the sweat bands from self destruction from sweat and salt in tropical environments?
    Stevan
    "Always learn from other people's mistakes...you'll never live long enough to make them all yourself."
    Groucho Marx
     
  2. -30-

    -30- A-List Customer

    Messages:
    444
    Location:
    TORONTO, CANADA
    " a piece of waxed silk, placed under the forward(1/3?) part of the sweat band, where your bare forehead contacted the band."
    QUOTE: SET.

    Wouldn't "Wax Paper" or "Waxed Paper" also do the job? - Also inexpensive to replace.


    "whatever they used 100+ years ago to preserve their saddles and tack, and likely used that on their hat sweat bands."
    QUOTE: SET.

    I've seen this asked many times and oft considered it myself. One problem may be is how was the leather tanned to begin with -

    Chrome, Vegetable, or another another manner, and what if any difference would it make to use, if there is indeed a difference,

    another type of dressing. This is the same idea as not wanting to paint latex over an oil based paint, or is it oil over a latex base?
    (LOL)


    Regards,
    -30-
     
  3. SET

    SET New in Town

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Wax paper may be inexpensive for the material, but there is also the labor to put it in. Waxed silk will likely last 10 or 20 years. Waxed paper? I'd give it a month, it's a throw away item, not a severe use item. I could wax my own silk fabric if I have to, but I'd have to research the right wax, etc. I would think there is someone is the USA either making it or selling it, I have no need to reinvent something already worked out by master hatters in the past. I am partly concerned with telling Paul's Hat Works, where they can get it. They'll be running the shop for the net 40+ years, I've been a customer there for over 25 years. I'm thinking of future generations.

    Pecard's is modern and available. I just treated a very old motorcycle jacket that in all likelihood is too far gone, but it's an old favorite. It is formulated for salt and sweat. Davis Morgan has very good educational instruction on the nature of leather preservation/lubrication. I wish I'd read it years ago. The worst thing you can do is let it dry out and keep using it. How it was tanned likely doesn't matter.

    In terms of paint, pretty much neither works. :)
    Stevan
     
  4. Brian Niebuhr

    Brian Niebuhr One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    150
    Location:
    Iowa
    Wax paper actually seems like a good idea. I just put a piece in my Camp Draft. We'll see how that works this summer. I bet it lasts the summer at least. Not sure if it will trap in heat though. Will it just trap moisture in the sweatband and cause rot? Maybe I wont try this...
     
  5. viclip

    viclip Practically Family

    Messages:
    564
    Location:
    Canada
    Why not just fabricate a plastic liner inside the sweat band, such as by cutting strips from those thick rolls sold at building supply centers?
     
  6. Picante

    Picante New in Town

    Messages:
    23
    Location:
    Downey, CA
    Would parchment paper work better in terms of durability? Wasn't that waxed silk or onion skin or whatever the name of material, sewn in with and behind the sweat band to create a moisture barrier? in my opinion it does, but that is why you rotate the use of your hats :)
    Tino O.
     
  7. Dinerman

    Dinerman Super Moderator Bartender

    Messages:
    10,562
    Location:
    Bozeman, MT
    At one point they were common, especially on higher end hats, and I'm sure they were there for a good reason and did their job admirably most of the time.

    However, I've seen a number of problems in vintage hats actually created by the onionskin moisture barriers. The most common is that they trap the perspiration in the sweatband, causing the leather to rot. This can also lead to the material breaking down and becoming glue-y, further damaging the sweatband and the felt. Problem no. 2 is that they don't always work, instead channeling the perspiration to the stitch holes at the sweatband/barrier's point of attachment. Problem no. 3 is that depending on the particular manufacturer, they can have a tendency to shrink drastically when exposed to heat or moisture.
     
  8. Brian Niebuhr

    Brian Niebuhr One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    150
    Location:
    Iowa
    Well I am now taking my wax paper out of my Camp Draft. My sweat stains always develope on the bottom of the brim first from the sweat running down the band and soaking into the felt. The barrier will only make that worse. darn!
     
  9. -30-

    -30- A-List Customer

    Messages:
    444
    Location:
    TORONTO, CANADA
    "Wouldn't "Wax Paper" or "Waxed Paper" also do the job? - Also inexpensive to replace."
    MY QUOTE.

    "The barrier will only make that worse. darn!"
    QUOTE: Brian Niebuhr.

    This was another reason for my suggestion of the Waxed Paper; "Cheap & Cheerful". Also, if it doesn't work, just remove it.


    "This is the SAME IDEA AS not wanting to paint latex over an oil based paint,"
    MY QUOTE, with emphasis added.

    The above analogy might be better written as a WATER BASED STAIN and OIL BASED STAIN.

    (The PAINT/STAIN difference being PAINT is a type of coating, whereas a STAIN in this instance becomes
    part of the substrate, similar to a DYE.)

    In other words, and there are many "Leather Conditioners". Would one use a water based conditioner

    on Chrome tanned leather, would one use an oily based conditioner on Vegetable tanned leather, does

    it make any difference? The reason for my asking is that it is well noted - "I applied Leather Conditioner

    onto my hat's sweatband and it was destroyed." Could the above be the reason?
    (Just asking.)


    Regards,
    -30-
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013
  10. Rabbit

    Rabbit Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,440
    Location:
    Germany
    Welcome to the Lounge, SET.

    1) I've heard rumors that Gary White the custom hatter is the only hatter that stocks the onionskin. I'm not sure, though.
    His website: www.custom-hatter.com
    I agree with Dinerman that the onionskin often creates more issues than it solves.

    2) In my experience, the simplest solution is to carry large white cotton hankies with you. Wipe the sweat off the front section of the leather sweat and off your forehead, and do it as frequently as the heat demands. What's most destructive to the leather is of course the dried salts contained in the sweat; if you wipe off the sweat while it's still watery you will also remove most of the salt along with it.

    When you return home from the heat, wipe the leather band with a damp cloth to remove the superficial salt stains that may have accumulated during the day. Apply a small amount of water-based leather conditioner to give back the oils. I use a water-based cream with almond oils that smells good and is quickly absorbed by the leather. Terpertine oil based or petroleum based leather conditioners wouldn't smell good and wouldn't be absorbed as quickly. Else you can use whatever is within reach - sometimes I only had sunscreen handy.
    It's a bit like shoe care - you don't have to do it every day, just regularly.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013
  11. SET

    SET New in Town

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    San Francisco Bay Area
    In reading the David Morgan instructions that come with the Pecard product, I would suspect the sweat band rot is from never being treated with anything. Untreated leather dries out and should not be flexed due to internal chafing of the fibers. Sweat bands tend to be lamb skin which isn't the most robust leather to start with. My Akubra band in the tropics got pretty soaked and when it dried out it shrunk, deformed and got quite hard. All I could do at that point was try to soften it up with some skin creme at hand that worked marginally well. It was pretty obvious if I'm going to wear it much over the next 20 years, it would need a new band. I've just given that hat it's first Pecard treatment. The question about the waxed silk contributing to problem #1 is interesting. I do electrical and mechanical failure analysis pretty regularly and it's really important to see all the pieces to figure it out correctly. I suspect the problem as you describe it is largely due to the leather having never been treated. Problem #2, sure, that will happen and the threads will eventually rot. I'm starting a long experiment with the Pecard, like a motorcycle jacket, I'll be working it into the threads as well. As far as #3 goes, were I a hatter and saw that my batch of material shrank, I would think long and hard about how to pre-shrink it before installing any MORE of it! David Morgan dot com has on their site a good section on leather care, including referring to an article on "a full discussion on conserving antique military leather" in an older issue of "The Gun Report". I've emailed the author asking how to buy a copy of the article.
     
  12. SET

    SET New in Town

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Thanks Nik,
    I'll contact him.
    Stevan
     
  13. SET

    SET New in Town

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    San Francisco Bay Area
    I think part of the idea of the waxed silk is that it breathes a bit and yes it was sewn in. I think it mostly kept the skin oil from traveling through to the felt, but that's technical question probably best asked of someone who does a lot of hat repair.
    Stevan
     
  14. Rabbit

    Rabbit Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,440
    Location:
    Germany
    One thing to keep in mind is that there were substantial differences in quality of onionskin, judging from the onionskins found in various vintage hats. I've seen ones that appeared to be quite breathable (usually on earlier hats), and others that looked almost like plastic.

    Needless to say that even a hat with onionskin willl eventually get soaked if one perspires heavily enough.
    I use a beaten 1960s Stetson OR 25 as my gardening hat. It has an onionskin in fairly decent condition; the sweatband is still o.k as well. I've perspired heavily in this hat which often resulted in the aforementioned stains around the ribbon area at the outside of the crown. However, generously applying distilled water (not even right after the garden work, but sometimes days later) to the felt has proven to be a good remedy against the stains.
    Panama hats can be washed, if necessary. They're quite tough; of course they need a new block afterwards.
    Panama Bob who is also a lounge member has some information about washing Panamas on his website:
    http://panamas.biz/hat-info/hat-care/
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013
  15. Brother cavefish

    Brother cavefish Banned

    Messages:
    468
    Location:
    San Pedro
    sweatbands and such

    do any of you fellas treat (oil, conditioner, etc.) the leather on the inside of the headbands as to keep them fro getting brittle
     
  16. job

    job One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,323
    Location:
    Sanford N.C.
    I have 100% Shea butter that I have used. My skin is oily enough to naturally treat most bands.
     
  17. jlee562

    jlee562 I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,601
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    I like shea butter as well because it has the added benefit of also being good for your skin and hair.
     
  18. Brother cavefish

    Brother cavefish Banned

    Messages:
    468
    Location:
    San Pedro
    how about pure lanolin
     
  19. Joao Encarnado

    Joao Encarnado I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,773
    Location:
    Portugal
    I think the same happens to me. My abused Stetson's sweatband is still good!!
     
  20. Landman

    Landman One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,751
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX
    I use Pecard's Antique Leather Dressing. I not only put it on vintage hats but also new hats when I first get them. It makes the sweatbands softer and conform to my long oval head easier. You can find it on the internet by doing a Google search.
     

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