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Looking for advice on cleaning and treatment of dirty, dried out or neglected gun leather. I have accumulated a few pieces that are from the mid to early part of the last century, most don't need much but I also don't want to do any damage and want to preserve them for the next caretaker.

On some newer leather, I have used saddle soap for cleaning, sheep tallow (Dixie Gun Works) for putting oils back in dried leather and have also at times used a neutral good quality shoe polish....I am probably not doing everything right and would appreciate some advice from the experts on this forum.

Also a question for Holstory authors: would cotton thread be correct for making a minor repair on a Berns-Martin Speed Holster with Calhoun City, Miss markings(no patent dates)? It is plain brown leather with white thread and fits an N frame 6.5".

Thanks to all!
 

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Apparently all saddle soaps are not alike.

 

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Looking for advice on cleaning and treatment of dirty, dried out or neglected gun leather. I have accumulated a few pieces that are from the mid to early part of the last century, most don't need much but I also don't want to do any damage and want to preserve them for the next caretaker.

On some newer leather, I have used saddle soap for cleaning, sheep tallow (Dixie Gun Works) for putting oils back in dried leather and have also at times used a neutral good quality shoe polish....I am probably not doing everything right and would appreciate some advice from the experts on this forum.

Also a question for Holstory authors: would cotton thread be correct for making a minor repair on a Berns-Martin Speed Holster with Calhoun City, Miss markings(no patent dates)? It is plain brown leather with white thread and fits an N frame 6.5".

Thanks to all!
For dried up stiff leather I have taken a new route to soften it. I "inherited" my grandfather's silver (and gold?) mounted spurs. These had been stored away since he died in 1956. The leathers were flat and as hard as a pine board! These straps needed to be removed in order to clean some light rust and grime from the spurs.

One set of spur straps was also on backwards, and I wanted to re-install them correctly. But these straps would surely be broken if I tried to remove them.

So I used the "famous" Pecard, and later the famous" Black Rock. Putting the spurs in the hot sun still would not soften the leather. In fact, the spur straps were now just a sticky mess! And hard as a board after 2 years.

So I left them sitting on a newspaper for many more years (see image attached) -- waiting for a Revelation, a brainstorm, some low-risk method.

I often clean rusty guns by soaking in kerosene, and noticed how within 24 hours the kerosene evaporates 100%. So I submerged these spurs with straps in kerosene, and left them for 2 days. Now the damned leather was soft!! I mean really soft. Amazing! I was able to remove the straps, clean the spurs, and re-install the straps. I was even able to make up the tongues within the buckles.

Maybe it had something to do with the heavy initial presence of BlackRock, but after a 48 hour soak in Kerosene, the straps remained soft for over one year! Also the leather went from almost black to a tan color. In the last 3 pics, the leather has been treated with neatsfoot oil, and is now darker again. I had to do this last treatment, because the straps were beginning to lose their pliability (they were drying out).

So maybe the age-old product, Kerosene, is the best leather softener.
 

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I have had very good luck using Pecards for 30 plus years, but a caution. Don't put it in the sun in hopes of making it work quicker. The heat simply breaks down the Pecards. Also don't apply it in one thick coat. Used repeated thin coats, and let it work between treatments.

This 104 year old Model 1907 sling had not been on a rifle in years, and had dried out and hardened. Over a period of several months I applied Pecards and sealed it in a zip lock bag. It softened up to run it over the sling swivels, and while I wouldn't trust it to carry the rifle (which won't be shot anyway) it had good markings and displays well on the rifle.

 

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I've heard Pecards is very good, but never tried it. I do use Lexol a lot though. There are two bottles and steps, 1st the cleaner, that wets and softens the leather for just a little while, followed by the preservative, that has the fats and such to soften it permanently. I use the cleaner just the first time. After that, I redo the preservative 3-4 times over a few months. Usually improves leather greatly.
 

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I have used Windex on many older dirty holsters. It cleans great and dries in minutes. If needed you can then apply a conditioner or oil of your choosing. I also use it on stocks. It easily removes dirt, oil, and wax leaving a clean dry surface. Amazing how much dirt and grime it can remove.
 

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I also used Lexol to treat leather, but to protect it I use Johnson's Paste Wax.
Most holster makers recommend wax for modern type holsters that are intended to be harder then the soft cowboy leather.

The stitching on older holsters was waxed linen cord.
When I started doing leather back in the early 60's I bought a 5 pound box of Barbour's gray un-waxed linen stitching cord and that lasted me up until the early 80's.
Like the old timers I had to hand wax the cord with a bar of beeswax.
For machine stitching the cord may have been factory pre-waxed.
 

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I've heard Pecards is very good, but never tried it. I do use Lexol a lot though. There are two bottles and steps, 1st the cleaner, that wets and softens the leather for just a little while, followed by the preservative, that has the fats and such to soften it permanently. I use the cleaner just the first time. After that, I redo the preservative 3-4 times over a few months. Usually improves leather greatly.
My use of Lexol goes back 50 years, when Sears sold it. I didn't know about the cleaner for that purpose and softening. I must have been using the preservative. Good tip!
 

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Late to the party and nothing significant to add to the excellent advice you’ve been given.
I prefer Blackrock Leather N’Rich but used Pecard’s for years with good results. My wife just gave me a jar of Skidmore’s Leather Cream so I’ll try that as well. I agree with dfariswheel on the waxed linen thread.
Regards,
turnerriver
 

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Well I have used a lot of them over the years since becoming a holster collector. A few years ago I asked one of our good members that does holster work, Wyatt Burp, if he could do a repair for me and not only did he do the repair but when the holster came back it looked about new. I reached out and asked him what he did to bring the leather back to life and he told me that he used Leather CPR on it. I then ordered some and have since cleaned all of the holsters in my collection with it.



Cam.
 

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I also used Lexol to treat leather, but to protect it I use Johnson's Paste Wax.
Most holster makers recommend wax for modern type holsters that are intended to be harder then the soft cowboy leather.

The stitching on older holsters was waxed linen cord.
When I started doing leather back in the early 60's I bought a 5 pound box of Barbour's gray un-waxed linen stitching cord and that lasted me up until the early 80's.
Like the old timers I had to hand wax the cord with a bar of beeswax.
For machine stitching the cord may have been factory pre-waxed.
To give old leather a light sheen, I apply Neutral (clear) Kiwi shoe polish. It is available in many grocery stores. Just a small amount on a soft cloth will cover a surprising area, and make it all uniformly shiny. This treatment also would seem to keep natural moisture inside the leather, and prevent drying.

I don't apply this until all restoration work is complete.
 

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Shoe polish is certainly good on leather, that's what it was made for.
I just prefer Johnson's because it dries harder and a big can is far cheaper then shoe wax.
It also has other uses, such as as a release agent when using epoxy, to protect metal, to protect gun stocks and grips, and many more.
 
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