Principles of Leather Conditioner

Oct 2013
That's organic chemistry, right, skin? Leather?

We want to restore an old saddle for the children. It is long neglected. Dried out. Scuffed. But not ripped or cracked open. Reins, stirrup leathers, bridle, all the same.

We've googled and looked at many sites talking about leather conditioners and restoration and preserving and 'feeding' and so on.

There's a wild profusion of recipes.

Generally they don't seem to really know what they are doing but just put together recipes on the basis of what granddad said, what they've got to hand and whatever fancy suddenly strikes them.

We would like to know the basic principles and then construct our own recipe following the principles and thereby knowing what we're doing, what we've created and how to alter it if necessary.

Can anyone help? Would anyone like to?

The basic substances used seem to be tallow, lard, linseed oil, castor oil, beeswax, other waxes, lanolin, glycerin, white spirit, petroleum jelly.

It seems to us that these could be grouped and we could avoid duplication and learn to select the best from each group.

Only the white spirit seems to be a solvent that could help the oily and waxy substances mix and at the same time it appears to perhaps to be capable of damaging leather..

And it seems to us, looking at some of the oldest techniques we can find mention of, that mere lard is possibly as good as anything.

We simply don't know. If any chemists have some advice we would love to hear it.

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