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Thread: Conditioning stiff dry leather?

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    Member gkofsky's Avatar
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    Default Conditioning stiff dry leather?

    I have a strip of leather I want to make into a strop. I think it is bridal leather, but it is pretty stiff and dry. What would be the best way to condition it for a strop?

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    Forum mogwai thebigspendur's Avatar
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    Not all leather is suitable for stropping applications. It should be pliable and not dry. As to how to convert such a piece into something you can use you can try the usual conditioners and neatsfoot but depending on the leather sometimes there is only so much you can do.
    Every day without fail one should consider himself as dead-Tsunetomo

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    More importantly it should be clean. If it is old and dried out it may contain a lot of imbedded grit. Which may defeat the purpose of stropping by abrading the edge.

    A piece of new clean leather is what you want or piece of Nylon Polyester strapping. A couple of bucks at a fabric store.
    If you really want to bring old leather back to life, I have had good luck with Ballistol. Cardboard hard old strop will come out supple.

    Paint it on with a paint brush and let it soak in for a couple of days, bring it in at night. Sitting in the sun helps to pre heat the leather.

    Then lay down some paper towels and cover with more towels weighted with a piece of wood and some weight, bricks work and set in the sun to wick the excess oils. Set in the sun some more to let it penetrate deeper.

    Check Tandy Leather for a 3in strip of Veg Tanned leather.

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    The fibres in leather are what make it pliable. They contain a small amount of moisture, even after tanning and drying, so they can stretch and contract a little with no deformation. In fact, adding oil into the tanning stage helps to seal that moisture in the fibres. Over the years that oils dries/oxidises and the moisture escapes, the fibres contract, and the leather becomes stiff.

    There is a stage when the moisture can be induced back, making the fibres supple again, but after a certain point no amount of conditioning will help. If you oil old stiff leather like that, then you end up with old oily leather that still crazes/cracks when folded, for example.

    So first of all you have to get moisture into the leather - which is why old barbers lathered strops. The water sank in, and the tallow element was laid down on the top surface of the leather, sealing it in. Some people use glycerine to bring old leather back to life - it has a high moisture content, but is a bit goopy. I guess you have to experiment if the saving is worth it to you.

    Regards,
    Neil

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    barba crescit caput nescit Phrank's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkofsky View Post
    I have a strip of leather I want to make into a strop. I think it is bridal leather, but it is pretty stiff and dry. What would be the best way to condition it for a strop?
    I understand this guy Neil Miller knows a thing or two about strops, so I'll go with what he say's......
    lz6 likes this.

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    Thanks for the advice! I've got nothing to lose by experimenting, so I'll give lathering a shot and see where it gets me. If it works, this will replace the short, cheepo Pakistani strop I got before I knew better. XD

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkofsky View Post
    Thanks for the advice! I've got nothing to lose by experimenting, so I'll give lathering a shot and see where it gets me. If it works, this will replace the short, cheepo Pakistani strop I got before I knew better. XD
    Don't forget that the old soaps were tallow rich, and there are not that many about these days - wool fat soaps have tallow in them (Mitchells has wool fat, which is lanolin, plus tallow).

    Also, keep the strop flat - weight the ends so it does not curl. If you can't get a soap with tallow in it, then a little neatsfoot oil on a balled up cloth rubbed briskly over the surface, while it is still damp, will do the trick.

    Fingers crossed it has not dried out too much...

    Regards,
    Neil
    Last edited by Neil Miller; 04-29-2014 at 07:08 PM. Reason: addition
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    Senior Member Druid's Avatar
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    If anyone knows how to treat a strop, it's Neil Miller!

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