Making leather look used

Discussion in 'The Craftsman' started by Terry Jack, Aug 12, 2019.

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  1. Aug 12, 2019 #1

    Terry Jack

    Terry Jack

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    I know that some of you folks are really skilled with leather work. As for me...…..ha ha

    Is there a way to make new leather items appear to be heavily used?

    thanks

    Terry
     
  2. Aug 12, 2019 #2

    Brokennock

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    The best answer seems sarcastic, not meant to be,,,,
    use the item, and don't baby it. You could bend and fold repeatedly to break down the fibers a bit, lightly abrade the finish in places, etc. But the most realistic wear and aging comes from use.
     
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  3. Aug 12, 2019 #3

    Sinner

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    let a 3 yr old play with it outside, or your dog...
     
  4. Aug 12, 2019 #4

    Loyalist Dave

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    First..., what do you mean by new?
    It might be that you are using leather, or the leather worker is using leather, that is more 20th/21st century so it has a "modern" look, not really a "new" look. I wonder if your leather item was made with a differently finished leather if it wouldn't be more what you want?? It might simply be a matter of changing the finish itself, instead of having the item made with different leather.

    Second....why?
    IF it's not a case of new stuff being too smooth and shiny as you get with some modern finished leathers....what is the objection to "new".
    They had "new" items, even the mountain men at rendezvous got new items waaay out on the frontier, for their beaver pelts.

    So what exactly are you thinking about, that looks too new to you? Tell us or better yet, give us a photo, and maybe we can suggest something to make it look more "rustic" even though it's new?

    LD
     
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  5. Aug 12, 2019 #5

    Diogenes454

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    Put the item in a sealed bucket with some gravel. Tie to a lawn tractor ect...cut the grass while towing the bucket around!
     
  6. Aug 12, 2019 #6

    Nyckname

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    I was resisting saying that we used to break in Levi's by dragging them behind our Stingray bikes.
     
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  7. Aug 12, 2019 #7

    Pete G

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    T.C. Albert recommends using oven cleaner for an antique look, but that seems sort of drastic to me.
     
  8. Aug 12, 2019 #8

    45man

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    Oil with neat's-foot oil and be done. The thing with leather is to make it last forever and not dry out or crack.
     
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  9. Aug 12, 2019 #9

    Artificer

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    I wholeheartedly agree with you.

    Having used oven cleaner to strip many dozens of "unmentionable" rifle stocks and handguards AND having been a very active amateur leather worker since the 1970's, there is NO WAY I would use oven cleaner on leather. FAR too much chance you could not neutralize it properly once it gets into the pores of the leather and ruin it.

    Gus
     
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  10. Aug 12, 2019 #10

    Artificer

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    Terry,

    For most people, I caution most strongly against many of the ways to make leather looked heavily used, as after doing them, the leather items instead look abused and not used.

    When I make straps for cartridge pouches or hunting pouches, I often bend the leather back and forth a lot where it rides over the shoulder. That breaks down the fibers a little bit in that area like it was used often AND it is much more comfortable to wear right off the bat. I also do a bit of that on belts at the points on the belts where they sit over the person's back and sides, for the same reason. I do it a little on the flaps of Cartridge pouches and hunting pouches, to help them stay down better when they are not secured with a closure.

    The secret to making a new piece of leather appear well used is to wear it or use it as you normally would and take special note of where you apply pressure or the leather has to bend often. Then at night while watching TV, you sit with the leather (if it is not an item you wear) and work it often as it would be in actual use. In two or three weeks, you will have the "well used look." If it is a cartridge box or hunting pouch or something you wear, then do the same thing while wearing it.

    Finally, I agree with Loyalist Dave that no matter if the leather item is the type used by civilians or the military, civilians or the military acquired or got issued new or replacement items all the time and throughout their lives or careers, so it is absolutely authentically correct to have a mixture of old and new items at any stage of life.

    Gus
     
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  11. Aug 13, 2019 #11

    Terry Jack

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    You have some good points. I am thinking about a horse harness for example. After a lot of use the leather darkens, the edges soften. It looks used. I am trying to get mine leather to look like I just bought it in St. Louis. I want it to look a bit like I have been in the mountains for at least a few months. :)
     
  12. Aug 13, 2019 #12

    Terry Jack

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    Thank you all for taking time to respond to my question! You have given me some very good information.
    Terry
     
  13. Aug 13, 2019 #13

    Artificer

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    Ah, OK, now that we know what you want to do, it is much easier and reminds me of something we did in the early 1990's.

    I returned from a one year unaccompanied tour on Okinawa to find the wife had moved us off base housing to a housing development in the country that had been originally built for people who could otherwise not have horses, could keep some in their large backyards. She had also joined us to a group of Amateur "Horsey People" as I called them who mainly did horse gymkhana's (weekend rodeos for Juniors) and some Amateur "Show Ring" for those who preferred that.

    Anyway, they had a "Secret Santa" Christmas Party not long after I got home and the most popular items by far were two new pair of leather reins, which were "stolen" back and forth many times before the last person drew their number. Of course those reins were machine sewn, with some hard edges and needed to be broken in.

    So in the following months, I found out what size and length reins most of them used and hand sewed a new brown set in that size/length for the next Christmas party. However, I "pre- broke them in" after I finished sewing them, so they could be used right away. They didn't look as "Shiny New" as the cheaper machine sewn reins from the Party the year before, so they were not fought over as much. However, I was very glad one family got them for their girl who did gymkhana. They began raving about those reins, just weeks after they first used them and they and others asked me what I had done?

    I had done two main things to the leather reins, that you can also do to other horse harness.

    I had gently hand skived the top or smooth side of the leather edges to give them a more finished look, rather than the rather sharp edges on the other reins. I also "boned" the sides and particularly the corners where the sides met the rough side of the leather to soften those edges as well. This is a process that goes way back even before the period of this forum. In the old days they Hard Rubbed leather corners with bone or antler or even smooth pieces of wood and sort of crushed down the hard edges to smooth them, though it also looks like they have been in use for a while after you do it. You can do this on much of your horse harness as well.

    I had also rubbed the reins across the corner of my bench in a short of "shoe shine" manner after finishing and oiling them, but had placed a clean towel on the bench so as not to stain the new hand sewn reins. This broke down some of the leather fibers and so softened the leather, as would normally have been done after a fair amount of use. I recommend that on a new Harness, before you put it on the Horse's head for the first time.

    These are things you can do to leather in a horse Horse Harness to soften the edges and make the leather appear more used, but will also make even new leather look and feel like it is well used and actually make the condition better. The horse will appreciate it as well.

    So for the next year's Secret Santa "Horsey People" Party, I made black hand sewn reins and this time, they fought over them tooth and nail, but in a good way of course.

    Gus
     
  14. Aug 13, 2019 #14

    old ugly

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    get real drunk at the rondezvoos and it will just happen
     
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  15. Aug 13, 2019 #15

    SDSmlf

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    When I was in Scouts we broke our new leather boots in by soaking them in water and then wearing them until they dried. Would also wash the car or whatever with them. They did not look ‘new’ very long.

    If you spend any time doing yard work or similar, just somehow wear or attach your new leather to your tools or equipment while you work outside, and possibly let the leather hang outside. The sweat, bumps, bruises, dirt, water/rain, etc that it will encounter will ‘naturally’ age it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
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  16. Aug 14, 2019 #16

    Oldbear63

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    We all tend to gaze fondly at items in museums and collections, then the image of these ancient pieces defines our notions of what our reproductions should look like, but these are museum pieces that have seen enormous amounts of time, and perhaps over-use or abuse.

    Travelling back in time would probably show you lots of new items and fresh leather, though some of the tanning may be a bit different. I doubt that any of the hand woven cloth of the past would match the perfection of today's machine-made cloth or modern sewing. Plus our own attempts at hand stitching might generate a few laughs if shown around back in time.
     
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  17. Aug 14, 2019 #17

    tenngun

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    Yup, making as fine as I can 10 stitches to an inch is about my best. My work would shine if done by an eight year old girl learning sewing at her mamas knee, or Bob on the trail using his house wife to make repairs. Certainly not what any apprentice taylor would make.
     
  18. Aug 15, 2019 #18

    Coot

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    The best clothes available today still have some hand stitching. A very talented seamstress that I know pointed out that sewing machines do very well on straight or gently curving seams but not so well on compound curves such as at suit shoulders. Likewise, one of the tailors at Colonial Williamsburg stated that was any reason that he had to, that he could count threads between stitches (think like one stitch for every three threads!)
     
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