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conditioner for leather flight jackets?


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If the mods want to move this ---it's fine. I have a couple of leather flight jackets and although they are still in very good condition I want to keep them that way. Any leather conditioners you guys recommend for these old jackets to keep them supple and not dried out?

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Johnny Signor

I have heard of a few , go over to this site and post your question , they're a good bunch and helpful there, Vintage Leather Jackets.org

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Of all the materials we museums folks take care of, leather is one of the most difficult. You are right to ask for advice. Basically, because there have been so many methods of tanning (e.g. vegetable and oil tanning) over the centuries, there is no one product that works on all types of leather. The best thing is to do nothing. However, keeping the temperature and humidity from fluctuating is important. You can create a more stable micro-environment by putting them in acid free tissue then an acid free box. The last thing you would want to use is a petroleum based liquid such as neatsfoot oil. Anything you put on the leather has the chance of shifting chemically over the years and causing more damage that it prevented.

Hope that helps,

Fielding

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thanks for those suggestions. Anybody tried a product called leather honey or someone else mentioned Meguiars gold class.

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IMO.....never, never, never apply ANY of this stuff to leather. Keep the item stored in a stable environment, and it will be fine. Dried or damaged leather can never be "restored". Treating the leather destroys the item as a collectible IMO.

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VP_Association

Leather jackets should be treated at least once a year and more often if they tend to get wet. Leathers contain oils that eventually evaporate or are washed away and need to be replaced. That's what a good leather treatment does. If you don't treat the leather on a regular basis it will eventually dry out and crack. I have been using a product called Pecards Antique Leather Dressing for many years and have been very happy with it. I'm a former naval aircrewman and I've owned and have been wearing USN G-1s since 1980 and I've have always used various high-quality leather treatments on them. Before I was turned on to Pecards Antique Leather Dressing I used a variety of things that I found in high-end leather garment stores. Over the years I'd noticed a big difference between the condition of my jackets as they aged and those worn by my USN colleagues who never did anything to them. You can see some of my old jackets in a previous thread. The newest of these is over twenty years old but they still look and feel great. This is due to very careful wearing on and around the aircraft back in the day (for example, I never wore my leather jackets when loading ordnance, fueling, crawling over the engine nacelles to remove or put on plugs and coveres, checking the oil, etc.,) and regular leather treatments over the years. Note, I also rub beeswax on the zippers from time to time for lubrication.

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Every time I read of collectors applying ABSOLUTE CRAP like Pecards to their historical artifacts, I cringe and my blood pressure spikes. No matter how many conservators and curators say "it creates the illusion of health while causing irreparable DAMAGE to the artifact", they are ignored in favor of the Pecardite collectors who are "happy" with the results.

A number of my museum pals have concluded that any truly significant artifacts should be in museum collections instead of private hands. I argue that since private collectors pay for each of their artifacts, those artifacts are normally just as well cared-for by collectors as they would be by museums. Then they say "well, what about leather?", and they have won. Sometimes we are our collection's worst enemy, and this pathological desire to slather snake oil on good leather artifacts is a perfect example.

If your artifact is already ruined, then using these 'treatments' is certainly no harm. It is already cooked. IF it is still nice, though, PUT DOWN THE JAR AND BACK SLOWLY AWAY FROM THE ARTIFACT! You may be "happy" with what you are doing, but you most definitely are NOT helping to preserve your item.

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Tough to reply after the last one :)

 

That being said, I've had good luck with Pecards in "restoring" the look on a couple of otherwise dried out flight helmets.

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Every time I read of collectors applying ABSOLUTE CRAP like Pecards to their historical artifacts, I cringe and my blood pressure spikes. No matter how many conservators and curators say "it creates the illusion of health while causing irreparable DAMAGE to the artifact", they are ignored in favor of the Pecardite collectors who are "happy" with the results.

 

A number of my museum pals have concluded that any truly significant artifacts should be in museum collections instead of private hands. I argue that since private collectors pay for each of their artifacts, those artifacts are normally just as well cared-for by collectors as they would be by museums. Then they say "well, what about leather?", and they have won. Sometimes we are our collection's worst enemy, and this pathological desire to slather snake oil on good leather artifacts is a perfect example.

 

If your artifact is already ruined, then using these 'treatments' is certainly no harm. It is already cooked. IF it is still nice, though, PUT DOWN THE JAR AND BACK SLOWLY AWAY FROM THE ARTIFACT! You may me "happy" with what you are doing, but you most definitely are NOT helping to preserve your item.

 

There is a thread about leather conditioners ever year or so it seems. I believe this post hits the nail on the head.

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Cobrahistorian

As a museum guy, I'll fourth what Capa, Kadet and Shenkursk have said. Keep it in a stable environment with minimal humidity and temp fluctuations. Keep it in an acid free box with acid free buffer paper around it and keep it out of the light!

 

Jon

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The only thing about museums is that most of thier items are packed away and no one sees them

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Anything applied to leather will ruin it. There's plenty of threads on it.

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Listen to the wisdom of the ages here. Let me say what has been said hundreds of times on other threads and on this one: NEVER apply ANY treatments to historical leather. The last people to listen to are museum curators, they dress stuff up for displays to make them look good again for a short term display but, the long term damage they do with leather treatments are irreparable. They are curators(by definition: museum managers), not preservationists.

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VP_Association

I believe that the original poster was seeking advice on how to preserve leather flight jackets that I assume that he wears (as I do) as opposed to keeping hidden away in a box. Every leather garment manufacturer that I'm familiar with, without exception, recommends the regular use of a leather conditioner to keep the leather in good condition. I can't speak for how my treated leather jackets will be 200 years from now, but I do know from my own experience as an actual naval aircrewman who has owned and regularly worn G-1 flight jackets since 1980 that jackets that have been treated on a regular basis hold up much better than those that have not been treated. The original poster may be better served contacting a few of the contemporary leather jacket manufacturers such as Orchard MC, US Wings, Eastman Leather, or Aero Leather and ask them what they recommend for regular care of the leather garments they produce. You may also want to check out http://www.davidmorgan.com/leathercare.html.

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The fact remains that the jacket will degrade faster over time.

 

Most of us are here to preserve history. So that's what the advice tends to be.

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The fact remains that the jacket will degrade faster over time.

Trying to learn something here, but where is this "fact" from ?? :)

 

Chris

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I believe that the original poster was seeking advice on how to preserve leather flight jackets that I assume that he wears (as I do) as opposed to keeping hidden away in a box. Every leather garment manufacturer that I'm familiar with, without exception, recommends the regular use of a leather conditioner to keep the leather in good condition. I can't speak for how my treated leather jackets will be 200 years from now, but I do know from my own experience as an actual naval aircrewman who has owned and regularly worn G-1 flight jackets since 1980 that jackets that have been treated on a regular basis hold up much better than those that have not been treated. The original poster may be better served contacting a few of the contemporary leather jacket manufacturers such as Orchard MC, US Wings, Eastman Leather, or Aero Leather and ask them what they recommend for regular care of the leather garments they produce. You may also want to check out http://www.davidmorgan.com/leathercare.html.

I haven't been able to check this topic for a couple days so thanks for all the opinions. I was seeking advice in order to preserve two WW2 era USMC flight jackets that are in remarkably good condition and if using some type leather conditioner was advisable. Lots of differing opinions on to use or not to use so I haven't decided as yet. My plans are to keep them out of any direct sunlight and in a well ventilated area and displayed on forms alongside other period USMC uniforms as opposed to keeping them put away. Keeping them put away may be best but that seems to me to diminish the enjoyment that comes from being able to see and appreciate them. Thanks again.

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Over about five decades I have revitalized many, many pairs of boots after thoroughly trashing them in the field, ie; snow, ocean, desert, jungle, etc. There is one pair I have had since basic which inadvertantly became the "contol" because I didn't care for them as well. Guess which pair is in the worst condition and cannot be worn without further damage? The same holds true for an old 7" Camillus knife where the leather handle finally deteriorated from never being cared for, just used hard.

The opposing opinions are both sound but all the leather gear I have, including jackets receive much better care than those old boots and the main prevention is the use of a good quality saddle/leather cleaner.

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Over about five decades I have revitalized many, many pairs of boots after thoroughly trashing them in the field, ie; snow, ocean, desert, jungle, etc. There is one pair I have had since basic which inadvertantly became the "contol" because I didn't care for them as well. Guess which pair is in the worst condition and cannot be worn without further damage? The same holds true for an old 7" Camillus knife where the leather handle finally deteriorated from never being cared for, just used hard.

The opposing opinions are both sound but all the leather gear I have, including jackets receive much better care than those old boots and the main prevention is the use of a good quality saddle/leather cleaner.

AMEN!

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Since there is a great divide among collectors as to what should or should not be done and since most of the advice to use treatments has come from those who are speaking from their own experience but, not from a preservationist view, lets see what those who preserve leather for museums have to say:

From the museum of Florida History:

Quote: "With any leather object, a time comes when its historic value exceeds its utility. At that point, the type of care required to preserve it becomes very different from that which was applied when the artifact was in regular use. Indeed, continuing some practices (for example, saddle soaping, oiling) on aged leather actually will shorten the lifespan of an antique object made of leather."

Quote: "Ample studies have proven that leather dressings and saddle soaps, rather than preserving aged leather artifacts, actually hasten their deterioration. Oils in dressings are intended to provide internal lubrication for leather that is still in use; the oil allows the bundles of fibrils to slip over each other as leather is flexed, keeping it supple. Historic leather artifacts in a collection no longer need to be flexible, since they are no longer functional objects. Research has shown that many oils and fats used in leather dressings (neatsfoot oil, mink oil, lanolin) oxidize and harden over time, causing the leather to become even stiffer and brittle; oils also will darken with time, thus darkening the leather. Saddle soap originally was developed as an emulsified dressing for leather. Its ability to clean a surface is dubious, as the "soap" in it is employed to emulsify the oil/water mixture, leaving little reserve cleaning power. Saddle soap is also alkaline and leaves residues that cause degradation of the leather."

 

You can read the rather long version of this here: http://www.museumoffloridahistory.com/resources/caring/acs4.cfm

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Since there is a great divide among collectors as to what should or should not be done and since most of the advice to use treatments has come from those who are speaking from their own experience but, not from a preservationist view, lets see what those who preserve leather for museums have to say:

Not entirely true since keeping old, working leather in good, working condition is also a form of preservation. I just cleaned up an old pair of Korean War russet boots that will be displayed when not being worn. I used a saddle care product that a local cavalry museum also uses on their 100+ y/o tack. I also just finished a 1980s leather bomber jacket and will soon do my 1960s USMC leather flight jacket. I don't know about you but I'm storing items in a hangar in the middle of a very hot & dry desert without the benefit of the climate control available to most museums. Most museums have ideal climate control, the rest of us really don't which means i have to best maintain this stuff for where I am.

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I guess we need to do what we each think is right. I won't change your mind and you won't change mine so:

You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto,
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.
Let's call the whole thing off.

 

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  • 4 months later...

Good information, I knew there was a reason I never liked neatsfoot oil and saddle soap. However, please don't blast me on this, (your moderate 2 cents would be fine) I had an old Army 1911 shoulder holster that I used for my uniform. It was so dried out when I got it, that if you would have flexed it no doubt it would have broke clean in half. Many years later I noticed my son's baseball glove conditioner (Wilson Pro Stock Glove Conditioner) states that it contains lanoline and vitamin E, doesn't say what or if else. I rubbed that stuff into it a half dozen times and the holster now looks and feels like it did new.

I'm a retired First Sergeant, trust me, I knew what these were like new (the Beretta M9 wasn't around when I enlisted) the only thing I cannot attest to is long term effects. Does anyone know what lanolin and vitamin E will do if a guy "had" to use them? Also, in your professional opinion, is there a point when doing something is better than nothing?

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