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Q:
How can you repair dry rot leather? This is a question to the guys out there who work with saddles, tack and leather, The best winter coat I have is an old very heavy cowhide leather bomber jacket. sub zero doesn't faze it. It is 30 years old and dry rot, cracked and parts falling off. I have to face up to it, it has the rot. leather softeners and conditioners don't seem to help anymore and I haven't found a replacement that fits that well. Tell me Doc, can the patient be saved?

Question by RockySquirrel. Uploaded on January 22, 2012

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sorry, this old cowboy's advice is that it probably can't be saved without replacement of damaged panels. Neetsfoot oil will soften it but even that stuff can't make something out of nothing. Downside to neetsfoot oil is that it will stain your clothes. You can also try warming up mineral oil and working that into the leather. Any residue it leaves on clothing can be washed out. Another advantage to mineral oil is that rodents won't bother anything that it's touched.

If the jacket fits you that nicely you might want to consider having someone use it to make you another new one. They can pull all the stitching and use the pieces as patterns to cut some from new leather. Good luck.

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from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I agree, once Leather cracks there is no way to repair it.

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from Dena Hamilton wrote 2 years 3 weeks ago

I also agree that when leather is very cracked there is no way to repair it. The real problem with these old bomber jackets is that they were made from skins that have a spray finish and not aniline vat dyed. If there are multiple tiny cracks and splitting it is just too late. A small amount of cracking can be camouflaged somewhat. But there is no way to really redye one of these coats if it is in very bad condition. The dye will only penetrate the open "wounds" and it will continue to crack, creating fresh light colored obvious ones. The spray finish also impedes any real reconditioning as well. Sorry!

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from Dena Hamilton wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I would like to revise my earlier comment. While it's still true that you can't un-crack cracking leather, and if it's very bad, when you apply dye and finish, the light color will just be exposed in new areas with movement, a good leather care product (never mink oil!) can still be productive. Also, I didn't mean to undervalue the aesthetic effects of the camouflage I spoke of in my earlier comment. I've been "restoring" a lot of WWII jackets lately and they can look a great deal different! Plus any added moisture can make a big difference. The defining factor seems to be whether or not the leather item has dry rot or not. In which case you can still "restore" it for display.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sorry, this old cowboy's advice is that it probably can't be saved without replacement of damaged panels. Neetsfoot oil will soften it but even that stuff can't make something out of nothing. Downside to neetsfoot oil is that it will stain your clothes. You can also try warming up mineral oil and working that into the leather. Any residue it leaves on clothing can be washed out. Another advantage to mineral oil is that rodents won't bother anything that it's touched.

If the jacket fits you that nicely you might want to consider having someone use it to make you another new one. They can pull all the stitching and use the pieces as patterns to cut some from new leather. Good luck.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dena Hamilton wrote 2 years 3 weeks ago

I also agree that when leather is very cracked there is no way to repair it. The real problem with these old bomber jackets is that they were made from skins that have a spray finish and not aniline vat dyed. If there are multiple tiny cracks and splitting it is just too late. A small amount of cracking can be camouflaged somewhat. But there is no way to really redye one of these coats if it is in very bad condition. The dye will only penetrate the open "wounds" and it will continue to crack, creating fresh light colored obvious ones. The spray finish also impedes any real reconditioning as well. Sorry!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I agree, once Leather cracks there is no way to repair it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dena Hamilton wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I would like to revise my earlier comment. While it's still true that you can't un-crack cracking leather, and if it's very bad, when you apply dye and finish, the light color will just be exposed in new areas with movement, a good leather care product (never mink oil!) can still be productive. Also, I didn't mean to undervalue the aesthetic effects of the camouflage I spoke of in my earlier comment. I've been "restoring" a lot of WWII jackets lately and they can look a great deal different! Plus any added moisture can make a big difference. The defining factor seems to be whether or not the leather item has dry rot or not. In which case you can still "restore" it for display.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post an Answer