Following last week's discussion of cleaning and restoring leather saddles I thought some might enjoy a summary of my current attempts at restoring a 1950s or 60s Brooks B15 Swallow - I have also posted some pictures on Wooljersey:
The leather was originally overproofed and had both a waxy and crumbly feel. It was clear that the saddle had been lathered with a "product" prior to putting on ebay. Under the waxy exterior the leather was dry and showing signs of rot. After discussing with my wife (a former archaeological conservator for the better part of twenty years) I decided to try a couple of products by Leatherique (http://www.leatherique.com/). These are used by many vintage car collectors - and apparently in some museum settings. The company has been in business for over 50 years.
I used a Rejuvenating Lotion followed by a Prestine Cleaner. Prior to using the Rejuvenating Lotion I did a light sand of the surface to take out the worst of the gouges and scuffing. There was not much to lose by doing this as the surface was not in great shape. I applied the lotion and put the saddle in a bag near a heat source in order for the lotion to be fully absorbed. Because the leather is thicker than what this product is usually used for I had to apply several applications. There was a residue of salts, dirt, etc. on the surface after the use of the lotion. This was removed using the cleaner.
I have been very happy with the results. The saddle has a great feel - is not sicky, waxy or oily - and the structure of the leather looks much better. It is supple without being overly soft. The surface will never have that new saddle sheen - unless I choose to use dye it (the dyes from Leatherique come with either a natural or semi-gloss finish) or use a micro-cystalline wax. There are still some nicks, light gouges etc. but it gives the saddle character.
The next step will be to apply a flexible glue and back the area around the two side rivets where the leather is torn. The Leatherique products worked well at shrinking the leather back around the rivets and leaving the leather astronger in general.
I have also been cleaning the framework and rivets which had quite severe surface rust in places. I used a combination of mechanical cleaning (dremel with various attachments, scalpels, glass fibre-bristle brushes, sand-paper, etc.), cleaners (tried several: Peek, Autosol, Dura-glit, Chromax), and a homemade solution of acsorbic acid and gelatine - which was applied and left to sit for 24 hours or more. The framework will never be concourse perfect (the chrome is a bit pitted and missing in places) but is now quite presentable. I even brought up the patent number and "Made in England" on the cantleplate.
It may seem like a lot of work but it has been an interesting and enjoyable challenge so far. Of course, the proof of how well the leather restoration has worked will be in how the saddle rides!
The pictures are in sequence of before/after - there are quite a few posted. I still have some cleaning to finish on parts of the frame but you should get a sense of what has been done so far.
Please let me know what you think.
Ottawa, ON, Canada