Many threads either ask about how to maintain your saddle / leather or mention the use of OIL
To clarify things as to what to use and why , I have written the following.
The Story Of Leather
Leather is made from the skin of a cow, the Aberdeen Angus or Highland cow is best ( probably because they are thick skinned because of the weather in Scotland ) . The skin goes through two processes to become Leather - the Tannery and the Curriers
The Tannery is responsible for turning the skin into Leather - the curriers colours and finishes the Leather .
The tannery process is as follows ( simplified )
1.The skin is soaked in a lime solution - this loosens the hairs
2.The skin is scraped - this removes the hair and unwanted flesh, the leather is also graded
3.The skin is submerged in a vegetable tan solution ( oak bark is best )
the skin absorbes the tannic acid - this is the part that turns the skin into leather. The longer the skin is in the solution the better the leather.
The leather at this point is colourless and has had all natural nutrients removed and is passed onto the Curriers
The Curriers are responsible for colouring and replenishing the nutrients of the leather.
1.The leather is coloured - curriers mostly spray today but in times past the hides would have been dipped
2.The nutrients are replenished. The tannery process removes most of the nutrients from the hides and these have to be replaced otherwise the leather would be brittle and dry. The curriers use what is called curriers grease, this is mostly tallow ( rendered beef fat ) with a bit of oil mixed in to make it easier to apply
The finished product looks like this Making a bridle (1).JPG
At no point during the manufacturing process is neat oil used - if they don't use it in manuracturing then don't use it for maintenance.
One rule - if it is a liquid - then don't use it
Just remember that Leather is the skin of a cow - what we need to do to maintain good condition is to use a product that is as close to what the cow would have ( cow fat ). There are lots of products on the market you can use, most leather dressings are good ( but only if they are a grease )
If you want to make your own ( a bit smelly to make) but as follows
Take 3 LBS Tallow and heat it up ( don't boil it ) add 1 LBS neatsfoot oil and mix it together.
When you use any dressing warm it up ( this will make it easier to apply, you should also put it on with your bare hands, if there is a bit of grit you will feel it, if you use a sponge then you will scratch you leather to pieces, the heat from your hands will also help
Leather has two sides - the Grain ( shiny ) side and the flesh side
apply a little to the grain side but most to the flesh side ( the grain side is sealed and will absorb little but still needs to be done to stop cracking )
Sorry for the book but anytime someone mentions OIL I reach for my baseball bat. Most companies that make oil products DO NOT MAKE LEATHER and are just trying to sell you their stuff, so don't believe all you read on the can
Do what I do - use what the manufacturers of the leather use, I have 17 years experience in making bridlework and I expect my bridles ( if looked after correctly ) to last at least 20 years ( I have a leather girth in my workshop that was made in 1915 and is still good ) .