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Thread: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

  1. #11
    Craig T
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    Australia
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    314

    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianShaw View Post
    Craig... I'm sure you can find Lexol. If not, seek out mink oil. Those are the "normal" products for leather reconditioning. You might hear someone recco "saddle soap". That is also traditional but I haven't had much success with it except on a pair of old boots once that were already in good contition.

    Don't use olive or vegetable oil lest you create a stinking mess. I suppose camphor oil will smell nice, but so would baby oil (scented mineral oil). I wouldn't do that either.

    Whatever you do, make sure you don't damage the frames... you'll need those for the new bellows you'll be having made.
    Thanks Brian! The only frame attached to the bellows at the moment is the centre frame...I'll be careful.
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  2. #12

    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    3,116

    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianShaw View Post
    Craig... I'm sure you can find Lexol. If not, seek out mink oil. Those are the "normal" products for leather reconditioning. You might hear someone recco "saddle soap". That is also traditional but I haven't had much success with it except on a pair of old boots once that were already in good contition.

    Don't use olive or vegetable oil lest you create a stinking mess. I suppose camphor oil will smell nice, but so would baby oil (scented mineral oil). I wouldn't do that either.

    Whatever you do, make sure you don't damage the frames... you'll need those for the new bellows you'll be having made.
    Saddle soap, as the name implies, is a cleaning product. I suppose it would be good after a hard day's ride on the bellows through mud and such....
    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

  3. #13
    Craig T
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    Australia
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    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    Perfect...cheers guys! Time to shop around fleabay...
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  4. #14

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Los Angeles, CA
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    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    It's been a while since I've used saddle soap, but doesn't it also have leather conditioner and waterproofing (wax)? Or is that why I never thought it did much for my boots except discolor them?

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    3,116

    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianShaw View Post
    It's been a while since I've used saddle soap, but doesn't it also have leather conditioner and waterproofing (wax)? Or is that why I never thought it did much for my boots except discolor them?
    It makes the leather smell nice, that's about all. It is a good cleaning product, but you have to follow it (after the leather dries) with a proper leather dressing. How are you using the saddle soap?

    For waterproofing boots, Sno-Seal is about the best.
    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

  6. #16

    Join Date
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    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    Quote Originally Posted by E. von Hoegh View Post
    It makes the leather smell nice, that's about all. It is a good cleaning product, but you have to follow it (after the leather dries) with a proper leather dressing. How are you using the saddle soap?

    For waterproofing boots, Sno-Seal is about the best.
    Well that explains a lot. When I lived in "snow county" we treated our Pac Boots (the all-leather version) with saddle soap, but never anything like snow seal. Maybe that's why I always had wet feet. That was a long time ago.

  7. #17

    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    3,116

    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    Saddle soap is used by working up a lather with water and a brush, it's for removing mud, horsecrap, etc.. Brush the lather onto the leather, scrub it around, wipe the lather and crud off.
    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

  8. #18

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    Sep 2008
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    Carmel Valley, CA
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    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    Do a deeper search here on the LFF and you may be inspired rather than resigned.
    There are threads with first-hand accounts of board-stiff 100 year old bellows being brought back, seemingly miraculously, with products specifically mentioned and praised.

  9. #19
    Deardorff Sales and service
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    Indiana
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    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    I've seen over a thousand bellows in the past 30 years od doing restorations. Only a dozen were treatable to the point of using them. Those were NOT brittle or stiff. But had been cared for from new. Your bellows sound like they are dead. Just get a new set.
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  10. #20

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    Re: Dry, stiff bellows...how to soften?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheDeardorffGuy View Post
    I've seen over a thousand bellows in the past 30 years od doing restorations. Only a dozen were treatable to the point of using them. Those were NOT brittle or stiff. But had been cared for from new. Your bellows sound like they are dead. Just get a new set.
    Well, a miracle could happen. I didn't want to give the OP false hope, though. Treating old stiff brittle leather usually results in oily, slippery, old stiff brittle leather in small pieces. I've had a couple, maybe 3 pleasant surprises though.
    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

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