Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

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JD Spydo
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Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby JD Spydo » Sat Apr 10, 2021 12:17 pm

A very good friend of mine came by a couple of days ago and left me with a really classic looking fixed blade knife he was issued with during his time serving with the US Navy ( 32 years he said). He is wanting me to re-sharpen and to also hopefully try to restore this old classic military fixed blade knife of his. This is a military issue, fixed blade knife made by the Camillus knife company from the state of New York. I'm guessing that it's probably out of the mid 1970s to early 1980s era based on what he told me. It has a handle made with stacked leather washers similar to the ones that they made the classic fixed blade "Marbles" with. Every time I think of stacked leather washer handles I think of those old "Marble's" models that you would often see in the old hunting/fishing magazines for many years. I'm sure most of you are very well aware of which "Marbles" hunting knives model that I speak of.

These leather washers in this fixed blade handle seem to be hard as a rock ( no pun intended regarding the old AC/DC song :D ). The knife has obviously been neglected over the years and he told me it was in a storage unit for over 10 years. In the past I've used leather maintenance products like "neatsfoot oil, Redwing boot oil, mink oil ect,ect,. But I have never restored anything like this before and I would rather ask dumb questions than to do something I would regret :o . For many years I've used Redwing boot oil for my Redwing hunting boots and for many years I've had great results with that product. But I'm not certain that particular product would be the best to use for the "restoration" of those old, dried up leather washers.

But with the plethora of new leather maintenance products that have hit the market in the past 15 years I feel like asking all of you if you all have any viable suggestions for possibly restoring the leather washers in this old Camillus fixed blade knife handle?. I'm even wondering if any of those popular saddle soap products could help? I'm also wondering if these leather washers might have to be soaked in some type of oil for an extended period of time? This guy has been a great friend of mine for years and I would love to do this project right. Any suggestions will be highly appreciated :)

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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby VashHash » Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:52 pm

If the washers aren't cracked or split I'd use it obenaufs oil. That's what I've been using over the past few years for my boots, belts, wallets, and other leather goods.

JD Spydo
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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby JD Spydo » Sat Apr 10, 2021 4:11 pm

VashHash wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:52 pm
If the washers aren't cracked or split I'd use it obenaufs oil. That's what I've been using over the past few years for my boots, belts, wallets, and other leather goods.
Thanks for the tip VASH :) I have seen that particular brand of oil on the shelf for sale someplace here locally but I can't remember exactly where it was I seen it. And it hasn't been very long ago that I seen it. But I do remember that name for sure. How is it different from the other oils I mentioned? Or is it just another brand of leather oil?

All of the leather washers are still in tact and there are no cracks, splits or any significant damage that I can see. They have shrunk quite a bit though. I guess I'll call my local hardware stores to see if anyone in town might have some.

I've watched 3 videos this afternoon on leather care so far and two of them said that Mink Oil had problems for really dried up leather. Although all the years I've used mink oil I've always had fair to good results with it. But again thanks for the recommendation.

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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby VashHash » Sat Apr 10, 2021 5:11 pm

Obenaufs is a different mixture of oils. They also use bees wax which helps with mildew and mold. Contains no mink oil.

JD Spydo
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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby JD Spydo » Sat Apr 10, 2021 7:02 pm

VashHash wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 5:11 pm
Obenaufs is a different mixture of oils. They also use bees wax which helps with mildew and mold. Contains no mink oil.
Hey VASH I just watched a Youtube video on Obenauf's Leather Oil. It was done by the guy who invented it. He said he was a former firefighter and really put his boots through some of the most horrible conditions imaginable. He went on to say that most of the products on the market start out good but later they put cheap or fake ingredients in their product to bolster their profit margins. And I truly can believe that too because I've seen so many companies over the past 3 decades do that with many other types of products as well.

I really enjoyed the video and learned a lot from it. He went to to share that it's very important to use the right stuff depending on what you're doing with your leather items. I'm going to watch another video on different types of saddle soaps later this evening. Because I've sure found out the hard way that not all saddle soaps are created equal as well. I'm going to get some of that Obenauf's Leather Oil tomorrow>> there's a Western and Work Wear store here in town that sells their products. If this stuff is as good as they say that it is I'll probably quit using Redwing's Oil on my boots as well.

Anyone else with any other suggestions or ideas please go ahead because I'm all ears at this point. If I can make this knife handle look good again it will sure make my friend happy because he is very sentimental about it. Apparently there is a lot to know about different types of leather and how to restore them.

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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby JD Spydo » Sat Apr 10, 2021 7:20 pm

VashHash wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:52 pm
If the washers aren't cracked or split I'd use it obenaufs oil. That's what I've been using over the past few years for my boots, belts, wallets, and other leather goods.
Hey VASH something else just occurred to me. I don't know if you ever wear running shoes, basketball shoes or any other type of athletic training shoes like NIKE, New Balance, Saucony, REEBOK ect>> but if you do you have probably noticed that usually within a year of wearing them the leather components in the shoe really break down badly over time>> which in turn ends up destroying the basic structure of the shoe. I'm beginning to believe that this Obehauf's Oil would probably be a good preventative oil to keep that from happening.

It's usually a suede leather they use on New Balance and some other brands>> but I bet this stuff would help.

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kwakster
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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby kwakster » Sun Apr 11, 2021 5:19 am

If the original leather washers can be salvaged that would be preferable.
In those cases i tend to disassemble the stack, number each washer, and work a bit on guard and pommel.
Then rebuild the stack using a good quality leather glue between the washers and put on the pommel to keep everything in place (but not too tight yet, as this might shift the washers)
The next day lightly sand the handle smooth again, then use a hair dryer to pre-warm the old leather and apply a first coat of wax (i have been using Granger's wax for years)
Use the hair dryer to melt the wax and make it penetrate the leather.
Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Oil makes the leather overly supple, which works for boots etc, but i don't want that effect on leather washer handles.
WIth wax the washers will remain rather stiff, yet the leather will be perfectly nourished for many years.

Link to threads with pictures on Bladeforums:
https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/vin ... l.1619645/
https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/vin ... t-18480369

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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby JRinFL » Sun Apr 11, 2021 10:02 am

From what I have read, wax can harden the leather and make it very slick. I’m sure it depends on the wax used, but I didn’t read which ones to avoid.
Not every choiless knife needs a choil, not every knife with a choil needs it removed. Not every big knife needs a Lil' companion. Wharnie for the whin! Friends call me Jim. As do my foes. Used to be JR in CT with a much earlier join date.

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kwakster
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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby kwakster » Sun Apr 11, 2021 1:34 pm

Warm waxed leather definitely becomes a bit harder/stiffer when the wax cools, but so far i have found no disadvantages with that.
Too much wax on the handle surface is easily removed by clamping the blade on a table or workbench and then with a narrow strip of cloth (i use strips of old towel) using two hands doing a quick buffing of the leather handle surface.
Due to the friction from the quick moving cloth the leather will again become warm and transfer the wax surplus to the cloth strip.

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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby benben » Sun Apr 11, 2021 6:54 pm

JD, I collect baseball gloves, mainly Horween Rawlings gloves. The only three products in my house right now are Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP, Lexol, and Surf City Voodoo blend. All three are excellent leather products!

I don’t actually condition the entire glove with Obenauf’s, beeswax is a natural sealant, I use the Obenauf’s on the inside palm liner and the binding around the wrist opening to seal out sweat and moisture. Sweat and bacteria are the biggest killers of leather!

If it were me I’d lightly brush clean it with warm/hot soapy water, let it dry and then spray it with Lexol conditioner, maybe two rounds of Lexol, let it dry and then seal it with Obenauf’s.

JD Spydo
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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby JD Spydo » Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:20 pm

benben wrote:
Sun Apr 11, 2021 6:54 pm
JD, I collect baseball gloves, mainly Horween Rawlings gloves. The only three products in my house right now are Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP, Lexol, and Surf City Voodoo blend. All three are excellent leather products!

I don’t actually condition the entire glove with Obenauf’s, beeswax is a natural sealant, I use the Obenauf’s on the inside palm liner and the binding around the wrist opening to seal out sweat and moisture. Sweat and bacteria are the biggest killers of leather!

If it were me I’d lightly brush clean it with warm/hot soapy water, let it dry and then spray it with Lexol conditioner, maybe two rounds of Lexol, let it dry and then seal it with Obenauf’s.
Well Thank You BenBen and Quakster both. I've been extremely busy these past two days but I have found a store here locally that sells most of the products you two guys have recommended. I'm hoping this will work because my friend has a huge sentimental attachment to this old US Navy knife that he was issued during his tenure.

I have a couple of other leather projects I'm going to do some restoration work on before the summer starts and finding out which products are best is a huge help. What really baffles me is that one of the guys at a local boot store told me that about 80% of all the leather care products out there on the market are total ripoff crap>> and even the ones that are crap cost a lot too.

But in the past 3 days the people I've gotten to speak with have all gave me a "thumbs up" on these "Obenauf" products. One guy at the boot store even told me that many of the mink oils on the market are junk too. He said that there are only about 3 Mink Oils and maybe two brands of Saddle Soap that are worth buying. There is so much fraud these days it's really a blessing to get to share information first hand like this. Thank you very much guys and I'm going to keep you all posted how it all turns out.

But I'm not closing the thread by any means. I'm still wide open to learn about other products that might be good.

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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby yablanowitz » Tue Apr 13, 2021 6:02 pm

Joe, just so you'll know, that MilSpec stacked leather handle was hard as a brick when it was new. Or at least my Navy MK2 has been since I got it through the Navy supply system back in 1980.

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Re: Rehabilitating Old Leather? Especially Old Leather Washers

Postby JD Spydo » Tue Apr 13, 2021 7:20 pm

yablanowitz wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 6:02 pm
Joe, just so you'll know, that MilSpec stacked leather handle was hard as a brick when it was new. Or at least my Navy MK2 has been since I got it through the Navy supply system back in 1980.
Wow!! that's most interesting. Because of all those older "Marble's" fixed blade knives I ever encountered had somewhat pliable leather washer handles. But I'm guessing that the Military probably made these old Camillus fixed blades to unique or specialized specifications???
It's got me curious now as to what kind of treatment they might have done on that particular military knife. My friend said he was the only owner of that knife and that he got it issued to him from the US Navy. I believe he said he got this one back around the mid 80s.
This fixed blade Camillus issued by the US Navy reminds me a lot of that one particular Ka-Bar model that they used to issue to the Marine Corps. I've actually owned a couple of them many years ago.
I just thought all these leather washer handles were similar to each other. So if they were hard from the factory it now makes me wonder what they used to make them that hard???


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