Saturday, April 20, 2019

Oil before Dye

I often see the question "Does it matter if you oil before you dye?" 
And then follows a barrage of opinions and answers like "I have been using neatsfoot oil before I dye for decades.....". 

This concept originated decades ago when: 
  • the leather was tanned with different recipes, 
  • only alcohol based dyes were available and had very different recipes from the alcohol based dyes of today
  • they applied the oil VERY sparingly and let it sit at least overnight to completely even out in the leather

 There are a few warnings here: 

• All the liquids and their formulas have changed numerous times just in the last 10 years. 

• What is seldom mentioned in the answers is the time frame of the applications, the type of dyes used, the specific leather they work with, the quantities they work with, etc.. All of these makes a drastic difference in dying leather. 

• A beginner leathercrafter might have horrible results results with a method an old saddle maker has been using for 40 years. 

So, first use your common sense. Read the labels of the liquids you use. 

TEST every procedure on the SAME leather before doing it on your project. And your test should go all the way to testing that piece of leather for the dye coming off on your clothes (I often carry a piece of leather in my pocket with my keys to see how a dye or finish will hold up).

One of the best pair of books you can read on dying was written by Tony and Kay Laier, one was about Fiebings products and the other about Eco-Flo products. 
 Search for "Fiebing's Fantastic Finishes Book" by Tony & Kay Laier. 
 They have been discontinued due to the changes in colors and ever changing liquids, but they are still the best way to get a fast education about different methods of dying. 

The book about Eco-Flo dyes are available in digital form at 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Leatherwork and your Perception

Have you ever finished a project and thought to yourself :  "This is not too well done - shoot!     So many mistakes...."? 

Don't beat yourself up! Your work is beautiful! Even if you are a beginner!

It is just a fact that before you start a project, you have an idea and image in your mind as to how it will turn out, a VERY idealistic idea.   

Then you see the finished project and it differs from that image in your mind - your mind turns that into mistakes / short-falls.

YES, there is ALWAYS room to learn and improve - after 42 years I still learn to do things better / different / in new ways.   

Don't be phased by criticism by leatherworking veterans - they are probably only trying to help.   

More important is that you do not get phased by your own criticism!

Almost all leatherwork looks good to non-leatherworkers.  Keep that in mind.

Many years ago, when I was still a beginner, I made my cousin a handbag  -  I thought the work was mediocre.  

After about four years I saw the bag again for the first time, and my words were:  "Wow!  who made that for you - it is beautiful!"

She looked at me funny and said "You did!"   Then I realized, your work is better than you think.

While you work on your project, you notice every small little imperfection in your work.   In your mind these grow very big, because you are busy with the project close-up.

Teach yourself to put the project down at the end of the day and clear your brain.  Then the next morning, look at it as if someone else did it.   You will slowly develop the ability to look at your work more subjectively.

I hope that helps!

[Updated October 2020]

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Dyeing Leather Grey


I have always said:  "White is not a leather color - and that goes for all the colors that contain white (grey, pink, sky blue).

One nice way to get a grey color on leather is very old, or very newly made, vinagroon (ferrous metal dissolved in vinegar). 

 I have a separate Blog Entry all about that.

Here is a video where I play with vinagroon that is more than ten months old and three day old vinagroon:

After the leather dried and I applied NeatLac to each piece:

You will notice not all the pieces ended up deep black even after the new vinagroon was applied. This is due to two factors: 1. The leather can have different levels of tannins that react with the vinagroon. 2. I simply needed to get more vinagroon onto the leather to give a more completer reaction.

Warning again: DO NOT NEUTRALIZE the vinagroon - the leather has to stay acidic (about pH of 4).