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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 251

PostPosted: Mon 02 Nov, 2020 6:52 am    Post subject: Smelly buff leather         Reply with quote

I've recently received a buff leather belt strap. It stinks like burned rubber, so strongly that I don't even want to be in the same room with it. I'd never read that buff has a particular smell. At the time I ordered it, I was under the impression that it was tanned solely with fish oil, like American chamois or German buckskin, so I expected it to smell similar to them. I have since read that (some or all?) modern-made buff also has sulfur added, which I guess is why its odor reminds me of burned rubber.

Anyone here have experience with it? Is this normal? Have you found a way of getting the smell to fade faster? Does it fade on its own at all?

Some folks at Leatherworker suggested soaking in a strong lemon juice solution, saddle soap, or various modern finishes such as acrylic that I don't wish to use since it's for historical reenactment. I haven't gotten ahold of saddle soap just yet but the lemon juice doesn't seem to have had any effect.

Thank you.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Mon 02 Nov, 2020 12:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Dan,

I have a (buff-leather) buffcoat, and I'd previously worked with a little buff leather a couple of decades ago. The smell you describe definitely seems unusual. In my admittedly limited experience, buff leather may smell like freshly turned earth or very slightly like fish guts, but a strong smell of burnt rubber strikes me as strange, and I haven't experienced it.

I've had some worries about mildewing of my buffcoat, and in discussions with Kel Rekuta (who is on this forum and is very knowledgeable about leather), we decided that scrubbing with salt and vinegar followed by replacement of the oil (by beating it in, as in buff leather's tanning process) might be an effective way to clean and restore it, but in fact I found that a thorough, vigorous brushing with a fairly superficial re-oiling seemed to be enough. From your description, I suspect that brushing probably won't be sufficient in your case, although the more penetrating salt-and-vinegar treatment might possibly help. Or just replacing the oil by beating in a fresh batch and, hopefully, driving out most or much of the current oil might work. Perhaps Kel will chime in if he sees this.

I'm sorry I can't be more helpful. Good luck!

Best,

Mark
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 251

PostPosted: Tue 03 Nov, 2020 5:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, that's an interesting idea. What kind of oil do you use? I would think the most convenient source for cod liver oil would be those nutritional supplement capsules most grocery stores sell.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Tue 03 Nov, 2020 8:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Daniel,

I bought an eight-ounce bottle of cod-liver oil at Whole Foods, which meant that I didn't have to split open dozens of those little capsules. Frankly, that sounds like a bit of a small-scale nightmare.

Later, I found that CVS carries bigger bottles of cod-liver oil for less than Whole Foods charges for the small one. Also the oil from Whole Foods--not their house brand, but I don't remember the brand--is lemon-scented, which the CVS oil isn't. Because of your leather's smell you may find the lemon scent a bonus to help cover any that may linger. I, on the other hand, was sorry that I hadn't found the CVS oil sooner because while perfume and cologne were widely used by those who could afford them, covering one's buffcoat in lemon oil doesn't strike me as likely to be the right approach. But hey--I smell nice at events.

Digression aside, although it's a bit less convenient than going to the supermarket, you should be able to get a bottle of cod-liver oil through the nearest drugstore without having to deal with the capsule skins. You might have to place a special order, but I'd be surprised if it takes more than a week or two to arrive if it's not in stock. Likewise for making a special trip to Whole Foods if you want the lemon-scented oil.

Best,

Mark
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 251

PostPosted: Wed 04 Nov, 2020 5:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good idea. I'll likely start by getting the smallest amount possible and trying it on a small swatch. If it works, I'll buy a large enough bottle to do the whole belt.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Wed 04 Nov, 2020 11:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Daniel,

I didn't see any bottles smaller than eight ounces, though there may be some brands that package such small amounts. I suspect that eight ounces will be ample for the whole belt; but no doubt you'll find out.

Good luck!

Best,

Mark
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