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Re: [BKARTS] Leather conditioning

Sidney F. Huttner wrote:
> the only leathers that might benefit from dressing were
> those that did not seem to need it (which may include
> the group Minsky has been keeping healthy for lo these
> many years)

As I said, cosmetic improvement is important to me, and most of the
bindings I oil are my own, which are not shellacked. It is a maintenance
service I have offered my customers since 1970. When I finish a leather
binding I oil it with Marney's, and that's the look I like. When I tan
leather I often leave out the fatliquoring, since I add the oil at the
end.  It makes for better workability and for better tooling or stamping.

I haven't used BM formula either, because I found the proportion of beeswax
excessive the first time I tried it. You have to be really careful to use
only the minutest amount, let it stand for 24 hours, and then polish off
any residue that remained, which is the recommended procedure. Marney's has
a similar recommendation, and I have never had a "sticky" problem with it.

A few years ago I was asked to oil some of my bindings by a customer who
had several from the late 60's and early 70's.  They had not been oiled in
a decade, and had begun to look dull and feel dry.  After oiling they were
completely revivified and looked like new.  I was happy for them, and the
owner was thrilled with the result. So what's the problem?  They did not
get sticky. They looked gorgeous and felt fresh instead of dry.. Why would
anyone want to have beautiful leather bindings other than to look at them
and feel them?  What am I missing here?

None of the responses so far have provided any real information.  It's all
fudgy experiential notions based on unquantified hearsay. Of course if you
overoil at the hinge it will damage the inside, because most hinges are
pared very thin. Of course you can't oil red rot. That's not even leather
any more. Oil doesn't cure bad tannage. If a book is read regularly the oil
in your hands is enough to oil the hinge. But most leather bindings spend
the bulk of their life on the shelf, and that's the problem. I would REALLY
appreciate it if someone would post the chemical/physical damage that
leather dressing supposedly causes if applied properly in small amounts
every few years. The best response so far was Bill's, but since here in the
rural midst of nowhere I don't have the AIC Journal 43,2, it would be great
if you would post a brief summary to this list. I don't have JSTOR access,
though I'm not even sure that would get it.

I still believe a 13th century Italian binding that was made of properly
tanned leather is better off being oiled properly than left to dry out, and
the recent indiscriminate practice adopted by some people of not dressing
any leather bindings regardless of tannage is going to be regarded in the
future as one of the biggest errors of book maintenance ever perpetrated. I
would be happy to be proved wrong by a scientific presentation, but until
someone comes up with the results of a controlled experiment that
incorporates a stringent methodolgy I remain unconvinced.

And yes, I use milk on vellum too.


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