Painting a leather saddle is NOT how to restore...


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rhm

Look Ma, No Hands!
Mar 1, 2015
38
41
#23
Oh, I see @juvela mentioned me a while back... sorry, I've been out to lunch :lol:.

Anyway, I think you're already on the right track, lifting up the flakes that appear ready to come away. Tape is a good idea. You might also try that gummy stickum stuff they sell for college kids putting up posters on the dorm room wall... know what I mean? It's sticky, but not very sticky.

With no desire to criticize anyone, I have to say (a) avoid heating the leather in any way. Heat may soften the paint, but it will cook the leather, and given that the leather is already 50+ years old, it's already past its expiration date. Also, (b) avoid solvents. Anything that dissolves the paint is going to do serious damage to the leather.

One thing I would consider is water. To be clear, I think it's a bad idea, but (that said) here's my thinking: water usually weakens the bond between paint and whatever it's on, especially if the water causes the thing to swell up a little, stretching the paint, which would then probably flake off more easily. But you'll do more damage to the leather, so I can't recommend it. If you do try water, the important thing is to put water into the leather without leeching anything out of the leather. Whatever soluble material is in the leather, you want it to stay there. You could spray the saddle with a little water, let it soak in, and spray it with a little more, and repeat, and then put it in a plastic bag for an hour or two so the water permeates all the leather, then try the xacto knife again, see if the paint peels off a little easier. If it doesn't seem to work, let it dry again. After it's been wet and dried again, I'm sure the paint will flake off a little more easily. But you will have artificially aged the leather, not for its benefit.

Good luck!
 

bricycle

I'm the Wiz, and nobody beats me!
Nov 18, 2009
21,776
6,626
Chicago area west
#25
Oh, I see @juvela mentioned me a while back... sorry, I've been out to lunch :lol:.

Anyway, I think you're already on the right track, lifting up the flakes that appear ready to come away. Tape is a good idea. You might also try that gummy stickum stuff they sell for college kids putting up posters on the dorm room wall... know what I mean? It's sticky, but not very sticky.

With no desire to criticize anyone, I have to say (a) avoid heating the leather in any way. Heat may soften the paint, but it will cook the leather, and given that the leather is already 50+ years old, it's already past its expiration date. Also, (b) avoid solvents. Anything that dissolves the paint is going to do serious damage to the leather.

One thing I would consider is water. To be clear, I think it's a bad idea, but (that said) here's my thinking: water usually weakens the bond between paint and whatever it's on, especially if the water causes the thing to swell up a little, stretching the paint, which would then probably flake off more easily. But you'll do more damage to the leather, so I can't recommend it. If you do try water, the important thing is to put water into the leather without leeching anything out of the leather. Whatever soluble material is in the leather, you want it to stay there. You could spray the saddle with a little water, let it soak in, and spray it with a little more, and repeat, and then put it in a plastic bag for an hour or two so the water permeates all the leather, then try the xacto knife again, see if the paint peels off a little easier. If it doesn't seem to work, let it dry again. After it's been wet and dried again, I'm sure the paint will flake off a little more easily. But you will have artificially aged the leather, not for its benefit.

Good luck!
Why do the make saddle soap if water is bad for the leather? (Jest wundr'n)
 

rhm

Look Ma, No Hands!
Mar 1, 2015
38
41
#26
Why do the make saddle soap if water is bad for the leather? (Jest wundr'n)
Ha! Well, yeah, that's a good point. I don't have much experience with saddle soap, though I do have a tin of it that my sister bought about 45 years ago. As I recall the instructions were to use it on the surface, and that you don't use that much water. The saddle soap seems to have stuff in it that's intended to soak into the leather and stay there. I'm not sure whether you're putting more stuff into the leather than you're taking out, but at any rate the stuff that goes into the leather must compensate for what's removed. Hopefully what goes into the leather is good for it, and what's removed is dirt.

I should try some experiments, using saddle soap on new leather, to see what effect it has. I suspect it will darken new leather just as any water will --but I speculate.

It's not so much that water is bad for leather, but that it has specific effects on specific types of leather. Vegetable tanned leather (which is what bicycle saddles are made from) has a lot of water soluble stuff in it, and water will effect it. The manufacturer soaks the leather in water before forming it into the saddle shape; when it's completely saturated, the leather is remarkably floppy and stretchy. That's not a bad thing at that stage, but once the saddle has its 'correct' shape, you want to be careful about getting it that wet.
 

GTs58

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
Sep 2, 2012
9,767
8,091
Central Arizona
#27
I still say use some heat on the paint. I know how hot a Black leather saddle can get in the Summer here in AZ and I see no harm in using a heat gun. Just don't get stupid and burn the paint off.
 

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