Treating veg tan leather with grease

Treating veg tan leather with grease

Why Whiskey, Brandy and Rugby are looking so good


I am often asked what kind of leather I used for these prototypes, and the answer is, this is just plain naked veg tan which I treated with grease (lard). I buy my veg tan here in Guatemala, although the quality is kinda inconsistent (some of them have way too many defects that you have to work around) but you can't beat the price (around $30 a side). 

I always loved the patina of aged veg tan so I decided I need to find a way how to make it look like this quick. After reading about the tannery liquors I found out that tallow is one of the oldest traditional treatments for the leather. 

I could not find any tallow here, all I could find was liquid pig grease (a.k.a. lard) that locals use for chicarron - fried pieces of pig fat, local snack. 
It is not the perfect product but I just wanted to experiment, so I did. It wasn't pure, it was yellow and smelled like those chicharrons. 
I applied first layer, waited until it absorbed, then applied second, third, and then up to 10 and more layers, depending on how dark I wanted the leather to be. The grease also adds softness and pliability to the leather, so for me it is the perfect way to treat it. 
I want to try this with tallow and lanolin grease. There are concerns about the grease going rancid and also the smell may attract rats. So, if you want to use this method, you should use it with caution, and maybe mix the grease with something else. I will continue my experiments and when I invent the perfect liquor I will share it with you. 

Burnishing and polishing

After you greased the leather you can give it a luster by burnishing the surface and applying some polish. I use a large wooden spoon (the only thing I could find here locally).

You can use glass slicker I bet it would work well if not better. After that I apply my own mix of coconut oil and carnauba wax (haven't figured out the best proportions yet), let it dry and buff with a piece of canvas. I tried applying it in melted form (heating it on the stove, placing the cup of mixture over boiling water) but I don't really see much difference because it cools off immediately after it touches the surface of the leather. 
Share your thoughts in comments, I would like to know what you use to age veg tan leather, do you use greases, polishes, and any other stuff to make it look great? 
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1 comment

Hello from the Philippines (I’m actually from the US but have lived here over 30-years). I started doing a little leatherwork about two years ago and have made a few hats, bags, lots of keychains, etc. But I just now stumbled upon your Facebook post and then went to your website. VERY NICE patterns! But I want to try your micro satchel first. I am very interested in the way you have ‘aged’ the veg tan leather and get such a beautiful color and I want to try that too. Your technique of burnishing with a wooden spoon is really interesting. I’ve used a glass pint bottle of rum because it has a nice shape to hold while rubbing BUT I have atrial fibrillation so it doesn’t take much exertion to get my heart beat racing too much. So I’m thinking to doing the burnishing with my palm sander with a wooden spoon attached to it. hahaha I’ll let you know if that works. Take care and have a safe return to Siberia.

Gary J

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