The Maintenance of Vintage Leather
leather is all too often left to die by uncaring or unknowing owners
- this applies just as much to some museums, as to some private
collectors. It is not always appreciated that regular conservation
is required for an item to be stabilised and saved from the effects
of the drying process.
The effect of neglect
Just last weekend we purchased a very original leather mounted
wrist compass, dating from the early 1900’s, of the type used by
both the Army and the Royal Flying Corps in World War I. The leather
was unbelievably dry and brittle. On trying to remove the wrist
strap from the body of the compass (for inspection and conservation)
part of the mounting simply crumbled away. Similarly, when recently
in a well known “Battle of Britain” museum, here in Southern England,
we spotted an original World War II Irvin Flying Jacket which had
belonged to an illustrious fighter pilot - one of the “Few”. We
were shocked to see it mounted in an illuminated display cabinet
where it was “cooking” under the lights and simply falling apart
through lack of appropriate care.
How to avoid it
These incidents can now be avoided. Here in Europe, AntiqueLeatherDressing.co.uk
are supplying a product which stabilises, feeds and protects most
vintage leathers – and is equally beneficial when applied to more
modern hides! Pecard Leather Care
Products of Wisconsin, USA, is the originator and manufacturer
of an Antique Leather Dressing “par excellence”
(Pecard). Having been established since 1902, Pecard certainly
know their business. Although they are a big name in their domestic
marketplace, Pecard have only been known in Europe to a small number
of people who are aware of their product and its superb performance.
count ourselves among this minority, as we have been using Pecard
on vintage leather flight clothing for the past quarter of a century.
The initial application of Pecard to a World War II B3 Flight Jacket
(which was discovered in the attic of a house, where it had lain
forgotten since 1945) was simply amazing. When we purchased the
jacket it was brittle and dry, with the leather cracked and split.
We applied Pecard, rubbing it well into the grain of the garment
with a soft cloth, then left it in a cool, dry place until all the
Pecard had been absorbed. We then repeated the exercise, effectively
feeding the hide, and so restoring the original qualities of the
Pecard is not a miracle worker and cannot repair existing damage,
in the form of tears or splits, but it does effectively prevent
further deterioration. At the same time the dressing restores a
depth of colour and patina akin to when the article was manufactured.
By using Pecard, in the case of our B3 Flight Jacket (manufactured
in the dark days of 1942), we have managed to preserve and enjoy
it well into the 21st century.
resultant finish will largely depend on personal choice and the
look required. Pecard can be applied and left to feed the leather
naturally, in which case a matt finish is obtained. If a sheen is
required, the treatment can be buffed off with a lint free cloth,
or a soft shoe cleaning brush, which can result in the leather positively
glowing. Re-treatment will depend on usage, storage and climatic
conditions. At Oldnautibits we usually re-dress our vintage leather
flying clothing every six months. If a garment is used or handled
on a regular basis, the application should be more frequent. If
the garment is starting to look dry or tired (in much the same way
as a wax jacket), it could be time for another coat of Pecard.
The variety of applications for Pecard is as wide as the market
for collectable leathers. At Oldnautibits we have used Pecard on
articles as diverse as a 17th century English Wine Carrier, the
leather section of a 19th century Ship’s “Bellows Fog Horn” and
also on a wide variety of 20th century Leather Flying Clothing.
Pecard is equally good at restoring leather riding gear, suitcases,
gun slings, belts, hats, whips and, of course, a wide range of leather