leather work

My Antiquing Process

So your belt is tooled, dyed, painted and oiled.  Now all we have to do is antique it and we are ready to line and stitch it!  This is the point at which many craftsmen new to leatherwork will make a few mistakes.  I hope that my process helps you to clear up this step.  You certainly do not have to antique your belt but I feel like the antique really helps to make the tooling stand out and gives added tone and depth.

The first thing that most people new to leatherwork miss is that the belt must be sealed with a resist before applying the antique.  Whether you are using the paste antique or the gel, a barrier is needed so that the overall color and tone of the belt is not changed.  The antique is not meant to change the color of the leather, its main purpose is to fill any cuts, impressions, and background texture to highlight and shadow the depth of the tooling.  This is why I get the final color of the belt with oil before this step; because once the belt is sealed I can’t get oil into the leather if I want it darker.

The resist I use, or sealer, is Feibings’ Tan-Kote Finish.  This finish is not a lacquer finish like NeatLac or WyoSheen, which would lift a lot of any paint work off the belt.  If you are finishing a belt that doesn’t have any paint applied then these finishes are great to use.  But if the belt has a lot of paint then it’s best to stay away from these finishes and use the Tan-Kote.  I apply a liberal amount of Tan-Kote on the belt and work to make sure it’s even and doesn’t have streaks.  Now I let this dry really well, at least an hour or so.

Once the finish is dry, the belt is ready for the antique to be applied.  I use square pads cut from scrap sheepskin to apply all my finishes… keep a pile of these cut so they are ready for any finishing task.  I use the Feibings Antique Paste, and the color I prefer is the Dark Brown.  They make a few different colors and they are all fantastic but the dark brown is my go to color for the look I prefer on my products.  You can put a dollop of paste on a small square of plywood which allows you to wipe up as little or as much paste as you need with the sheepskin square during application.  You want to apply the paste liberally to the belt and work it into the tooling in circular motions to be sure and get it into all the cracks and crevices being sure to not leave any areas missed by the antique.  Do this to the entire belt.  It will appear to onlookers that you have gone mad and you are ruining a perfectly good belt, but stay calm and keep working it around.  Here is where differences vary, some say to leave it for a few minutes before cleaning… I say once you’re sure that it’s worked in well, then take a clean pad and begin wiping the excess paste off the belt.  The goal here is to attempt to get as much of the paste off the belt as possible.  You want to be somewhat gentle as to not burnish the grain of the leather but you want to clean it well with clean pads until you’re satisfied that you got it all.  All that should be left is what is down in bevel lines, background texture, decorative cuts, etc.

My final step is to take a magic towel (This is a towel that is used to wipe hands after oiling, antiquing, cleaning machines, wiping knives after sharpening, spilling coffee, etc.) or any soft hand towel, and gently buff the belt to further polish any residual antique and revive any lost luster from the resist coat of finish.  Don’t go crazy here, as previously mentioned, we don’t want to burnish the grain of the leather but we do want it clean of excess antique.

Now turn the belt over and look at the back… see that mess?  If you would have lined the belt before the finish steps, then your belt liner would look like that… I don’t care how clean you think you can be, antique takes no prisoners.

This post is an excerpt from out eBooklet “Custom Belt Design and Layout” we posted a couple of weeks ago.  We will soon have more of these eBooklets available walking you through the step and processes I use in the shop in creating our custom pieces.  If you are interested in purchasing this eBooklet then click the link below and download a PDF copy today!

Custom Belt eBooklet $5 Download
Custom Belt eBooklet
$5 Download

*I apologize for the lack of photos in this post… fast and furious this morning and Freddy is cracking the whip!  I will try and snag some pics during my day and post them in a followup post!  

Third post on the retree of a saddle

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The retree is almost over, at least for the hard part. Once the swell cover and cantle back are put back on the seat is installed.

This is where we see how well we did so far. If all is well, then the seat should fall right in and even match up with the old wear marks around the swell cover. The seat is pinned in place around the front so we are sure it is where it should be while we glue it in.

We glue the rear of the seat first with two coats of glue. If we are right the seat should line up with the cantle plugs at the back of the Cheyenne roll and be even. If you have a little difference here you can sand off to even it up.

Once the back of the seat is glued down then we move onto the binder. Most of the time the binder is destroyed during it’s removal, here we got lucky and were able to use the old one. I prefer this because it makes the saddle look more original when completed. The less new leather you have to use the better the job finishes out. My motto with repair is do your best to cover your tracts so that it looks like you were never there.

On this particular project we had to make some compromises in sewing the binder. I usually like to always stitch back in the old holes, but with the age on this saddle we couldn’t do that for the new stitches tearing through. My fix for this issue was to stitch through every other hole, with as close as the holes were to start it worked out well and looked fine.

Last to do here is glue down the front of the seat (with two coats). The hardest part of this job is completed now and all the parts are ready to be washed and oiled. This is done no different than a normal clean, oil, and polish. I do this to all the retrees that I do to insure that it gets a good oiling and looks great for the customer.

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Here you can see that the saddle is complete and ready to be put back to work. Aside from the new horn the saddle looks no different than when it first came to us, except being cleaner… And now the tree isn’t broke.

Let us know what your thoughts are on putting a tree in a saddle. I do probably two a year, and I credit that to me trying to talk folks out of them. But for some situations it is worth the money, and for this customer it was well worth it! He was glad to have his rig back to work out of.