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Dried out leather cords

For the last year or so I’ve been hanging some of my PMC pendants
and colorful bead burst pendants on leather cord to incorporate some
price points significantly lower than those pendants hanging on snake
chain, hand made wire-wrapped links, or chain maille. But I’ve twice
now had pieces come back due to split leather. That is, a particular
point in the leather was so dry that an inadvertent kink in the cord
allowed it to break in two.

I bought several large spools of brown and black Greek leather cord
in a couple of different diameters three or four years ago, just a
bit before we were packing up and relocating ourselves. So it had
been laying around for a while before I began using it. I understand
it makes sense to condition it now as I use it, but is it too late
for these particular spools? Or would a good overnight soak in
Leather CPR repair the damage for future use? I cringe at the idea of
tossing it all. Any similar experiences with dried out leather cord?

Looking forward to Springing Ahead on March 9… spring cannot come
soon enough up here in the land of snow!


Or would a good overnight soak in Leather CPR repair the damage for
future use? I cringe at the idea of tossing it all. Any similar
experiences with dried out leather cord? 

Leather, I can talk about (my metal and lapidary are mostly findings
for my leather pieces). Leather CPR is a basically a lanolin balm,
and can’t hurt. Read the instructions carefully and don’t
oversaturate the leather. It sounds like your cord’s been allowed
to dry out too much.

Treat a chunk of each spool and set them aide for a couple of days
and then give them a bit of a stress test. If the dry rot has made it
all the way through the material, all of the leather dressing in the
world will not save it. Hopefully if you can get the strength back
into the grain layer, it may be ok.

Be careful with overloading leather with dressings. It will make it
feel better, initially, but in the long run, it will essentially rot
from the inside out. For storing natural leather like this, the best
bet is a large zip bag, but don’t seal it completely. The small
rubbermaid tubs are good as well. That way it can breath and you
don’t get mold/mildew issues, but it’s less likely to dry out. Also
keep your leather away from climate control vents.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL

I learned to ride a horse about the same time I learned to walk. I
grew up on the edge of the Arizona desert. As a kid when you beg for
a puppy or a pony some grown-up always says those words “It’s yours;
YOU take care of it!”. Well, if “it” is a horse, that means taking
care of and repairing the leather saddle and bridle and other
assorted leather horse related goods as well. I speak from experience
when I say pleeeeese do not soak the old leather thong in anything.
You will have a sorry mushy mess 'o hide goo.

Buy a tin of saddle soap (bottom shelf, paste wax shoe polish section
of the grocery store) and use it on the thong. You will have to
unwind it and rewind it as you treat it with the sponge but that
should not be a problem. Rig up two spindles; put the old thong spool
on one and an empty spool on the other. Wind the new spool as you
feed the thong through the sad dle soap sponge in the other hand. It
goes pretty quickly once you get the pace. (If you have never soaped
a saddle, the instructions for using the soap are on the tin.)

I guess you must balance the cost of your time against the
replacement cost of the old thong.

Susan Maxon
Honors Gran Jewelry
Palm Harbor, Florida

Hi Karan,

In “another life” I hand-carved leather for nearly twenty years, so
perhaps I can offer a few suggestions to help with your problem of
dried-out leather.

Of course, we all understand that leather is skin, and as such, it
has pores. Most of the cord sold is goat skin, some is cow hide,
some is more exotic, such as kangaroo, but basically, it’s skin. In
the tanning process, the thin top layer is dried out, while the
"skin" side (the layers beneath the epidermis) remain slightly more
supple. For clothing and carving type leathers, the layers beneath
the top one support the thin tanned layer, and keep it softer for
longer periods, however even these hides will eventually dry and
become brittle ( and crack) unless treated with a conditioner.

The leather used for cord and for lacing has most of the soft layers
scraped away, and the moisture escapes from the untanned side (from
the outside surface of the flesh side) and through the pores in the
tanned layer, so it cracks. Additionally, cords and lacing are
generally made from shorter strips of leather that are spliced with
an organic glue that also eventually dries out and becomes brittle.

Tandy Leather Co. used to sell a hide conditioner called “Dr.
Jackson’s”, which worked very well for me. I kept my cord and lacing
rolls in plastic boxes, so the exposure to dry air and heat was
minimized. Before I used a length of the material, I would slather
on a good amount of Dr. J’s, let it sit for an hour or so, wipe it
down with a paper towel or a “dedicated rag”, then let it sit
overnight. It workd from the flesh side, swelling the pores, and
giving you a supple piece again. If you use a rag, keeping it in a
liddid can will save on “reloads.”

It will darken the color slightly, and if you have dogs, you have to
keep all materials away from them because the smell is irresistable
(it smells like beef). Having said that, it will prolong the life of
you leather products. Recommend occasional use of carnuba wax to
your customers, also.

Good luck!

When I asked for suggestions for dealing with my dried out leather
cord, I had no idea there were folks out there with such a deep
understanding of leather! I honestly expected to hear from a few
folks, like myself, who occasionally use it themselves to highlight a
pendant or incorporate it into bracelets in various ways.

Thank you Susan and Rhona for the additional . it’s all
been worth printing and saving for future reference. (I’ve added
plastic tubs to my “gotta have” list!)