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
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.