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quick question on hardening leather (Read 6473 times)
Curious Aardvark
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quick question on hardening leather
Oct 24th, 2013 at 7:53am
 
So I'd like to make a leather belt sheaf for my new knife
http://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1381591178

But I've only got soft leather. Plus I'd prefer to stitch this one so hardened leather is essential.
Presumably there's a process for hardening leather.

Is it as simply as wetting the leather and then drying it out ? or is it more complex than that.

Also can I make the sheaf and then harden it as one piece or do I have to harden it first and then use it ? (ie: will it shrink noticeably)
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Mauro Fiorentini
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #1 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 9:39am
 
First of all make a wooden copy of the blade with the same measures.
Then boil some water and add large salt with the proportion of 1 spoon each glass of water. Once it boils drop the water on the leather using a spoon. When the sheath darkens put the wooden blade inside and let it dry in a ventilated, shaded place.
Put salt in abundance and wait for the sheath to gain its original color.
This is my recipe, it worked well on my leather but it could need slightly changes with different leather, so test it on a waste before trying it on the sheath  Smiley
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Mauro Fiorentini
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #2 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 9:39am
 
And I was wrong, it's better if the wooden blade is slightly smaller than the steel one, like 1mm smaller.
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Curious Aardvark
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #3 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 10:57am
 
salt - even with stainless steel I wouldn't want to have a salt impregnated sheaf.
problem is if it gets wet - you have an electrolytic reaction which probably bypasses stainless steel's anti-oxidation protection.

Even stainless steel rusts in salt water.

Anyone got a no-salt alternative ?
Like the wooden model for forming though, I'll make one of those Thumbs Up

Oh yeah I do have a temperature adjustable excalibur dehydrator. I was thinking I could dry anything off in that pretty quick.

Is there any disadvantage to 'cooking' the leather beyond a certain temperature ? 
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #4 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 12:38pm
 
Wax. You can dip it in boiling wax. It fills in the pores of the leather without drying it out like I imagine salt water would. Also if you get your hands on some thin plastic sheeting use it to line the inside of the sheath. It will protect the leather from the blade and stiffen it up too Smiley
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #5 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 1:48pm
 
Or simply hot water, not even boiling. It will harden your leather while keeping it supple. When the leather stop bubbling, get it out of the water and let it dry on shape.
Then, you can waterproof it however you want.
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #6 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 4:21pm
 
That kind of leather will not 'harden' per se and any kind of process proposed here will not last. If you want stiff use rawhide or a rawhide split in the construction or better yet use a 6-8 oz oak tanned leather. Oak tanned leather once cased and worked will retain its shape. Stiffness in leather is dependant on the type of tanning process and thickness.
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #7 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 5:00pm
 
I have found that to stiffen and render more durable deerhide, take a block of bees-wax, and rub it onto both sides. then take a small alcohol burner(i made one by filling a 9mm shell with rubbing alcohol) and gently heat the leather enough to melt the wax and let it soak in. It doesn't look super pretty, but man, it works!
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #8 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 5:21pm
 
squirrelslinger wrote on Oct 24th, 2013 at 5:00pm:
I have found that to stiffen and render more durable deerhide, take a block of bees-wax, and rub it onto both sides. then take a small alcohol burner(i made one by filling a 9mm shell with rubbing alcohol) and gently heat the leather enough to melt the wax and let it soak in. It doesn't look super pretty, but man, it works!





Until you're somplace warm then it get's soft again.
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squirrelslinger
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #9 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 8:42pm
 
nope, it doesn't soften if you heat it to 100 degrees, nor does it soften in water.
It does soften at 150 though
it easily becomes like wet leather at 190
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #10 - Oct 24th, 2013 at 8:52pm
 
Ya on second thought, do what Pikaru says if this is something you want to keep C.A.
You could get a scrap of leather and experiment with it too. See how you like the results for yourself
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #11 - Oct 25th, 2013 at 6:41am
 
cuir boulli is a technique of hardening leather that goes back to at least the Middle Ages
good tutorial at
www.jeanturner.co.uk/static-contents/tutorials/CuirBoulliTechnique.pdf
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #12 - Oct 25th, 2013 at 10:02am
 
Now that I think about it, none of my blades got rusty by being sheathed on a leather sheath hardened with water and salt.
But you could prevent the blade from getting rusty by lining the interior of the sheath with raw natural wool.
Also smoothing the blade with pumice keep it rust-free  Smiley
And I only forge recycled iron!
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #13 - Oct 28th, 2013 at 9:51am
 
Once i've read that only vegetable tanned leather can be boil hardened.
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Curious Aardvark
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Re: quick question on hardening leather
Reply #14 - Oct 28th, 2013 at 10:33am
 
Quote:
1. The Technique of Water-Hardening Leather.
Vegetable tanned leather is initially soaked in water for long enough to wet it through
completely. This takes approximately 10 minutes. If the soaked leather is then placed in a
pot of water which has been pre-heated to 180
̊
C, it will begin to
change in shape and
texture.
After approximately 60 seconds, the leather dark
ens, goes limp and begins to curl up. If
extracted at that stage, it will have shrunk a bit, thickened slightly, and still be able to be
stretched, such as a sheet of rubber. At this stage - it is possible to stretch and form the
leather into required shapes. After a minute or
two, the stretchiness goes away, however,
the leather will still be fairly flexible. After air-drying for a few hours, the leather becomes
increasingly stiff, thickens slightly and becomes harder.
The longer the period of time that the leather is left in hot water, the more it shrinks, the
darker it gets, the thicker it becomes, and the
harder the finished product is. Sufficient time
in hot water will render leather into something which resembles wood, however, as with
most natural things, the process does have a tr
ade-off, in that the ha
rder the leather, the
more brittle it becomes. In the case of actual armour, it is likely that the leather would have
been hardened to the maximum, and replaced
after every battle. For purposes of re-
enactment or the making of object d-art - it
is desirable to harden
the leather without
detracting from it’s strength.
Approximately 30 seconds of immersion is usually sufficient to harden leather to a suitable
state - where the leather is hardened but still flexible - and results in a shrinkage of approximately 1/8
th
the original size (i.e. the
finished article will be 7/8
th
the size of the
original) and an increase in thickness of approximately 25%.
Due to the fact that the process is very temperat
ure sensitive, it is advised that an accurate
thermometer is used. To a certain extent, the finished product will also be dependant on the
leather itself, and experimentation with scrap leather is recommended. While being guided
by the clock, allow yourself to learn how the different types of leather behave and work
according to the changes you observe during th
e process as it proceeds in order to achieve
the end result you desire.
The Cuir Bouilli process can be considerably shortened by the use of boiling water. Thirty
seconds of immersion in boiling water will result in a shrinkage to 7/8
th
of the original size
and 40 seconds immersion in boiling water results in a shrinkage to 2/3
rd
of the original size
and approximately doubles the thickness of the original leather.
The use of boiling water has the advantag
e of speed and removes the need for a
thermometer, however it does hold two distinct
disadvantages, viz. the
process is harder to
control, and secondly, the hotter water result
s in a less uniform hardening process. Patchy
softness or brittleness can caus
e surface cracks to develop over
a period of time, and makes
the lower temperature process more desirable
when producing items intended for long-term
use or as items of
art/functionality.


so how do I know if my leather has been vegetable tanned or not - and what kind of vegetable tans leather ?

seem simple enough - except for the part where it says to heat water to 180C - this isn't actually possible water only get to 100 and then it turns to steam Smiley
So we'll just substitute - 'boiling water' for that part, I think.
Actually she probably meant 80c - hence the later reference to a thermometer and boiling water being much quicker.

anyway seems simple enough to try a few scraps of the leather I have and see what happens. Sounds like what I'm after though.
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