Stitching Wax

From Bryan Stancliff (Aug 2016)

“One of the major changes I’ve made in the last year is switching from waxing my thread with beeswax, to using coad. Coad (also called code, shoemakers wax, sticky wax, black wax and a dozen other names) is a mix of beeswax and one otlr more pine resin materials. Coad acts as both a lubricant and a glue; as the thread is pulled friction melts the coad allowing the thread to glide through the stitching holes, once the thread is pulled tight the coad sets up acting as an adhesive.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of different coad recipes. Many of the traditional recipes are designed around producing a black wax and utilize a black pine pitch. This pitch has become difficult to source over the last 50 or so years (even the shoemakers at Williamsburg have trouble getting it), while some of the newer black recipes substitute tar for the pitch, most recipes have done away with the black compounds resulting in a “blond” wax.
With the widespread availability of colored thread there’s really no reason to deal with tar fumes or in trying to source a material that only two companies in the world produce. The blond recipes work as well as the black recipes and are much cheaper and safer to produce.
I use two different recipes depending on the time of year. I don’t have central heat and air in my house, so the temperature tends to run a bit warm in the summer and a bit cool in the winter and I adjust my coad to suit these temperature changes.
My coad recipe(s) consist of two materials, beeswax and rosin (I use rodeo rosin, $10/pound on eBay, a pound should last a decade or more). The measurements are by weight, don’t go overboard, close enough is good enough. The smaller the components the faster the melt. I can generally crank out a ball in 15 minutes including weighing the material.
Winter recipe:
1 part rosin,
2 parts beeswax.
Summer recipe:
1 part rosin,
1 part beeswax.
You will also need a bucket of cold water.
Melt the rosin first, it has a higher melt point and takes longer to liquify. I use direct heat, I’ve had poor results attempting to melt the rosin in a double boiler. If the rosin starts bubbling lower the heat and pull the container off until it cools a bit.
Once the components are liquid and thoroughly mixed, pour them directly into the water. This flash cools the mix lowering the temp to a point that it can be handled. Wad the mass up in the water, this gives a chance to check temperature without risking burns. You want it warm, but not too hot to handle. Pull it from the water and start taffy pulling. It’ll feel a bit gritty at first and will probably just tear apart for the first 30 seconds or so, just keep at it, it’ll start to smooth and the stretches will get longer.
You’re probably not going to get a 100% amalgamated mass, you’ll probably see little flecks of rosin throughout, that’s fine, just try to get them as small as possible and thoroughly mixed through the mass.
Once it gets difficult to pull start squishing it a bit and then ball it and set it on a piece of plastic or was paper. Let it set and cool over night.
To use, run your thread across the surface of the ball and then either pull the thread through your hand, or a piece of cloth a few times to heat the coad and disburse it a bit better, and start sewing.
Since switching to coad I’ve had zero issues with not untying (no more knot burning) or back stitches unthreading. If you knot while stitching (I do on some projects) the coad really locks the stitch in place. The few items I’ve had to dismantle since switching to coad have required the parts to be fully cut apart (along the stitch line) and pliers were required to remove the remaining thread.”

Vinagroon

…. or a cheap effective way to turn leather black, without fighting with dyes and without fear of it bleeding off on clothing.

This is a very old method.  In its simplest form:  you let vinegar chew on some iron/steel for a few days and use it to chemically change the leather color to black.

The photo below shows what I am experimenting with.  I took five of those nails, covered them with 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 18 hours later dipped the piece of leather in the solution.

I have added a pint of vinegar and twenty more nails and now I will let that stand for a few days and play again.

UPDATE:  So it stood for a week and then I took the first part of this video showing the filtering of the vinagroon.

The second part of the video, where I am using it, was taken a week after the filtering process.

I like simplicity, but for the sake of giving you a complete picture, I will quote from the interwebs here:

From the forum of the America Leather Chemists Association:

The black color is the reaction of Ferric salts or oxide with tannings, nice formula for leather crafts, but it is a pain in the neck in vegetable tannery.

About “neutralizing” the vinegar’s acid:  The leather may be damaged by the excess of acid: white vinegar is acetic acid and if applied in excess can give some problem according to what was stated in the post. Iron react with vegetable tannins giving a product that is black.

 

Neutralizing the leather is not wrong. In the industrial process this is also being used even though the term is confusing because it does not mean to take the leather up to the neutral pH condition or the 7.0 value. It means to neutralize some of the acid inside the leather to avoid acid damage. The final pH for vegetable leather can be around 4.0 and this is far from neutral.

Chuck Burrows posted this in 2010:

VINEGAR BLACK 
For giving color to the grain of leather there is no blacking that will at all compare with the well known vinegar black. This may be made in various ways. The simplest, and, without doubt, the best, is to procure shavings from an iron turner (note: some folks get the turnings from brake drums) and cover them with pure cider vinegar; heat up and set aside for a week or two, then heat again and set in a cool place for two weeks; pour off the vinegar, allow it to stand for a few days, and draw off and cork up in bottles. This will keep for a long time, and, while producing a deep black on leather, will not stain the hands. 

How I do it most times:
I use de-oiled 4/0 steel wool: dip in acetone, squeeze out the extra and hang to dry – then tear or cut into small pieces. Add one pads worth of the de-oiled steel wool to one quart of white or cider vinegar – I use those plastic coffee “cans” and punch a single small hole in the lid to let of any gas buildup. Let it set in the hot sun which will speed the reaction. I let it set for about two weeks until there is only a light vinegar odor left and/or the bulk of the steel wool has been dissolved. I also keep a new batch “cooking” all the time so I have a constant supply.
For the deepest black, apply a bath of strong black tea first (this increase the tannins) and let it soak in good, then apply a generous amount of the vinegar black. Let set for about a half hour and then rinse with a mix of baking soda and warm water, about a 1/8 cup soda to a half gallon of water, apply let set for a few minutes and then rinse off. While still damp apply a light coat or two of your favorite saddle oil. Once dry top coat as normal
Experiment – I test a piece of each new side without oiling to see how well it takes the blacking, if need be I’ll do a second black tea mix to darken, then apply the oil which also helps darken.

Instead of steel wool you can use chopped up bailing or fence wire – the smaller the better since it will dissolve in the vinegar bath faster.

1) Does the ‘rooning process change the color of natural thread? No
2) Should I sew before or after I apply the vinegaroon? either way – your choice
3) For the ‘rooning process, how do you apply it? Dip the item, dauber it on, brush it on, etc? Could the vinegaroon be kept in a spray bottle and sprayed on the item? all of the above – which ever way works best for you and the item you are working on. I prefer dIp dying since it is simply the easiest for me, but I also brush it on for larger pieces – a spray bottle should work fine, but you would need to filter it good to prevent any clogging

Swivel Knife Stropping

First off, lets make a difference between a sharp blade and a polished blade:

  • Almost all blades are manufactured as “sharp” blades – that is, they come with the correct angles to their blades – roughly a 48 degree combined bevel as shown in the illustration below.
  • A polished blade is where those beveled edges of the blade has been stropped and polished to remove TWO things – the grinding marks from when the blade was manufactured and secondly the residue that builds up on the blade from the leather.

This means that sharpening a blade is seldom necessary.  I used my first swivel knife blade for more than twenty years before the stropping so deformed the shape that I had to put it on a grind stone and just reshape it again.

When you buy a new blade, here is what I suggest you do:

  • Spend at least half an hour stropping / polishing the blade as shown in the following video (card board with jeweler’s rouge on it works just fine).
  • Then you can start with it on the leather.
  • Every time you pick up your swivel knife to use it, strop it for a few minutes.
  • If you do a lot of work with it, strop it every five minutes.   After a while, you will get the feel of a blade that is gliding through the leather as if it is cutting through butter, and a blade that “stutters”.  As soon as it cuts with jerky movements, you know it needs more stropping.

I hope this helps – please contact me if you have any more questions.

 

Using Eco-flo Pro-Stain

Probably one of the top stains on the market today for the leathercrafter.
To quote the Tandy Website:

“It’s a blend of natural and synthetic waxes, dye-stuffs and binders with high penetration and dyeing power. This stain will not bleed or rub off. Colors can be mixed to form different hues. It can also be thinned with water to reduce intensity.”

BUT, it has to be applied properly to be effective. Remember also that it was developed as a stain to color large areas of leather. However, I have used it very successfully with a small brush in selected areas only.

One of the most important points for getting good even coverage on the leather: SATURATE the LEATHER with the DYE/STAIN. If that gives you a too dark finish, then DILUTE the dye / stain!

Fuzzies

Well, I mean the often fuzzy ‘under’ side or flesh side of veg tan leather.

There is some people who think that a smooth backside to the leather means a higher quality. A smooth back (flesh) side of leather is merely achieved in the tanneries when they split the hides to get them an even thickness.

However, often it is nice to have the back of your project nice and smooth, a belt, for example.

There are a few ways of doing this – here are the two methods I use most often.

If you use Eco-Flo Pro Stain on a belt or project, use the stain on the back as well – it will slick down the fleshside beautifully and should not bleed off on clothes after you have sealed it with a finish. I have carried a piece of leather with this Pro Stain on both sides – no finish – in my pants pockets for a year and there was no bleeding at all.

Second method:

Get hold of Gum Tragacanth. You can apply that a little at a time and rub down the back of the leather with an old spoon. To smooth it down even more permanently, you can then cover the back of the leather with Super Sheen – an acrylic product that will effectively seal off the back of the leather.

Both these products are available at your local leather supply store or they should be able to order it for you.

FuzziesThe belt piece before anything is done to it – you can see the typical loose fuzzies on the back.


Fuzzies

After the gum has dried on the leather you can see the difference between the covered part and the untreated part.

Fuzzies

This is a very upclose of the treated back side of the piece of belt.

This post from August 2007 has been updated. The gentleman in the videos is my long time friend and mentor, Larry Moskiewicz

The Making of a Knife Sheath

Keep your eye on this – I have only finished the first five videos of making the two knife sheaths.  More videos will follow as I make progess with the project and as I get time to produce the videos.

..and here is the second video – it is long but shows the full basket weave stamping and border stamping.
The first basket weave shows Chan Geer’s method of getting the basketweave perfect every time!

If you want to see this method of doing basket weave in print, contact the Leather Crafters and Saddler’s Journal.   They can help you with back issues that the articles about basketweave was printed.

 

There will be one or two more after this fourth one….

Video number five shows the saddle stitch by hand, using two needles and an awl in hand.

Rope and other Easy Borders

This is an update of an old entry and I am going to try to get it at the top of the blog again.  I am adding the Video just made of this very simple effect.

Here is the detail instructions for doing the rope effect and other very simple and effective stamped borders.

Click on the image to see a larger version and then follow the instructions in the text.

leathowto004.jpg

First begin by scoring two parallel lines with a divider. #A

Now cut carefully on those lines with a swivel knife. #B You can optionally also bevel the inside of the lines with a smooth or a textured beveler, as you can see on the left of the #B part.

In all these border designs the lined stamp F910 is used. #C

Now stamp a row of these ‘triangles’ against one of the cut lines as you can see in #D (the bottom line was done first).

To do the second line, in the opposite direction, study the enlarged piece to see how the tool is now lined up: one side of the tool is first lined up with the cut line (as in the first row) and the other side of the tool is lined up with the impression against the opposite line so that there is a slight ridge between them.

To clarify further – in the enlargement there is one impression at the top and three running in the opposite direction against the bottom line – see how the one impression in the top line up with the middle of the three impressions at the bottom.

As I indicated earlier, you can optionally bevel the two parallel lines after you have cut them with the swivel knife and before you start the stamping.  Illustration #E was done without any beveling and illustration #F was done over beveled lines.

The border can be used very successfully around 90º corners.  I like to use the dividers again to score the lines I am going to use.  When I reach the corner, I let the inside leg stand still while the outer leg does the radius around the corner.

As you can see in illustration #G, the outside edge is stamped first and in the bend of the corner, I tilt the tool slightly forward so that it makes a smaller impression and so that it does not overstamp the edge.  Then when I work on the inside line in the other direction, I keep to the same spacing I did on a straight line:  every stamp corresponds to another on the outside line and is spaced so that there is a slight ridge between the two.

You will find that this causes the impressions to bunch up at the very corner so that all the sharp tips are almost on top of each other and this is OK!

Illustration #I shows the success of this border on curved lines.  Again the outside edges are stamped first up to the point where the lines may curve in the opposite direction.  There I stop with that side of the border and first do the other side, which will now become the outside edge of the curve as I proceed.

See more variations using the same F910 tool at the LEATHERLEARN WEBSITE.

Start a Four Strand in Two Colors

When you look at these postings, remember that it is a blog and the older postings is below and the latest is at the top.

This one, for example, builds on the previous posting where I showed the plain start of a four strand round braid with and without a core. Here I will show you two videos on starting the same four strand braid, but using two colors.

The first method will give you a spiral pattern around the braid:

and the second will give you a diamond pattern in the two colors: