Friday, October 16, 2009

Leather Care, Part 4 - Do’s & Don’ts: An Overview

DO clean your saddle after every ride.
DO NOT oil suede
DO use a clean sponge for applying different products
DO NOT over oil your leather goods
DO inspect your equipment each time you clean it. This is a great opportunity to look for loose stitching, stress cracks or other damage to the leather and also any damaged hardware.

DO NOT "kill your leather with kindness"

- Conditioner and Oil can be overused. Leather that is overly saturated with oils will tend to stretch more when stress is applied to it. I always recommend a light coat of oil or conditioner when applying it. My rule of thumb is you can always put more on if you feel it needs more once dry but, it is very difficult to remove.

DO NOT soak leather in anything…..water, oil, conditioners. The fibers of the leather will absorb more liquid than necessary, which can cause premature wear & damage to the equipment.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Leather Care Part 2: A 4-Step Process

Proper leather care starts with consistency. Leather requires regular care to maintain its "health" and proper performance. Follow this step-by-step guide to help extend the working life of all your valued leather products!

This is also the perfect opportunity to carefully inspect your equipment for any damage or problems than need to be addressed.

Step 1: Use a damp tack sponge and your preferred saddle soap or leather cleaner. Work up a foam lather that will surround the dirt on your equipment and loosen it from the surface. It is important that you clean every leather surface.

Step 2: Remove the dirt and soap using a clean, damp sponge. Be sure that all soap is removed.

Step 3: Allow the leather to air dry for a few minutes. If necessary, use a towel to remove excess water.

Step 4: If the leather is a bit dry, apply a small amount of conditioner with a clean, dry sponge.

Optional "Finishing" Step: If you're looking for a rich, sheen finish, use a clean sponge to apply a small amount of glycerine saddle soap in small circular motions.

Up Next... Leather Care Part 3 - Leather Care Products: What, When & Why?

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Leather Care Part 1: Initial Oiling or Pre-Conditioning

It is recommended that most leather equipment get an initial, light oiling prior to use. This is most important on the flesh side as it provides a first "conditioning" and aids in the "break-in" process. Some stirrup leathers, such as Oakbark leathers, do not require oil as they are made with ample lubrication. Suede products should never be oiled. Also, please note that some manufacturers have specific care and/or product recommendations for oiling (or not oiling) and/or pre-conditioning. Therefore, please consult with the manufacturer prior to beginning any product care regimen.

In many cases, people will use oil to darken leather products. Please note that some products contain a darkening agent to aid in this process whereas others may not. For example, if you are looking to darken leather, you may use Neatsfoot Oil Compound instead of Pure Neatsfoot Oil.

Avoid Over Oiling! It is important to understand that over-oiling is both easy to do and impossible to undo. When a product is over-oiled, the leather becomes saturated and, in some cases, it can cause excessive stretching on items like stirrup leathers, reins, billets, girths, martingales, etc... Over-oiling can also cause the glues used in areas like saddle knee pads to delaminate, resulting in premature wear and tear. Never soak leather in oil for any length of time.

Oil should be applied at room temperature or slightly warmed, but it should always be comfortable to the touch. Using a piece of sheepskin or soft paint brush, apply the oil sparingly to avoid over-oiling. Resist the temptation to add oil to areas that don't seem quite as dark as another area. Allow the oil to dry at least overnight. If the leather is not completely uniform in color, don't worry! Normal cleaning and conditioning plus use will help to even out the leather color, but it's important that you do not over oil in an effort to rush this process. Keep in mind that some excess oil may be present on the leather when the product is used the first few times. So, we recommend you don't wear your finest show clothes immediately after oiling your saddle!
If you have any questions regarding the initial oiling process, please post your comments at the end of today's article so others may benefit as well!

Up Next... Leather Care Part 2 - Cleaning Leather: A 4-Step Process

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Leather Care, Part 3 - Products: What, When & Why?

As stated in a recent answer about leather care, consistent care is your best defense against problems that may arise in leather condition from excessive moisture, over-drying, general use, etc... There are a variety of leather care products on the market today to satisfy every need from initial care to daily cleaning and conditioning to restoring old, worn leather. Although we may occasionally refer to a product brand, our intention for this post is not to list specific leather care products, but to give you general insight about the types of products you would use to properly care for you saddles and leather strap goods.

OilWhen and Why? Generally, I recommend only lightly oiling tack when it is new. This will aid in the break-in process as well as darkening the leather in many cases. If the leather is very dry from storage or non-use. Oiling may be necessary to soften it enough to make it usable once again. The leather should be checked for any signs of dry rot or deterioration. If any signs of either of these situations exist, the equipment should not be used and should be disposed of.

Cleaners & SoapHow often? I recommend cleaning the equipment after each ride. The sweat from the horse can cause the leather to dry out and can also stain it. Regular cleaning will prevent this problem from occurring.

Conditioners – When & How Often? After the cleaning process a light coat of conditioner should be applied. The soaps will tend to remove some of the oils that are in the leather and the conditioner will restore these necessary oils.

Polish – What should never get polished & When is it OK to use it? I don't recommend leather dye or polish to darken leather. The oils in your saddlery leather prevent dyes and polishes from adhering to the leather. This will cause the polish or dye to rub off all over your hands, breeches, chaps, horse, etc... I do not recommend this for saddlery leather.

Metal Polish can be applied to any metal hardware. Brass polish works well on the brass and nickel hardware and stainless steel cleaners or just warm water can be used on Stainless steel.

Up Next... Leather Care Part 4 - Do's and Do Not's of Leather Care: An Overview

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Leather Care - Introduction

Our saddlers and staff are often asked for recommendations on leather care - from initially oiling new products to restoring old, worn leather. Over the years, we’ve seen leather at its absolute best and worst, so we know, first hand, the importance of consistent, quality leather care. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at some amazing results of proper care; likewise, we’ve been shocked at what can happen when leather is not given the TLC it deserves! To prevent your leather products from falling into the latter category, we’re here to give you the low down on the time-tested methods we’ve used in our workshops for years. While you may prefer slight adaptations of these recommendations based on personal preferences, climate, condition factors, etc… the most important thing to remember is that your leather needs consistent care. To keep things simple, we’ll break this up into 4 key topics:

Part 1: Initial Oiling or Pre-Conditioning
Part 2: Cleaning Leather: A Four-Step Process
Part 3: Leather Care Products: What, When & Why?

Part 4: Leather Care Do’s & Don’ts: An Overview

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We're here to answer any questions you may have so please use this opportunity to pick our Saddler's brains!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Saddle Panels - Part 3: Comparing & Adjusting Panels

Comparing & Adjusting Wool Stuffed vs. Felt Foam Panels
Should the panels need adjustment to better fit a specific horse, there are some differences in the process necessary to make them. With the felt foam panel, the panel is removed from the saddle and partially disassembled. Additional wool felt or foam is added to the panel. The panel is re-assembled and re-attached to the saddle.
The Wool panel adjustment is considerably easier. More of the loose wool material is stuffed into the panel (with a special tool) as needed through little stuffing slits in the shell of the panel. The saddle does not need to be taken apart to make the adjustments. This adjustment, however, should only be made by a good, qualified saddler as it is very easy to unevenly stuff the panels unless you know what you are doing.

At Beval Saddlery, our saddlers are experienced with all types of saddle construction. We are very comfortable working with either foam or wool stuffed panels and use only the finest natural wool flock or natural latex foam to make these adjustments. As always, if you have any questions about saddle fitting or adjustments, please contact one of our saddlers.

Both types of panels are constructed quite differently and they are both made from a different combination of materials. Likewise, these panel types are adjusted differently. This does not necessarily mean that one is better than the other, but they both offer different options as far as fit and adjustability. Hopefully, this has given you a little insight into the differences between the two types of panels.

If you have any questions or comments related to this topic, please post your comments here on our blog. Visit for more information on our repair & saddlery services as well as custom tailoring.

Until next time, happy riding!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Saddle Panels - Part 2: Felt Foam vs. Wool

Felt Foam Panels

The basic components of this panel style are felt, foam and leather. The Felt is the shell or basic structure of the panel. It offers the basic form that the panel is constructed on. Next, there is usually a small foam bolster, or wedge, that is added to the cantle area to add some appropriate shape and thickness. Then the foam layer is added. This foam layer consists of several different types of foam based on the manufacturer’s specifications. You will often see harder closed cell foam, foam rubber and sometimes a combination of several different types. At Beval Saddlery, we use natural latex foam in the majority of our saddles and also for any adjustments or customizing that we do using foam. The latex is a very high quaility natural product and is quite expensive. The entire panel construction is then covered with a leather lining. The leather is usually soft calf-type leather that molds well to the shape and also adds to the softness of the panel. This leather is stitched to the felt shell, the layer mentioned earlier, with a whip or basting stitch. Most of the construction in this type of panel is done completely by hand.

Wool Stuffed (flocked) Panels

The structure of this panel consists of a leather shell, which is lined with canvas material (to give it some stiffness) and a leather lining. The facing (piping) usually found on the front edge of the flap, and between the panel and the cantle of the saddle, is built into this panel. The sweat flap and blocks, if needed, are added as part of the panel construction. Gussets are added in the cantle or pommel area if needed. Basically, this type of panel is like a big shaped bag attached to the bottom of the saddle and stuffed with loose wool flocking. The construction of this type of panel is a bit more complicated since it consists of as many as 10 different components. The panel is also made inside out so that all the seams can be sewn without showing on the finished product. Before final assembly and stuffing, the panel is turned right side out.

Up Next! "Saddle Panels - Part 3: Comparing & Adjusting Panels"