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VaughnT

Time for a new apron

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There was once a time when I didn't wear an apron around the shop, but one day I tore a brand new shirt and that was that.  A leather apron is hot, sure, but I bet I've saved over a thousand dollars in t-shirts since I started using one regularly.  Even when you're not forging things, there are plenty of stuff that can destroy a shirt, so the apron really does help.  Plus, I liken it to a uniform; when I put it on, I'm in work mode until I take it off.

The other day, I left my hammer on the anvil overnight and the devil came in to play.  I've never seen leather give way like this, but leave it up to me to find new and interesting ways to ruin something.  

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All around the apron, the leather is getting hard and brittle wherever the sweat and grime was thickest.  I guess I should have been more on the ball with washing the apron.  Lesson learned.....

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To get me by until I can get a new apron, I used some roofing nails, gorilla glue and a bit of old leather to patch the strap.  No telling how long the repair will last, but at least it's fixed for the time being.

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Looking around the internet, I'm seeing a few very nice aprons.  None of them really catch my eye, though, because I was a bit spoiled by this Tilman apron.  With a body that's 24"x48", she covers me all the way down to my instep.  I had to rework the cross-back straps to make them actually functional.  When I did, imagine my surprise when I found out that I didn't need the horizontal waistband!  The way the straps tie into the sides of the apron is perfect for keeping the apron in place, so I cut free the waist strap and haven't missed it a bit.

Even the cloth shoulder straps have proven better than leather straps of aprons past.  They don't roll up, rot through, or get thick with gunk......  which makes me wonder why everyone else is using leather.

Anyhow, all these little design points come up when I was shopping for a new apron and everyone seemed to be missing one thing.  Maybe too short, or had too many pockets, or leather straps, or whatever.   I like the Tilman, but don't want to spend the money on something that I'll have to immediately change (strap system) when it arrives in the mail.  If it wasn't for that, I'd be okay with paying $50 for a new apron every few years.

Since I can't get Tilman to change their design, I thought I'd go forward with making up my own apron design.   There's a local fellow that does really nice leatherwork, but he's used to working on motorcycles, not blacksmith gear.  He's open to helping, but we're stuck on what kind of leather to use.  Obviously the Tilman apron isn't a good guide in this regard, so......?

I'm thinking a good apron should be as thick as a nickel, or slightly under that thickness.  And it should be oil-tanned so it's resistant to grease, grime and sweat.  I sweat buckets, so all the help I can get is appreciated!

 

Thoughts?

 

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I tan my own hides. However I am no expert so take what I say with a grain of salt. I have never tanned a cow hide but from what I have read it produces three different thicknesses of leather, the thickest being on its back. If you could get ahold some of that it should work. And you are correct if it was softened using neatsfoot oil it would make it water repellent as long as the tanning process was done correctly and the skin was properly pickled. Or if you could get ahold of a bark tanned pig skin that would be excellent. However that would run into some money. Just my 2 pennies worth.

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Remember that the strongest part of the hide is the top grain, the very outside of the animal. If both sides of the leather have a suede-y look, you have a "split", which is cheaper, but not as strong. 

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So stitches are like perforations on a stamp. Any stitches across the line of pull are potential failed points, stick inline with the straps and rivet if you need to reinforce. Also saddle stich at 5 stitches per inch are stronger than lock stitches. 

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I used to hang my apron by the walk through door inside the smithy. Well the mice decided it was tasty and pretty much ate it up. Now we store them inside the house where there are no mice.

My wife loves her blacksmith apron that have legs like a farriers apron but she cut the leg straps off so it works like a straight apron unless she wants to hold stock or tongs between her legs.

I venture a guess your repair will last longer than new and now the apron has character too.:)

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V.T.,

The leather dried out. Leather does that.

Leather should be treated with products like saddle soap, or, as Mr. Hocking has suggested, neatsfoot oil. (which is what I use).

The latter is a petroleum product. There is no such animal as a neat.

The leather should be wiped with the oil every year or two years.

Regards,

SLAG.

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The latter is a petroleum product. There is no such animal as a neat.

Actually, "neat" is derived from the Old English for "cattle", and true neatsfoot oil is made from rendering the fat from cattle's hooves and lower legs. If the label says "neatsfoot oil compound" or "prime neatsfoot oil", then it probably has some petroleum product blended in.

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I've tanned a few hides in my day, too, Tommie.  Of course, I was doing brain-tan and don't want to think of what all that shop grease and whatnot would do to one of my beautiful skins.

Oiling an apron?  That's got to be a fire hazard somewhere!  And with my luck, I'm sure to find out about it sooner rather than later! :o

The split front design is something I thought about, and the Tilman is made from three pieces so they could easily adapt it to that.  I've never tried one of those aprons simply because my anvil is too tall for the crotch-clamp style of forging.  Better for my back that way!  

Still, something to keep in mind as I move forward with the build.

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I haven't been able to get brain tanning down yet. I may have to get with you for some pointers one day. In lieu of neats foot oil you could go with saddle soap as slag suggested. Or call up tandy and see if they have any leather softener that isn't flammable 

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Always glad to talk brain-tan.  It's good fun, if a bit smelly!

 

I'm not sold on the notion of oiling leather v. just buying oil-tanned or latigo leather to begin with.  If I was starting over with a brand new Tilman apron, I could see oiling it.  The problem there is that I'm not really keen on buying one of their aprons when I know I'll have to immediately revamp the straps because they have a screwy design.

 

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Dry leather soaks up a lot of neats foot oil. You just stop before there is a sheen on the leather surface.

I have never had treated leather catch fire. I suspect that it would take a very hot propane fire to get it to even smoke let alone catch fire.

JHCC thanks for the heads up concerning the petroleum origin of neats foot oil.

SLAG.

p. s. the apron looks like it can salvaged by sewing a leather patch on it. Tandy Leather sells leather scraps for such a repair.

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I haven't been able to get brain tanning down yet.

I've been working on tanning my brain for years.

 

p. s. the apron looks like it can salvaged by sewing a leather patch on it. Tandy Leather sells leather scraps for such a repair.

Or just cut a corner off the bottom of the apron.

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Well, I had some neatsfoot oil in the shop, so I dabbed a little on the leather where it was tearing or looked like it wanted to tear.  Now I'll wait to see how it looks in the morning.

It sure did soak up the oil quick!  My worry, looking at it now, is that it will always have that oily feel.  I don't know if the oil will leach out into my shirt after a day of sweating in the shop.  The only damaged or dried out areas of the apron are by the arms and neck where the sweat gets heavy.  On the bottom portion, the leather is in fantasy, almost-new condition.

Maybe, if the oil dries a bit and doesn't feel too oily in the morning, I'll go ahead and oil the entire top half.  I'm still looking at doing up a really nice apron that I won't be ashamed to be seen in public with. :D

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Never thought about corn starch, Tommie.  Thanks for the tip!  I'll run into town tomorrow to get some.... just in case.

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Buy the new apron when this one wears out, and modify it to suit you, or get one custom made. I have come to regard any mass merchandise product more complicated than a cheap screwdriver to be a basic platform that needs to be tweaked before it will work properly.

Welding leathers and aprons can be hand washed in a kitchen sink or 5 gallon bucket when they get too funky. Use hot water, Woolite or kitchen hand soap, expect a lot of dye to come out in the first couple of wash and rinse cycles. Roll and squeeze in an old towel to get out all of the water you can. Then do it again with another towel. Hang outdoors to dry. If it is stiff when it is dry, tumble dry on cold with a pair of tennis shoes. Then you can re-apply some sort of leather treatment, if you feel the need.

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Never thought about corn starch, Tommie.  Thanks for the tip!  I'll run into town tomorrow to get some.... just in case.

Yes sir no problem! It is what I use to get the oil out of the hair on my pelts.

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Saddle soap is a glycerin based soap, and as glycerin will lubricate the fibers of leather and realy likes water in helps clean leather with out drying it out. 

Neets foot oil was originally rendered from ox  shins but after the original us army contract ran out competitors  lobbied the us army to allow the admixture of other animal oils. The army to this day will not buy neets foot oil compound as it containes senthetic oils. I never had my fire line boots try to burn, so I think your safe. Apply warm neets foot oil to the flesh side untile it stains the hair side. One treatment should do you, with just a wipe with an oily rag once or twice a year. 

Tallo and casteroil as well as olive oil are alternatives (the smithsomian uses olive oil) caster oil deters rodents. 

Mule and horse hide is resistant to "barnyard acids" to include sweat.   

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A couple things come to mind Vaughn. The salt is REALLY hard on leather, saddle soap and mink oil regularly. (You sweaty dog you!) Those stitches are WAY too close so they're probably pulled too tight too. It's easy when the stitches are that close, the tension creeps up and gets too tight. If the end of the straps comes to a rounded point rather than cut square it'll be much less prone to ripping out like that.  Rivets E washers are good. 

I had mine made from smooth out, moose hide, I don't remember the tan, split legs and a really nice strap and buckle arrangement I can't describe. I don't wear it all that often but a wipe down with mink oil every couple years has kept it supple for better than 20 years now. I'd have to really think about when I had it made. At the time I was told it was too thick and it is but I've had 9" Milwaukee disk grinder blades hit me in the chest twice and barely bruise me. I feel pretty bullet proof in it and it looks good.

I'm really enjoying this thread, I've learned a bunch. :)

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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On 10/2/2017 at 2:33 AM, Frosty said:

I feel pretty bullet proof in it and it looks good.

Post some pics, Frosty!

I'm always looking for ideas, so post away, my friend.

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I've made an apron from the oil tanned Kodiak sides they sell at Tandy and am very pleased with it. They just happen to be on sale (brown only) for $99 for a side. That would make at least 2 aprons, even if you are looking for 48" length. My apron is shorter than 48" (chest to knees on a 5'10" frame) and I could definitely get 3 out of the side  I purchased.

https://www.tandyleather.com/en/product/kodiak-sides/kodiak-side-brown

i don't know what shipping runs because there is a store locally. 

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I think the moose would disagree with you on it being bullet proof...

I don't think that moose disagrees with anything.

Pics eh, I'll have to get Deb to snap a couple today. We rented a walk behind brush hog yesterday to mow down the saplings and brush alder so it won't scratch her new RV. A little armor around one of those things isn't a bad idea anyway. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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