Updated: How To Age Vegetable-Tanned Leather Perfectly
How To Get Vegetable-Tanned Leather Looking Perfect
Getting the patina of vegetable-tanned leather off to a good start is in fact an incredibly simple process. Much like taking a British person abroad, you give them a drink and put it in the sun. In the case of leather, the drink will be some kind of natural conditioner.
We used Red Wing’s All Natural Boot Oil but you can use any number of high-quality leather conditioners, such as J&E Sedgwick & Co’s leathercare product. Just make sure you get a conditioner without chemicals. Vegetable-tanned leather has carefully and deliberately been kept away from nasty man-made substances, so there is no reason to now douse it in chemicals now.
Whatever you choose, make sure all parts of the item gets a good covering, enough that the tone is similar all over the leather.
Natural vegetable-tanned leather is actually quite comparable to dry, pale winter skin. It needs some kind of moisture and if you put it in the sun it darkens. Remember to oil your leather item once or twice a year to keep it smooth and durable.
You Will See Blotches – Don’t Panic!
On first application, you may be thinking “shit, what have I done!? I have ruined my expensive wallet! (or whatever item you’re working on)”
It is a bit nerve racking seeing the blotchy appearance and any imperfections in the leather jump out at you. But stick with it. Let it dry and allow the leather to soak up all the goodness the oil provides.
As it dries, the tone will even out and the leather will return to something close to its original state. Now you may be thinking, what was the point? The point is you give the leather the much-needed oils for the next step.
The Hardest Part: Leave It At Home
This is the simplest part, but also the hardest. We suggest you leave your beautiful the oiled up leather item at home for a week or so. Leave it in direct sunlight for as long as possible, whenever possible. Let’s not get into the science of the whole thing, but the leather basically gets a suntan. Sometimes a dramatic suntan. The longer you leave it in the sun the darker it will get.
This process puts down the foundations of the perfect patina. I have seen it all too often that vegetable-tanned leather goods, especially wallets, simply look grubby. They pick up all the good things for a great patina; indigo, dirt, oil, even blood, but the without this foundation you’re likely never going to get the result your striving for. What you get is a grey sheen with little depth. You don’t want that!
Making Up For Lost Time By Using It Hard
Once the leather has been out in the sun a good long time you need to USE IT as much as possible. Exaggerate the use.
Use it with brand new denim to get indigo bleeding all over it. Handle it as much as possible. Even if your hands are filthy, give it a good rub and watch how the leather will soak in the dirt.
Even at this point let it have a little sun when you have the chance. We routinely take out our wallets and leave them on the windowsill at the office or at home. Any light at all will darken the leather ever so slightly.