View Full Version : Leather Sheath Care

09-26-2010, 11:50
Hello again,

Last week i recieved my Green Beret 5.5 in the mail, as suggested i bought a leather sheath for it. Without delving into details on the beautiful craftsmanship and design of the knife and sheath I've searched a few times on leather sheath care and yielded little result.

Was wondering if anyone here has ever 'broken in' a leather sheath with water or oil etc. Any do's or don't in reference to leather sheath care. I'd picked up on the thread about it rotting in jungle environments and this isn't really a concern of my-at least at this point, anyway.

Aside from regular basic, dummy-proof leather anything maintainence, I'm wondering if anyone had any tips.

Thanks guys.

wet dog
09-26-2010, 13:09
Leather is nothing more than the skin of an animal, right?

Think of you own skin, it welcomes water and soaks up what it needs. In the drying process, it can dry to much, that's why our mothers put lotion on young boys hands, knees and elbows.

Do not fear water, rain is soft and SF guys have been known to stay out in the elements for longer than most consider normal. Keep the leather free from "caked" on dirt. Wash when you get the urge, oils and lotion will extend the life of leather, but know this, leather is skin and will deteriate in time. Enjoy.

09-27-2010, 04:40
Your mom used to put lotion on you?

Just kidding

I'm hearing you on all that leather advice, and i'm taking it to the bank. Have you ever used Dubbin, Mink Oil or SaddleSoap? I've had moderate success with Mink Oil and Dubbin. The last time i Saddle soaped a pair of black Lowa leather boots they looked like i just rubbed a bar of ivory soap on them and that was that. I think it actually dried them out more, and, yes i followed the instructions. :o

I've also done a bit of research and found a custom sheath leathersmith who says NOT to use mink oil because the animal oil rots the threads? (i didn't think "Mink Oil" was actually oil from an animal...maybe even a mink? -aren't they protected?)

Leaving things like Dubbin and Neatsfoot Oil (sp?) I've heard old wives tales about putting silicon on leather because it doesn't allow it to breathe.


09-27-2010, 06:11
No expert here but here is My $0.002.
Saddle soap is a cleaner not a protector. It is used to gently get the dirt out of the pores of the leather. It does have some oils in it but not enough to aid in protection. Its just enough to keep the soap from drying out the leather.

I like to use the old stuff myself, Tallow. Its been a while since I made any but basically what you do is cook down beef/lamb fat and pour off the grease. The fatty white solids left over is the tallow. I then mix just a small amount of tea tree oil in it, not much it smells. The tea tree oil keeps pest from nibbling on the leather.

Once you have done all of this let the Tallow cool and harden. Then you rub it into the leather.

Tallow has its draw backs in that it is an animal product and can turn rancid. I have not had this happen to anything I applied it to, but it did happen to a small batch I made and left sitting for a few months.

Some other areas that you may broaden your search would be Whip Makers, saddle repairers, custom motorcycle saddle makers.

09-27-2010, 07:23

Boiled down animal bone fat eh? That is the by far the most intriguing leather preservation method i've heard of yet. I'm not knocking it and its a really cool idea. Definantly something i'd try someday though-when my wifes not around.

I guess at the end of the day the best thing to preserve animal skin is, of course, animal oil/fat.

Great tip!

09-27-2010, 07:40
As with all things - a little bit goes a long way - an oz. of prevention is worth a pound of cure, etc, etc.

Leather has to have some form of moisture in it to allow the strands to slide past each other and to hold each other. It gets dry and the strands don't slide and leather tears.

But being too wet can almost be as bad as being too dry.

Saddle soap (needs elbow grease to work it in), shoe polish and other products allow a person to add small portions of natural oils to maintain a certain level.

Just stay away from products that include petroleum products.

And for the tallow lovers - Crisco will work in a pinch.

09-27-2010, 07:42
Try Fiebing’s Aussie Leather Conditioner... exc3ellent stuff. Also Balistoll works well

09-27-2010, 09:49
Lexol leather conditioner and preservative has been around for years and all I use on leather.

The Reaper
09-27-2010, 10:04
I believe that beeswax used to be used to protect leather.


Bill Harsey
09-27-2010, 14:32
Leather can be treated to make it softer or "not quite so soft".
I'd rather try and keep my leather knife sheaths on the "not quite so soft" side for safety.

TR is right, beeswax is a traditional leather preservative.
One of the mixtures I use is 1/3 beeswax, 1/3 parrafin, 1/3 pure neetsfoot oil.

The sheath is warmed up to about 150 degrees F, the wax/oil mixture is heated until just liquid and brushed on the leather.
The sheath is placed in a WARM (not hot) oven at about 150 to 175 F with a good clean piece of carboard on top of the rack to pick up the wax drips for a few minutes at a time to let the wax soak in. Repeat a couple times to get good "soak up".

While the knife sheath is in the oven, do not walk away and find something else to do. Keep a constant eye on it in case the oven climbs in temp and the sheath is ruined. This is not theory.

If your wife uses the oven later any dripped wax will smoke and catch fire. I've read somewhere that she may not find humor in this.

11-23-2010, 14:43
I just use boot polish. Works on my boots, too.

11-24-2010, 15:26
I use Kiwi neutral shoe polish in the can. Treat leather sheaths same as you would a pair of leather boots/shoes.

G Wheeler II
12-17-2014, 17:04
I have been using mineral oil for years, some of my holsters and sheaths have been around for 20 years or more and they are still rock solid. You can pick it up at most any drug store, just saturate a cloth and wipe it on..... then a light terry cloth buff if you want a nice sheen.

12-17-2014, 20:27
I use neetsfoot oil on my boots and sheaths. Works great...

12-18-2014, 01:11
There are two products that are really good leather preservers. Connolly Hide Food, by the people who make the leather for Rolls Royce and Bentley cars and Courtney Boot Company Leather preservative.
The Connolly product is made of Lanolin and white spirits and is suitable for soft and subtle leather (perhaps not what you may want in a sheath) and the Courtney product is made from beeswax, dubbin and paraffin. This product gives their boots the lifetime durability, allowing the thick buffalo hide to breath whilst remaining impervious to water and unimpressed by tropical sun and fungal growth.

12-18-2014, 04:02
Obenaufs is recommended by some professional sheath-makers including Reid of Sharpshooter Sheath Systems.

I am Al
12-18-2014, 08:03
I've been making gun belts and holsters as a hobby. Up on the boards for professional holster/gun belt makers here's what I typically see recommended:

If it's a prefinished item and there's nothing wrong it, you just want to keep it in good shape, use some Kiwi neutral shoe polish every once in a while. Most sheath and gun leather gear has either an acrylic or a lacquer final finish. It just needs some polish.

If it's unfinished leather or an existing item where the finish has worn off and the leather obviously needs to be reconditioned then...

Use an old t-shirt or a brush and rub on a light coat of one of the following on the smooth grain side (don't add oil to the rough side of the leather):

1 - Pure Neatsfoot oil. Pure Neatsfoot oil is made from rendered cow shin bones. Don't use Neatsfoot compound. It's cheaper than pure neatsfoot oil, but it has some other stuff in it (like mineral/motor oil) that can damage stitching. One problem with Neatsfoot oil is it will darken the leather.

2 - Pure Neatsfoot oil mixed with either Beeswax or Beeswax and Paraffin. People heat it up in a crock pot and brush it on as a liquid. Still the same problem with neatsfoot oil darkening the leather.

3 - Cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Cold pressed EVOO won't go rancid, other types of olive oil will. I see quite a few professional gear makers have gone to EVOO. I'm just an amature, but I prefer EVOO over Neatsfoot. The big advantage of EVOO is it won't darken the leather.

Like someone mentioned in a previous post, just use a light coat on the surface of the leather. You don't want to soak the leather or the sheath may loose it's stiffness.

If you are reconditioning, let the oil soak in for a couple days, then apply a couple coats of a 50/50 mix of "Mop and Glo" and water. Let it dry overnight between coats. Yeah, that's the floor stuff from the grocery store. It's the same acrylic as the more expensive acrylic coatings you can get from a leather store. Mop and Glo also gets used pretty frequently by professional gun leather guys.

There are other good conditioners out there like Obenauf's and Lexol, but the three above are what I see used most frequently.