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cleaning/ dressing leather belt

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kd1yt

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#1
I tried search, 'cause I know this must've been asked and discussed, but did not come up with anything.

I just brought home an early 20th century Leblond 14" lathe; it is belt drive and someone did a pretty nice job of setting up an overhead motor on a supported mount, with the appropriate stepped pulley and a cam to engage/ disengage.

The machine still has its leather flat belt. It has sat in unheated storage in Vermont (summers can go to 100, winters can go to -20 or -30F) for at least (that I have found out about) 20 years, and probably quite likely sat somewhere else for some time before that.

Thankfully, it was stored without tension on the belt.. The leather belt is intact but has mildew or some other white crusty stuff on parts of it, and appears to have some surface cracking when it is flexed. I assume that some amount of cracking is unavoidable but I don't know how far it can "go" before it's toast. It seems stiff and potentially brittle.

Both my frugal streak and my desire to preserve and use something old make me want to save and use the belt if at all possible.

What should I use, and what should I avoid, in the way of cleaners/ conditioners and techniques to try to revive and preserve this belt?

Feel free to point/ link me to prior threads if you remember them and can find your way back to them.

Thanks in advance for the help.
 

John Hasler

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#2
Soak it in water with Lysol concentrate in it. Let it air dry for a day or so. Soak it in neatsfoot oil. Avoid flexing it until it has soaked enough to become supple. Remove the excess oil after you get it soft and flexible.

Better yet, take it to a saddle shop.
 

awander

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#3
Be careful to use pure neatsfoot oil, NOT what is sold as "neatsfoot oil compound". The latter contains petroleum oils in addition to the neatsfoot oil and will ruin the belt.
 

John Hasler

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#4
My experience in maintaining quite a lot of leather horse tack for some decades is that neatsfoot oil compound works just as well as the real thing.
 

erniethepiper

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#5
Not sure about a soaking in neatsfoot oil but I do apply a liberal coat to my belts on occasion. Don't ever wax them, that just makes a mess. Should your belt not come back to life, a quick google search will show a few suppliers of flat belts both leather and not. They really aren't that expensive and will last for years.
 

kd1yt

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#6
Thanks- I try to avoid petroleum based products in leather; didn't know if oil of any sort was OK. Sounds like this won't be rocket science; I just didn't want to slam ahead and do something ignorant that'd be regrettable. Thanks for the input
 

gregg

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#7
Not sure about a soaking in neatsfoot oil but I do apply a liberal coat to my belts on occasion. Don't ever wax them, that just makes a mess. Should your belt not come back to life, a quick google search will show a few suppliers of flat belts both leather and not. They really aren't that expensive and will last for years.
Just me ,ok .. I stay with the neats foot oil . I go light and set in warm sunshine and rotate it ,, When dry lite coat it again with neats foot oil and set in sun.. I like the try the Soak it in water with Lysol concentrate in it. so to kill mold? Oil can feed mold in damp place. I think I'm right that there someone here that sells new nice belts.. But fun to try save old one.. Got clean dirt and mold off belt first. Then start oil..
 

Ulma Doctor

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#8
Soak it in water with Lysol concentrate in it. Let it air dry for a day or so. Soak it in neatsfoot oil. Avoid flexing it until it has soaked enough to become supple. Remove the excess oil after you get it soft and flexible.
i know nothing about the care of leather belts,
i take it the lysol concentrate is for the mildew...:thinking:

thanks for the tips.
 

John Hasler

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#9
Yes, the Lysol concentrate (the kind in the small brown bottle) is to kill off all the molds that are currently inhabiting the leather. Otherwise you'd just be making them more comfortable.

BTW when you air dry it after the water soaking you don't want to get it totally bone dry. Leather needs a bit of moisture.
 

gregg

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#10
I think this is true. I have allways heard when leather wet time to oil it because it suck the oil in where water was and the oil gets deep into the leather better.
 

Vladymere

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#11
There is only so much you can do with old leather. Remember you are working with old dead skin. You're not going to rejuvenate or addmoistur/oil to the individual cells of the dead skin.

Vlad
 

Silverbullet

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#12
I have the lacers for up to 6" wide belts, the lacing hooks and pins . If you have trouble getting it done. I have lots of the rubber belting not much leather . I just bought a 25' roll of 1" x 3/16" leather for planer I plan on getting cleaned up repairing and using. It's overhead drive will be like your lathe only with two belts to operate . It may take several coats of neetsfoot oil to work into the leather. Remember years of sitting had there way now it's wait and see. Good luck
 
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