How to soften or harden leather

Written by kelvin hayes
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The softness or the hardness of a piece of leather is important depending on how the leather is used. Leather boots, clothing and straps need to be soft and supple to bend and move freely. Portions of leather saddles, gun holsters and other leather pieces may need to be hardened to provide protection or to maintain a permanently moulded shape. Dressing oils are used to soften and lubricate leather, while water is used to form and harden leather.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Leather dressing oil
  • Lint-free towel
  • Water

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    Softening Leather

  1. 1

    Spread or spray leather dressing oil over the surface of the leather.

  2. 2

    Rub the oil into the surface of the leather, using a lint-free towel. Work the oil into the leather's pores. Remove excess oil from the surface.

  3. 3

    Allow the oil to absorb into the leather for one hour.

  4. 4

    Apply more oil as necessary to achieve the desired softness.

    Hardening Leather

  1. 1

    Immerse the leather piece in room temperature water for 10 minutes.

  2. 2

    Heat a pot of water to 82.2 degrees C.

  3. 3

    Immerse the leather piece in the hot water. Watch it for about a minute as it becomes dark and slightly curled.

  4. 4

    Remove it from the hot water and allow it to dry for several hours. Initially, the leather will have a rubbery feel and can be stretched or moulded into the appropriate shape. As the leather dries, it will become increasingly stiff, holding any stretching or moulding done while it was wet.

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