View Full Version : Saddle Discoloration... Water damage, tanning issue, any ideas?

06-28-2012, 09:21 AM
Hi, hope you can help. I recently came across two saddles which I liked very much, but both have the same discoloration on all areas of the leather. It's not the normal wear discoloration we normally see confined to the area under the stirrup leathers and on the seat, but fading along with very dark patches on places that neither the rider nor the horse would have touched. Both saddles are from the same English saddle company, which quite honestly, has always had a very good reputation, so I'm just wondering if you could perhaps best guess what caused this type of damage and let me know if it can be fixed?

Thank you,

Roger Koh
06-28-2012, 10:08 AM
Welcome to the forum, Marisa!

UV fading is the caused for this discoloration – Yes it can be fixed!

This is a quick reply, I shall go into details on the why and the how to fix it, if you wish on my next post.

Roger Koh
[email protected]

06-28-2012, 10:39 AM
Oh, thank you so much!

Here are a few more photos, that show the discoloration a bit better. I'm at a loss and eager to hear any advice you have.

Again, thank you,



Roger Koh
06-28-2012, 08:14 PM
The first (back) and third (front) pictures show “dye migration” with sharp contrasting edges – has to do with the dye types that is not compatible with the other leather constituents like the fatliquor.

Second (base) and fourth (side) show marks and streaks – has to do with surface tension during the time of dye application that result in blotchiness; streaks indicates that the dye may be rubbed rather than spray applied.

The side picture show blur edges indicate that dye has fade off.

I think the problem is in the dyestuff and need to be stripped off entirely.

It can be fixed – how do you want fixed?

Refinishing back to the original?

Roger Koh
[email protected]

06-29-2012, 04:46 AM
Thank you, Roger!

I'll do some research today to better understand the problems you've pointed out.

I'm not sure what the "original" color of the saddle was. It's a mess.

Would it be possible to refinish it a darker brown/black? Would common leather dyes be able to withstand the wear a saddle is subjected to? Would the stripping process compromise the leather?

Thank you,


Roger Koh
06-29-2012, 09:19 AM
I'm not sure what the "original" color of the saddle was. It's a mess.

The original color derived from vegetable-tanning is pale brownish in color as those you see on handles of a Louis Vuitton bag also known as vachetta leathers.

This original tannin color behaves just like our skin – it tans darker under sunlight – so it gets naturally darker.

In contrast any aniline dyes that is applied will eventually fades under sunlight – so the aniline dyes becomes lighter while the natural color becomes darker.

This is where the mess-up is realized.

That is why you seldom see a blue color on these vegetable tanned leathers – always in the brown to black range.

If color is that important under sunlight, the option would to be used “hybrid translucent” dyestuff instead – only half of the dye color combination will fade off eventually while the micro-pigment stays on much longer.

Would it be possible to refinish it a darker brown/black?

Yes! Darker brown would be a better choice as it goes with the brown tone of the tannin color.

It should blend in nicely when the aniline browns slowly fades off while the original tannin brown slowly darkens, under sunlight exposure.

Would common leather dyes be able to withstand the wear a saddle is subjected to?

Dyes does not wear off by rubbing, it is anything that is on the surface of the leather that is subjected to wear.

A non-slip leather protection (Protection-D+) with its draggy-feel would be recommended for reduce friction wear.

Would the stripping process compromise the leather?

Stripping would also remove the original fatliquor as well – thus stiffen the leather when dry – the fatliquor need to be replenished thereafter to return the leather its suppleness from eventually cracking.

Leather is protein fiber and it is “amphoteric” – it can shift its ionic charge from cationic (+ve) to anionic (-ve) and vice versa depending on the products pH value that influence it – thus it is never safe to used any solution that has a pH value above its isoelectric point (the pH neutral of leather averaging at pH 4) in most cases which result in weakening the protein fiber (+ve) charges thus the beginning the denaturing the leather; manifest in many such side effects.

The dye migration may be due to such weakening of the (+ve) and (-ve) attraction, also known as hydrogen-bonding.

After stripping – the leather is once again hydrated at pH 3.3 to separate the stick together fiber of emptied fatliquor, recharging the protein fiber (+ve) – so that it hydrogen bonds with the (-ve) fatliquor of pH 5.0.

The choice of stripping would be first test out Degreaser-2.2 (pH 2.2) follows with Rinse-3.0 (pH 3.0); otherwise use Stripper-2.3 (pH 2.3) for best result.

Decide what you wish to do; I can walk you through the holistic process if you like.

Roger Koh
[email protected]