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Thread: Sweatbands on Vintage Hats

  1. #1
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    Default Sweatbands on Vintage Hats

    Hello all, what a wonderful forum. I floated over from the Fedora Lounge, where we have a couple of threads investigating how to treat and care for vintage leather sweatbands on hats.

    Our problem: Some vintage sweatbands arrive and look soft and in good condition, then after one wear they stiffen, crack, and sometimes disintegrate. Some conditioner products seem to hasten this process rather than help.

    So far our threads are working on trial and error, but maybe the experts on this forum can offer some advice or recommendations? I just had a beautiful Stetson 7X Clear Beaver sweatband from the 40s go bad on me. I had treated it generously with Pecards leather conditioner, but the first day I sweat in it it went to pieces.

    Thanks for the help!

    Here is a pic of a typical damaged sweat:

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  2. #2
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    Here is another description:

    “I have found the same. Seems once they reach that point, no matter how good they look and feel, any contact with moisture begins the visual breakdown. Crying over a late 40’s Royal OR [Open Road, a Stetson model] as I type this. I was able to roll the [leather] sweat w/o issue when it arrived. After taking it off to wipe away light perspiration, it was cracking in multiple areas and split from the reed by about 3” at the front.“

    These are thin leather sweatbands, some from the 40s and 50s seem to have more problems than earlier decades, but our survey is not so scientific.

    Daniel

  3. #3
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    Third testimonial, with a couple more details:

    “I like, and use, Pecard's Antique leather dressing but - as stated above - once damage is done there is no reversing it. Dry rot is a real bugger because the leather sweat can look just fine; the damage isn't seen until sweat, water based leather dressings or other moisture is added to the mix and then the sweat goes from seemingly perfect to crap in minutes.”

    Our big question has to be: is there a product that will renew or protect the leather that is dried or cracked inside, before moisture causes it to shrink or disintegrate? It is probably a shot in the dark, but we keep trying.

    Thanks again!

  4. #4
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    >>> Our big question has to be: is there a product that will renew or protect the leather that is dried or cracked inside, before moisture causes it to shrink or disintegrate? It is probably a shot in the dark, but we keep trying.

    In layman terms, leather deteriorates in the presence of alkalinity.
    When the sweat that has been absorbed into the leather starts to ferment, it turns alkaline.
    Leather is acidic, with an ionic positive (+ve) charged, the other constituents like the tanning agents and the fatliquor has an ionic negative charged (-ve). Since leather behaves amphoterically it shifts from a positive (+ve) charge into a negative (-ve) charge. Behaving like a magnet the changed negative (-ve) charged of the leather protein fiber breaks the hydrogen bond with the negative (-ve) charged tanning agents and the fatliquor (fat and oil).

    How to pH neutralized the sweat and replenishing the faliquor (fat and oil) will save the sweatbands. The original fatliquor contents of leather is about 15% and any fat and oil content that is way below the optimum percentage will eventually crack. Any insufficient fatliquoring allowing to dry will also suffer from cracking from the known “London Forces” or “Van der Waal Forces”. A proven technique is by cleaning the leather with a low pH value degreaser or cleaner such as Degreaser-2.2 or CleanPro-1.5 and rinse with Acidifier-2.0 and while still damp (safe from ‘Van der Waal Forces’ Hydrator-3.3 relax and separates the stiff leather and before it dries Fatliquor-5.0 is replenished, repeatedly each time before it is fully dry until full saturation. The leather is let to slow dry and any surface residue is clean away with Hydrator-3.3
    Note that all the product suffix numbers denotes the pH value of the product.

    Let me know if you need further information.

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    Roger Koh
    Leather Care System Formulator
    Consultant / Practitioner / Instructor
    web: www.leatherdoctor.com
    forum: www.leathercleaningrestorationforum.com
    email: [email protected]
    Last edited by Roger Koh; 01-10-2020 at 05:12 PM.

  5. #5
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    Perfect. Awesome answer.

  6. #6
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    I lost another 40s sweatband to what looked like burnt edges; they came apart a few millimeters from the top and sewing edges. They do certainly look like a pH reaction as you described.

    I went ahead and ordered the Hydrator and Fatliquor products. I’m overseas, so they will take a while to get here. We’ll see how it goes!

  7. #7
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    >>> I lost another 40s sweatband to what looked like burnt edges . . . They do certainly look like a pH reaction as you described.

    The "burn edges" is alkaline over-exposure and body oil will need to be degrease with Degreaser-2.2 > and or pH balance with CleanPro-1.5 and rinse with a lower pH value rinse using Acidifier-2.0. The suffix number of the products denotes its pH value, thus we are working with a pH 2.2, pH 1.5 and pH 2.0 products. You will observe that the browning effect is reduced and rinse any tacky-feel is rinse reverting to a healthy squeaky feel for the tanning agent to be re hydrogen bond back to the protein fiber. While still damp Hydrator-3.3 > Fatliquor-5.0 > Hydrator-3.3 system applies. The entire process is known as the "wet system" and the leather should not be allowed dry during any of the step (to prevent the Van der Waal Forces to set in). Leave to slow dry and gently massaging it prior to entirely dry to save any sweat contaminated leathers. What I mentioned is also practice by leather chemist in today's modern tannery.

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