The Ultimate Leather Finish / Dressing Any Leathercrafter can Use!
I have successfully made my own Dubbin: I rendered sheep fat for the tallow (beautiful white stuff – also good for cooking and preparing cast iron cookware), and then I added Beeswax and cod liver oil (or Neatsfoot oil), lanolin and glycerin. The result is all I expected and I do not feel anxious any more about having to import my Dubbin from South Africa!
Etherington & Roberts says it is made of tallow and cod oil.
Thelma Newman, in her book “Leather as Art and Craft” describes DUBBIN as a mixture of Tallow and Codliver Oil.
Why I Like DUBBIN so Much!
- DUBBIN feeds and protects the leather from the inside and replaces all the oils taken out of the leather during the tanning process.
- DUBBIN brings out a deep glowing color in leather. In un-dyed leather it will cause the leather to turn a golden honey color when exposed to light.
- DUBBIN is very good for your hands – especially in winter. I always apply it by hand – it allows me to regulate exactly how much I put on.
- DUBBIN never acentuates stains on leather – it rather tends to clean up any water or light stains.
- DUBBIN Can be used over any non-sealing finish, such as spirit dyes and water based dyes as well as water based inks.
- DUBBIN allows leather to become supple without loosing its shape – it helps the leather to stay “alive” and always as beautiful as new.
To Make Your Own
Here is my suggested quantities (I vary them everytime I make a batch – just like grandma used to bake with a handful of this and a pinch of that…..):
- 1 kilogram lard [2 lb] – I prefer sheep lard. It has to be rendered – cut it up and boil it in water until the lard separates out clear from the water and gunk. Pour it off so that you can let it cool off and solidify.
- Less than 100 grams of beeswax [<3oz]. Beeswax is NOT the main ingredient - too much will make the dubbin hard and will remain as a surface covering on the leather after application.
- 1/2 liter of Cod Liver Oil [16 fl oz]. If the thought puts you off, replace it with Neatsfoot oil or olive oil, in fact,
any plant or animal oil, but definitely not a mineral oil (that will attack your leather).
I have doused a piece of leather in Cod Liver oil – it smelled fishy for four hours, and then the oil and leather started to talk to each other and all that was left, was a very traditional leather smell. Cod Liver oil used to be a very traditional oil used in working with leather and some ascribe the very romantic smell of the previous century car interiors and saddles and leather goods to Cod Liver oil.
- 60 ml of Lanolin [2 fl oz]. I have found pure lanolin sold in pharmacies for use by breastfeeding mothers.
- 60 ml of Glycerin [2 fl oz].
Simply melt them together gently – the result should be creamy and easy to apply to leather.
Answers to DUBBIN critics
It is sometimes said that DUBBIN rots stitching on leather articles. When applying DUBBIN you must simply make sure that you do not leave chunks of Dubbin in folds or seams of the leather – this will collect dust, trapped by the thick DUBBIN and the dust will then rot the stitching. I always polish a project that I have just applied DUBBIN to, with a soft brush – there seems to be some beeswax in DUBBIN that will cause the leather to have a natural shine when treated like this.
I posed the following question to the Leather Chemists of America:
I make my own Dubbin as a leather dressing – mainly for veg tan.
I am curious as to the ingredients I use and how meaningfull they are (are they all necessary?)
Cod Liver Oil
I see on the ALCA dictionary that there is also mention of aluminum stearate in dubbin – what is its purpose and where can the-man-on-the-street buy this?
This was the answer I got back:
Each of the materials in your dubbin has a unique character and therefore imparts a special trait to the leather. The wax protects the surface and adds that unique feel to the treated leather. The tallow penetrates a little better, but also contributes to that waxy nature, but also has a lower melting point, so it changes more effectively when warmed slightly than the wax which remains solid to a bit warmer condition. The fish oil penetrates deep and softens as well as providing anti-oxidant properties and even some tanning when heated. The glycerin is a good humectant and keeps the leather from over drying by pulling moisture from the air.
Lanolin is also unique, though some folks are sensitive to lanolin and should always be advised that it is in the leather. This sheep byproduct has long been taunted as a great soften and water repellant for leather.
Clearly the amount of each of these materials in the dubbin can be a major issue, but that is something that I am sure you have seen with time and experience as you adjust your formula.
Aluminum stearate is just soap, though most would probably consider it more a grease than a soap. It combines a wax and humectant roll, but just as most leather experts warn against the use of saddle soap, I think you will quickly see that this soap really has little to offer your mix. The biggest issue with soaps and leather is that soaps are made under highly alkaline conditions, and unless that basicity (alkaline pH) is neutralized it can carry terrible consequences to the acid leather.