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How to save a Brooks Saddle? Worth Saving?

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How to save a Brooks Saddle? Worth Saving?

Old 01-09-16, 08:49 PM
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corrado33
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How to save a Brooks Saddle? Worth Saving?

I found this Brooks saddle at my local coop. Most likely still there for a few reasons. One, it's missing it's "Brooks" name-tag and Two: it's pretty old and beat up. (The "made in England" gives it away though.)

However it is NOT cracked and it is STILL pliable. I think it's save-able. What do you guys think?

Also, one question I had about this saddle. Why are the "wings" so wide? Is that just because of the saddle drying out? (It's quite annoying.) I think I'd have to find a way to make them fold back down to make the saddle ride-able again.

I have obenaufs, but I've read you're not supposed to use that on saddles because it makes them TOO pliable. I know there is a special Brooks oil your supposed to use, I may just look for that online.

EDIT: Perhaps it's not a brooks and is just an old leather saddle? I've honestly never seen a "non-brooks" leather saddle...





Last edited by corrado33; 01-09-16 at 11:40 PM.
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Old 01-09-16, 09:13 PM
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The "wings" got deformed over time somehow. Maybe neatsfoot oil or something will get it back into shape. Classic & Vintage guys might have ideas.

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Old 01-09-16, 10:09 PM
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First, look at how far out the adjustment bolt is (at the nose of the saddle). Can it be tightened?

Second, how flexible is the leather? Can those "wings" be flexed? Or are they dried out and cardboard-y? If they are still fairly pliable, you can punch holes in the wings and then lace them, as you could with an Imperial saddle from Brooks. If they are dried out and inflexible, the wings may break off if you try to punch holes in them.

I know this because I had a Brooks B-17 with splayed wings, and I punched holes so I could lace them in tighter. The leather was in good shape and it worked well. I tried the same thing on an Ideale seat and the leather cracked. I salvaged the seat by curing those "wings" off entirely.
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Old 01-09-16, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Aubergine View Post
First, look at how far out the adjustment bolt is (at the nose of the saddle). Can it be tightened?

Second, how flexible is the leather? Can those "wings" be flexed? Or are they dried out and cardboard-y? If they are still fairly pliable, you can punch holes in the wings and then lace them, as you could with an Imperial saddle from Brooks. If they are dried out and inflexible, the wings may break off if you try to punch holes in them.

I know this because I had a Brooks B-17 with splayed wings, and I punched holes so I could lace them in tighter. The leather was in good shape and it worked well. I tried the same thing on an Ideale seat and the leather cracked. I salvaged the seat by curing those "wings" off entirely.

The adjustment bolt is all of the way one direction. I'm not sure if it's never been tightened, or is tightened all of the way. (Don't have it with me.) The saddle is flexible. I can pull the wings down in to position (the first thing I did... whoops) without anything cracking. I was actually thinking of lacing it up (well, I was THINKING of using a zip tie. ) I'll buy some Proofide, (brooks stuff). It'll be here before I go in next. (Yay amazon 2 day shipping.)

EDIT: On second thought, obenaufs seems to have a good following online for use with brooks saddles. I'll try the stuff I have (else I'll never run out of it...) Besides, if I end up liking this brooks I'll just end up buying a new one anyway...

Last edited by corrado33; 01-09-16 at 11:39 PM.
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Old 01-10-16, 12:41 AM
  #5  
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Are you sure it's a BROOKS and not a WRIGHTS?

Use Neatsfoot oil ONLY if you want to ruin the saddle. It softens the leather far too much.

Cheers
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Old 01-10-16, 03:07 AM
  #6  
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Maybe do a search on boiling the saddle. Yep. Boiling. I think it was in the Touring forum, and posted by a well-known and respected BF member. It would help reform the shape of the saddle.
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Old 01-10-16, 05:48 AM
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Not sure about your ROI on this? Try loosening the adjustment nut so the saddle and frame are loose, the spray saddle and frame with WD-40, next hang it up a couple days to dry. Next, wipe it down well, then wait a couple more days - finally start working proof hide into the saddle top and bottom with your fingers, letting the saddle sit a couple days between applications. Soon it should be nearer "normal".
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Old 01-10-16, 05:54 AM
  #8  
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I once read a thread on a forum where a guy had a similar problem with his brooks

he soaked the saddle in warm water several times so that the leather became soft. He then used cable ties to reshape the wings and let it dry completely over several days. He then removed the cable ties and took the saddle to a shoe shop/shoe repair shop and they buffed and polished the saddle. He then applied some dubin to protect the leather

it looked pretty good
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Old 01-10-16, 05:59 AM
  #9  
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Saddle soap is designed to clean and recondition aged/weathered leather and won't over-soften or make the surface slipperly. Fiebings and Dover are respected names. If you use it on new leather it may cause some darkening but on a weathered saddle it creates a nice patina and soft sheen. Avoid anything with waxes or silicones.
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Old 01-10-16, 06:59 AM
  #10  
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Avoid any petroleum-based products, including WD-40. Great for machinery, bad for leather.

Soaking in water is how the saddle was originally given its shape. I've made lots of leather items, including holsters, knife sheaths, arrow quivers, cell phone cases, etc. You soak the leather and then press it over a form and let it dry.

In your case, however, it should be sufficient to punch and lace the "wings," and pull them together from underneath the frame. Since the leather is old, do this SLOWLY and gradually after applying a leather dressing to the surface and letting it penetrate. Brooks actually sells some models (the Imperials) that have lacing to control the spread because of the central cut-away section. Check out their website for images.

Many people advise against leather dressings that contain silicone. Kiwi mink oil has a small amount of silicone in it, and I've used it for years with no bad consequences. Try a light application, let it sit overnight, then buff it off. I think the stuff is mostly lanolin, which Mother Nature uses to keep mammalian skin from cracking. I'm not familiar with Obenauf's - it may be just as good.

You said the saddle is already pliable, so no need to apply too much dressing. Over-softening can make the saddle stretch too much with use. Concerning the adjustment bolt, leave it alone unless the saddle is sagging fore-and-aft. Otherwise, if you run out of bolt threads, the saddle can never be tightened again! In your profile pic, I don't see that the saddle is sagging much in the middle. I have three fairly new B-17s that look about the same.

After you've laced it and applied some leather dressing, just ride it. Hopefully, it will conform to your sit bones over time. I haven't had to do this, but some people speed up the process by wetting the two sit-bone areas with water and pressing down on them with their thumbs to make slight depressions.

I'd be interested to know how you make out. Please keep us posted.

PS: If you want to see images of Brooks saddles that are beyond saving, Google Heinz Stuecke and check out his website. Each saddle has more than 100,000 miles on it.

Last edited by habilis; 01-10-16 at 07:31 AM.
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Old 01-10-16, 09:28 AM
  #11  
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It looks pretty far gone to me, but that would make it a fun project.
I'm no leather expert so I defer to those who know better, but I'll bet when all is said and done that punching some holes and tying the wings will be required
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Old 01-10-16, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by martianone View Post
Not sure about your ROI on this? Try loosening the adjustment nut so the saddle and frame are loose, the spray saddle and frame with WD-40, next hang it up a couple days to dry. Next, wipe it down well, then wait a couple more days - finally start working proof hide into the saddle top and bottom with your fingers, letting the saddle sit a couple days between applications. Soon it should be nearer "normal".
Originally Posted by dim View Post
I once read a thread on a forum where a guy had a similar problem with his brooks

he soaked the saddle in warm water several times so that the leather became soft. He then used cable ties to reshape the wings and let it dry completely over several days. He then removed the cable ties and took the saddle to a shoe shop/shoe repair shop and they buffed and polished the saddle. He then applied some dubin to protect the leather
Another plan, IMO more sensible, time saving and guaranteed to provide a finished usable saddle in excellent condition not oozing oils, would be to buy a new Brooks leather saddle of your choice and return the worn out saddle to the coop. Unless your time is worth nothing and/or you like "projects" with iffy chances of success.
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Old 01-10-16, 10:49 AM
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maybe get the very dry leather to absorb Wax*, so it wont stretch out like softening with neatsfoot oil may promote.

*Sno-Seal perhaps ?

I warmed my Brooks Pro in the oven and melted a table spoon of Proofide in it while upside down

30 years ago & have used it ever since.. (but Proofide is much pricier these days)


get a punch to make holes in the edge for lacing

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Old 01-10-16, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Another plan, IMO more sensible, time saving and guaranteed to provide a finished usable saddle in excellent condition not oozing oils, would be to buy a new Brooks leather saddle of your choice and return the worn out saddle to the coop. Unless your time is worth nothing and/or you like "projects" with iffy chances of success.
Abandoning the project is always an option, but the OP has little to lose and everything to gain with some cautious, informed experimentation.

There shouldn't be any oozing oil because oils are NOT recommended in this case - only a commercial leather dressing like Brooks Proofide (mostly tallow), Kiwi Mink Oil (also mostly animal fat with a little silicone, which helps with waterproofing), Obenauf's, Fiebing's, etc. All of these have been in use for generations, and none has ever harmed anyone's leather goods.

The punching and lacing are easily and quickly done. A 3/16" drill bit can be used if OP doesn't have a punch tool.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If the saddle doesn't become comfortable and usable, it can still be donated. OTOH, if the OP succeeds and reports his experience, we all benefit and can better evaluate/recondition other vintage saddles.

Last edited by habilis; 01-10-16 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 01-10-16, 11:03 AM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by habilis View Post
Abandoning the project is always an option, but the OP has little to lose and everything to gain with some cautious, informed experimentation.

There shouldn't be any oozing oil because oils are NOT recommended in this case - only a commercial leather dressing like Brooks Proofide (mostly tallow), Kiwi mink oil (also mostly animal fat with a little silicone, which helps with waterproofing), Obenauf's, Fiebing's, etc. All of these have been in use for generations, and none has ever harmed anyone's leather goods.

The punching and lacing are easily and quickly done. A 3/16" drill bit can be used if OP doesn't have a punch tool.

If the OP succeeds and reports his experience, we all benefit and can better evaluate/recondition other vintage saddles.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I think I'm going to soak it in warm water, reshape it by shoving a bunch of stuff inside the saddle and lacing it up (I do, in fact, have a leather punch.) Let it dry for a few days, then use obenaufs. (It's what I have and should work fine.) I plan on doing the unfinished bottom first in hopes of allowing the leather to absorb as much as possible. With obenaufs I generally let the stuff sit under an incandescent light bulb for a while till it softens/melts, then I rub it in by hand (on my shoes.) I'll keep applying coats until the leather stops soaking it up. (Took 3-4 coats with my belt which I've had for a decade and never treated.) With this saddle, I may put both the saddle and obenaufs under light bulbs to warm both of them, then apply the stuff and keep the saddle under the light bulb. It won't dry out, it'll just keep the obenaufs a bit more liquid. I have noticed that obenaufs likes to leave a bit of a greasy residue on whatever you apply it to unless you cover it with a coat of polish. (I used it on my belt and it took a good month for the residue to go away.) So I'm a bit weary about applying it to the top of the saddle, we'll see what the bottom of the saddle does.

Honestly, I have NOTHING to lose. If I don't do this restoration the saddle will sit in the "seats" box forever most likely.
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Old 01-10-16, 01:38 PM
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Are you sure you need to soak it in water? That's generally done when making a new leather item and it's just a flat piece of leather with no shape at all. Your saddle has already been shaped. The wings are just splayed bit, that's all. Maybe just try the Obenauf along with lacing. The lacing is what holds the wings in correct position, and they can't splay out anymore. I tend to use the least radical or "invasive" methods first, and save the heavy-duty stuff for later if I need it.

If the saddle is still uncomfortable afterward, you can always try the localized wetting and shaping of the sit-bone areas.

Concerning the waxy/oily residue, you don't have to apply so much dressing that the leather won't take any more. Warm up the dressing (or warm the saddle in a 200 degree oven) and smear on two, maybe three light coats. Buff off the excess with clean rags. You can't take the stuff off if you overdo it, but you can always apply more if necessary.

I've put light applications of Proofide and Mink Oil on new saddles, and it always buffs off. I'm guessing your bike shorts are black anyway, so a little oil stain won't hurt them. That's why shorts generally come in black.

Last edited by habilis; 01-10-16 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 01-10-16, 01:55 PM
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i worked from the underside , I Had it only hot enough to melt the waxes 120f @ the most ..

Bike shorts were traditionally black for a reason..
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Old 01-10-16, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by habilis View Post
Are you sure you need to soak it in water? That's generally done when making a new leather item and it's just a flat piece of leather with no shape at all. Your saddle has already been shaped. The wings are just splayed bit, that's all. Maybe just try the Obenauf along with lacing. The lacing is what holds the wings in correct position, and they can't splay out anymore. I tend to use the least radical or "invasive" methods first, and save the heavy-duty stuff for later if I need it.

If the saddle is still uncomfortable afterward, you can always try the localized wetting and shaping of the sit-bone areas.

Concerning the waxy/oily residue, you don't have to apply so much dressing that the leather won't take any more. Warm up the dressing (or warm the saddle in a 200 degree oven) and smear on two, maybe three light coats. Buff off the excess with clean rags. You can't take the stuff off if you overdo it, but you can always apply more if necessary.

I've put light applications of Proofide and Mink Oil on new saddles, and it always buffs off. I'm guessing your bike shorts are black anyway, so a little oil stain won't hurt them. That's why shorts generally come in black.
Perhaps not on the water. I figured since obenaufs is essentially a leather dressing/water proofer, it'd be hard to use water after I have applied the obenaufs. I will try just the obenaufs while heating.
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Old 01-10-16, 04:57 PM
  #19  
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Here's an image of an old WRIGHTS saddle that I laced the side skirts on prior to February, 2012 and then applied a generous amount of genuine Dubbin on. I've used it for many, many miles since doing that. Periodically I apply more Dubbin.

Threadless stem = handle bar bag mount by Miele Man, on Flickr

Cheers
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Old 01-10-16, 05:08 PM
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Interesting thread
would enjoy seeing more like it.
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Old 01-10-16, 10:47 PM
  #21  
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Pics of B72 and B66 Brooks saddles I have used for over forty years; the B73 is about 13 years old. The W66 Wrights saddle is over 45 years old. They have never been treated with anything and been ridden in all weather conditions but never left exposed to the weather uncovered for long periods of time. Replaced the rivets on the B72 with pop rivets years ago.
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Old 01-11-16, 11:51 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by avidone1 View Post
Interesting thread
would enjoy seeing more like it.
I just finished my third coat of warm obenaufs. It's getting softer. I think if I work it nightly for a few weeks (since leather work softens) then lace it up it'll be rideable again. I took tons of pictures during the cleaning/initial coats of obenaufs. I'll get around to posting them eventually.

The majority of the saddle is in good condition. However, the one "wing" that is further splayed out is almost rock hard. The other wing I can bend down to it's correct position with no problems, however the hard wing doesn't bend well (yet.) If I'd lace it up now the hard wing would bend the top of the saddle out of position. It's getting there.
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Old 01-12-16, 04:55 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
However, the one "wing" that is further splayed out is almost rock hard. The other wing I can bend down to it's correct position with no problems, however the hard wing doesn't bend well (yet.) If I'd lace it up now the hard wing would bend the top of the saddle out of position.
At this stage you can also consider lacing each "wing" individually to the seat rail, that way you can control the tension individually from side to side. Traditional lacing is from wing to wing and averages the tension between both sides.
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Old 01-12-16, 01:53 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by rex615 View Post
At this stage you can also consider lacing each "wing" individually to the seat rail, that way you can control the tension individually from side to side. Traditional lacing is from wing to wing and averages the tension between both sides.
Good advice. Also, you could try dampening only the hard wing, just till it's soft enough to bend and lace safely. The water will evaporate and the wing will retain the shape you give it with lacing, so be careful about the shape. Then more of the Obenauf when the leather is dry.
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Old 01-12-16, 05:52 PM
  #25  
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I don't have the patience to read every suggestion here (some of them are downright bizarre...), but if nobody's mentioned this, Rivendell says that if a leather saddle is too stretched out for the adjusting nut to tighten it up, you can wedge pieces of (very) dense foam under it, between the leather and the frame. Just cut to fit and jam it in there. And the lacing that several people have mentioned is a time-honored fix. I wouldn't use a petroleum product on it (I know people do...). And I've treated all four of my B17s with obenauf's for years. I don't know if it's better than Proofhide, but it's no worse, and I have four big tubs of it.
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