Hello the fire, I was given an old pair of canvas and leather panniers which had apparently been squashed for a long time and are quite misshapen. The canvas is very thick and seems to be coated with something to make it waterproof. The leather is also quite thick and stiff as a board. I've tried soaking the panniers in water to soften them up which works some but they are still very hard to get back into their original boxy shape. Any ideas on how to rehab them would be greatly appreciated.
The canvas was/is probably wax impregnated so you will need low heat to warm them - try a hair dryer or setting out in the hot sun and then re-forming - stuff with paper, etc to reform.
As for the leather I recommend a good cleaning first with saddle soap (I like the PH balanced liquid) - follow the directions, After cleaning you will need to re-condition - I HIGHLY recommend Lexol Conditioner over most anything else since Neats foot oil, Mink oil, etc can be too easily over done whihc will weaken the leather. Apply the first light coat while still damp from cleaning let set for 12 hours. Then if need add more light coats IF needed and let set in between coats for at least 6 hours. The set allows the oil to balance out through the leather.
FWIW - I'm a professional leather crafter and have been doing both new and repairs for 51+ years and one thing I constantly see is folks over oiling their leather - over oiling breaks down the cell walls and weakens the leather. This can even happen with Lexol
aka Chuck Burrows
Take a "medium" toothbrush, and some Saddle Soap, and with warm water and the toothbrush, scrub the leather portions of the panniers, including where the seams meet the canvas. Then rinse in water, using the toothbrush to remove any excess soap. Then let the panniers air dry, and when dry, apply a liberal amount of neetsfoot oil. When oiled, stuff the interior with wadded up bits of newspaper to help hold the shape and let them sit for a couple of days. Wipe off any excess oil at that point.
The soap won't hurt the canvas, and you will have hopefully stabilized the leather from mold and mildew, and dry rot, and can now try to figure out how the canvas was treated, and how to restore or replace that.
It's not what you know, it's what you can prove
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