27 Oct 2015

Dyeing and conditioning

After a lot of experimentation with how to apply dye, I came across the Molotow transformer markers. They have a 250ml bottle where you can attach a 50mm wide head. This works really well and compared to soaking a rag with dye there is almost no mess. A friend of mine once told me that leather dye will make a HUGE mess if you were to spill it all over your table. This has off course never happened to me as I am very careful and never make mistakes.

What ever method you chose it takes some time to dye a piece this big and you have to go over the same spot multiple times. I try to divide the piece into smaller sections and take one at a time. Unlike using a rag, going in a circular motion does not work well. You need to go back and forth, up and down, and if you're feeling wild you can even go diagonally.

As you can see there is quite a difference in the colors of the main piece and the gusset after dyeing. I thought that when they dried the colors would be more or less the same but this was not the case. All I had to do was to apply more dye to the main piece. Be aware that even though you use the same dye the end result will not necessarily be the same on different types of leather. Almost 500ml of dye was used total. I know a lot of people prefer fieblings professional dye but after trying both I prefer "ROC leather dye". This is very fortunate as it is not possible to buy the professional dye in my country (when I tried it, I ordered it from the US which was very expensive).

After the dyeing and drying process, the leather needs to be buffed to get rid of any excess dye. Use a old rag for this and spend some time buffing the leather. I think I spent 5 minutes on the main piece.

After all the dying it is time to condition the leather. I use a conditioner that consist of Vaseline, neatsfoot oil, beeswax and sap. Apply it using an old rag and let it sit for several hours. The leather will soak up most of the conditioner depending on how much is applied. Finish by removing the excess with a clean rag.

The back side of the straps will sometime be visible so I chose to dye them as well. I did not apply conditioner after dyeing it.

When dyeing leather the edges always seem to curl up a bit so it is a good idea to make the piece you dye a bit bigger than you need it to be. This along with the fact that the leather can shrink or warp when you dye it is the reason I dye before I cut. On smaller pieces it does not matter that much, but with big pieces like this it could effect the dimensions.

I used a combination of these three dyes:

80 % ROC Yellow brown
15 % ROC Red brown
5% ROC Tan

I cut the butt so I got a piece of 120cm x 65cm and the shoulder I cut 110cm x 21cm. 

When dyeing leather the edges always seem to curl up a bit so it is a good idea to make the piece you dye a bit bigger than you need it to be. This along with the fact that the leather can shrink or warp when you dye it is the reason I dye before I cut. On smaller pieces it does not matter that much but with big pieces like this it could effect the dimensions.

The leather right after dyeing.

After drying:

The color on the main piece is not even enough so I applied more dye

 This is after the second dyeing and drying;

Now it is time for buffing. What I like about the ROC dye is that almost nothing comes off. This is the rag used after 5 mins of buffing:

Time to apply the Leather Protection Cream:

The back side of the straps needs to be dyed as well

Now they just need to dry


  1. Thank you for the information. If I were to try Fiebings again it would most likely get it from there. Thanks!

  2. Great post.thanks
    but i can not prepare these oils in my country .is there the other material for dyeing?

  3. Hello Mr. Andersen,
    I came across your work on Reddit and it is splendid. After seeing the briefcase walk-through I immediately bought Molotow empty markers. It is brilliant, especially for the edges.
    A few questions though, how well does it keep over time ? Does the dye dry and the tip become unusable ? Do you rinse them when you don't use them ?
    Also, I understood you are from Denmark but I noticed the .be of your blog. Are you sometimes in Belgium ? Do you know any good store ?
    Thanks a lot,

    1. Hi Ben,

      Thanks! Yes they are excellent for the edges.

      They holds up very well over time. They don't dry out at all. Well maybe they do but just give it a few pumps to saturate the tip and they are as good as new.

      Yes I'm from denmark. I have never been in Belgium. I like the leather from http://www.metropolitanleather.com/ and buy locks from abbeyengland.com. are you looking for something particular?

    2. Hello,

      Thank you for the reply.

      I am looking mainly for tools, preferably antique as I have the feeling they are a better quality. I go to flea market but leather-working tools are not easy to come by. However I did find a Vergez-Blanchard round knife for a good price.

      Thanks for the site though I will probably use it for my next leather.


    3. I think ebay is the only place for finding vintage tools. well there is also http://brucejohnsonleather.com/ but I haven't bought anything from him.

      Nice to find a vintage blanchard. I have still to find any vintage leather tool here in denmark.

      I am currently working on a new sharpening jig for the round knife. This one will hopefully be better than the last two :D

    4. Have you tried the Lansky sharpening system ?
      I must admit that when I restored the rusty Blanchard as a youngster I put a concave edge on it. It works great though !

  4. Do you have any experience how your dyeing and conditioning finish withstands rain?
    Would you still recommend the Molotow 50mm wide head for dyeing, or do you prefer this days dip dyeing?

    1. I have had no problems with rain. When the bag gets wet, spots will appear but after a while they a not visible anymore.

      I dont use the molotow markers anymore. Dip dyeing is much prefered.

  5. But when you dip dye you end up with a dyed back side of the leather, so the inside of the bag is dark?
    Do you finish the flesh side of the leather in the same way as the front?
    I'm a huge fan of the bridle leather from Sedgwick's but they had some problems in the past. http://leatherworker.net/forum/topic/70301-sedgwicks-bridle-leather-after-rain/
    Also it looks like they sell there bridle lather not thinner than 1,8-2mm could be to thick for the gusset. You would need a large leather splitter, what I don't have. Look for Grantchester Briefcase this are made from Sedgwick's bridle leather.

    1. Yes the flesh side will also be dyed. Normally I don't treat the flesh side in any way.

      The guy that made the post on leatherworker is still using sedgwick's for his briefcases so I would not worry about it. http://niestrojleatherworks.pl/

      Yes it is a problem that you cannot get it in less than 2mm. I is however possible to make the gusset with that thickness: This guy did it:

      He also posted the process on leatherworker and I asked him about the thickness: http://leatherworker.net/forum/topic/66376-a-new-case/