Old leather cases and bellows and mold

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by l._david_tomei|1, Oct 6, 2005.

  1. I have many old cameraas in storage which can be a serious problem
    when it comes to mold. Anyone who has ever used shoe polish on
    leather cases, camera coverings, or even bellows, knows that these
    materials are great for growing mold. Mold is everywhere and it
    accounts for a lot of damage to old leather cases and straps.

    So, some years ago I found an answer that I thought I would share.
    Natural bees wax, like honey, has a very potent anti-mold activity,
    which is one reason honey does not get moldy. I prepare a solution
    of pure bees wax in a high quality turpentine solvent by melting the
    wax until it reaches a convenient consistency (a thick sypup). I then
    add 5% boiled linseed oil, mix and cool. Leather cases and camera
    coverings, as well as old bellows, can be treated with a thin
    coating. After drying, it should be lightly buffed. I have not had
    a mold problem in any leather after storage for several years.
    The linseed oil acts as a stabilizing agent since it remains soft and
    flexible after drying. The high quality turpentine evaporates in a
    short time and the leather can be finally buffed.
  2. Thanks David - interesting recipe - sounds time tested to boot
  3. For about two years I have been using Skidmore's Leather Cream for camera cases, leatherette, straps, bellows, etc, with good results. It's made from natural oils and beeswax. You might try their site www.skidmores.com.

  4. The Skidmore product looks great. I would think that it too would hold down the mildew problem when cameras are in storage.

    I live near a fellow who raises bees and sells honey. He has great barrels of honey combe. It requires cleaning but that is easily done by melting the wax in hot water. One small block of bees wax has lasted for a couple years. Many products are colloidal suspensions of oils and wax with water. It gives them the consistency of cream and are quite good. My problem was one of mold, especially in heavy leather cases for some of my 100 yr+ cameras. These seem to be impregnated with mildew from many years of being stored in high humidity, so they tend to get moldy following cleaning and softening with creams. I suppose it's a situation where you just have to try different ways to soften and preserve the old leather. On bellows that are made of old chromium treated leathers, and have a canvas backing that use old water soluble adhesives, the Bees wax in turpentine works great without any tendency to soak into the adhesives. After thorough drying, the bellows can be compressed without becoming stuck when you open them a year later.
  5. I should also note that the bees wax & turpentine hasn't darkened the red leather bellows following drying. There usually is a lot of oxidized dye that can be removed by gently wiping with a damp cloth. These dyes are water soluble and the leather is very hydrophilic. Oils can cause these leathers to darken permanently and the brilliant red is no longer evident.

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