Lucky for me the hunter ring doesn't even know black tack exists, so I get to spend my time attempting to darken, wear, and love my brown tack to a rich, dark patina.
If I had the patience of, well... anything with patience, this process would happen naturally over time and I would trust the lady at the tack store when she swears all her Edgewood tack has turned "basically black," but I don't.
Aside from not totally believing her, Prair would look like a monster in the bright orange-red of new Edgewood tack (even with oiling) and well - we just can't have that.
|Can we picture this on the Prair? (blegh)|
One might ask why I even bought Edgewood tack in the first place and that is a totally legit question.
Yes, the leather is deliciously soft and strong.
Yes, it has a great reputation.
But, yes - It's hideously expensive and not what I had in mind when I was simply trying to get my old Aramas reins repaired (dammit).
So the two things that nearly kept me from ever even leaving the store with the Edgewood reins?
2) that horrid, horrid color that I knew would be hell to match to my bridle.
Of course, we know my history with staying within budgets (budg-wha?), so issue #1 was quickly ignored, and the lady at the counter was so adamant that the reins would darken I finally capitulated and pulled out the visa.
She dipped the reins once for me, handed me a gooey, oily mess and we were on our way....
After the first coat of oil settled, I pulled out my trusty Hydrophane, a ziplock bag and got ready for some transformation. I wish I could time travel back 20 years and tell my diligent, Pony Club self to just stuff my tack in a ziplock, pour in some darkening oil and check it in the morning.
When I think about the amount of time I spend trying to rub oil in with a rag.... anyway...
I've repeated this process twice now. Once initially when I got the reins (winter 2013) and once more this past week. It's so simple - and so flipping easy I love it.
Unbuckle reins, shove in gallon sized ziplock (a fancy ziplock... you don't want spills and leaks..) drizzle maybe a 1/3cup Hydrophane in the bag. Close and shake to coat the inside of the bag evenly, then leave the mess someplace where a kid/cat/husband won't accidentally eat/puncture/destroy the little package.
12 hours later the ziplock bag will be mysteriously dry inside, and your reins will look less orange and freakish.
I tend to wipe off any excess oil, apply a thin layer of normal conditioner (the Hydrophane can be a tad drying..) and call it good.
This is what my reins look like now:
|definitely no red|
The CWD leathers also started out as a redish-tan that offends my sensibilities a bit. They aren't nearly as bright at new Edgewood leather, but still, the tone of them can be difficult to tame if the rest of your getup is darker. My massive tack cleaning tub was lacking Hydrophane when my first CWD saddle came in last year and I foolishly thought I could get decent results with plain Neatsfoot Oil and some serious commitment.
|new leathers, not as orange.. but hardly dark.|
Old Leathers with traditional oil, conditioning and a year of use:
(Picture totally missing because I cannot remember to take one when I'm at the barn to save my LIFE)
So, into the ziplock they went. I left them overnight and wow. Biggest. Difference. Ever. What shocks me about the ziplock bag method is how evenly the absorption always is. No splotches, no lighter spots, just dark ass leather across the board.
I squeed a bit, then set the new leathers aside to keep as "new" for when I'm back in the tack.
New Leathers after one overnight ziplock bag treatment:
|Truer tone, but no detail..|
|This photo looks lighter than they are..|
I will say I've never had any adverse affects of using Hydrophane initially to get new tack dark and appropriately broken in.
In this instance both the Edgewood reins, and the CWD leathers started as high quality, relatively soft leather. The Edgewood reins have broken in faster and more wonderfully than any reins I've ever owned. They are supple, floppy and have that heavy weight of really delicious leather. The CWD leathers are calfskin wrapped nylon, so even before I touched them they were already soft and supple.
Both pieces won't require a ton of regular conditioning to maintain, and frankly, probably won't need any oil/conditioner for at least a few months. If I were applying the hydrophane to a cheaper/stiffer leather, I'd probably still stop after 2-3 coats (max) and switch to one of my other go-to conditioners to finish the break in process.
All in all, I think Darkening Oil is a good tool and way more efficient than suffering through a million applications of neatsfoot oil. Just be sure you test an area first to see how your leather will take it and proceed with some caution if you aren't going for the same dark-as-night result as I am.