Looking after leather

Monday January 30, 2012 Written by rohan

It's that time of the year when I start to get a hunger for days meandering in the forest, searching for wild mushrooms, shooting rabbit and hare, and cooking slow meals that nourish the soul. There's a bit of effort required for these meals, which includes heading outside into the elements - and I'm a stickler for appropriate footwear when getting out amongst it.

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Lace-up leather boots have always been perfect for the autumn and winter tasks of hunting, fishing and foraging. If they're well looked after they can also last you many seasons. My Dad taught me how to polish shoes - not just the task of polishing leather, but also the satisfaction of putting in some elbow grease and getting a smashing fresh pair of shoes in return. I used to love the smell of nugget, the whiskers of his old well-used brushes and the slowness of the process.

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These days I'm less concerned about the appearance of the end product than I am by the practicality of it all.

A few years ago at a country fair I stopped at a shoe polish carpet bagger who was selling a beeswax-based leather rub. The smell of the honey and leather alone was enough to hook me, but the end value was in the natural ability of the beeswax polish to waterproof my leather boots.

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The process is easy. Set out all your tools and equipment. Cover a table in newspaper and lay out all the leather goods that you wish to treat: boots, belts, wallets, knife sheaths, gun cases, jackets and bags. Make a good pot of coffee (with a nice dollop of whisky) and start the rubbing and brushing the wax on all your goods. If you've mistreated some items, give them a second going over. Use a brush or a rag to apply the rub, then use a soft cloth to finish.

When you're done I reckon that you'll have a newfound appreciation for your leather goods. The process definitely helps me remember that an animal has given its life for my stuff, and in return I want to show each piece the respect that it deserves.

Rohan Anderson is the man behind Whole Larder Love, an online portal to an offline reaping, sowing, growing, hunting and cooking world.