So, what am I doing different?

Things have been a bit quiet here lately, mainly due to a new job but also a dose of shingles left we with no energy for anything.

I’m on the mend and have finally got around to dyeing the samples for the paint tests. I’d prepared the dye about the first week in January, by pouring about 125ml of cider vinegar in a container and then adding enough 0000 steel wool to just be covered by the liquid. I agitated it every couple of days and two weeks later when the steel wool had dissolved, added as much again. It has sat that way for the past three weeks and now is a grimy brown liquid with residual grit sitting at the bottom.

I’d done some reading and everyone seemed to complain that the best one could expect from this sort of dye was a darkish grey that would darken on application of tallow or wax, so I was prepared for patchy results. I did a single dip for each of three pieces of the same harness butt I use for my blackjacks and leather bottels. As I lifted each one out, it was a pale grey that darkened almost immediately to a deep grey, deepening within minutes to an even, deep black. So black, I had to label the samples so I could tell them from the samples done with modern spirit dye.

Iron dyed veg-tanned leather samples. This is 30 seconds after the dye dip.

Just in case it was a particularly high-tannin leather, I also tried samples of carving leather, newly tanned calf leather and a piece of heat-sealed goat skin. All but the goat are jet black, it has gone a pleasant pale silver.

So what have I done differently, or what did I do right? Did ignoring the mix for three weeks contribute to this success?


Waterproofing boots, 1659 style

I was recently seventeenth century researching fishing and found this instruction for making a waterproof boot polish.

I have a willing mind with Gods help to preserve all those that love this recreation, to goe dry in their boots and shooes, to preserve their healths, which one receit is worth much more than this book will cost.1

First, they must take a pint of Linseed oyle, with half a pound of mutton suet, six or eight ounces of bees wax, and half a pinniworth2 of rosin, boyle all this in a pipkin together, so let it coole untill it be milk warm, then take a little hair brush and lay it on your new boots; but its best that this stuff be laid on before the boot-maker makes the boots, then brush them once over after they come from him; as for old boots you must lay it on when your boots be dry.

It comes from BARKER’S DELIGHT: OR, THE ART OF ANGLING. Wherein are discovered many rare Secrets very necessary to be known by all that delight in that Recreation, both for catching the Fish, and dressing thereof by Thomas Barker, second edition 1659. If anyone gives it a try, let me know how it works.

1 Twelve pence, according to one of the introductory poems at the front of the book.

2 Possibly a pennyweight, a unit of weight equal to 24 grains, or roughly 1.6g. There are 20 to the Troy ounce.