Fixin Yer Leather Hat

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Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:50 pm

In order to fix collapsed leather shells you have to rehydrate the leather ie put moisture back into the leather to soften it. Once this is done, one has to block the shell top back into its original place then let it dry. There are 2 ways to hydrate. First method: Wet a cloth with water, turn your haube upside down and pull the liner up out of the shell so you do not get it wet. Place the wet cloth into the top of the shell and allow it to sit for an hour. It may take more than an hour to soften up the leather on some helmets. Check frequently as you do not want to add too much moisture. Too "wet" can lead to finish flaking off. The leather is ready when you can push it back into place easily with your fingers. The second method of hydration is more suited to putting moisture into an entire helmet. For example an OR's helme that has sides collapsed so that it looks like a deflated football. Place a plastic grocery bag into the shell to protect the liner and fold the sides of the bag out over the sides of the shell. Put a ball of wet newspaper into the bag. Place helmet into a larger plastic bag and seal it up so moisture can not escape. The water in the news paper evapourates into the air within the larger bag. The helmet is then hydrated and soft enough to block back into proper original shape. After one day of hydration check the helme for softness. You MUST keep checking daily because if the shell gets too wet the finish will flake off. You can also ruin the liner. This method demands CARE and CAUTION! I KNOW CAUSE I SCRWED UP THE FINISH ON AN OFFICER SHELL RECENTLY AND GOT INTO A WORLD OF HURT!!

BLOCKING: Place a plastic grocery bag over a strofoam headform. This is done so the styrofoam will not stick to the liner. Pull the helme down until the collapsed top is pushed back into position. I use quilters "T" shaped pins to pin an officer shell to the head. Scales are off so I can access the 2 side holes in the officer shell. For an OR helme you can tie elastic around the M91 side posts placing it around the base of the head form. This exerts enough pressure to keep the top in position. Allow to dry for 2 daysat least and it will be blocked into proper shape.
You can use this head form method to block a helme whose sides have collapsed as well.
Most leather helme parts can be put back into shape by hydrating and then blocking. For example, repro OR's chin straps. We all know how crappy they look where the strap bulges out around the M91 post fittings. Solution: Wet the strap with water pull it tight around the back of the skull on your plastic covered head form. Pin it to the form using the holes in the end fittings. Allow to dry for a couple of days. The strap will now be tight to the end fittings and have a nice curved shape that fits well against the shell of your helmet.
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by SgtFury » Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:09 pm

I have a Guarde helmet that is also suffering from some shell collapse as well as finish flaking :( . Can anyone recommend a restorer in the U.S. that does good work? I'm tempted to do the rehydrate and block process myself, but I'd like to keep other options open. I would certainly appreciate any recommendations.
Cheers,
Joe

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by SgtFury » Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:11 pm

Oh ... I will also include Canada in my search for a restorer. :? Joe

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by J.LeBrasseur » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:05 pm

Brian in the start of this post is the man, he is in Canada, I highly recommend him

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:15 am

Feel free to contact me (private message) at any time. Most of the work I do is for US collectors.
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by joerookery » Fri Nov 30, 2012 9:38 am

I think it is an effort by Brian [who is the best around] to lure US customers into a sense of relaxation before he leads a Canadian strike south of the border. Tricky one he is! :guns:
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:12 am

Hmmm.....take over Fla and CA we are already thick on the ground there with our seniors forces....MN too cold and besides Paul LeB lives there He's always packin and is a jet jockey. I also know James has an MG. No go on Idaho either we would have difficulty in disarming Gus besides, he is such a character! Ariz?? Joey would probably be in command there and I know he has combat experience. So over all no strike from north of the 49th. Besides, we have not yet broken the trillion dollar mark in national debt....pretty expensive to take you guys on board.
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by joerookery » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:21 pm

Besides, we have not yet broken the trillion dollar mark in national debt....pretty expensive to take you guys on board.
:bravo: :thumb up: :thumb up: :thumb up:
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by Gustaf » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:04 pm

b.loree wrote:. Besides, we have not yet broken the trillion dollar mark in national debt....pretty expensive to take you guys on board.
No problem on that, All you have to do is devalue the US greenback and replace it with that pretty Canadien stuff.
By the way, Arizona is already occupied by a large force of Canadians, I suspect that it will be the first state to fall to the invasion from the Great White North
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by Chip Minx » Fri May 24, 2013 12:35 am

Brian,

How about some advice for restitching projects? What thread do you use for instance? Needle type? Any other hints for self repair?

Thanks,
Chip
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by SgtFury » Thu Aug 15, 2013 7:02 pm

I have taken a couple of my Pickels with loose neckguards and/or visors to the shoe repair guy in my neighborhood. He does a great job and only charges me between $15 and $20.

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Sat Aug 24, 2013 6:05 pm

Hopefully he does them by hand??? Any modern machine re stitch will chip the finish along the stitch line. He will also not be using 100% cotton thread. Consequently, they are going to "light up" under black light.
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by Bungo » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:22 pm

b.loree, do you have any advice on repairing when the finish on the leather has cracked and flaked away in small sections? Photo is attached of my latest purchase, with some flaking.

Do you just brush on black shoe polish and then buff to a gloss? I'm worried this will look very modern and fake compared to the patina of the surrounding original finish...

I also think this would leave visible edges of the flaking, even though the black shoepolish would cover the tan colour of the leather which is currently showing.

Any advice is welcome!

Thanks, Bungo
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cracked leather3.jpg

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by pointystuff » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:59 pm

What off-the-shelf, modern thread is the closest match to the thread used for visors and neck guards?

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:34 pm

There is no modern off the shelf thread that matches. I buy vintage cotton thread off ebay. You can also buy linen thread used in book binding. Both of these do not light up under black light as they are totally natural like the originals.
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:39 pm

My apologies Bungo. I don't believe I answered your post. I do not recommend using black boot polish on any missing finish sections like the one you have shown.. You can use multiple coats of this polish to fill in crazing but not missing patches. Filling in with boot polish on flaked off finish areas does not last and does not look natural. Eventually the polish itself flakes off...been there done that!
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by pointystuff » Fri Mar 07, 2014 7:46 pm

Like this 35/3 gauge linen?
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... ink:top:en" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
b.loree wrote:There is no modern off the shelf thread that matches. I buy vintage cotton thread off ebay. You can also buy linen thread used in book binding. Both of these do not light up under black light as they are totally natural like the originals.

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:06 pm

Yes, that's the linen all right. Don't forget to run it through a cake of bees wax before stitching. You might also have to dye it black or see if you can buy black thread. Good luck.
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by pointystuff » Wed Mar 19, 2014 10:04 pm

What needle type is best suited for repairing a neck guard/visor?

Would a #18 bookbinding needle be in the ballpark?

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:21 pm

You can use any ordinary sewing needle. However, I like fine glover's needles which are very sharp and have a triangular blade. You do not want a thick needle but you do have to have one which will take your thread through the "eye". BTW measure out about 40" of thread to do one visor, you do not want to run out of thread 3/4s finished. A I said, wax your thread frequently as you stitch.
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by pointystuff » Fri Apr 11, 2014 7:56 pm

b.loree wrote:You can use any ordinary sewing needle. However, I like fine glover's needles which are very sharp and have a triangular blade. You do not want a thick needle but you do have to have one which will take your thread through the "eye". BTW measure out about 40" of thread to do one visor, you do not want to run out of thread 3/4s finished. A I said, wax your thread frequently as you stitch.
I lucked into a shoe repair shop equipped with a 1920s German sewing machine; the cobbler inherited it from his grandfather.

What size thread would be best for installing a liner in a felt Pickelhaube?

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:09 pm

Good luck on the machine, I hope it is one where the "foot" stitches underneath. I have never seen original machines but their tracks are always left on the underside of the shell. That is how they stitched without damaging the surface finish. All visors were pre finished and then stitched on to the shell. Any modern machine will crack the finish along the stitch holes. I know because in my early days I had a local shoe repair guy stitch one for me, this is why I have to do it by hand.
I can not give you a specific thread thickness for a filz helme. It certainly is thinner than that used on a leather helmet. I would use a beige/natural coloured linen not cotton. I have done one filz helme liner years ago....not easy, have fun!
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by pointystuff » Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:01 pm

Ahhh...I'm on the right track. Thanks.

Did you put a leather band behind the tongued liner when you repaired that felt Pickelhaube?

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Sat Apr 19, 2014 3:44 pm

No as the vast majority are simply stitched to the shell......no band.
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by pointystuff » Sat Apr 19, 2014 10:19 pm

There was one on eBay this week that had a leather band stitched into it; the tongued liner, though, was long gone.

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Tue Apr 22, 2014 9:20 pm

I saw that and learned something new as I had never seen that before on a filz helme. There is nothing "standard" on these helmets, there is the usual and then something like that comes along and then boom, you get smacked up side the head! If you are serious about making this filz helme liner project Ron PM me and I will gladly help out with some tips.
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by flasheart » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:22 am

b.loree wrote:There is no modern off the shelf thread that matches. I buy vintage cotton thread off ebay. You can also buy linen thread used in book binding. Both of these do not light up under black light as they are totally natural like the originals.
I have used black linen thread, waxed as Brian advises, on the 4 x restorations I have done and they have worked out great. Heavy gauge linen thread on the older helmets (1 x M1857 and 2 x M1860), and fine linen thread on the M1895 officers helmet.

The good thing about linen is that it is very strong and difficult to break. Cotton or other thread can get fragile after pulling it through 50 or 60 pre-drilled holes!

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by aicusv » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:36 pm

flasheart wrote:
The good thing about linen is that it is very strong and difficult to break. Cotton or other thread can get fragile after pulling it through 50 or 60 pre-drilled holes!

After many years of collecting I decided to try restitching my first set of visors. I'm using cotton thread and have had it break a couple of times. I'm only doing a couple of stitches a day. It has been about a month and I have the rear visor on and half way through with the front. The helmet I picked is an enlisted man's M'15, that was in with a collections of parts I picked up.

One thing I've noticed is for each hole in the body of the helmet there are two in each visor. These are the visors from the helmet. The stitches form a "W" type pattern, with each stitch passing through each hole twice.
Example; Out of the hole on the helmet, through the hole on the visor, over to the next visor hole, and back though the same hole in helmet that you came out. Then over to the next helmet hole, out it and the through the same hole in the visor you just passed back in through. Repeat. Is this common?
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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by flasheart » Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:19 am

aicusv wrote:
flasheart wrote:One thing I've noticed is for each hole in the body of the helmet there are two in each visor. These are the visors from the helmet. The stitches form a "W" type pattern, with each stitch passing through each hole twice.
Example; Out of the hole on the helmet, through the hole on the visor, over to the next visor hole, and back though the same hole in helmet that you came out. Then over to the next helmet hole, out it and the through the same hole in the visor you just passed back in through. Repeat. Is this common?

That doesnt sound right. Should be a set of holes on the visor that align exactly with a set of holes on the helmet body. I suspect that the holes have moved out of alignment. To do this properly, you need to clean out all the holes with a very fine drill bit or similar, then pin the visor to the helmet body through all or almost all of the holes to ensure they are lined up. Only then do you begin to sew, all the way from one end to the other, removing the pins as you go. Then reverse direction and sew all the way back to the other end through the same holes, but the stitches now fill in the blank spaces. The visual effect is the same as a sewing machine stitch.

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Re: Fixin Yer Leather Hat

Post by b.loree » Wed Jan 11, 2017 10:52 am

Yes something is definitely wrong here. Flash has described how things should be. All holes must be cleaned out of old thread. I use a hand held pin vice available off Ebay with very fine drill bits. Use small small T shaped pins (used by people who make quilts), there are lots of pictures showing these in my restoration posts.
To pin correctly and line up the holes you have to count the holes on the outside insert the pin and then flip the helmet over, look inside and count the holes on the inside. To start, I usually go 4 holes in from the tip of the visor, I line up to the fourth hole in the shell, then insert the pin half way. I want a space between visor and shell so I can count both visor holes and shell holes. Next count across 10 holes in visor, 10 in the shell and insert the pin. You should be able to repeat 3-4 times ie 3-4 pins before you have to push all pins into the shell because the visor is flopping around. Now you count holes on the outside as usual but you have to flip the helmet (liner pulled out) and count holes from the inside of the shell. I use one of those magnifier lights when I do this indoors. However, the best light is natural sunlight, you can turn the helmet so as you actually focus that light on the inside stitch line when you count. Other....hints: Before cutting the visor off to stitch, take a pencil and draw lines on the shell across the hole. This will give you a series of marks along shell and visor to help line things up. Second, there are always lines in the finish made by the rear spine both on visor and shell. You can line these up and actually start pinning from the middle of the visor. Third, and specific to the rear visor, the tips of the visor are stitched with a loop of thread so there is one hole, the very first one which is below the rest of the stitch line and close to the shell rim. This is where you start, push your needle up through this hole from inside, then into the second hole which is actually in the stitch line. Do this twice creating a loop of thread and then start stitching across. Fourth....breaking thread...you must use beeswax to coat the thread and you must do this multiple times as you go across the visor. Also you must move your needle (change position) along the thread as you stitch. Stitching (friction) causes wear in the thread where the needle is located. If you don't shift the needle, it wears through and breaks.
Regarding thread, the most easily found and the closest to original thread is the linen book binding type. You can buy it online in various thicknesses. You can not buy thread today of proper thickness that does not have man made fibres in it which will "light up". I use vintage cotton thread from the 1940's and 50's when you could still buy thick cotton thread. You can still buy 100% cotton thread today but it is too thin and only suitable for stitching cloth. You can use it for officer liners. Good luck.
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