Old Timers -- What's in Saddle Soap?

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Can an old timer, or anyone who knows, tell me what was in the old fashioned saddle soap? I want to make some, but can only find 'new' recipes. An old saddle maker near me told me that he thought it was pumpkin that made the soap the bright orange color. He also had some black saddle soap, anyone know what made the soap black? He had some cans but they didn't list ingredients. Also, is saddle soap a true soap, or just a mixture of beeswax and other ingredients? Any ideas or information would be appreciated! Mary

-- Mary Fraley (kmfraley@orwell.net), April 11, 2002


My Grandfather would buy a gallon can (tub) of lanolin and he used it as we do saddle soap on the horse harnesses. I think saddle soap still contains a lot of lanolin.

-- Joe (CactusJoe001@AOL.com), April 11, 2002.

Here is one recipe: HOMEMADE SADDLE SOAP by Elsie Spry

To make inexpensive saddle soap at home, you'll need two pots, one of stainless steel or heat resistant glass ... a stainless steel spoon ... short, wide mouthed jars or empty commercial saddle soap containers ... beeswax ... pure flake lye ... castile soap shavings ... water ... and pure gum turpentine. (Beeswax and pure flake lye can be found at a hardware, candle, or grocery store.) In the steel or tempered glass pot, combine 6-1/4 parts beeswax, 10 parts pure flake lye, and 10 parts water. Caution: pure flake lye can burn and corrode skin, clothes, and furniture, so be careful! Boil this mixture for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with the stainless steel spoon. Next, in the second pot, melt 2 parts castile soap shavings with 10 parts water, mixing them with the well rinsed spoon. When the soap liquefies, add it slowly to the lye-and-beeswax mixture, blending evenly until fully combined. Next, remove the pot from any heat and stir in 15 parts of turpentine. (Watch out: turpentine is highly flammable.) Pour immediately into containers; cover and keep in a cool, dry place. The soap can be kept indefinitely. If you prepare the recipe with one part equaling one tablespoon, you'll have enough to fill four 8-ounce jars. When you use saddle soap, have two soft flannel cloths on hand. Soak and wring out one until almost dry, dip it into the soap, and rub the leather with a firm circular motion. Rinse that cloth in warm water, wring out, and then use it to remove any excess lather. Use the second dry cloth to polish the leather to a soft luster ... and say good-bye to ugly looking leather goods!

-- BC (desertdweller44@yahoo.com), April 11, 2002.

Thanks to both of you. This is the kind of information I want to hear. I wonder, though, if turpentine would be awful drying for leather. Any ideas of what the black color/orange color are? Mary

-- Mary (kmfraley@orwell.net), April 11, 2002.

I found a recipe from a book entitled, "Dr. Chases Recipes. Information For Everybody" (1900) From the U.S. Army: 1 gallon neatsfoot oil 4 lbs. beef tallow 2 lbs. beeswax Melt slowly, add 2 qts. of castor oil, 1 oz. lampblack. Stir, strain, and cool.

-- Gayle in KY (gayleannesmith@yahoo.com), April 11, 2002.

I got to thinking about lampblack and didn't know what it was. I looked it up and found out it is a fine pigment consisting of carbon collected as soot from the smoke of burning oil, gas, etc..

-- Gayle in KY (gayleannesmith@yahoo.com), April 12, 2002.

Well I have a hundred pounds of beeswax and a whole hill of castor bean plants. FOR SALE, if you are in need of any of those.

-- Joel Rosen (JoelnBecky@webtv.net), April 12, 2002.

Anyone know where to get lampblack? Gayle's recipe sounds like what I was looking for. I have everything but the lampblack. I wonder if this is the same way to make the orange saddle soap, but they added another ingredient other than the lampblack. You can't add pumpkin to this kind of recipe without spoilage, since there is no lye. Any watery product would create mold eventually. Mary

-- Mary (kmfraley@orwell.net), April 12, 2002.

Mary, Gayle's recipe looks like more of a dressing than a real saddle soap. I wouldn't be looking for any sudsing from it. Saddle soap is simply any lye soap using mutton or beef tallow as the fat component. Of course, other things can be added, frequently neatsfoot oil, sometimes beeswax. The soap acts as an emulsifier to transport the oils into your leather.

-- Laura Jensen (lrjensen@nwlink.com), April 12, 2002.

You can easily get small amounts of lampblack by holding a china plate over a burning candle, then scraping off the black stuff that collects on the plate.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), April 12, 2002.

Wow, this is great information, thanks everyone! Mary

-- Mary (kmfraley@orwell.net), April 12, 2002.

If you are interested in making the recipe using lye, then I would suggest that you look at some soap making websites first to understand the process. I've listed 2 below.

Working with lye is dangerous. Mixing lye with water creates a very strong chemical reaction. If you do it the right way, you slowly add the lye to Cold water and the resulting solution will actually heat itself! If you do it the wrong way- mixing water into the lye, you may actually have the reaction "explode" as the water hits the lye!

I really enjoy making my soap with lye and fats, but I always wear safety googles and chemical proof gloves, use a candy thermometer in the lye and fat pots to watch the temps and measure my ingredients carefully. I also only use stainless steel or tempered glass for the process as the lye will react with other materials.

Both of these sites are great! http://users.silverlink.net/~timer/soapinfo.html http://waltonfeed.com/old/soaphome.html

-- Margarete (forpippin@earthlink.net), April 12, 2002.

Thanks for the warning. I've been making and selling soap for over a year now, so I'm well aware of the dangers. The reason I want to make saddle soap is that I have some of my soaps in a leathermaking shop, and want to make the saddle soap to sell there. Thanks Mary

-- Mary (kmfraley@orwell.net), April 13, 2002.

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