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May 10th 2017, 08:34 PM   #1
 DocB's Avatar
 
  Feb 2016
  Poulsbo, WA

  Aprilia RSV Mille, CB77, CB750K, CB750F
New leather restoration project - have I bitten off moe than I can chew?

I received leather restoration project number seven today. It's a truly skanky Vanson one piece track suit. But the price was so right. It's been down innumerable times, it's dry as a bone and so stiff I could barely get it on, zippers are intact but seriously corroded, and it has a piquant honk of mildew. But it's a VANSON, man. I hear people say that word with such reverence, so I figured I gotta play one myself. In another thread here I offered to post my progress on this restoration so that others might use some of the things I learn along the way and some folks said yes, so here we go-

Here's some befores





Pretty sad, huh. I wasn't kiddin'. Let's just say I'm not drinkin' the Vanson Kool-aid just yet.

When I get these projects I get an overwhelming desire to immediately start f***ing with it and make something fixed. Looking this guy over, those Vanson patches are what gives the average biker a chubby, so I better see if I can resuscitate them. They are pretty scuffed. The question is, scuffed over with crud ground in, or heaven forbid, scuffed right thru the pretty yellow letters?



If the letters are scraped off I don't want to accidentally scrape even more off. So one of my tactics on these projects is to start with mild cleaners and work my way up to the BFH and blowtorch in increments.

First stab was with Formula 409, a relatively benign but pretty potent cleaner. No good.

Next step up, denatured alcohol. Is that taking a little dirt off? Maybe, but not much.

OK, bring out the naptha. No difference.

Well it's not any cleaner but at least the letters seem to be holding up fine to all the rubbing, like they are molded into the vinyl. Nothin' to lose at this point. Out comes the acetone. Carefully, because this stuff will pull out the leather dye like a shop vac sucks up M3 screws.



Bingo! The letters were fine, it was just a layer of tarmac ground into the scrapes. A little vinyl dressing on top and the patch looks pretty acceptable. And I am inspired to make a go of this thing. I'm organizing a plan of attack that will probably start with thorough cleaning and a whole lot of restitching.

Edited by DocB on May 10th 2017 at 09:22 PM
May 11th 2017, 11:12 AM   #2
 DocB's Avatar
 
  Feb 2016
  Poulsbo, WA

  Aprilia RSV Mille, CB77, CB750K, CB750F
The mildew smell was getting to me, so that was the next issue I dealt with. Mildew and fungus hate acid environments. Three different things that seem to work to clean up mildew are white vinegar, tea tree oil and grapefruit extract. Tea tree oil reeks like turpentine, and I'm not sure that's a big step up from mildew smell. No grapefruit extract around here, and besides I have had very good luck with vinegar for getting rid of mold, mildew, fungus. Unlike the tea tree oil the vinegar stank goes away after a day or two.

I decided to "un-dew" the suit before calling it a night. The process was simple, I just filled a spray bottle with white vinegar and water and let 'er rip on the outside of the suit, getting good even coating all over. The mildew smell reduces almost immediately - maybe because it is masked by the vinegar... Anyway, by this morning there is little or no perceptible mildew smell up close and the vinegar smell is fading pretty quickly too.

Sunshine and dry fresh air is another good way to get rid mildew. Maybe we'll have some later today, but this spring has left me a bit skeptical.

And by the way, vinegar and olive oil makes a really great leather cleaner and dressing. I did the interior of my old Merc 300CE with it when I first bought it and was amazed at how much it brought the leather back to life. And of course if you are inclined to get hungry you just need to keep some lettuce in your pocket while you work.

I'm going to be a little more scientific with this suit and use Lexol to treat the leather after cleaning. It supposedly contains the fat liqours that leather loses with time, and I have had good luck with it on other projects. But first I will be cleaning up the inside and outside of the suit.
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May 11th 2017, 11:15 AM   #3
 Candiya's Avatar
 
  Jan 2016
  Bremerton

  BMW F800R, Honda CBR250R
I love your leather redo threads!
May 11th 2017, 12:09 PM   #4
 ZXtasy's Avatar
 
  Jan 2016
  Moses Lake, WA

  2013 Kawasaki Concours C-14, 2005 ZX-10R Kawasaki (Nekkid), '99 Yamaha TW-200
Man I remember back in 'the day', Vanson's were all the shiznit with racers and racer wannabees. I was the new Parts Manager at a M/C shop and we sponsored a local rider, part of his deal was a MTO Vanson suit with boots. I was all stoked about the Vanson name and products, then I had to do the measuring of the guy in about 50 places for the custom suit....way to close to another guys junk for some of that, but hey...I had a job to do.

Can't wait to see the end results. I really like the results I had with Doc Bailey's Leather Tonic.
May 11th 2017, 01:00 PM   #5
 DocB's Avatar
 
  Feb 2016
  Poulsbo, WA

  Aprilia RSV Mille, CB77, CB750K, CB750F
I'm now imagining pouring Doc Bailey's Tonic on and this suit sort of regrowing itself into a brand new Vanson Volante.

OK, next step is complete. That was to clean the inside. First all of the armor needs to come out. This suit's armor is all held in place with Velcro - a nice feature because you can conceivably replace some of it. There is a zip in the liner's back where it can be accessed. It includes elbow, shoulder, hip and knee armor, and surprisingly it even has velcro tabs to attach the chiton style back armor. The armor gives pretty thorough coverage, though it's not the latest high tech smart armor. Seems to be different types of closed cell foam layered with some hard plastic here and there.



With all the stuff pulled out the next step is simply to take a clean rag (I use microfiber out of convenience but terrycloth should be just fine), soak it well with denatured alcohol and start wiping down the liner in sections. Get it so it feels damp. You want to get the material pretty wet to defunk it, and the alcohol will evaporate rapidly. As heavily used as this suit looks, I was pleased to find it didn't have any BO smell. That's not to say I didn't give it an extra wipe in the pits and naughty bits areas. While I was at it I also wiped down all of the rather faded looking stretch Kevlar panels on the outside.

Doing this job always makes me think back to the first jacket I bought when I got back into riding a few years ago. It's a very nice Dainese Zen Evo Pelle Estivo. Looked used but in good shape when I opened up the ebay package, then wham! - knocked me over with BO stench. That one took a lot of work. I cleaned it several times with alcohol, but the stench was really dug in. I finally conquered it by taking some empty oversize tea bags, filling them with baking soda, and parking one in each pit for about a week. Word to the wise, be prepared for a rude surprise if you buy used gear from riders in Texas or Florida where the heat and humidity are high. Out of respect for other riders I always clean my gear inside with alcohol before I list it on ebay, even if I only tried it on once.

I should also say huge props to Spidi for making one piece suits with zip out liners that you can throw in a washing machine.
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Edited by DocB on May 12th 2017 at 10:38 PM
May 11th 2017, 01:38 PM   #6
 SilvieFox's Avatar
 
  Jan 2016
  welches, Oregon

  2008 Kawasaki Versys (Sylvester), 1972 Suzuki RV90 (vanvan), 1981 Honda TwinStar (Bobber),yamaha 225
looking good so far.. i really love that purple, hope you keep it and freshen it up
May 11th 2017, 02:55 PM   #7
 DocB's Avatar
 
  Feb 2016
  Poulsbo, WA

  Aprilia RSV Mille, CB77, CB750K, CB750F
I'm still daydreaming about the color scheme. The leather pattern on this suit has thrown me for a curve. It's designated as



I guess there's only so many things one can cook up for suit patterns, and somebody has to use up all of those little triangle scraps. My thought at this point is to go over the existing pattern with a new one that is contrasty enough to downplay the patchwork look of the leather. I may be adding a patch over the right sleeve as well where it has been thinned a bit from sliding.

I'm bouncing back and forth between this project and a bike I am attempting to get ready for Bonneville this summer. So these steps are getting done between rounds of soaking piston rings and breaking them anyway, trying to make one good motor out of two.

Next step before getting into cleaning the leather is to use any chemicals that I might want to clean out of the leather afterwards. Hmm, let's have a look at those zipper-whoa, shit!



Yup that is as corroded together as it looks. Time to whip out one of Man's greatest inventions, PB Blaster. I soaked the whole zipper and started working it over with a brass bristle brush. After a bit of soak time I started working the zipper foot gently with needle nose pliers (pull on the foot, not the pull tab!), getting it to move one tooth at a time whereupon I would hit it with a bit more PB and a little more brushing. Eventually it came free. Gave it one more wipe down with PB blaster to get the last of the corrosion off and then applied a generous coating of Tetra Lube Teflon in oil to the all surfaces and exercised the zipper for a while.



Nikwax is a good lube for zippers too. This suit has Talon zippers. I'll just state my preference for YKK nylon marine zippers and leave it at that.

Edited by DocB on May 11th 2017 at 07:03 PM
May 11th 2017, 02:57 PM   #8
 ZXtasy's Avatar
 
  Jan 2016
  Moses Lake, WA

  2013 Kawasaki Concours C-14, 2005 ZX-10R Kawasaki (Nekkid), '99 Yamaha TW-200
I follow your lead, out of respect for the medical examiner doing my autopsy some day, I keep my system 'wiped' inside with alcohol.

Some day remind me to tell you the story of a good friend/ex racer riding up late to meet 'the group' in Merritt BC in his blue and White Vanson one piece. Never, I mean never, buy a truck stop burrito at midnight in Canada before hitting a remote 100 mile stretch. Not sure if he ever got the inside of that suit clean....
May 11th 2017, 03:07 PM   #9
 DocB's Avatar
 
  Feb 2016
  Poulsbo, WA

  Aprilia RSV Mille, CB77, CB750K, CB750F
Yeah, that's a good argument for black pants.
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May 11th 2017, 03:11 PM   #10
 SilvieFox's Avatar
 
  Jan 2016
  welches, Oregon

  2008 Kawasaki Versys (Sylvester), 1972 Suzuki RV90 (vanvan), 1981 Honda TwinStar (Bobber),yamaha 225
Quote:
Originally Posted by DocB
Yeah, that's a good argument for black pants.
i thought deadpool said the guy with brown pants had the right idea.....
May 11th 2017, 05:43 PM   #11
 ZXtasy's Avatar
 
  Jan 2016
  Moses Lake, WA

  2013 Kawasaki Concours C-14, 2005 ZX-10R Kawasaki (Nekkid), '99 Yamaha TW-200
Brown leathers would go nicely with the wood grain contact shelf paper vinyl wrap any decent track bike has....
May 11th 2017, 06:12 PM   #12
 SilvieFox's Avatar
 
  Jan 2016
  welches, Oregon

  2008 Kawasaki Versys (Sylvester), 1972 Suzuki RV90 (vanvan), 1981 Honda TwinStar (Bobber),yamaha 225
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZXtasy
Brown leathers would go nicely with the wood grain contact shelf paper vinyl wrap any decent track bike has....
oh you mean the stuff i get at the dollar store? that shits great

https://www.dollartree.com/Con-Tact-...2314/index.pro
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May 12th 2017, 09:48 AM   #13
 ZXtasy's Avatar
 
  Jan 2016
  Moses Lake, WA

  2013 Kawasaki Concours C-14, 2005 ZX-10R Kawasaki (Nekkid), '99 Yamaha TW-200
Not trying to thread jack, but all this leather talk and DocB's work made me think about the Doc Baileys leather tonic (coincidence?). I have an old Sargent Metro tank bag from a departed friend that has been in storage for 10 years. I verified it is leather and got the tonic out and worked it over last night. Even my wife says it looks brand new! Going to set it up to use on the new C14, since it lack luggage room right, and I will have a bit of my friend still riding around with me.

Good product, I get no kickbacks. I used it the first time on twice crashed black Joe Rocket race pants and it made them look so good I almost did not want to sell them...but they, um er, shrunk.
May 12th 2017, 12:34 PM   #14
 DocB's Avatar
 
  Feb 2016
  Poulsbo, WA

  Aprilia RSV Mille, CB77, CB750K, CB750F
It has lanolin in it, good choice. Here's a good article on various fat liquors.
http://oldleathershoe.com/wordpress/?p=371
The article claims lanolin is a good conditioner in part because it is quite resistant to oxidation breakdown. Hmm, maybe I should rub this suit on Gracie, our ancient old Cashgoura goat.

My only beef with the Doc Bailey's marketing is the notion that this would be good for vinyl too. PVC comes from a totally different animal. Lanolin may not hurt PVC, but it probably doesn't do much that is positive. The wax in it will probably make PVC look more shiny. PVC doesn't lose oils like leather, or break down from getting soaked. It doesn't need to be made waterproof. The main things that kill PVC are UV and heat. Vinyl specific dressings are pretty much cleaners with UV shields and optical enhancers that make it shiny.
May 12th 2017, 10:36 PM   #15
 DocB's Avatar
 
  Feb 2016
  Poulsbo, WA

  Aprilia RSV Mille, CB77, CB750K, CB750F
Home from work at 6 and ready to play with the suit, only to find my Kevlar thread missing from my leatherworking toolbox. Luckily Kevlar thread is used for fly tying these days, so a quick trip to Sportsman's Warehouse solved that problem. While I was out I stopped at Michael's and got some black Rit dye for synthetics.

The one boo-boo on the suit I wouldn't be able to make completely disappear is a tear in the badly faded black stretch Kevlar on the back of the right calf.



But I have done enough of these projects to know that I can probably make it structurally sound, and just closing the hole will look a whole lot better. Some concentrated stitching with the black Kevlar thread got the frayed edges pulled back together reasonably well.

Then it was time for dye. The instructions are to add the dye to nearly boiling water and soak the fabric for 30 minutes. Since it wasn't part of my plan to boil the crap out of this leather suit I used a foam brush and, stretching the fabric as tight as I could over one hand, I brush/wipe/dabbed the dye on until it looked even. Here you can see how much darker it made the faded knit on the right leg compared to the undyed left calf.



I'll probably hit it with a heat gun tomorrow and then rinse and see how fast the color is. Here's how it looks at the moment -



FOLLOWUP: Today I sprayed the panels with water and hit them with a heat gun, getting them up to around 135-140F. Then I put on some rubber gloves and slid an old towel up inside the leg behind the stretch panel, and hit the panel from the front with a soaking rag. There was a ton of excess dye, that transferred to the towel inside. Nobody wants stained calves, so I had no choice but to bring to suit over to the wash tub and run cold water over the panels, squeezing them out until the water ran clear. Then I did my best to blot the legs as dry as possible and hung the suit up. The panels seemed to have stayed a nice dark black, but they are still wet. We shall see what they look like when dry...
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Edited by DocB on May 13th 2017 at 03:20 PM
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