Obenauf’s Leather Oil – ‘conditioning’ the leather on our new, custom saddle

Obenauf's Leather Oil

Obenauf’s Leather Oil

I’m a bit of a leather conditioner product junkie.  I have an inordinate interest in researching leather treatment products to keep my leather motorcycle boots pliable and water resistant (and that includes my so-called ‘waterproof’ Goretex lined Alpinestar moto boots.)

Through the years, I’ve experimented with the traditional waterproofing and leather conditioning products such as Mink Oil (which I’ve found to be too ‘watery’ and thin), Dubbin (too thick and greasy) and the English product I’ve been using for year, Ko-Cho-Line, which was recommended to me by an equestrian enthusiast who said the product is popular for conditioning tack.

Recently I stumbled upon a U.S.-made leather conditioner, Obenauf’s, manufactured just south of the border in Idaho.  Company founder Marv Obenauf says his many years as a forest fire fighter compelled him to find a product to condition and preserve leather boots used in forest fire fighting.  He eventually developed his own special formula.

I looked for Obenauf’s in Canada but couldn’t find it until this year when walking through a Cabela’s here in Edmonton.  An 8 oz. bottle of Obenauf’s retails for $14.99 and the jar comes with dauber conveniently built into the lid.

Applying Obenauf's Leather Oil to a new, custom made leather saddle made by Rich's Custom Saddles, Kingston, WA

Applying Obenauf’s Leather Oil with the built-in dauber to a new, custom made leather saddle made by Rich’s Custom Saddles, Kingston, WA


Obenauf’s Leather Oil has a viscosity that’s about as ‘runny’ as olive oil mixed with honey that’s just pourable.

Applying Obenauf’s Leather Oil to leather saddle from Rich’s Custom Saddles

In preparation for an upcoming trip, I decided to apply a second coat of Obenauf’s to my new leather saddle built by Rich’s Custom Saddles in Kingstron, WA.  (I did the first leather treatment when we returned from Kingston, WA after the May long weekend.)

I wiped any existing dirt off the leather using a microfiber cloth dampened with clean, warm water.  I put the saddle in our sun room for about a half hour to allow any moisture from the damp wiping to evaporate, and to allow the leather’s pores to theoretically expand in the heat.  (Obenauf’s instructions say to apply the leather oil in at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit.)  Our sun room was quite a bit warmer at 90 degrees.

Obenauf's Leather Oil comes with a dauber built into the lid

Obenauf’s Leather Oil comes with a dauber built into the lid

I placed the saddle upside down on an old cardboard shoe box to raise the saddle to a more convenient height on the work table.  Using the dauber, I oiled all the seams underneath the saddle first.  (You don’t want to oil the top of the saddle first then have to handle the oil mess to turn it over later.)

Once the underside seams and leather is oiled, I turned the saddle right side up and used the provided dauber to oil the top and sides.  The dauber holds too much oil for my liking, so I squeezed it against the inside of the jar mouth.

Oiling the entire surface of the saddle takes only a few minutes

Oiling the entire surface of the saddle takes only a few minutes

Oiling the entire top and sides of the leather saddle takes only a few minutes.  I let the well oiled saddle sit in the hot sun room for about an hour.  (This is a ‘trick’ that vintage car owners use to treat old, dry leather upholstery and bringing it back to life.  Liberally apply treatment to the leather and let the car sit in hot sun with all the windows rolled up, allowing the oil treatment to ‘cook’ into the leather.  It seems to work for them.)

After an hour, I wiped off the excess using a paper towel, and did a final ‘buffing’ with a clean, dry cotton cloth.

Saddle after treatment with Obenauf's Leather Oil and final buffing

Saddle after treatment with Obenauf’s Leather Oil and final buffing

Final results

After final buffing with a cotton cloth, the saddle looks great.  The leather feels soft and more pliable than it did new when I rolled out of Rich’s saddle shop.  If I have any complaints, it’s that the Obenauf product leaves the leather looking a bit shinier than I’d like.  However, once on the road, that sheen will disappear quickly.

Now that my new leather saddle from Rich’s has been treated twice with Obenauf’s Leather Oil, I’m pretty confident the leather is prepared for the worst rain storms I’ll likely encounter.





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