Leather Therapy

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I have been a horse owner for over 15 years. Throughout that time I’ve tried a variety of different leather cleaners and conditioners on my saddles and tack. Leather Therapy is by far the most effective cleaning & conditioning system I have ever used. It is easy to use, has a pleasant smell, and never leaves the leather feeling greasy. The Leather Wash comes in a convenient spray bottle. I’ve used this on several pieces of forgotten tack that were covered in dust, grime and mold upon their re-emergence from a damp old barn. This spray dissolved the grime like magic, allowing me to wipe away years of neglect with nothing more then a soft cloth. There is no need to rinse off the spray once applied. It leaves the leather with a nice shiny finish and also helps the leather regain some suppleness.

The second product I’ve used is the Restorer and Conditioner. It has the consistency of thin oil and is absorbed readily into most leathers. I once used this conditioner on an antique saddle, which was horribly dried out and moldy as a result of 20+ years of neglect. It restored the leather’s sheen and much of its flexibility after only a few treatments. The conditioner also helps to prevent mold from reappearing. This is a huge plus for horse tack as once mold takes hold it is often very difficult to keep it from coming back.

This product is also great for giving new life to ‘cheap’ leather. I’ve bought several new bargain bridles for training purposes, some of which were made of such a low quality leather it was reminiscent of cardboard. After a couple of treatments with the Restorer & Conditioner these items suddenly had a respectable amount of suppleness. I believe the life of these items will be greatly extended as a result of using this treatment. The Restorer and Conditioner has become an integral part of my brand new saddle’s maintenance routine. I treated this saddle immediately after purchasing it, and I do believe it helped to speed up the break-in time. (The same goes for my riding boots as well.)

Of course, these products aren’t just for horse owners. The manufacturer’s website states the products work well on leather jackets. I don’t have anything like that to try it out on, but I use these products quite often on my $300 leather riding boots. I’ve also sprayed the wash on a cloth and used it on my car’s interior. I haven’t yet tried it on my new leather couch, but I will not hesitate to do so once the time comes. I really would use it on any smooth leather surface without hesitation, as it is not sticky or greasy at all. There are a variety of leather cleaning, conditioning, and waterproofing items on the Leather Therapy website. You can order online and each product comes in several different sizes. The products are listed as being biodegradable, which is another big plus in my book.

-- Talia Chiodo  

Leather Therapy
$11 (Restorer & Conditioner, 8 oz.)
Available from Amazon

$20 (Wash, 16 oz.)
Also from Amazon

Manufactured by Unicorn Editions



Loctite Epoxy

I’ve used this epoxy to attach PVC pipe to wood, wood to wood, plastic to plastic. It works great, but I mainly love the way the applicator is designed. It is basically just two plastic syringes attached side by side. It makes it easy to squirt out equal parts of the two chemicals you mix together to make the epoxy. Then you simply retract the plunger and slip on the end cap and wait until you need it again. No mess, no hassle, and less waste!

-- Joe Lyles  

Loctite Epoxy
$5

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Henkel



Kevlar Thread

I tend to be rough on buttons (or maybe I’m just gaining weight). I started using Kevlar thread to sew fire toys and found it is very strong. I now use Kevlar thread for all my sewing. On buttons, I don’t need to use as much thread to secure them and the thread is tougher than the fabric I sew into. By weight, Kevlar is five times stronger than steel wire and is used in bulletproof vests. Do NOT try to break it by hand — you’ll just hurt yourself. The very thin thread works well with beads — it’s very abrasion resistant — and there are thicker varieties that I use for sewing leather.

-- Sean Rutledge  

Kevlar Thread
$3
(brown, orange, yellow, olive, black)

Available from Amazon

Also $24+ for larger thread diameter/quantities available from McMaster-Carr



This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Just For Copper Solderless Bonding

Just for Copper is a solderless bonding agent that permits the bonding of copper-to-copper and copper-to-brass without the use of solder or heat. This comes in especially handy when you have a joint located where you are not comfortable using a torch. Dry-fit your pipes, mark the joints, sand inside & out, apply a proper amount of compound, press together, twist, and you are finished. Works like a charm, even on those joints you couldn’t get to hold solder.

I was surprised by this product. I’ve plumbed several houses, a volunteer crew leader with Habitat for Humanity, and so on. You name it, I’ve done a little of everything. My nephew and I were running new copper for his second bath and there was a joint that wouldn’t take solder. He went to the local True Value for a compression fitting and the clerk suggested he try this bond. He brought it back and it worked. We then put in a new outdoor faucet for my mother. We were concerned with using a torch in an area that was cramped and had electric lines running through it. Using this bond took care of that concern and it worked great. Of course, the product isn’t fool proof (i.e. human error), so here are some tips on how to use it.

-- Al Finnical  

Just For Copper Bonding Epoxy
$15
Manufactured by Jackson Industries, Inc.

Available from Amazon



Sheldon Brown’s Online Cycling Encyclopedia

Whether you’re looking to convert your road bike into a fixed gear or want to learn how a derailer functions, this site has all the info you could ever want — a giant glossary, bits of cycling history and plenty of specific instructions and photos.

I started doing home adjustments to my BMX when I was eight years-old. Always got hand-me-downs because I couldn’t afford the best parts, and sending my bike to a shop would have been more expensive than the parts. These days I am always working on a bike — either getting new bikes or always on the search to complete a vintage group of components.

Even with my experience, I’ve been using Sheldon’s site religiously for the last year and half, basically every week. When I purchased my first Italian frame last year, I needed the correct measurement for the bottom bracket, but had no idea where to find a figure I could trust. My friend recommended Sheldon’s site. Since then, his site has helped me purchase, repair and build two road bikes (my Gios Torino and a Tom Ritchey built Palo Alto). And I just picked up a Tommasini that will also need a complete overhaul (I am currently on a vintage Italian kick). When I first saw some Gios Torinos on Craigslist, I went to the site to get the lowdown for purchasing. I needed to know what the value is or isn’t, if the bike is rare or not and what to look for, and also signs of a knock off.

I’ve seen, in the process, just how precise Sheldon’s attention to detail is. I had no idea that there was English and Italian threading. I learned that Italian is 36 mm X 24 tpi and English is 1.370″ X 24 tpi. Sheldon has a chart that gives you the measurements for every BB out there, anything from French to Swiss. And I totally didn’t listen to his tip on Italian threaded bottom brackets and paid the price. He notes how Italian BB’s tend to work their way out while riding. I experienced that on my commute home from work one day and ended up eating it right in front of a huge crowd. I wound up pulling out my crank and rethreading it with a tiny bit of lock tight, just as he recommends. Since then, no troubles whatsoever.

Even if you have no interest in working on your bike or going deeper than the basics of maintenance, this site can really boost your understanding of how a bike works (it has in my case) and even how to ride. There are great tips for beginners, including articles like “Everything You Wanted To Know About Shifting Your Bicycle’s Gears, But Were Afraid To Ask.”

-- Benjamin Gaffney  

[Sheldon Brown (RIP) wrote a monthly column on maintenance and repairs for Bicycling Magazine in the late '70s and '80s; a number of them have been reprinted on his site -- SL]

Sheldon Brown’s Online Cycling Encyclopedia
Free
Available from Sheldon Brown



Qwikie

This is a great tool for touching up paint in your home. There is nothing to clean up at all. Simply unscrew the cap, paint the area that needs to be touched up, and replace the cap. A real time saver.

– Phil Slight

[This product is not consistently available online, as of March 2010. For now, you may have luck on eBay. If anyone knows of a similar product, please let us know in the comments or through our Submit forms. -- es]

 

Qwikie 3 for $16 Previously available from Builder Depot Manufactured by Qwikie



X-treme Tape

Electrical tape simply does not work in a marine environment. Even duct tape won’t stick to something wet. Try getting any tape to stick to a rope or line on a boat. Or try to get a waterproof seal on a hose leak. X-treme tape can do all these chores with flying colors because it is a non-adhesive, self-bonding wrap. It’s not really tape since it’s not sticky. This stuff is sort of magical. You stretch it on and it self-fuses tight under tension. It works in cold and wet, and won’t melt on hot surfaces, so you can use it on engines. It is easy to apply even when it is below freezing. The tape doesn’t stick on itself until you want it to. Once tightened this silicone based wrap forms a reliable bond even in water. I use it as an insulator around wires, like electrical tape. I wrap the end of ropes with it. X-treme tape bears up for many seasons under constant UV and sunlight and the extreme cold, heat, and wet of harsh weather. It’s so good I use for any outdoor tape application.

-- David Siesel  

X-treme Tape
$9

X-treme Tape 1 inch x 10 feet $7 Available from McFeely's Manufactured by Vypar



Deluxe Tire Repair and Inflation Wallet

This kit makes tire repair pretty easy and even kind of fun.

I had opportunity to use mine on a ride a summer ago when I came across a rider with a flat rear tire. The kit worked as advertised. You used the serrated tool to clean and roughen up the puncture, and then you goop up the repair material and force it into the hole. Give the goop a few minutes to set, trim the plug flush, and use the CO2 cartridges to inflate the tire enough to get you to the nearest filling station.

-- Roger Los  

[The manufacturer's site offers many different packages for bicycles, motorcycles, and motor sports.]

Genuine Innovations Deluxe Tire Repair and Inflation Wallet
$20

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Genuine Innovations



Crank Brothers Speed Lever

This tool makes removing and replacing a bicycle tire quick, easy and safe — and it does it much better than conventional bike tire irons.

Ever watch an auto tire shop mechanic mount a tire onto a rim? He’s got this big power tool that runs around the bead of the tire and pops it onto the wheel. Shrink that to pocket size, a little over an ounce, and you’ve got the Crank Brothers Speed Lever for bike tires. It reduces the major hassle of a flat tire to a few seconds’ effort. You work the speed lever under the bead of the tire, extend it and clip it to the axle. Pull on the end near the tire and zip the tire off the rim. It can take a bit of pull to get started, but this tool is worlds above conventional tire irons. And I’ve never pinched a tube using the Speed Lever.

One side of the head looks like a conventional tire iron and is used to remove the tire. The other hooks over the rim to lever the tire back on after you patch it. The long handle portion is actually three telescoping sections that extend to allow snapping one end onto the axle to hold it in place while you rip the other end along the rim.

In more detail, dismounting a tire with old conventional tire levers goes like this:
- Insert one tire lever under the bead, lever it down and hook it on a spoke.
- Insert a second tire lever under the bead a few inches away. Harder this time because the first one has the bead stretched. Lever it down and hook it on a spoke.
- Usually, insert a third tire lever, do the same thing. From that point you can pull the bead over the rim with your hands, being careful not to nick your hands on stray rubber or bead threads.

With the Speed Lever,
- Insert the front side of the Speed Lever head under the bead and lever it down
- Extend the sliding sections and hook the end opposite the rim onto the axle
- Grab the end of the Speed Lever nearest the rim and pull it along the rim. The other end is hooked to the axle, so pulling the rim end moves it along the rim, levering the bead over the rim. Less force required, and it keeps your hands out of the tire.

The key is that one end of the Speed Lever is on the rim, the other is hooked to the AXLE. This allows the user to pull it along the rim to mount or dismount the bead. Remounting goes in reverse, and is just as easy. You insert the back side of the head of the Speed Lever over a portion of the rim where the tire is already in the rim, extend the sliding sections and hook onto the axle. Then grab the end of the Speed Lever nearest the rim and pull it along the rim. The tire is levered back over the rim and seated.

-- Dave Shaw  

Crank Brothers Speed Lever
$4

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Crank Brothers



Leatherman Wave

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I bought this tool about four years ago in preparation for a backpacking trip around Australia and it has been on my belt ever since. I have used it in every camping situation imaginable. Between the locking straight-edge and serrated blades, I have been able to cut everything from thin sheet metal to steak to wrist thick hemp rope. This tool was a first for me in that the saw blade actually cut wood with ease. Unlike many other models, the blades are on the outside of the tool so you don’t have to unfold the whole thing to get to them. This makes it less awkward to use and even allows one-handed use in a pinch. Another nice feature is that the edges of the plier handles are rounded, so they don’t dig into your hand when you need to apply a little force. The scissors, can opener and screwdrivers have never let me down. I have found the Wave to be just as useful indoors. I take apart computers on a daily basis, and it is usually all the screwdriver I need, although it is generally too clunky for tight spots. After four years of heavy use it’s still going strong.

-- Travis Seay  

Leatherman Wave
$55

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Leatherman