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Im new to leather helmets however im experienced in leather i.e saddles and horse tack. Something has been bothering me over the debates on how to paint leather. I find nothing wrong with painting a shield however it makes me cringe when people talk about painting leather helmets. The problem with this is that leather needs to be oiled regularly to prevent it from drying out and becoming brittle. If your going to redo a helmet please please please dye the leather dont paint it.. I see in topics how guys cant remember hitting their head yet a chunk of leather is missing, it wouldnt take much to chip a good chunk off of a dried out leather helmet. When was the last time you broke a piece of leather off of your station boots? These helmets are a huge investment and the best way to keep your investment in good shape and have it last years is simple make sure its treated regularly with leather products such as "doc baileys leather treatment" nets foot oil etc. I know alot of you wont agree with this but it makes sence, I also was talking to my saddle maker earlier today and was discussing this with him and he just cringed at the thought of painting leather. My advice please dont do it. Although helmets are a big investment saddles are an even bigger one, when was the last time you ever saw a painted saddle? Good quality leather products such as conditioners and dies can be purchased at any saddle shop website some good ones i have found are valley vet, chicks saddlery, country supply, jeffers  and  horseloverz.com. Please make your investment last and dont paint it.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hey Brother Shawn:

You have definitley hit something there. I love my leather lid, like no other I have ever worn or seen. It came painted. The chief is okay with the color, it matches the other Cairns products, so as long as I maintain it when in is really in need, I get to keep wearing it. Desire to wear the leather on duty is far stronger than any concerns about the leather drying out, simply because I have taken the time to learn an apparently acceptable way to repaint it. This has taken a few tries. But five years later, the helmet is in excellent condition and has seen some tough work. I learned last time that they boil the helmet in linseed oil prior to painting. So this time around I treated exposed areas to the same, then I added the oil to the first two coats of paint. It has worked very well. I don't know if you saw it, but I posted the process in a blog on my Community site. I encourage you to read it, check out the pics and give it some thought from a leather worker's viewpoint. I would be interested in hearing what you think. Several months later, my helmet has done better than ever in holding up to the job.

Shawn I dont know much about leather my helmet came painted how do the leather products get to the leather through the paint?? I also have one that is natural but it also has a sealer on it.. Will these products work ?????
If the helmet is painted no these products will not work for you. On your natural helmet what is the sealer? is it simply a water proof-er or is it actually clear coated? If it hasn't been dipped in a clear coat of any type these, products should work for you. I always recommend people to first try them in a inconspicuous area first to make sure it will be the result you want. Be careful when buying these products to make sure it wont darken the leather (that is if you dont want it too) If your leather is a light natural, some oils will darken it, if thats not what you want then your best bet would probably be going with a good conditioner such as Doc Baileys leather tonic.

Greg Wyant said:
Shawn I dont know much about leather my helmet came painted how do the leather products get to the leather through the paint?? I also have one that is natural but it also has a sealer on it.. Will these products work ?????
Brother Ben
That was vary well written I honestly enjoyed reading it.I liked the fact that you did use alot off linseed oil hopefully it will reach the leather to keep it oiled enough. The biggest thing in leather is to keep it oiled to prevent it from drying out, unfortunately its impossible to do once paint is on sealing the leather. My advice to people if my approach of dyeing is to radical for them to try, oil the hell out of the helmet before you paint it, and use the ratios like you had mentioned. In my honest opinion do i think its the best way to go, not really but its definitely better than just paint. The nicest thing about dyeing your helmet it can be easily oiled, easily re dyed, and when you need to do a little touch up shoe polish works just fine. Thanks again for your post and for the info on how you redid your lid, it was vary informative. Take care and stay safe.

Ben Fleagle said:
Hey Brother Shawn:

You have definitley hit something there. I love my leather lid, like no other I have ever worn or seen. It came painted. The chief is okay with the color, it matches the other Cairns products, so as long as I maintain it when in is really in need, I get to keep wearing it. Desire to wear the leather on duty is far stronger than any concerns about the leather drying out, simply because I have taken the time to learn an apparently acceptable way to repaint it. This has taken a few tries. But five years later, the helmet is in excellent condition and has seen some tough work. I learned last time that they boil the helmet in linseed oil prior to painting. So this time around I treated exposed areas to the same, then I added the oil to the first two coats of paint. It has worked very well. I don't know if you saw it, but I posted the process in a blog on my Community site. I encourage you to read it, check out the pics and give it some thought from a leather worker's viewpoint. I would be interested in hearing what you think. Several months later, my helmet has done better than ever in holding up to the job.

Hi Dave.
I will admit I must eat my words. At least to some extent... Phoenix fire helmets never paint different process. Cairns helmets I do now agree with you guys, being that those helmets are not only dipped in boiled linseed they are also dipped in a resin trapping in the moisture. Brother Ben has a fantastic step by step on how to redo cairn's helmets. I recently followed his direction on redoing a leather cairn's and I must admit it turned out wonderful, so props to Ben for his advice. As for Phoenix leather helmets I must still hold strong on my soap box and recommend not painting a Phoenix. Thank you for the post Dave

Dave LeBlanc said:
Shawn,

Having a wife that was "addicted" to horses, I hear where you are coming from with caring for leather helmets. The difference is in how the leather is treated to begin with. Cairns leather helmets are dipped in boiling linseed oil before being painted. This is designed to keep the leather from drying out.

Leather helmets have been painted since they first came into being, and I have seen 50, 60 and 100 year old leather helmets that look like they are almost new.

Quite simply the it is a different animal....
Brother Shawn:

I can't take the credit, Dave Leblanc mentioned it on another group and I applied it and loved it the effect! But Dave was the one that came forward with that technique.

Shawn Tibbitts said:
Hi Dave.
I will admit I must eat my words. At least to some extent... Phoenix fire helmets never paint different process. Cairns helmets I do now agree with you guys, being that those helmets are not only dipped in boiled linseed they are also dipped in a resin trapping in the moisture. Brother Ben has a fantastic step by step on how to redo cairn's helmets. I recently followed his direction on redoing a leather cairn's and I must admit it turned out wonderful, so props to Ben for his advice. As for Phoenix leather helmets I must still hold strong on my soap box and recommend not painting a Phoenix. Thank you for the post Dave

Dave LeBlanc said:
Shawn,

Having a wife that was "addicted" to horses, I hear where you are coming from with caring for leather helmets. The difference is in how the leather is treated to begin with. Cairns leather helmets are dipped in boiling linseed oil before being painted. This is designed to keep the leather from drying out.

Leather helmets have been painted since they first came into being, and I have seen 50, 60 and 100 year old leather helmets that look like they are almost new.

Quite simply the it is a different animal....
Leather helmets are chosen by many in our profession because they feel this is the best type of hemet and / or they want to carry on with tradition. The helmet is an important part of our equipment that allows us to perform our daily tasks. Like any other piece of equipment it must be taken care of properly in order to provide us with proper service. Today's firefighter has several manufacturers to chose from when deciding on buying a leather helmet. Each of these manufacturers builds a helmet utilizing differing techniques. Just as each type of leather helmet is unique, so is the process they use to paint the helmet. The best procedure to follow is the one recommended by the manufacturer of your helmet. Always follow the manufacturers advice to make sure you don't do anything that will void the warranty.
I am in the process of stripping and conditioning my NYer and if I can get every spec of paint off using citrus strip and some elbow grease, I may just leave it natural. Here is a link to MSA's guide on painting Cairns leather helmets. They recommend Sherwin Williams brand paint but you can also use "One Shot" which I know a lot of people use and the what my brother and friend Ben used in his helmet pictured above. I am going to do the paint and linseed oil mixture if I repaint mine so I have a bit more protection from the climate here.
Attachments:
Brad; I have followed the recommendations on the Sherman Williams paint and found that the store here in Fairbanks couldn't provide it, even though they are a Brand store. I would have to have ordered a full case which probably would have outlasted my helmet. Otherwise, I probably would have stuck with the Cairns recommendation. Necessity pushing me towards "OneShot", I found I really like the results a lot. I have to say that none of the factory jobs I've seen (several leather helmets from Cairns have come through UFD since Forrest and I bought the first two) have measured up to what I have managed to do with the OneShot. So..I'm loyal to what works. LeBlanc's method seems to really refine it for Cairns helmets. Allows the paint to flex a bit I think. Also eliminates pocketing due to the two thinner coats. Give it a try and then bring your helmet by, I'd love to see it. (Oh, and thanks for the help the other night, dispatch insisted the fire was on Cushman, and I went by your directions instead, Thanks!)

Brad Hoff said:
I am in the process of stripping and conditioning my NYer and if I can get every spec of paint off using citrus strip and some elbow grease, I may just leave it natural. Here is a link to MSA's guide on painting Cairns leather helmets. They recommend Sherwin Williams brand paint but you can also use "One Shot" which I know a lot of people use and the what my brother and friend Ben used in his helmet pictured above. I am going to do the paint and linseed oil mixture if I repaint mine so I have a bit more protection from the climate here.
Shawn,
You are right in target. Leather should be dyed not painted, that is why I use leather that is dyed all the way through on the Paul Conway Leather. Brothers and Sisters please feel free to call my office with any concerns.

Thanks
Paul Conway
800 955 8489
I just bought some supplies last night at someplace called home depot but I should have gone to Lowes! It cost about 40 bucks for foam brushes, boiled linsed oil ($23, most exspensive item) PC Farenheit (for the cracking) since I couldn't find any PC-7. Looks like I will have to order the One Shot paint, only place is in Anchorage or I can get it from The Fire Store, anyone know any others?

Ben where did you acquire yours?
You can find 1 shot at dickblick.com or www.artsuppliesonline.com , just to name two, or usually you can find it on e-bay as well.

Brad Hoff said:
I just bought some supplies last night at someplace called home depot but I should have gone to Lowes! It cost about 40 bucks for foam brushes, boiled linsed oil ($23, most exspensive item) PC Farenheit (for the cracking) since I couldn't find any PC-7. Looks like I will have to order the One Shot paint, only place is in Anchorage or I can get it from The Fire Store, anyone know any others?

Ben where did you acquire yours?

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