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MMD > Archives > May 2003 > 2003.05.19 > 06Prev  Next

Storing Leather & Pneumatic Cloth
By Spencer Chase

An inexpert opinion on storing things

Greetings,  Storing coated cloth might not be a great idea.  It would
be better to buy only what you need, which is not usually difficult
since you would only buy it by the yard retail anyway.  Heat and ozone
can deteriorate rubber, as can time alone if the compound is bad, but
in that case it will fail soon anyway so maybe it would be better to
find out without putting it into something other than storage.

Leather is another case because it has to be bought by the skin.
Leather does not like to be too dry or it dries out and cracks.  It
also does not like to be too wet or it rots.  Unless you can carefully
control the environment, you might actually make it worse by trapping
moisture.  Here is a suggestion for storing small amounts of leather
that might work.

Put it away when the weather is not unusually damp nor dry so the
leather might have a moisture content that is reasonable.  Put it in
an air tight container and either flood it with dry nitrogen or put it
under vacuum.  The reason for this is to exclude oxygen which allows
for most decomposition.  The lack of oxygen will prevent oxidation,
which covers most forms of deterioration.  It still might not prevent
decomposition by anaerobic bacteria but you would have to check with
a microbe specialist about this.  These would probably be rather deadly
little buggers and not likely to be in the leather anyway.

I have a sealing device called "food saver" that creates a pretty good
vacuum in a plastic bag and then seals it.  It uses rolls of plastic
material and can therefore make bags of any length less than the roll
length of about 10 or 20 feet.  The material is calendared on one side
to facilitate air removal.  I use this to store all sorts of things
in the freezer that would be damaged by the moisture: batteries, for
example, and coffee.

I would not put the leather in the freezer unless there was no other
place that was not very hot.  My guess is that a moderate temperature
would be better than a very low one because it might cause some damage
to the structure of the leather, but this is only a guess.  Also, the
freezer would be too moist an environment if the bag did fail.

If you don't want to buy the expensive food sealer you can flood any
air tight container with dry nitrogen and seal it and keep it in a
coolish dry place.  I think that nitrogen is slightly heavier than air
(not by much, since air is mainly nitrogen) so that it will stay in the
container as you slowly fill it with a tube inserted to the bottom and
will displace the air as it moves up.  You can test to see when the air
is all gone with a match.  It will keep burning as long as there is
oxygen but will extinguish once the nitrogen has purged it all.

You can rent nitrogen cylinders at a welding supply and can also get
small, overpriced ones for the purpose of storing wine.  I never had
the need to store a partial bottle of wine but I do have three nitrogen
cylinders for some reason; I must have gotten a good price on them.

So far, I have been storing my leather in a box, but this has got me
thinking.  Where I live, the air is still quite pure and there is
little ozone (other than after a lightning storm) so leather and rubber
last a long time.  Still, I have a bunch of cloth that I would probably
never use except in an emergency, because it is very old.

Best regards,
Spencer Chase
Garberville, CA

(Message sent Mon 19 May 2003, 09:07:00 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Cloth, Leather, Pneumatic, Storing

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