This is a post all about why you should use gum tragacanth to finish or burnish the edges of your veg-tan leather projects. After researching its origins and practical uses, it has become quite apparent that this is some sort of miracle plant. The Internet wouldn’t lie to me, right? Either way, knowing a little bit about where products come from and how they are used is never a bad idea.
Tragacanth is an evergreen shrub found in the Middle East growing mostly in dry sub-alpine slopes and valleys. Many people are familiar with the other gums (arabic, guar), and this has similar food applications. Wikipedia tells me its not as widely available because it comes from a more tumultuous area of the world. While I cannot scientifically verify any of the information (though some of it did come from WebMD), the tragacanth plant has been known to have the following applications:
I even found some sites stating that it was used as a topical treatment for burns and has shown evidence of shrinking tumors. So the message you should be receiving here is: in the event of an apocalypse, this is your medicinal and artistic panacea. Stock up, kids.
So let’s talk about why we care about it. Simple. It makes our stuff look awesome. When we started using this stuff, it took our work to the next level. It felt like the first time I used a serger sewing machine. Pretty much life changing. If you read leather forums they say that saliva and elbow grease will do the trick, but first of all: Gross. Secondly: not true, this stuff is way better.
Simple enough. Put it on, rub it with a burnishing tool til it looks good. Done. What’s a burnishing tool? It’s basically a little plastic tool that saves your hands from a whole lot of unnecessary friction. You place the leather edge in the circle groove and rub away. It can come in other shapes and sizes in order to help you slick those edges in hard to access places and corners. I should probably mention that we both think that it smells amazing, too. Though oddly when we purchased the 4oz bottle, it smells way better than the 32oz bottle.
Let’s talk about the results! Here is a photograph where I took a long scrap piece of dyed leather and cut it in half. On the top piece, I used the gum with a burnishing tool and the bottom I did not. See all those fuzzies? Blech. No good. Click on the image to enlarge.
Another thing we will sometimes use the gum for is to smooth down the flesh side or under side of the piece if it is going to have any contact with skin. This makes the piece far more comfortable to the wearer and really provides value to the client since there is little risk of skin irritation. Or, you know, we could also chug it for medical reasons.*
*Savagepunk Studio does not suggest, endorse, or recommend that you ingest this product and doing so is at your own risk.