Hello everyone ,
Today I want to touch upon a subject that is as old as the hobby of helmet collecting. Care and preservation.
It is a subject that comes to the top often on the forums we visit.
The most common questions are how to deal with oxidation and how to deal with dry leather. In essence the answer to both questions is pretty simple but only if we are talking about helmets which I call above ground finds as opposed to dug up or ground finds. Ground finds will not be covered on this page as I lack the expertise in that area.
The history of preserving helmets
Before I continue let me first sketch the situation about 40-50 years ago , the first collectors already dealt with this topic. The golden advice was then that to preserve a helmet you needed to wax the steel or oil it. The leather was often treated with a plethora of leather caring products.
Today these helmets stick out like sore thumbs , the exteriors are shiny looking the leathers look black , stiff or greasy and dark.
That’s right 40 years later a lot of these well intentioned preservation jobs actually made a lot of outstanding WW2 relics a whole lot less interesting to 21st century collectors.
Preservation in the 21st century
All the helmets on this site are what I call ‘above ground finds’. Helmets found in houses , attics , cellars , in veteran duffle bags , you name it.
Their condition is variable , from excellent condition to battle look (which often means lots of paint loss , oxidation and dirt).
Have a look at the two helmets below.
Top : an excellent beaded Luftschutz , possibly unworn with supple leather and great paint.
Bottom : A battle worn look camo with lots of paint loss on top and inside an dry stiff leather. Dirt between the liner band.
For sure just from looking at the first helmet we can just put that one back on the shelf. But how about the second one ? Does it look like it needs preservation ? Do we need to medivac it and stabilize it before we can put it on the shelf ?
As I said in the beginning the answer is easy , it’s NO.
NO treatment whatsoever is advised for “above ground” found helmets.
Here’s why :
- Helmets as described above do not have active oxidation. That means even though it has oxidized it will not deteriorate in a normal environment like your hobby room.
- The leather follows the same logic. A good environment stalls the deteriorating process. (Many WW1 helmets around with decent original 100 year old leather)
And here’s again why not :
- Waxed , oiled helmets did not fare better than any kept in original state. And on top of that they lost value.
- Many leathers treated in the seventies and sixties actually do look worse (and smell badly).
That’s it for now.
Enjoy the rest of your week-end and if you didn’t check in recently , lots of new stuff is up on the website.
Great advice for collectors!
yes! the same i always thought: the less you touch the better is. Goos advice Frank
good advice. sorry for wrong typing
Yes, I could not agree more Frank. Nice article!