Quality Leather Repair

What You Need To Know About Antique Leather Restoration

The Basilica of Saint MaryRestoring antique leather is a sometimes difficult and delicate process. You may desire to restore your leather antique in order to increase its resale value, or you may just want to return it to its original state of beauty or functionality. Either way, it helps to know the age and the history of the piece.

Leather, because it is made from the skin of living animals and reptiles, is organic, which means that over time, it will deteriorate. The degree of deterioration is dependent upon a variety of factors, primarily the length of time it was exposed to light, dirt and grime, and temperature extremes. Other detrimental factors include long-term exposure to high humidity or extreme dryness. Any of these factors cause leather to lose its color, crack, dry up, or become stained.

Two other major considerations you need to factor in before undertaking restoration are how the leather was originally processed, and whether or not other materials were used in addition to the leather when the object was made. Other materials may respond adversely to products or techniques designed to clean or restore the leather.

A century ago, even thirty years ago, leather was processed, or tanned, using different methods. Because vegetable tannins and chemical tannins pose separate restoration challenges, knowing the approximate age of the leather is a determining factor in a successful restoration.

Before you attempt to restore leather, it’s a good idea to decide your end goal. Is the point of the restoration to increase the value to a collector, or do you want the piece, such as a steamer trunk, restored to its original functionality? Some leather objects, such as horse saddles made in the 18th or 19th century, may not be functionally viable at all today, no matter how extensive the restoration is. There would be no point in trying to restore such a piece to a functionality level.

No matter what your reason for restoration, there is one guideline you should never lose sight of, and that is to make sure the restoration retains as much of the original work as possible. Common restoration mistakes include using machine stitching instead of the original hand stitching, adding an inlay or any other decorative touch not used in the original piece, especially if it represents a completely different era, and applying cleaning solutions that are corrosive or that discolor.

Unless you are confident in your abilities, choose a restoration company that is reputable and known for expert repairs. Look for a company that is licensed and insured and that has a proven record of accomplishment. A good restoration company will provide you with client testimonials or recommendations. After all, if the restoration repair work is sloppy, or worse, clueless, you not only won’t be able to sell the piece, you won’t even enjoy looking at it. In the case of antique car leather, even though you may never plan to sell or drive the car, you’re still going to want the interior to duplicate its original operating condition; that means finding an expert to do the job.

Once you have completed restoration, be sure to store your antique in the same favorable living conditions you enjoy. That means keeping your treasure in approximately the same climate that makes you comfortable. If you don’t enjoy extreme heat, cold, dryness, or dampness, your prized antique book, trunk, chair, or frame won’t either, and those extreme conditions will speed up deterioration.

Leather Medic
5565 Lee Street, Unit 1
Lehigh Acres, Florida 33971-1552

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