What is restoring leather?
There are many different aspects to restoring leather, from a simple tear repair to a colour restoration and even replacing panels that are badly damaged.
All types of leather can be restored including coated leather, pigmented leather, bonded leather, aniline leather, semi aniline leather, bicast leather, suede even artificial leather and vinyl.
Leather Restoration is a fantastic way of preserving leather to avoid replacement of an item.
Each type of leather has a different process to carry out repairs and restoration.
The first step is to identify the type of leather you have that needs repair or restoration, look at the leather types to identify what type of leather you have.
Pigmented leather or coated leather is the most common type of leather on the market, so we will focus on that type of leather for this process.
Pigmented leather or coated leather has a layer of paint applied to the surface and is sealed with a clear coat lacquer to give it even greater protection barriers.
The first step in the process is to remove the surface coating on the leather, depending on the damage will depend how much surface coating is removed.
For minor damage this can have a SMART repair carried out, by partially removing the coating enough to allow the new paint to adhere.
The areas that have much greater colour loss, you will have to remove the coating fully, then apply a new coating of pigment paint to the surface and seal with a clear coat lacquer.
Leather Prep & Abrasive Pad To Remove Coating
To remove the surface coating you will require a solvent based solution made specifically for leather called Leather Prep. This is done with a fine abrasive pad, by spraying the solution onto the surface and rubbing the abrasive pad over the surface and removing the paint as you go, take off the wet solution with the paint with a white terry town cloth.
Painted Coating Fully Removed
Keep repeating this full process until the paint is removed, to test if you have sufficient paint removed from the surface you put a drop of water on the leather and if this soaks in then you have removed the surface and made the leather ready to have new pigment paint applied once again.
The next step is to apply a rough primer coat of paint. This is done by just applying the paint in a circular motion, at this stage you are not covering the leather just getting a fine coating applied as a base layer. This will soak in and bond to the leather perfectly.
Base Coat Of Colourant Being Applied
The next step is to start building up your pigment paint layer, this time you are going to stipple sponge a coat of paint on to the leathers surface to build the layers up. This next coat, depending on your leather colour will almost cover the leather completely. Dry each coating as you go with a hair drier or cool air blower, you can sand with 1200 grit sandpaper to ensure you always retain a smooth finish between layers.
Two to three layers of pigment paint applied this way is normally acceptable to gain the desired new finish back to almost as good as new again.
Pigment Paint Coating Being Applied Showing Filler Applied
If The Leather Is Damaged
If the leather is damaged with cracking and tears this has to be carried out after removing the pigmented surface coating as above, then the repairs are completed.
In most cases cracking will be removed in the leather prep stages, as the cracking is mainly in the pigment paint surface that has dried out due to age and lack of protection. You must protect against UV rays and general daily use.
Applying filler depends on the type of damage left on the surface, for very fine cracks a Flexi Filler must be used, this is applied via a spatula to the surface, make sure you fill just the cracks and not over doing the application as this will avoid the area becoming un natural when painted.
Leather Flexi Filler & Alcohol Cleaner
Seat With Filler Applied To Cracking
For heavier cracking and holes the Heavy Filler is best for the purpose, again using a spatula. Apply this to the damaged areas being careful again not to over apply the heavy filler.
Both types of fillers can be dried with a hairdryer to set them giving you a stable base to start the sanding process. If you have applied a lot of filler this is sometimes best left over night after drying to ensure the filler is cured all the way through to the base of the filler.
Both types of filler can be sanded with the 320 sanding pads to smooth down the filler, do not be too aggressive with the 320 grit sanding pad as you don’t want to take away the grain just to sand the fillers that have been applied.
Once the filler process has been completed, you then sponge on a single coating of paint to give you a guide coat to see if any more filler will be required, you can lightly sand this paint coating with 1200 grit paper and apply more filler if required. If you apply more filler dry then sand lightly with the 320 grit sanding pad until smooth again, then coat again with another layer of paint, sand again with 1200 grit sandpaper and apply a final coating it will start to look like new.
Chair Before and After Damage Has Been Repaired.
The Leather Is Torn
If you have tears in your leather these are repaired after you have done the full leather prep stages with the Leather Prep solution and abrasive pad.
To repair the tears you need a poly cotton or very thin lamb nappa leather, this is placed under the tear, if you are using lamb nappa leather, make sure that the suede side is facing upwards to the suede side of the leather, not the painted side towards the back of the leather you are repairing.
Make the patch to go under the tear around 1cm bigger than the tear and place in position making sure its nice and flat to avoid bumps in your repair, its best when putting the sub patch in place to use a pin placed in the centre so that the sub patch does not disappear, with the pin in place, using a water based glue or solvent based glue apply a generous amount of glue to one side of the tear to the back of the tear and gently pull down the tear on that side putting in position and gluing down. Very carefully remove the pin by holding the tear between your fingers and pulling out the pin, then glue the other side pulling towards this side towards the first glued side then apply low tack, clear sellotape to the tear to hold the two halves together while they dry.
With a water based glue you can dry this with a hairdryer, a solvent based glue has to be left to cure and takes longer to cure than a water based glue.
If you use a solvent based glue do not get this on the top surface of the leather as it will be very difficult to remove causing an unsightly repair when completed.
Sofa Arm Showing Damaged Tear Area & Then repaired and re Coloured.
The Final Stages
Once you have completed all your repairs and the leather colourant has been applied and your happy with the finish, you then seal the leather with a Clear Coat Lacquer Sealer.
This is applied by sponge stippling this on trying to not to make it too bubbly applying very fine thin layers, dry between coatings. Two or three coats is more than enough. This can be sanded lightly with 1200 grit sandpaper between coats and finished off with 3000 grit sandpaper to give you a luxury feel and finish to your restored leather item.