Monday, October 25, 2010

Testimonials Continue to Pour In For Our DIY Leather Restoration System

Here are two e-mail the I received this week from our DIY leather restoration clients.  It is consistent with the experience we hear about over and over again.  

Here's the first....

 It's been a few months now since I dyed my sofa & chair...                                                         
               Have to admit "I was scared to death"
Well it came out GREAT !   Everyone was amazed ------  because it was a water base I was afraid it would wash off after awhile...... however I just wiped up some spots from the front where my dog , who has allergies & rubs herself,  No problem........  I have a friend who owns a white 3 piece sectional that she loves, but it sure does need help. I'm sure you'll be hearing from her in the near future.
Just thought I'd drop you a line and say ---THANK YOU   
                                               BETTY C.

Here's the second....

I just want to send a quick note to thank you for this great experience. My sectional looks awesome and everyone comments on it now. Please see attached before and after...
Please thank Jason for helping me with the print, once I got home and started doing it, I was very confident and did not stop until done. :)
Thanks again and I will be referring you to all my friends and family.

Theresa P.

Copyright  2010, Kevin Gillan

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shoddy Products Taint the Leather Restoration Industry

It can be frustrating and confusing for consumers who try a leather furniture restoration process on a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) basis.  The market place is loaded with products that simply fail, giving the entire industry a black-eye.  The truth is a "one-size-fits-all" solution may occasionally work but can not be effective for everybody.  

At a professional level, no two leather furniture restoration projects are treated identically.  The products  and processes applied vary based on the type of leather and specific issues present in each particular  piece. Variables like body oil accumulation, cat claw damage, fading, print coat failure, etc. make each project unique.  

This applies to DIY  projects as well. A successful DIY project requires a customized solution.  The combination of the right products and  "know-how" is essential.  The person assembling a kit must have direct hands-on knowledge so he/she can analyze pictures of a project and prepare a customized DIY kit.  The "know-how" is shared via a combination of DVD or internet based video and well written instructions.   This is the essence of the Advanced Leather Solutions DIY kit.

To amplify the point here is the text of an e-mail I recently received. 

"We have two dark blue leather couches from Sealy. We purchased them 9 years ago.  I purchased a leather restoration kit from a place online that I no longer remember. The first color mix they sent me I thought worked well for the one couch so I ordered another kit from them for the second couch. The mix was a different color and also didn’t adhere as well and left a couple cushions almost ‘plasticky’ is best I can describe. I followed the directions the same for both couches, so not sure what the deal was. I contacted the company, they sent me a new kit with better looking dye and more of that alcohol based ‘cleaner’ to try to get as much of the other kit off as possible. I redid the second couch, even though 2 cushions still have a stiffer feel. That process held for a about 2 years. Kind of. 

"I ordered another kit from another site  (who have their label on the underside of the cushions along wit a bunch of tags with ‘S’ on them), and ordered enough to do both couches together. That seemed to work better than my first experience. But I see there is a lot of fading and worn spots from where you sit now. They need to be done again. 

"Is this normal to have to redo the restoration every 18 months? I have a lot of brown faded in the cracks and where heads have rested on the backs etc. Do your products guarantee to adhere better? I did the cleaning and very light sanding and several light coats (I used a sponge brush instead of the spray can adaptor). On the 3 cushions from the second couch I have deeper cracks in the leather from the bad attempt. The leather is normally very soft and supple. 

"Thank you for any assistance you can offer. We really like the comfort of the couches and they are still in very good condition minus the maintenance with the pigment adhering. We would like to keep them for years to come but would like them to look nice too."

The key questions....

Is this normal to have to redo the restoration every 18 months?  --- No, it's NOT normal.

Do your products guarantee to adhere better? ---- This is the same system we use professionally for 23 years.  If it failed that quickly we'd have been out of business a long time ago.  the problem you now have is leather that is coated with who-knows-what.  If that's failing, then my system on top will do very little good as the existing color coating is failing and will continue to fail.  So, if you want quality results you'll have to strip thoroughly. 

I have a lot of brown faded in the cracks and where heads have rested on the backs etc.  ---  Right... you have accumulation of body oils in the leather.  That should have been extracted out first!  Did either of these companies give you an oil extraction procedure?  Oil is in the leather, not on the leather.  Using a cleaner to resolve body oils is like trying to clean a tattoo form your skin.  Our system includes an oil extraction chemistry for that  purpose.

I did the cleaning and very light sanding and several light coats (I used a sponge brush instead of the spray can adaptor). ---- Our system is a wipe on system that includes a critical component - a primer that promotes quality adhesion.

 On the 3 cushions from the second couch I have deeper cracks in the leather from the bad attempt.   --- I would need to see photos of the cushions.  If the cracking is into the epidermal layer of the hide, then your leather is ruined and those leather panels would have to be replaced.  We can do that for you as well.  If the cracking is just surface, then the leather can be saved.

The leather is normally very soft and supple. ---  With our system, we think of leather on two levels, visual and tactile.  In our system we include a specialized chemistry that penetrates deep into the leather fibers, bring back suppleness as much as the leather will allow.

What separates Advanced Leather Solutions from the rest of the pack?  WE DO THIS WORK PROFESSIONALLY.  We're not a marketing company.  We actually restore peoples furniture as our main reason for existing.  If we restore a $15,000 Roche Bobois sofa, it better be a permanent solution.  

Our DIY system is a derivative of what we've been doing professionally for 23 years. We bring to the table a  working knowledge of the chemistry and process.  We know for example the system will fail if there is body oils present and the  oil extraction process is ignored. 

This allows us to customize each kit to the specific needs of the client and is the foundation of our success with our DIY system.

Copyright  2010,  Kevin Gillan

Thursday, October 14, 2010

When Leather and Vinyl are paired together - Bad Things Happen

Look at this picture...

What you see is a leather seat top that is sewn to a vinyl side panel.  The vinyl side panel has broken down. Once vinyl gets to this state of deterioration it cannot be effectively repaired.  Note that on the leather side of the seam, everything is normal. This is a clear example of how quality top grain leather will outlast vinyl.  All of the stress of weight baring is on the leather panel.  The side panel is simply flexing as a person sits on the seat cushion, yet the deterioration of the vinyl is plainly obvious.  This is a fairly common manufacturing process to intended reduce cost for the manufacturer.  It is most commonly found on motion furniture (recliners).

Here's a close up of the same picture.

Note that the erosion of the vinyl is complete along the entire length of the seam.

Why does this happen?

The answer lies in the attributes of both materials.  Leather is organic.  It is infused with oils at the tannery to impart suppleness.  Leather breathes.  As such it looses its moisture (oils) through evaporation.  Vinyl is a synthetic byproduct of the petrochemical industry.  Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is typically a solid.  Think of the plastic garden pipe used in home irrigation system. PVC pellets are heated and mixed with an oil then this mixture flows over a cloth and when dry is now vinyl as found on furniture.  The oil in vinyl is not molecularly bound to the vinyl molecule.  Its free floating.

As leather looses its moisture through evaporation, to equalize that moisture loss, it wicks the oils from the vinyl side of the seam.  Thus oils vacate the vinyl, as they are sucked into the leather.  This loss of oil gradually reduces the vinyl to its original solid state and it slowly flakes away as shown in the picture.  The thinner the vinyl, the quicker this will happen.

Once the vinyl coating of the cloth substrate disappears, it cannot be replaced through a repair.  The only solution is to remove the offended panel and replace with new.  To do that requires disassembly of the furniture which balloons the cost beyond reasonable.

This vinyl failure is one of the perils of a leather-vinyl combination.  Most people are not aware that components of there furniture are vinyl.  Generally the piece is sold as  "leather furniture" when in fact it's part leather and part vinyl.  When I see this condition I recommend that the client not invest further in the piece.  It's time to get new furniture.

If you have leather and vinyl on the same piece of furniture, then to prevent this from becoming your problem, keep the leather moisturized.  Properly and frequently apply leather conditioner (SG - 25 moisturizer) to ensure that the leather has no need to wick the oils from the vinyl.

Copyright 2010 Kevin Gillan

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ink on Leather? Beware of Home Remedies

A consumer has a new Ashley Furniture leather sofa that has suffered an pen mark (ink) on it.  The owner of the piece did an Internet search and read that hairspray would pull out ink from leather.  This picture shows the results.  The hairspray didn't pull out the ink, instead it stripped the outer color coating (print coat) in a few places around the ink.  Note the light spots.  That's the exposed base color coat after the print coat was dissolved by the hairspray.  

What actually happened when the hairspray hit the leather?  Hairspray has alcohol as an ingredient along with a bunch of other nasty stuff including versions of lacquer.  Alcohol is a solvent that will strip color from leather.  The hairspray theory is based on the alcohol's ability to pull the color of the ink out of the leather.  However as you see, the hairspray did strip color, just the wrong color.  It dissolved the color of the leather.

The unfortunate fact is alcohol can't discriminate between the coloring on the leather and the ink coloring.  This is exacerbated by this particular leather's weak chemical resistance, a hallmark of Ashley leather furniture.  The broad hairspray pattern hit the leather in a wide swath causing collateral damage. It's like the old military practice of carpet bombing.  Whereas what is needed is precision in attacking just the ink stripe, leaving the surrounding leather unharmed.

There are several strategies to resolve an ink problem.  Keep in mine this key point --- the ink is not harming the leather.  It is strictly an aesthetic issue. Here is the text of an earlier post from my blog that specifically discusses ink on leather.

In the interest of disseminating accurate and complete information about leather furniture restoration and repair, I wrote this post for people who have the common problem of ink on their leather furniture. There's lots of misinformation on the web about ink on leather. So, here are the facts.

Ink on leather? It's a common problem and completely solvable. The only question is if it requires professional attention or, can you resolve the issue yourself.

First, the basics:

1. Ink is primarily a dye. As such the ink has recolored the leather. It is not harmful to the leather. So the problem is strictly aesthetic.

2. If you can get to it quickly, then using a damp cloth, attempt to transfer as much ink off the leather as you can before it sets in the leather. Gently wipe or blot. In a short period of time, the ink travels into the leather. Don’t rub or you’ll push the ink into the leather, and possible rub out the leather’s grain pattern. Keep in mind that once ink penetrates into the leather it essentially has recolored the leather. No amount of aggressive rubbing will change that fact. You might also try a soft artist eraser, gently tracing the ink line. The objective is to pull the ink out before it has a chance to set.

3. Once it is set, removing ink from the leather is NOT a cleaning issue. In almost all cases any cleaner used that is strong enough to pull out the ink, won’t know the difference between the color of the ink and the color of the leather. Aggressive cleaning may pull out the ink, but will also pull out the leather color as well. And, aggressive cleaning chemicals will do more harm (pH damage) to the leather than the ink. 

4. The use of ink sticks or other products advertised to remove ink is risky business. The active ingredient is a solvent intended to neutralize the ink. Its success depends on how sensitive your leather is to chemical intervention. If the finish on your leather is chemically resistant it may work, but then again, A) it may pull the color out of the leather, B) may simply smear the ink around, C) may pull the protective top coat from the leather, D) may not do anything at all. Ink sticks and the like are clearly a “Buyer Beware” issue. Be careful.

5. Consider this --- one attribute of ink is that it migrates. That is to say the ink moves. This means that an accidental ink stripe may be absorbed into the leather and present a gradually fading reference that dissipates within a few weeks. So, a minor ink stripe may disappear of its own accord. Therefore, as time is not critical, leave it alone for a few weeks and see what happens. It may disappear altogether or become faint enough that it is no longer be an issue. However, if there is a high concentration of dye (i.e. permanent marker like a Sharpie pen) or a larger volume (ink spill) then what you see will be there for a long, long time.

6. If it hasn't dissipated on its own accord, or doesn’t responded to your gentle cleaning attempts then it’s probably time to turn it over to a professional. There is a two step process to resolve it. 

A solvent, (e.g. denatured alcohol) is used to neutralize the ink, knowing that it will in all likelihood affect the color of the leather. If you want to try this step yourself, then use a Q-Tip or like device moistened with alcohol and trail down the ink line. Keep turning the Q-Tip to a clean area so that you don’t transfer the ink that has been absorbed by the Q-Tip back on the leather. If the ink has been neutralized, and you haven’t disturbed the color, you’re very lucky. 

If the color has been affected, then it’s on to step # 2. Using an airbrush, and the properly mixed leather color, the offended area is airbrushed and viola - the problem disappears. The final step is to apply a top coat with the air brush. The top coat is the primary protection on the leather and it also dictates the sheen. 

It is important to note that simply coloring over the ink is likely not effective. Remember, one of ink’s attributes is migration. If you simply color over, then the ink will migrate up through the color coating and present itself all over again.

Once ink has set, ink removal from leather generally requires a professional as the key to success is color matching. Without experience, color matching can be very difficult. A final consideration is the type of leather. The more delicate the leather, the more difficult it will be to extract the ink and apply color so that it is undetectable. For more information about this and other issues associated with leather, go to

Copyright 2009, Kevin Gillan       

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Leather Restoration Extended to Conservation and Preservation

We are often called upon to save existing leather, despite the reality that the leather is technically at the end of its useful life.  The typical life cycle of quality leather runs about 30 years.  However, we’ll be asked to restore leather that is 50 to 100 years old or even older where the leather is severely desiccated, with deep epidermal damage.  These projects move beyond typical restoration and into the realm of conservation and preservation. They are the assignments where the true skills of our craftsmen come into play.  

Sometimes we have to invent processes to accomplish the client’s goal.  Saving the leather interior built into a 1953 Jaguar XK-120 is an excellent example. By any reasonable measure the leather was beyond restoration yet the client wanted to retain the original leather for valuation purposes.

Because this was a unique project, we documented the process via video.  We also knew it would be a long term project and the client lived 1,500 miles away, so video documentation was a method we used to keep the client informed of our progress.  You can access the full video from your web-site directly by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

The following is a copy of a letter the client sent to Auto Restorer magazine, a periodical dedicated to the classic car crowd.

Dear Auto Restorer,

I’ve been a subscriber for several years and would like to alert your readers to what I believe is a relatively unique service that will be of interest to anyone wanting to preserve an original car versus restoration.  I’m the fortunate steward of an unrestored 1953 Jaguar XK-120.  My 58,000 mile car’s original paint still looks nice, albeit with a few blemishes here and there, and mechanically is trustworthy as well.  The leather seats however were deteriorating to the point that in order to save them at all, I pulled them out and for the last couple years substituted a pair of reproductions of period competition seats.  For several years I looked for someone who could repair and preserve the original leather versus going the route of an upholstery kit.  These were beyond a minor Dr. Vinyl type repair as there was serious scuffing in places and several cracks that had grown into full splits.

I periodically searched services every year or so and last fall found Advanced Leather Solutions in the San Francisco Bay area of California.  My seats were in their shop a few months as the process for removing oils to get the leather where they can bond repair panels under the surface requires many applications over time.  Along the way, they sent video updates so I could see everything that took place.  Anyone seeing the before and after would be amazed.  The scuffing, open cracks and splits are gone yet they maintained the patina that only time can bring.  As you’re probably aware, preservation instead of restoration is a growing trend in our hobby and in my opinion this company is a great resource for anyone who wants to repair and preserve original leather.  For those interested, a video of the processes performed on my seats can be downloaded from their web site at


Mike Buchanan
Cape Girardeau, MO

It is projects like this that sets Advanced Leather Solutions apart from the ordinary leather repair and restoration company.  While our bread and butter work is the mundane repairs and restoration, our true skills are tested with the out-of-the-ordinary projects.  They create the opportunity to extend the boundaries of our technical and artistic abilities. 

We are seeing more and more of this from our clients who want to preserve and conserve old leather --- to keep that “look” yet resolve the problems life presents.  For example, a current project involves water damage suffered on century old dining chairs where the leather on the seat tops is structurally disintegrating.  Our goal is to artistically conceal the water damage without causing further deterioration to the leather.  This is truly a challenge.

If you want to learn more about the conservation and preservation aspects of leather restoration, feel free to contact us.      

This is the link to the video of the Jaguar XK-120 project:

Copyright 2010, Kevin Gillan

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Insights Into Bicast

For years I've taken phone calls and e-mails from distraught consumers who made the mistake of purchasing bi-cast (bicast) material when they thought it was real leather.  It is sold as leather but it is clearly NOT the real deal.  Just as fiberboard isn't real wood, bicast isn't real leather.

As a general rule, leather that has suffered damage can be successfully repaired.  In the case of bicast this is problematic as any repair can only be as strong as the surrounding material.  With bicast, the material is inherently weak.  As such, a repair to bicast will, in all likelihood, fail.

At the end of this blog entry you'll find a link to photos that have been sent to me by consumers depicting their  classic problems with bicast material.  They show the wide variety of ways bicast fails.  In the world of furniture there has never been a more true application of the phrase "buyer beware."  Bicast is a problem waiting to happen.

Here is the text of an excellent article written by Barbara Carney, a leather restoration expert in the Chicago area.

  Bi-cast and Bonded Leather is NOT Leather! So, What Is It?
"Bi-cast and bonded "leather" can be the right choice for you – Here’s the complete story so you can make an informed decision.

"The term “leather” is used to describe 2 completely different types of material used on furniture:

1.      Real = An intact animal hide processed to look and feel good. Very strong.
2.      Bi-cast / bonded = Plastic with a little leather and maybe some fabric glued to the back. Not so strong.

"Note: Imitation leather = Plastic with fabric glued to the back. Not so strong.

"What’s going on? Leather’s very desirable because it:
· Looks good - many different possible textures, colors and finishes
· Strong, durable – can last decades; can be repaired and recolored
· Feels good to touch – soft and flexible
· Breathes, so you don’t get clammy or too hot
· Shows you have taste and could afford the nicer things

"Real leather soils easily, so a protective paint-like colored coating is added to approx 85% of the real leather furniture sold in the U.S. It’s a thin, breathable plastic that stays flexible and still has an appealing leather feel and light smell. Consumers easily confuse this with the thicker, non-breathable plastic layer of the lower cost bi-cast and bonded leathers. By adding a little leather – about 17% - which you don’t see or touch, it’s legal in the U. S. to sell bi-cast and bonded products as leather – which most people will think means real leather. In Europe and New Zealand it’s illegal to call such products leather.

"Bi-cast is a clever product. Typically, it’s a thick layer of plastic made to look and feel like leather, laminated on top of a thin, weak layer of leather. This layer is a “split” - horizontally split from the bottom of the original hide in a big sheet. In bi-cast, you don’t see it or feel it. It adds none of the characteristics of real leather, except one: If you check the inside surface, it looks and smells like leather. Why bother? A savvy consumer may know how to check for real leather by looking at the inside for the characteristic rough suede and the smell, or a trained salesperson may show it to the consumer – “See – it’s leather!”

"Bonded leather goes one step farther: Powdered leather fibers are mixed with a resin and extruded in a sheet, like paper or particleboard. There’s no physical characteristic left of the original leather. It’s a recycling method for using scraps. Just like the asphalt on your street might contain recycled plastic bottles. The layer containing the leather is on the back, just like bi-cast.

"As Furniture Today magazine says: ...calling these products bonded leather "is deceptive because it does not represent its true nature. It's a vinyl, or a polyurethane laminate or a composite, but it's not leather. If you tar and feather someone, does that make them a chicken?" Obviously not. 

"Sometimes it's even scented like leather.  In the end, it's plastic  - it's clammy, it's much less durable, it can't be repaired - unless you consider duct tape and a slip cover a repair. Some split or delaminate and peel after a few months or just a year or 2.  Some are more durable, but it's very hard to know when you buy it. You’d need the
test data on the number of  “rubs” to be sure."

Thank you Barbara for this excellent piece.  I hope it will help alert the unsuspecting consumer to make wise choices when selecting their leather furniture.

Click on this link to see pictures representing a sampling of the problems bicast presents.

Copyright 2010, Kevin Gillan

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dyes vs. Pigments Re-visited

There is a common misuse of the word “dye” in the leather repair and restoration business.  While I’ve discussed this before here, it’s time to address the issue again. 

There are two methods for coloring leather.  1. Dyes.  2. Dyes and then pigment coated.  It is very rare that leather would be pigment coated without having been dyed first.

Starting with the basics – Animal skins are tanned.  This process converts the skin to leather.  The main purpose of tanning is to preserve the hide.  It stops the natural degeneration or rotting process.  At the end of the tanning procedure and before the color step, the hide is called a “crust.”

The crust is highly absorbent. Think of a chemise. The crust is infused with a dye which we all know to be a coloring element.  The actual dye molecule is very small.  It penetrates into the fiber structure of the crust (leather) and establishes the color.  Typically it penetrates completely through the leather (struck through) so looking at a cross cut, you see the same color from front to back.  The dye is not molecularly bound to fiber structure, rather it as floating within the fiber bundles.  Because it is free floating, one of its attributes is migration.  It will transfer or move. 

Water will accelerate migration.  Consider blue jeans.  They fade when washed.  The dye molecule migrates out of the medium (in this case denim) and is flushed down the drain.  I have had occasion to witness this phenomena with leather many times.  A damp white cotton cloth wiped across dyed leather will pull the color.

Dyes have a unique beauty.  Because of their small molecular construct, dyes are translucent.  You look into the leather to see its color.  It accentuates the natural beauty of the leather. Because the porosity of leather is inconsistent, some areas of the hide will accept more dye than others.  This creates the natural mottling affect you see with dyed leather.  Its beauty can’t be beat.  We classify this leather as being “unfinished.”

There is a dark side.  The dye molecule does not tolerate UV light very well.  That wave length or spectrum of light hits the dye molecule and breaks it up.  This process gradually leaches the dye from leather causing the leather to lose its color (fade).  Furthermore, dyed leather continues to have a high level of porosity.  Spill a liquid and it will soak into the leather, potentially staining the leather.  In reality the stained area has been re-colored.  So trying to clean it is like trying to clean a tattoo from your skin.

Bottom line: dyed or unfinished leather is beautiful when new, but it is aesthetically vulnerable to staining and fading.  Only about 15% of all leather furniture is unfinished.  It is typically the most expensive leather as only the finest hides (least flawed with unsightly hide characteristics) can qualify to be unfinished.

Most leather then goes through a secondary coloring process with the application of a pigmented coating.  The pigment molecule sits on the leather’s surface.  As a coloring element the pigment molecule is a big, robust molecule with excellent covering power, like snow on the ground.  The pigment molecule is carried in a binding chemistry that locks it in place.  That binder chemistry is uniquely engineered for leather.  It establishes a film on the leather surface that is opaque.  The color you see is from a topical colorant that is a pigment.  This is known as “finished” leather.  

Pigments lack translucency so the color is flatter than dyes.  But pigments are far less sensitive to UV so they don’t fade nearly as radically.  Consider and automobile leather car seat. They don’t fade despite tons of sun exposure.  They are colored with a pigment.  Additionally, the film of color on the leather will resist absorption. If something spills, you can wipe it off the leather as it won’t immediately soak in.

You can not successfully re-dye leather using dye as the coloring element for a whole bunch of technical reasons, not the least of which is that you will be wearing the color on your clothing if you sit on the furniture.  Setting the dye so that it doesn’t transfer easily can only be done at a tannery under very specific and controlled processes.   

Leather can be re-colored, but only with a pigment application.  If it was dyed (unfinished) leather in the first place, the re-coloring process is with a pigment that provides full covering power, thus converting the leather to a “finished” or pigment coated status.

Of course we do this color restoration process professionally all the time, and it is the essence of the Do-It-Yourself kits offered by Advanced Leather Solutions.  Taking it one step further, because it’s an opaque chemistry, the color coating can be changed to whatever color desired.

The next time a leather technician says he/she can re-dye your leather, be weary as that person does not understand the fundamental difference between a dye and a pigment.

Copyright  2010, Kevin Gillan

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Is Best for Leather Color Application – Rub or Spray

When doing a full color restoration to leather furniture, automobile leather or garments there are two application options with Advanced Leather Solutions color system – rub and spray.  But, which is best?

There are clear pluses and minuses to both.

Spray System with High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) Air Equipment:

  •       Even color application
  •       More efficient use of material – less waste
  •       No potential for streaking
  •       More “factory like” result
  •       Less labor intensive
  •       More variety of mottling techniques if required


  •       Over spray considerations
  •       Must tape-off all not leather components
  •       Must have expensive equipment (Compressor and Air Gun)     
  •       Not practical for in-home application due to over spray 
  •       Requires top-coat as sealer coat

Rub System with Wipe-on Color Applicators


  •       Simple 
  •       Easy to master the application technique 
  •    Does not require experience
  •       Single pass - does not require a top-coat
  •       On-site application does not require taping-off


  •       More material consumed 
  •       Takes longer – more strenuous 
  •       Potential for streaking 
  •       Not as fine a finish as spray

In the end, both systems produce excellent results.   The choice of one over the other is often dictated by the nature of the assignment and availability of application tools.

 For a consumer, the rub system is better suited as it’s so simple to master and doesn’t require specialized application equipment.  For the professional leather technician the rub system offers the ability to work on-site with no threat of over-spray issues.

In a professional shop environment the choice is generally to spray as it more efficient use of labor time and materials and will produce a finer, more factory like result.

In our shop we use a hybrid approach.  In either case leather has to be properly primed for quality adhesion.  Then, we spray a section of leather with one hand and wipe it while wet with the other.  This mechanical wiping motion promotes better adhesion as it drives the color down into the grain pattern.   We then spray each subsequent coat to create a smooth, even color distribution, followed by topcoat application applied via spray.  Here is a video link to YouTube that shows a color change in our Hayward, CA leather restoration studio.

Both approaches have their place.  Our rub system has worked wonders with consumers, empowering them with the ability to restore their own furniture using the Advanced Leather Solutions’ Do-It-Yourself kit concept - a rub based solution. Check it out at this web-site:

Our professional leather technician clients have generally standardized on the spray approach.  However, some use both depending the circumstances.  For example, Leather Doctor in the Columbus, Ohio area uses both --- the rub approach when doing in-home restoration and the spray option in his shop facility.

To learn more about the art and science of leather restoration contact us at Advanced Leather Solutions or go to our web-site

Copyright 2010, Kevin Gillan

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Advanced Leather Solutions Training Programs

Over the past few months I've received numerous requests for information on our training options.  This gives the full details.

Advanced Leather Solutions Training -

To become an effective leather technician requires knowledge and the right products.  The market offer choices:

  1. Buy a Franchise for a bucket full of money.
  2. Attend a one day “Training Program” in a class room with a few dozen other people and see a sales pitch.
  3. Join our program where we teach the basics first so you are armed with the ability to think through each leather repair and restoration project your client presents.  Our program is not just theory or a sales pitch.  It’s founded on the real world experiences of over 23 years and tens of thousands of repair and restoration projects under our belt. 

Our training program offers multiple options tailored to the needs of the individual.   

This is NOT a franchise offering yet has all of the essential ingredients of a business opportunity.  Our program has: 

*       No Franchise Fee

*       No Territorial Limits

*       No Royalty Fee

*       No Contracts

*       No Monthly Technical Support Fee

*       No requirement to purchase products from us

*       No non-compete agreements

Our program is not a sales presentation with demonstrations at the front of the room.

Our program is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Ours is an in depth immersion where you learn the “how” but more importantly the “why” as well.  The goal is to teach the underlying fundamentals so you can think for yourself, not simply do by rote.

There are training 3 options: Full hands-on, Distance learning, Custom

Hands-On Training

We offer a complete hands-on training program and an optional full Leather Repair and Restoration business starter kit. 

The class is scheduled on as needed basis at either our
Hayward, CA (San Francisco Bay Area) facility or in our Redding, CA (Northern CA) production factory.

The following is a general overview and some additional information that includes:

1. The course objective
2. A sample lesson from the Training Guide
3. A detailed course synopsis, including fee structure, and accommodations for our out-of-town guests.
4. Course outline


Objective Statement ---

This course is intended for people who repair leather.  The candidates include independent leather service technicians, automobile detailers, leather furniture manufactures, leather supply houses, transit companies, warranty companies and retailers to name a few.  At the conclusion of this course, the attendee will have a basic grasp of how to access a problem, develop a strategy for repair and execute the appropriate steps to create the most effective solution possible.

Course Includes ---

1.  3 1/2 days of hands-on training with each attendee working from his/her personal kit.  The lead trainer has been repairing leather furniture for over 23 years, having successfully repaired thousands of damaged leather furniture pieces. The course takes that deep practical experience and brings it to each attendee.

2.  180 page Leather Technician Field Guide that covers the course material. It is written in an organized, easy-to-read fashion. The attendee can focus on the hands-on activities without the need to take notes as the specific techniques are all well documented in the training guide.

3. Access to our DVD library of “How-To” instructions with a three year subscription and access to our technical library of on-line video instructions.

4. Toll-free telephone support for three full years.  Our technical support team is ready to answer any questions and assist in any way possible in solving the problems faced by the attendee when back on the job.

5. Addition to our Web-site with a link to you in your market as a lead referral source.

6. Certification by Advanced Leather Solutions as a trained professional leather technician.

7. An attendee can bring to the class specific leather problems they may have encountered and see how our technicians solve them.

Course Fee:  $3,000.  If another attendee from the same entity (like a business partner of husband and wife team), the second person can attend at ½ price ($1,500).


  1. A fully outfitted professional level mobile kit with electrical wiring built in to support the included compressor, top-of-the-line airbrushing equipment, professional quality heat gun, etc. Additionally the kit contains all the other necessary tools and chemistry for repairing damaged leather.  This is the same kit our service technicians use.  It has evolved over the last 23 years of field repairs by our technicians to be as reliable, efficient and complete a repair kit as possible.  If purchased at the time of training, the kit fee is $1500.  If purchased at any other time the kit fee is $1750.  We can ship anywhere in North America via UPS.  You will be responsible for shipping cost.
  2. Business Development Plan for starting a leather repair business which identifies markets, recommends pricing and offers samples for marketing materials. Customer relations issues are discussed so the repair technician is guided with effective answers to the difficult questions the consumer may be asking.  Three year on going marketing support going forward is included.  Fee is $1,000.

Course Synopsis

This course is intended for those who desire a fundamental understanding of the leather repair process. The goal is to impart sufficient knowledge for an individual to accomplish simple repairs to damaged leather.  This includes a basic grasp of key principles and concepts including:

1.       The nature and types of leather
2.       How to assess the damage and develop a repair strategy
3.       The repair processes for typical damage to leather
4.       The compounds and chemistry necessary to affect a repair
5.       leather finish color matching
6.       Finish application techniques to conceal and disguise the repair

It is important to note that this training program is based on the real-world experiences of our field technicians who garnered this knowledge through 23 years of leather repair and restoration.  Its focus is solutions to common problems encountered on leather furniture. It is not an academic exercise.  Nor a sales pitch for a franchise.  Rather, it’s a practical, solutions-oriented program dedicated to sharing the hard-fought knowledge, tricks and short-cuts that only experience teaches. 

When completed, each participant will be able to create strong, invisible and long lasting repairs to damaged leather. However, we believe that the practical training process is on-going and will continue well after the formal training is concluded.  The true test of your skills will come when you are in the field faced with real-world challenges under the harsh lights and discerning eye of a client.  In that regard, we commit to have our technicians available to answer questions and help guide you through difficult repairs as you encounter them.  Thus the training continues after the formal training ends, boosting your confidence and improving your effectiveness.

Each participant that successfully completes the formal training program, followed with three months of direct field experience, will be certified as a competent leather repair technician, and will be added to our qualified professional resource base.  This list will be posted to our web-site so those in need in your area can find you easily and have confidence that you are appropriately trained, using state-of-the-art materials, and backed by a leader in the industry. 

Course materials

Each attendee receives a fully out-fitted, professional leather repair kit with all the tools and materials necessary to solve leather related problems in the field.  Additionally all attendees receive a Leather Technician Field Guide entitled the Basics of Leather Repair.  The guide is complete with all the pertinent concepts and procedures defined and outlined, with ample room for notes. Its structure follows the course outline.  This document will be your “Bible” of leather repair.  It’s to be used as your field reference guide.

The Training Process

This 3 ½ day program consists of two primary methodologies:
1.       Instructor-led concept workshops
2.       Hands-on direct application of concepts and procedures

Each day consists both instructor-led and hands-on training.  We believe in as much one-on-one training as is practical, therefore each session will have limited attendance. 


All hands-on training will be conducted at our shop facility in Hayward, CA or in our production facility in Redding, CA.  Hayward this is the heart of the beautiful San Francisco bay area, a highly desirable travel destination for people from all over the world.  Stay an extra few days and enjoy the bay area.  Redding is the gateway to California’s fabulous Mt. Shasta region with the northern Sierra nearby.


From outside the bay area, Oakland International Airport is the closest air travel access.  Oakland airport is a hub for Southwest airlines.  The airport is 15 minutes from the training site.  Additionally, San Francisco International Airport is only 30 minutes away and San Jose International Airport is a 40 minute trip.  For those traveling via car, or are local to the bay area, the Marriot Inn and Suites Hotel and our shop facility are at the junction of Route 92 (San Mateo Bridge) and Industrial Blvd.


The Marriot Inn and Suites Hotel in Hayward is a three diamond award-winning facility.  It’s an affordable new hotel with comfortable amenities.  A full, buffet-style breakfast is included in your room rate. Please be sure to mention that you are booking for the training program for best possible rates.

Here is the outline of the course:


1.       Leather Fundamentals and Terminology
a.       Tanning Process
b.       Finishing Process
                                                   i.      Examples
                                                 ii.      Application
c.       Dye – Pigment
                                                   i.      Differences
                                                 ii.      Examples
d.       Basic Care Issues
                                                   i.      pH issues
                                                 ii.      Cleaning
                                                iii.      Conditioning

2.       Leather Repair Tools
a.       Kit Review
                                                   i.      Chemicals
                                                 ii.      Finishes
                                                iii.      Tools
b.       Safety considerations
                                                   i.      Electrical
                                                 ii.      Drops and rags
c.       Maintenance considerations
d.       Kit management

3.       Assessing Damage Strategies
a.       Type of leather
b.       What is damage vs. natural characteristic
                                                   i.      If natural, should it be “repaired”
c.       Nature of damage
                                                   i.      Cuts and tears
                                                 ii.      Rubs, scuffs and abrasions
                                                iii.      Stains
1.       food
2.       oil
3.       urine
4.       slobber or saliva -  animal, child
                                                iv.      Burns
                                                  v.      Scratches
                                                vi.      Ink
                                               vii.      Animal chews
                                             viii.      Cat claws
                                               ix.      Body oil
                                                 x.      Holes
                                               xi.      Odor
d.       Location of damage
e.       Environment
                                                   i.      Lighting
                                                 ii.      Attitudes and expectations
f.         Set-up procedures
g.       Spill and overspray controls
h.        What is repairable – what isn’t
                                                   i.      Knowing when to walk away
i.         What is an acceptable repair
                                                   i.      Strive for perfection – be willing to accept less
                                                 ii.      Remember – you didn’t cause the damage
                                                iii.      Goal is to improve the visual
                                                iv.      5 foot rule
                                                  v.      Independent observer rule
                                                vi.      Full disclosure before you begin
j.         Demonstration of a repair
                                                   i.      Remember – less is best.

4.       The Preparation Process
a.       Checking nature and condition of finish on leather, if any
                                                   i.      Delicate leather considerations
                                                 ii.      Adhesion testing
                                                iii.      pH damage
                                                iv.      Body oils
                                                  v.      Fading
                                                vi.      Finish oxidation
                                               vii.      Dye transfer and related conditions
b.       Chemicals for Cleaning and Priming – Role for Each
                                                   i.      Water
                                                 ii.      Alcohol
1.       Denatured
2.       Isopropyl
                                                iii.      Methanol
                                                iv.      Degreaser
                                                  v.      Acetone
                                                vi.      OMS
                                               vii.      Leather Cleaner
                                             viii.      Spot Remover
                                               ix.      Ink Remover
                                                 x.      Conditioner
                                               xi.      PUP and Derivatives
                                              xii.      Replenishing oils
c.       Sanding

5.       Sub-patching
a.       When is it necessary
b.       Why
c.       What
d.       How
e.       Adhesives
f.         Technique

6.       Fillers
a.       How they work
b.       When to use what
c.       How to fill
d.       Curing
                                                   i.      Bulb
                                                 ii.      Other heat source
e.       Problems and pit-falls

7.       About Exotics
a.       Calf skin
b.       Pure aniline
c.       Brushed (Nubuck)
d.       Suede
e.       Pig skin
f.         Deer
g.       Ostrich
h.       Others

8.       Leather Finishes
a.       Basic chemical composition
                                                   i.      Water base
b.       Color
c.       Top-coat
d.       Effect of feel (hand)

9.       Color Theory
a.       Chroma
b.       Hue
c.       Value
d.       Color wheel
e.       ROY G BIV

10.   Color Matching

11.   Application Methods and techniques
a.       Air brush
b.       Sprayers
c.       Rub technique
d.       Brush
e.       Curing considerations

12.   Introduction to Mottled Colors
a.       Basics of base and print
b.       Tipped leathers
c.       Interaction of two or more colors
d.       Methods
                                                   i.      Stencils
                                                 ii.      Sponging
                                                iii.      Splatter
                                                iv.      Dusting

13.   Grain matching
a.       Spray grain
b.       Graining tools
c.       Application techniques

14.   Top Coats
a.       Importance of sheen
b.       Protection characteristics
c.       Feel modifiers
d.       Coverage
e.       Curing

15.   Concluding the repair
a.       Clean-up strategies

Distance Learning:

This is a highly affordable entry level program.  It doesn’t require travel.  It's considerably less in-depth than the full hands-on program.  This will get you started.  The program is particularly effective for those already in the furniture repair business but lack the essential knowledge about leather.  It opens up additional revenue opportunities to address the enormous need of leather repair.

This program includes…

1. A starter kit of colors, primers, repair compounds top coats, etc.
2. An air brush (Badger 250-3)
3. The Technician's Field Guide
4. 5 DVD's on aspects of leather repair
5. 3 hour introductory consultation via web cam or telephone
6. Sample leather pieces for practice.

Fee is $795. plus shipping of materials via UPS

This program is a low cost entry to get your feet a bit wet in this industry.  If you are serious about the business then it is much better to go with the hands-on program. Otherwise it’s like trying to teach yourself how to play piano with a book and 3 hours of over the phone conversation with a piano teacher.


You define for us what you want to learn and we’ll create a training structure to accommodate your needs.  If you are a franchisor or perhaps a major corporation with many locations throughout the world and want to pick up a fully mature training program that is tailored to your specific needs, we’re happy to offer a solution, including an in depth “Train-the-Trainer” program.

Copyright  2010, Kevin Gillan