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 www.advancedleathersolutions.com.


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

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