Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beware of Credit Card Scams

We've had our share of attempted credit card scams over the years.  The most recent hit our shop just yesterday.

A prospect contact us by e-mail wanting to buy Barcelona cushions.  We offered a quote and he accepted.  Now the scam:  

Buy an expensive product that requires overseas shipping. Buyer claims to be located in the USA, while the ship-to address is in Europe. Buyer asks seller (us) to contact his designated shipping company by e-mail to get a quote. The quote comes in ridiculously high.  Buyer requires the seller to use the buyer's designated shipping company because he "trusts them."  The total amount including shipping is almost $7,000 of which more than $2,500 is shipping.   Buyer wants to pay the total amount, including shipping costs, up front with a credit card.  Buyer calls with credit card number.  With buyer on the phone, we run the card and it goes through as authorized. The shipping company then sends an e-mail to me claiming their credit card processing system is down and to send a money gram or bank wire transfer to a bank in Ghana for the shipping fee. Bingo.... Fraud!!!  We void the transaction and call our credit card processing company.  They determine it is a valid card, valid billing address, but the name on the card is not correct.  

Because we voided the transaction before it was "batched" (Meaning the money was actually put into our account.) we weren't charged the processing fee.  Further research determined the shipping company is bogus.  Buyer IS the fraudulent shipping co. 

I just received another e-mail asking why I haven't sent the wire transfer. I am stringing them along at the moment.   

Amazing lengths these knuckleheads will go through.

Copyright  2011, Kevin Gillan

Saturday, April 16, 2011

White Leather Furniture - Yellow Staining

Recently two different clients forwarded pictures of their white leather furniture.  In both cases the symptom was the same.  A yellowing discoloration of the leather.  Here are two pictures.


In both cases the client put a skin cream on their legs and then sat in the leather seating.  The skin cream has coloring agents that will act as synthetic tanning agents.

As the tanning agent is a dye, it transfered from the occupant's skin into the leather, discoloring as shown.  There are no warning labels on the skin cream container.  Yet it will permanently discolor the color coat.  It would not be an issue on a dark leather as you wouldn't see the discoloration.  However on a light colored leather it is clearly a problem. 

It is not a cleaning issue as the leather has literally been recolored, just as was intended for the person's skin by the lotion with this tanning additive.  Trying to clean it is like trying to clean a tattoo from your skin.  

The correct solution is to match the color and color over the offended area.

Copyright 2011, Kevin Gillan 


Friday, April 15, 2011

Linkedin Group for Leather Technicians

At Advanced Leather Solutions our motto is "No Secrets."  As an "Open Source" company we are happy to share our knowledge. To that end, check out the Global Leather Repair Technicians discussion group on Linkedin. It is the brain-child of Lee Bryan, Technical Sales Advisor for Stahl Europe B.V. Lee works out of Barcelona, Spain where he ran his own leather repair and restoration business for years before he joined Stahl.  Here is the link for the group:

Whether deeply experienced or just a rookie, I recommend that you join.  It only takes a minute to sign up, yet it brings truly a world of  knowledge. Read through the discussions and jump in with your own tricks-of-the-trade, know-how and experience. Begin a new discussion with a topic of your own.  Let the entire global leather technician community learn from you, as you learn from them.  If you're new to the business or a seasoned tech, use this forum as a means of asking questions and seeking advice, learning from the invaluable experience of other pros. With broad participation, we can all thrive.     

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Leather Conditioning Tips

Upholstery grade leather has about 25% moisture content as it leaves the tannery.  This moisture content is typically natural oils like neetsfoot that is infused into the fiber structure imparting suppleness.  These oils are volatile, meaning they evaporate away overtime at a rate dependent on the humidity.  If you are in a very dry climate and the leather is exposed to direct sun or other heat source then the evaporation rate is considerably accelerated compared to a damp climate or where the leather is not exposed to a direct heat source like the warming sun.

As moisture evaporates from leather two things happen: 1. the leather shrinks due to lose of mass, and 2. the leather looses is internal lubrication.  In either case the affect is stiffening.  At some point, where the moisture content drops below 5% or so, the leather feels and behaves like a piece of cardboard.  This is its demise.

Leather conditioners contain replenishing oils.  The goal of conditioning leather then is instill lost oils to keep the moisture content elevated.  Consequently, this simple maintenance procedure prolongs the leather’s life.  It’s a pretty simple concept.  However, there is more to the story.  Here are some important considerations:

pH Issue.  pH measures acidity or alkalinity.  The range is from 1 to 14 with pure water being neutral at 7.0.  Leather is acidic.  It measures 4.5 to 5.0 on a pH scale.  Furthermore, the pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that each whole number is 10 times more or less acidic or alkaline than the next number in the scale.  When you mix two elements that have differing pH, a chemical reaction occurs.  In the case of leather, this chemical reaction accelerates the breakdown of leather fibers.  Therefore, any conditioner applied to leather should be pH balanced to leather so as not to damage the leather.

Coated (Pigmented) Leather.  Most leather has a surface color coating.  This coating is also covered with a clear coat providing protection and wear resistance.  So, if something spills on the leather, it is easily wiped up without penetrating and staining the leather.  These coatings are generally chemical engineered to have a certain degree of porosity, allowing the leather to breath.   However, the ability for a conditioning agent to penetrate through this protective barrier is a challenge.  This is particularly true with automobile grade leather.  For automobile leather, the most effective procedure is to warm the leather up a bit (leave the car in the sun for a few hours) before you apply a conditioner.  Warming the leather reduces viscosity allowing a higher absorption potential. Then, aggressively massaging the conditioner into the leather will help.

Over conditioning.  If a little is good, then a lot must be better, right?  A common mistake is to apply too much conditioner.  Think of a sponge fully laden with water.  Adding more water is not possible.  This is also true with leather.  If the moisture content is at its maximum, then adding more conditioner does nothing except to sit on the leather surface, drying over time and turning sticky and gooey.

Old, Desiccated  Leather.  If old leather has lost most of its moisture then it can be a huge mistake to attempt to revive it by adding conditioner (moisture).  Think of a piece of cardboard that gets wet.  It turns the cardboard fibers to mush.  The same is true for leather.  If your leather is old and dried out, the best strategy is to leave it alone and consult a professional.  There are specific chemistries that can be used to prolong the life of old leather.  The run-of-the-mill conditioner is not one of them.

When to Condition.  As in over conditioning, if the leather is new, then it has a full compliment of moisture.  There is no reason to condition as it hasn’t had time to loose its moisture.  As a general rule, begin conditioning leather after 6 months to a year.  And then re-apply every 3 to 6 months depending how dry the environment.  In certain cases a more frequent regimen is appropriate like in the summer months of a desert climate.

How to Apply.  Generally, a thin coating is sufficient. Apply the conditioner to a soft cloth, massaging into the cloth and then wipe over the target leather. If the leather is heavily coated, then massage the leather with the conditioner.

Leather That Should Not Be Conditioned.  Be very careful with suede or nubuck leather.  While they will loose moisture as well, conditioning them in a standard procedure runs to risk of staining the leather.  It can leave the leather looking blotchy, thus destroying the aesthetic appeal.  Additionally, delicate leather like calf or lamb skin should be treated cautiously. 

The most important consideration is to be sure that you are doing the right thing with whatever maintenance products you use on leather.  In the end it's always wise to consult with a professional.

Copyright  2011, Kevin Gillan

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why doesn't the color match perfectly?

Color matching is an art form.  However, there is a bit of science to consider as well.  Here are exerts of an e-mail sent to me from a leather technician experiencing the frustration of color matching.

"I can't understand why the color is really far off, yet it also changes drastically, depending on the type of lighting. For example, the pictures I sent you only show what the color looks like in the Sun, yet when in person (No Camera) it actually appears to be the exact opposite. Meaning the untouched cushion is actually deeper (more red and/or Organic Brown tones), and the one that I re-finished, is lighter and less Reddish tones.
" changes according to the light I view it under.  I can get it pretty close outside in the sun, however, when I bring it in under all types of House lighting, it changes drastically and does not look close to matching." 

So what's going on?   

One word...  Metamerism.

Read my blog entry from about two years ago.

The solution is to match in the dominant lighting source of the room where the furniture is located and forget about all other locations (like outside in the sun) as they don't matter.  If there are differing lighting sources inside, then pick the dominant source.

Keep in mind, the eye of a professional leather technician is highly tuned.  Unless the pieces are literally touching  each other, most people will not notice a slight difference.  What they'll see is how the refinished piece looks compared to what it looked like before.  

I always caution a client that if I do a partial refinish and not all the furniture there will be a "newness factor."  The original color will have oxidized to some degree. Furthermore, there will have been some fading, particularly if there are any red tones in the original.  The red will be leached out to some degree as reds always fade the fastest.  Therefore, the newly refinished leather will appear different than the pieces that were not refinished.

This is a key learning experience in color matching, particularly with mottled colors.  If you have a color variation affect, you will always have this dilemma to one degree or another.  

The lesson learned is the lighting source is the most important element in perceived color. And, to complicate things further, the viewing angle also changes your eye's interpretation of the color.  The color shifts when viewed on a horizontal plan versus a vertical plan, like the back rest to the seat top of leather furniture.  This is called geometric metamerism.

Always prepare for this phenomena. 

Copyright  2011, Kevin Gillan 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

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For the professional leather technicians who read my blog, you should consider using as another web-based resource to promote your business.  It's easy to use.  Check it out.