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The London Classic Car Show

Sunday, 28 February 2016 09:34:20 Europe/London

We were at the London Classic Car Show in Excel last week and what a busy weekend it was! Thanks to everyone that came to see us. We also enjoyed a little celebrity spotting, the highlight being Jenson Button driving this beautiful McLaren.

                               London Classic Car Show     Jenson Button McLaren

The definition of a classic car changes for each country around the world. In general terms, it is an old car valued enough historically to collect and restore rather than scrapping it as old metal. In the UK, all cars built before 1st of January 1975, are exempted from paying annual road tax and are flagged as ‘historic vehicles’. In the US, cars 100 years old or older are classed as ‘antique’, but the term ‘classic’ varies in each state but usually ranges from 20-30 years old. 

But we are more interested in what is inside these classic cars - old leather! 

                               Classic car seats     Classic Car old leather

The first motorised vehicles already had leather seats. They were copies of the seating in horse-drawn carriages that used to be the main form of transport. Originally, vegetable-tanned cowhide was used without any surface staining, which was covered with oils and fats – just like horse saddles. This type of leather was standard until the late 70s and 80s. From this period, chrome tanning became industrially viable and therefore replaced vegetable tanned leather very quickly. 

The tanning process is directly related to the main problems of old leather, shrinkage and hardening. Leather hardens when it is dry due to lack of care, thus losing its inner oiling. This process is accelerated, when exposed to heat. Once shrunken, leather is irreparably damaged. It can be softened with the appropriate care products, but it can never be stretched out again.

Traditional vegetable-tanned leathers begin to shrink at much lower temperatures than modern techniques, such as chrome tanned leathers. However, it should be noted that leather that is well cared for will never shrink as fast as poorly maintained leather.

The patina of vintage leather

The attitude to patina has changed in the recent times. Previously, patina was seen as damage and a good restoration was one that left a smooth finish and leather looking like new. Today, however, patina is considered to add value and character to the leather, and repairs are carefully done to retain the grain. The level of patina accepted on the leather surface is not measurable, each individual has a different taste as to what is acceptable as patina and what requires repair.

Common damages on classic car interiors

If not looked after or kept properly, old leather in classic cars can be damaged by mould if stored in humid places, or more commonly, it will dry and crack without the appropriate treatment.

                               Old leather cracks     Old leather faded

Recommended products

Top tips!

  • Remove mould from old leather using a mixture of vinegar and water in equal parts.
  • Regularly treat old leather to prevent it from drying and cracking
  • Be careful when cleaning very old leather, as colour from the surface can easily be removed due to its age. We recommend testing first on a hidden area.
Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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What is parchment?

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 09:24:12 Europe/London

Parchment has been used throughout history to make book covers, lampshades, musical instruments and various other items. The use of parchment as a writing material dates back to the ancient civilisations.

It is made of dried raw hides which have not been tanned, just oiled. Different types of skins can be used to make parchment - from the most common ones like sheep, goat or calf, to pig, buffalo or even donkey hides. As long as the parchment is still wet, it can easily be shaped and stretched. Once dried, it will be too rigid and unworkable.


                                  Interwoven parchment     Parchment stitching

The term ‘parchment’ or in latin ‘pergamenum’ comes from the old Greek city of Pergamon. In ancient times this was a thriving city which possessed the second largest library in the known world, after Alexandria. 

Over the centuries, parchment gradually replaced papyrus for writing text. Since the 4th century texts from the papyrus rolls were transferred to parchment. An advantage of this material is its re-usability - content can be deleted by grinding the parchment with rough stones to be re-used again. These are called palimpsest, from the Greek palimpsestos which means ‘scraped again’.  

At the end of the Middle Ages the development of paper-making reduced costs. With the new printing technologies, paper provided a more adequate writing material than parchment which is highly absorbent and not suitable for printing purposes.

Uses of parchment

Parchment was used mostly for lampshades, but this has long been out of fashion. It is still common for upholstery, drums and similar musical instruments.

                                Parchment lampshades     Parchment drums

In Asia, mostly China, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Turkey, shadow plays were very widespread using figures made of parchment and sometimes painted. 

Another surprising use of parchment is for dog chewing bones. These parchment bones do not splinter like real bones and are therefore safe for the dog to chew on. Most chewing bones are made from split leather from cow or buffalo hides, and pressed into shape. 

The oldest vellum record in the British Archives is an Act of Parliament from 1497. Also, one of the most famous documents in the world, the Magna Carta, was written on parchment in England in 1215. Magna Carta is written in calfskin vellum. The House of Lords have recently announced they will be replacing old parchment documents, with the contents transferred onto modern high-quality archival paper. 

This decision has caused something of a stir. Those in favour of parchment say it lasts about 5,000 years, compared to high-quality archival paper which has a 250-year life expectancy. They also argue that the Magna Carta would have been long gone had it been written in paper. And while some animal rights activists challenge using animal skin as unnecessarily cruel when paper is readily available, it should be noted that skins used for parchment come from animals that have already been slaughtered for meat. 

But this is not the first time proposals to get rid of vellum have spurred anger. Back in 1999, when the House of Lords voted to abolish vellum, the move was defeated by the House of Commons.

Care recommendation for parchment

Parchment is a very durable material, but almost impossible to repair if it gets damaged, stained or becomes deformed.

Dust down with a dry cloth or brush to clean it. Do not clean with water as it will soften the parchment.

Normally parchment does not require any maintenance, but if it is extremely dry, apply an oil spray directly on to the surface or with a cloth. It is important with parchment not to over apply the product as it is very sensitive when wet.

Recommended products

Top tips!

  • Don’t get parchment wet as it will soften.
  • The UK Parliament have published this article recently about this changes.
  • The NY Times also wrote about parchment - you can read the article here.
Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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All that glitters is not gold - metallic and gold leather

Monday, 15 February 2016 08:35:05 Europe/London

Leather with a golden glow was extremely popular among the higher classes in 16th-18th century Europe. It was mostly used to adorn the walls of royal palaces and the homes of wealthy individuals.

Although one could understandably assume that the golden glow comes from a gold leaf coating, it is actually silver leaf. Nevertheless, even if not real gold, the manufacturing process is still very expensive and complex. It requires practice and patience, as well as the background knowledge, to obtain the gold shimmer. A special paint was used which was based on various resins whose composition was a closely guarded secret during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

                                Gold leaf wallpaper     Gold Leather

The finished gold leather can be further decorated using different techniques like painting, hallmarking or stamping.

Decorating book covers with gold leather involves three different techniques:

  • Hand gilding - this is a highly skilled technique that originates in the Islamic world and existed way back in the 11th century, using tools to emboss the gold leaf onto the leather. 
  • Gold print motifs were pre-punched, then the area had to be primed. The surrounding areas were oiled so that the gold leaf wouldn’t stick. The gold leaf was applied with cotton, pressed with a heated tool and the excess rubbed off.
  • Press gilding - decorative motifs were applied using brass plates or stamps. Today, long sheets of gold foil are used by machines to gold-plate the leather.
                                Gold embossed books     Gold leather Michael Kors bag 

Metallic coloured leather

Leather can be given a metallic appearance. Metallic effects are usually only used in smooth leathers. This type of leather, although very rare, can be found in car leathers like some Porsche models, and even old American cars have frequently contained metallic leather. In the fashion industry, there are trends for metallic effects on shoes, clothing and bags. However, metallic leather furniture is highly unusual.

Metallic leather

Leather that looks like metal

There are leathers that have been made to look like a metal. This is achieved by applying a film with a metallic appearance onto smooth leather. Such leathers are usually found in fashionable shoes, bags and other accessories.

Leather with a metallic shimmer

Applying a clear top coat creates a metallic shimmer. This style tends to be used on leathers used to make shoes, bags or clothing and, occasionally, for automotive leather.

                              American car metallic seats     Metallic Porsche seat

Cleaning and care instruction for metallic leather 

For everyday cleaning, it is sufficient to occasionally dust off the leather with a feather duster or a dry dust cloth. 

Visible dirt and stains can be cleaned with Colourlock Mild Leather Cleaner. Fresh stains can be removed immediately with a soft cloth or paper towel. Don’t rub too hard! Clean remaining dirt and stains with Mild Leather Cleaner. For difficult stains, it is always better to contact a specialist first. Damage can easily occur due to improper cleaning attempts. For maintenance, we recommend Colourlock Elephant Leather Preserver. It keeps the leather soft and supple and maintains the shine. First rub the leather fat in a terry cloth and then apply thin layers. 

Reccommended products

Top tips!

  • Depending on the strain, heat and light intensity, treat this type of leather sparingly, every three to twelve months.
Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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