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How to emboss leather

Wednesday, 20 April 2016 08:13:53 Europe/London

Is that a real crocodile skin handbag or could it just be cow leather made to look that way? Thanks to the technique of embossing, it is possible to achieve a wide range of different patterns and images, including mimicking the grain of other animal skins. 

Even leather specialists can’t always determine what the original hide was before it was embossed, without detailed investigation.

Leather Embossing Tools

 

Embossing involves changing or modifying the natural grain of an animal skin by pressing or rolling a new scar design. Leather experts call this ‘pressed scars’. As well as covering the entire skin surface, you can apply individual motifs. 

Correcting the scar 

During their lifetime animals may be wounded or suffer diseases, all of which leave their mark on their skin. Embossing will cover any scars and provide a uniform grain. This reduces waste and cuts costs. Skins that are unsuitable for processing into full-grain leather can be used as embossed leather. It’s worth noting that only about 10-20% of the hides coming from the slaughterhouse are ‘good’ to ‘very good’ quality. Embossing doesn’t lower the quality, provided that it is not covering serious damage that could affect the life of the finished product.  

Corrected grain leather 

In preparation for embossing, the grain side of the leather is first ground to obtain a uniform surface. Then a binder-based paint is applied and a uniform grain imprinted. This leather is known as ‘corrected grain’ or ‘corrected scar’. It is cheaper and has a cold, plastic-like feel. Also the breathability is significantly lower than with porous leathers.

Interestingly, grinding the grain side is prohibited on leather used in the car industry. This is to prevent using hides of too poor a standard.

The embossing process

There are two main different types of embossing: ‘blind embossing’ and ‘colour imprint’. In blind embossing the plate is heated and pressed onto the material without any colour film. In colour imprint a colour film is pushed between the leather and the press. These come in a variety of colours. Blind embossing is mainly done on plain leathers and colour imprints on pigmented smooth leathers. 

Sometimes the leather has previously been embossed with foam and lining so that the final embossed pattern sits neatly and at the correct depth. Particularly strong imprints need to be further stabilised with filler material, such as papier mache or hot glue. 

Embossing is done with a pressure of about 300 kilos at a temperature of 40-90°C. The leather is not moistened as it would otherwise get damaged with the heat. The embossing time, depending on the leather thickness and strength, is between 2-30 seconds. 


                              Leather Embossing Roller     Leather Hallmarking Tools

 

Almost any type of leather can be embossed. However, the embossing must be adjusted according to the type of leather. The resistance of an embossing depends on the process. The higher the pressure and the temperature – and the more moisture in the leather – the more permanent is the reshaping of the fibre. But of course there are also limits to the pressure and temperature that can be applied to each leather type. 

Because rolling or stamping tools are expensive – a stamper 10cm x 10cm in size can cost anywhere around £100-£120 – single motifs are therefore usually hallmarked (more on hallmarking, piping, seams, etc in our next blog). Meanwhile, it is also possible to apply motifs using lasers. 

                              Embossed Antique Leather     Hallmarked Leather

 

                               Louis Vuitton embossed logo     Porsche Embossed Logo

 

                                        Leather Embossing plates     Leather embossed with plates            

 

Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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Leather shoes - cleaning, caring and widening

Monday, 11 April 2016 09:33:20 Europe/London

That new pair of shoes or boots that felt OK when you originally tried them on can turn out to be that bit too tight the first time you wear them. In some cases, you might even end up with blisters.

 

Leather shoes

 As we know, leather shoes usually stretch with continued wear, but is it possible to reduce the ‘breaking in’ time?  

Shoe uppers are made of firm, thick cowhide. There is only limited space to work the leather to make it soft. The tanner or shoemaker uses two methods to make leather more flexible and stretch it out. 

One is to loosen the fibre network by ‘movement’. The tanner does this by walking on the leather, whereas the shoemaker knocks it to make it soft. Tapping or walking stretches the fibre structure microscopically so that the leather expands and becomes softer. As long as this is done professionally, the essential stability of the leather will be preserved.  

The second option is to wet clean the entire shoe. Soaking the leather swells the fibre network and the leather can then be permanently reshaped. Tanners take advantage of this when they need to mould the leather to change its shape. After drying, it will maintain the new shape. 

Based on these principles, there are therefore several ways to make shoe leather soft: wear the tight footwear with thick (but not too thick) socks for about an hour. Be careful not to overstretch the leather and make the shoes too large. Often moistening the socks can help make it easier to reshape the leather. 

There are many myths about leather getting wet and how to stretch leather. For example, it is said that cowboys used to ‘pee’ in the shoe or boot. Pouring alcohol inside is another one. Then there are shoe stretcher sprays, grease and shoe detergents. The urine idea might make a good story, which is all it should be. The fact is that while moistening makes leather soft, unwanted foreign materials should be avoided. It’s best to stick to water. Alcohol is not suitable because it dissolves the fats in the leather, making it lose its suppleness. Fats are only partially helpful, because they are tough and do not penetrate into the fibre structure. This makes them useful for care and waterproofing footwear, which is important for everyday use. 

Lipid ‘moisture’ as oils, shoe stretcher sprays or shoe detergents with oils also help to soften shoe leather. Moistening softens the fibres and oils keep them flexible.

     Leather Shoes     Leather shoe cleaner     Leather shoe preserver

Important points to consider when wet cleaning shoes 

Work with care when dealing with bright coloured leather shoes. Spots, raised edges and stains are formed very quickly as the moisture breaks down. Porous leather can turn dark immediately when applying oils. Be aware that shoes can turn a shade darker when wet cleaned or trying to widen the shoe. If the shoe in question is light in colour (white, cream, beige etc) always try wearing a pair of wet socks or place a pair of wet socks inside the shoe to widen it. React quickly if stains or smudges are visible. 

In bright leathers and generally with expensive shoes you should consult an expert. Shoe makers and cobblers usually have more tricks up their sleeves to solve most problems. For example, by tapping the shoes with appropriate tools they can make the leather soft by loosening the fibres.

The methods described will only work if the leather shoes are just slightly tight. If they are completely the wrong fit, these techniques cannot help.

Recommended products

Use COLOURLOCK Aniline Water Stain Remover to remove water marks.

For cleaning and caring Pigmented Leather Shoes:

For cleaning and caring Suede or Nubuck Shoes:

Top tips!

How to clean leather shoes?

STEP 1: Clean the leather with a 1:1 mixture of COLOURLOCK Leather Shoe Cleaner and water. Moisten the inside and then wear the shoes or boots for at least one hour. On the outside the leather yields and remains subsequently softer.

STEP 2: Allow to dry. Away from any sources of heat. Do not leave near or on a radiator or blow dry. Heat causes the fibre network to bond strongly and the leather may even shrink at high temperatures. In such cases, only strong force can loosen the fibres again. However, there is a high risk that the leather may tear. Ideally, stuff the shoes with a towel or paper to speed up the drying process and/or insert a shoe tree to ensure the shoes retain their shape.

STEP 3: Once dry, apply a care product which is suitable for the type of leather.

Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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Turning the page on leather-bound books

Tuesday, 5 April 2016 12:33:17 Europe/London

Animal skins have been used to cover books since ancient times both for protection as well as decoration. In the Middle Ages Egyptian papyri were wrapped in goat or sheep skins. They were later arranged as books with written pages placed between thin wooden boards which were then covered with leather.  

Leather Bookbinding

Medieval religious codes particularly stand out as they were carefully decorated with expensive materials such as precious stones, ivory and gold. However covers of books that were intended for everyday use remained relatively unadorned and, although they were occasionally influenced by more expensive designs, they were not always relevant to the book contents.

In the Carolingian medieval period, books were generally covered in suede and, from the 12th Century onwards, in cowhide. During the Renaissance the art of leather mosaics was developed.

Since the mid to late 19th Century, leather book covers have gradually declined and only appear on highly symbolic or valuable works. 

There have been cases where human skin has been used for the outer covers of books and documents. In England in the first half of the 19th Century, for example, the skin of an executed murderer was used to cover the documents submitted about his sentence.

                                    Hallmarking tools     Leather book cover workshop

Design on leather book covers

Embossing has been used for a long time in the design of book covers. There are different types of designs that can be achieved through different methods of embossing the leather:

  • Blind embossing, blind printing or blind pressure - the leather is embossed so the image or pattern is raised without the use of added colour
  • Hand gilding - this technique comes from Islamic culture and probably dates back to the 11th Century. Gold leaf is embossed into the leather with the help of some special tools.
  • Gold print - motifs are pre-punched before the gold leaf was pressed onto the leather with a heated tool.
  • Press gilding - long sheets of gold foil are used by machines to gold-plate the leather.
  • Colour imprints or colour registered embossing - the transmission of colour and pattern by embossing coloured films.
  • Hallmarking - leather can also be embossed by hand with a tool or hallmark.
  • Paint printing - leather already coloured will take longer for colour embossing. These types of leathers usually require complete dyeing, printing or painting.
  • Leather mosaics - they are a form of artistic decoration of book covers which was found particularly in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Tailored leather pieces of the same thickness, but in different colours, were arranged and fixed with adhesives producing a decorative motif. Historically, leather mosaics were formed from both simple geometric shapes and figures of nature and everyday life. Nowadays, this intricate type of book decoration is rarely practiced.
  • Leather inlays - when images cut in leather pieces are removed and replaced by a different coloured leather.
  • Printed leather - in this method, images and designs are printed on coloured leather.
  • Leather deformations - leather is a mouldable material that can be shaped into artistic patterns or forms for decorative or practical reasons.

                                           Leather Blind Embossing     Leather book hallmarking

                                           Deformed Decorative leather     Painted book leather

Preservation of book bindings

The care and preservation of historically significant books is very important in order to restore them and protect them against decay and mould growth. Some bookbinders have additional qualifications so they can become professional book restorers. Depending on the particular problem, the restorers have various techniques.

                                             Leather Book Worm     Leather Book cover repair

Recommended products

  • Depends on the type of leather. Please get in touch with us if you need help with anything particular. COLOURLOCK Elephant Leather Preserver works well as it makes old leather soft and supple unless the leather is extremely porous and sensitive.

Top tips!

  • Leather that is not used at all (as might be in case of old books) does not need much care as long as it is stored away from heat sources and humidity.
  • If it is a leather cover for your daily journal, it would be best to clean and protect it more often.
Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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